Tuesday 13 June 2023

As The 10th National Assembly Leadership Commences.........Written by Ray Morphy

Today, all things being equal, the 10th National Assembly will be proclaimed by the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

It is another historic occasion to showcase our nation’s democracy which many agree is a democracy hard won.

President Tinubu will make the proclamation based on the powers vested in him by the Nigerian Constitution in Chapter 5. Part 1. Section 64 of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) on, Dissolution and Issue of Proclamations by the President in subsection (3) which states that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the person elected as the President shall have power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the National Assembly after his being sworn in, or for dissolution as provided in this section.”

The first major assignment for the lawmakers after their inauguration would be to make the choice of whom their leaders and principal officers would be.

The constitution states clearly that the lawmakers will on inauguration, choose from among themselves a Senate President and Deputy Senate President for the upper house; a Speaker and Deputy Speaker for the lower house.

There may be an election if there are multiple candidates or there may be none if only one candidate stands for a particular office. That in other words would mean a consensus. The lawmakers are free to choose any option. They can elect their leaders based on consensus as being advocated by President Bola Tinubu, and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The President and his party have nominated Senators Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin for Senate president and deputy Senate president, as well as Hon Tajudeen Abbas and Hon Benjamin Kalu for Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Tinubu, who spoke at a meeting with elected members of the National Assembly, recently pleaded with the lawmakers to allow the zoning arrangement adopted by the APC to sail through.  The president, at the meeting with Senators-elect and members-elect across all political parties held behind closed doors at the presidential villa, Abuja, sought their understanding and backing to ensure the emergence of the new leadership of the National Assembly through consensus.

On the contrary, former Zamfara governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari; former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Senator Osita Izunaso are strongly opposed to the party’s choice, while the G-6 aggrieved aspirants have also disagreed with the party’s consensus for the House of Representatives.

There has been a raging opposition to the party’s zoning arrangement by aggrieved NASS members-elect! Those opposed to the leadership emerging by consensus want elections to hold at the hallowed chambers of the Assembly, so that lawmakers can freely elect leadership of their choice without the interference of the President and the ruling party leadership.

It is interesting that the inauguration of the National Assembly is coming a day after the commemoration of June 12, a day which is now the nation’s Democracy Day in honour of late Chief MKO Abiola who is believed to have won the 1993 presidential elections in Nigeria, an election that was annulled by the then ruling military junta.

In his nationwide broadcast yesterday on the Democracy Day, President Tinubu said, “It is exactly three decades today that Nigerians went to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to elect a President of their choice to lead the transition from military dictatorship to a representative government of the people. The abortion, by military fiat, of the decisive victory of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 12, 1993, presidential election, up to that time, the fairest and freest election in the country’s political evolution, turned out, ironically, to be the seed that germinated into the prolonged struggle that gave birth to the democracy we currently enjoy since 1999.”

Speaking further he alluded to the 2023 general election, “This year, we held the seventh in the cycle of elections that have become sacred rituals of our democratic practice in this dispensation since 1999. That the polls were intensely contested is in itself positive evidence that democracy is well and alive in our land. It is only natural that even as those who won and experienced victory in the various elections are elated and fulfilled, those who lost are disenchanted and disappointed. But the beauty of democracy is that those who win today can lose tomorrow and those who lose today will have an opportunity to compete and win in the next round of elections.”

The President acknowledged that the “the beauty of democracy is that those who win today can lose tomorrow and those who lose today will have an opportunity to compete and win in the next round of elections.” However, there are allegations that the playing field will not be level today at the 10th National Assembly, especially with the allegations that ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly today those contesting for leadership positions and calling for election could be arrested. While this is not likely to happen under the watch of Tinubu who fought against this same situation under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration, that such allegation comes up at all is indeed troubling.

The allegations were made by Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), who raised the alarm over an alleged plan to arrest key northern aspirants for the House of Representatives speakership position, as well as the aspirants for the position of Senate Presidency. The northern groups also alleged that former Governor of Zamfara State and some of his strong support pillars were being threatened with arrest in order to intimidate him out of the contest for insisting on due process.

The spokesperson of the CNG, in a statement, asked President Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to respect rule of law by stopping the plan to intimidate anyone for exercising his rights to vote and be voted for. The group noted that these elements were hatching these evil plans without the consent of President Bola Tinubu, with the sole aim of pitching him against the larger northern interest.

Even though the coalition exonerated Tinubu, but they believe that some people are doing it on his behalf. But that is the suspicious atmosphere that the executive creates anytime it dabbles into the affairs of the legislature and there is a push back from members of the legislative arm of government.

Today is another test day for Nigeria’s democracy. The ball is in the court of the lawmakers. They are to choose between consensus which even Tinubu kicked against at the runup to APC presidential primaries or choose election to produce their leadership.

No matter how their leadership emerges, what Nigerians want is a virile National Assembly that will serve the needs of the Nigerian people.




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