Most Nigerians must still be in a state of confusion, just as we at this newspaper are, on whether it is now time to heave a sigh of relief that peace has now finally returned to the National Assembly. Since the inauguration of the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday June 9, 2015, they have been embroiled in one form of crisis or the other which have crippled legislative work. The first of the series of crises arose from the controversial manner in which Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara emerged as President of the Senate and Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively. Both men were not the preferred candidates of their All Progressives Congress, APC, their political party, for those positions. So also were their deputies and other principal officers elected with them on the day of inauguration.
Since then, the Senate and the House have each been internally split into bitterly opposed camps in an unhealthy struggle for power and influence. In the Senate, there was the allegation that Standing Rules were forged to favour the emergence of the candidates who got elected into the principal positions. Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was elected deputy Senate President despite being a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was alleged to be the mastermind of the forgery allegation. While that argument was still raging, the leadership of the APC sent its list of those it wanted as principal officers to the Senate and wanted them announced for the positions contained therein. Saraki and majority of the senators objected and opted to stay by the appointment of principal officers earlier made by their group.
In the House of Representatives, the crisis took a violent and disgraceful turn. It resulted in a free for all which took the intervention of the National Assembly internal security apparatus to control. The issue was still the appointment of principal officers. The two camps that emerged from the disputation – one led by Dogara and the other by Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila – wanted choice positions for their members. The list of those favoured for the position of principal officers of the House sent to the Speaker by the APC leadership was also rejected by the Dogara group. It took the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari for the issues to be resolved, thus paving the way for the accommodation of some members of the Gbajabiamila group. Gbajabiamila himself became House majority leader.
At this stage, it appears that the warring camps in both chambers of the National Assembly have struck a semblance of peace, having each accepted a peace deal that seems to come close to what they had been out fighting for. Even in the Senate where no significant leadership positions have yet been conceded to the group opposed to Saraki, there is hope that a formula for peace is in the offing. The APC leadership has made significant progress in its effort to make the two groups work in harmony and this resulted in the recent statement of the 59 APC senators to eschew bitterness and work for peace in the Senate.
The steps taken so far on the long and acrimonious arguments in both chambers may not have completely resolved all the issues at stake, but they are a significant step towards achieving lasting peace. All members of the National Assembly should resolve to build on the peace formula in order to ensure an atmosphere conducive for legislative work to start in both chambers. We at The UNION are happy that the leadership and, indeed, the entire membership of the National Assembly are aware of what their frivolous agitation for leadership positions in the Assembly has cost the nation. For nearly two months of the coming of the 8th National Assembly, members have virtually done no legislative work. All of that period was wasted on the struggle for positions. It pains to realise that they will be paid with the tax payers’ money during that period of unjustifiable frivolity.
Nigerians are certainly not happy about this waste of precious time and resources and would, therefore, like to be assured by the lawmakers and their political parties that this will not recur. It may be true that the decisions reached on the appointment of principal officers in the upper and lower chambers may not have addressed all relevant issues and satisfied all interests involved but they should be adopted as a realistic step towards achieving a framework acceptable to all. This can be done without unnecessary flexing of muscles as we have seen so far. There should be no further attempt by the lawmakers to generate tension that would delay or even frustrate the business of law making.