When the history of the present political dispensation superintended by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will be written, so many unique developments will be highlighted. One is that the President of the Federal Republic has run this country for the first time as a ‘sole administrator’. Never in the history of our nation have we seen this. Even throughout the many years of military rule, including the years of the civil war, no head of state or president has adopted this style of running Nigeria. As at today, permanent secretaries of all the ministries and heads of all the several departments and agencies of government report directly to the president. What a large span of control! Since there are no ministers and no Federal Executive Council (FEC), we have the nearest example of absolute executive power being exercised by one man.
This may not be necessarily bad as it allows the president to take decisions without much arguments and delays. The civil servants are not known to argue on anything with their bosses. They always wait to be ‘directed’ even if the direction leads the wrong way! But if you have an operational FEC, then the president will have to wait for the ministers to bring memos to the council which will be discussed, argued upon, before approval. Even the president will be required to bring memos to the FEC for review and approval. But as things stand today, the president takes his decisions and approves his ideas and directs the civil servants to implement. If the nation was at war and the president needed emergency powers, this will be a perfect setting. Or if the president wanted to move with speed with minimum debates and procedural rigmaroles, this setting will also serve that purpose very well.
The challenge that I see is whether the constitution foresaw this style of leading the federation. Can the president run the country as a sole administrator? Can he, for example, decide not to appoint ministers throughout his four-year term? If not, how long does the constitution allow him to manage the country this way? Today, some Nigerians are comfortable with this style and may wish that it continues much longer. Is that the intendment of the constitution or should this prompt the need for a constitutional amendment in the future? President Buhari currently enjoys a great amount of goodwill and confidence and so, not too many feathers seem ruffled now, but can he do this in his second term and shall we allow future presidents to decide whether or not they would appoint ministers and advisers or how long it would take them to make the appointments?
The second unique thing for which we shall remember this dispensation is that we hired members of the National Assembly who spent the first two months on vacations, arguments and fights for positions. And it could even be longer as the formation of committees has not even happened. If it has taken nearly two months to agree on principal officers of only a few members, I shudder to think of how long it will take to fight for ‘juicy’ committee leaderships and membership, because it is only after this has been done that true legislative work can begin.
When the president started to ‘go slow’ on his work, many of us thought that it was due to the problem in the National Assembly. But we have now been told that it is not so. The president is acting deliberately. He needs time to clean the Augean stable all alone before inviting those who may hinder this process or who may actually create more dirt. In which case even the NASS may not be required at this time. By actually doing nothing in the last two months except to fight and scheme for positions, the NASS has been virtually absent in the governance process. This scenario reminds me of the days of military rule when the NASS was abolished and the Supreme Military Council ruled, exercising both legislative and executive powers.
Talking about supreme takes me to the reason the NASS has been unable to perform its constitutional roles since inauguration. The party with the majority in the Assembly, the APC, wants to be seen as ‘supreme’. The party wanted to dictate to the NASS who their leaders should be and some of the members had stoutly refused. In the ensuing imbroglio, members of NASS from PDP, APGA and other parties have been prevented from doing the work for which they were elected at great costs to them and the nation. I have been amused by the constant refrain of ‘party supremacy’. ‘The party is supreme and every member must accept what the party says.’ Of course, I am one of the proponents of party discipline and party supremacy. In several of my writings I had deprecated those who disobeyed lawful orders of their parties or who worked against their party interest. I have, of course, reserved the worst adjective for those who abandoned their parties after being elected into office without justifiable and convincing reasons.
But why am I amused at the party supremacy platitude at this time? Those who play God or who ignore the counsel of God will always pay for it. The Bible says that “whatsoever a man sows that he will reap”. Some people think it is a joke. They think they are smart and that they can always manipulate the system to their advantage. I am amused that those who are mouthing ‘party supremacy’ most at this time and who seem most pained by the apparent refusal of Senator Saraki and Hon Dogara to toe party lines and directives hook, line and sinker are either the same ones who planned, engineered, motivated or encouraged Tambuwal and Ihedioha to go against their own party directives in 2011, or they are the same people who conspired and rejected party directives concerning Governors’ Forum elections in 2013. Now they are reaping what they had sown and in reaction, they had locked down the NASS for two months.
If we want the good of our nation, then we must play principled politics. We cannot promote evil when it temporarily works in our favour and then begin to pontificate and sermonize when the repercussions ensue. We must anticipate the consequences of all of our actions and deeds. Now President Buhari in his characteristic candour has announced to the world that he would discriminate in his governance, that those who voted 95 percent for him would be treated differently from those who voted 5 percent. That seems to explain his lopsided appointments which favour the North and South West while he has completely ignored the South East which voted 5 percent for him. It can therefore be projected that he will do the same with siting of projects and other governmental programmes. On the surface, this doctrine sounds reasonable and even justifiable. But let it be known to all that there will be consequences for this officially declared discriminatory policy. I do not know what those consequences and repercussions would be, but I am certain that there will be consequences. How do I know?
The Word of God says so and science supports it. One of the laws of Physics as enunciated by Newton says, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. My point is that each time we take actions, we should always anticipate and prepare for the reaction. Very often, we seem surprised or taken aback by the reactions to our freely chosen course of actions. And this will also go down in history as one of the unique things of this political dispensation. I had heard stories of discriminatory acts by politicians against people in their constituencies who did not vote for them. One popular one was the one credited to late Obafemi Awolowo who denied some communities in present-day Edo State (but then in the old Western Region) pipe-borne water because they did not vote for him as the premier of Western Nigeria. He was said to have literarily dug out the water pipes so that the community would not have water whereas adjoining communities had water. I do not know whether it is true or one of those fairytales told about our past great political leaders. But often, when accused, political leaders deny any form of discrimination against their constituents. But this time, the president acknowledged it and rationalized it. That is unique!
With the assumption of the position of majority leader in the House of Representatives by Femi Gbajabiamila, giving South West geopolitical zone two key positions (deputy speaker and majority leader) in the APC House leadership, with none to the South East, APC seems to have enthroned party supremacy. My only hope is that the NASS can now begin business unhindered any longer so that the people of Nigeria can take the benefit of the salaries and allowances they are paid. It is the NASS that gives democracy credibility and stability in Nigeria.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa