Controversy Over Zoning of Principal Offices In The 9th National Assembly

By Nwabueze Akabogu

As the tension after the 2019 general elections appears to be gradually easing off, the nation’s attention has now shifted to the election petition tribunals which, constitutionally are charged with the adjudication on all petitions arising from the last general elections.

However, intense controversy over the zoning or sharing of principal or “juicy offices” is currently raging unabated among political gladiators across the political spectrum or divide in the country.

The inauguration of the 9th National Assembly is billed to take place on 10th June 2019 all things being equal, and the major political parties namely: the Victorious All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are currently engaged in what could be described as the battle of the titans bordering on political intrigues and horse trading aimed at controlling the leadership of the incoming National Assembly.
Ordinarily, the victorious political party that had emerged with a comfortable majority in Parliament and in this case, the APC, would have simply gone to sleep after it had conveniently zoned the principal offices in the National Assembly to the geo-political zones of the country and subsequently adopted its preferred candidates from those zones.

However, after the 2015 disastrous outing when the APC naively assumed that its comfortable majority in Parliament was a sure guarantee for its anointed members to control the key or principal offices later turned out as a monumental disaster and grave political miscalculation on the part of its leadership and which had continued to hunt the party all through the life of the outgoing 8th National Assembly. And simply by sheer political brinkmanship and ingenuity, the APC “rebels” in Parliament in 2015 led by the indefatigable, political strategist and master tactician Bukola Salaki quickly teamed up with the opposition PDP and dramatically captured the leadership of the 8th National Assembly in grand style to the utter shock and chagrin of the APC leadership. It was indeed, a master stroke which will ever remain a reference point in the nation’s chequered political history.

The irrepressible and enigmatic Bukola Saraki though recently had lost his re-election bid to return to the red chambers will nevertheless be remembered for his political sagacity, pragmatism and his uncommon capacity of always reading the mood of the nation and masterly unleashing his legendary political arsenal at the most critical moments aimed at achieving maximum results.

Suffice it to say however, that the global Parliamentary practices or convention require the majority party to control the leadership of Parliament as well as the key Parliamentary offices whereby the leader of the majority party is required to form the government of the day and with the full control of the Parliament. However, in the Presidential system of government as being operated in Nigeria, the legislature is entirely a separate arm of government hence it is strictly guided by its own rules and norms devoid of any undue interference from the other two arms of government namely: the Executive and Judiciary or indeed from the party leadership which by convention is forbidden from interfering in the internal affairs of the legislature.

In the light of the foregoing therefore, the current controversy over the zoning or sharing of the principal offices in the 9th National Assembly could be described as absolutely unnecessary and unwarranted dissipation of energy by political gladiators and jobbers whose stock in trade is to always generate unnecessary tension in the polity, purely for their selfish interest.

It is instructive to note however, that the role of political parties in the choice of principal officers in Parliament is purely advisory, hence the political parties are only obliged to set the template or necessary guidelines based on the parties manifesto for their members in Parliament. The nitty-gritty of the mechanism or modality for the election of the principal officers essentially is the prerogative and exclusive preserve of all the members sitting in Parliament irrespective of their party affiliations, thus it is incumbent upon them to elect the best candidates among their peers. There should therefore, be no outside interference under whatever guise in this sacred assignment on the part of the 109 Distinguished Senators-Elect and 360 Honourable Members-Elect of the House of Representatives even as they will only be guided by their individual consciences on 10th June, 2019 when the incoming 9th National Assembly will be inaugurated.

The current “military fiat” posture by the ruling APC to its members in Parliament directing them to carry out the party’s “instructions” on the whole saga will definitely be counter productive and portends grave danger to the nations’ nascent democracy.

The “military command” fashion by the party’s leadership might result in history repeating itself as was the case at the inception of the outgoing 8th National Assembly when the party completely lost the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives and is yet to recover from the devastating consequences of its political naivety and poor handling of the political situation during that era.

Finally, in the election of the Principal Officers in the 9th National Assembly, conscious efforts must be made to ensure that the principle of Federal character is strictly adhered to in the interest of equity, social justice and fairness thus no geo-political zone should be short-changed in the allocation of key positions in Parliament. It is pertinent to note that members of the National Assembly are the true representatives of the people and the Parliament is the microcosm of the Nigerian nation and as such every one must have a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project.

Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP) is a Regular Public Affairs, Commentator and Analyst.

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