Wednesday 5 November 2014

#MustRead: Tambuwal’s Defection And Its Hard Lessons - by Law Mefor

Time, they say, reveals all things. For months, if not years, the defection of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress had been a hot subject of the rumour mills. 

Of course, despite growing evidence of his anti-party involvements with the opposition APC, he kept denying it until recently, when the exigency of time caught up and forced him into the open. With his example, it is getting to a point no Nigerian politician can be labelled a liar with any fear of libel.

Though Nigeria’s democracy is a peculiar mess, yet, like money, power without morality is nothing but an anathema. But that is not the only point that vintage Tambuwal has proved with his defection. Placing things in proper perspective, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is the fourth in the hierarchy in the nation’s leadership ladder, and, in a presidential democracy, which Nigeria claims to practise, should be one of the four in the Executive and Legislative arms of government, working assiduously to stabilise the polity and move it forward. Yet, here the nation is saddled with a fourth citizen who has been allegedly working with the opposition to create the impression that his own ruling party is not performing, to ostensibly pave the way for its succession by the same opposition. It is the height of political betrayal.

Tambuwal and his supporters do not even see why he has to resign. There is a lacuna in the hollow 1999 Constitution, which appears to have offered him a “safe” haven. Sections 50 and 68 require 2/3rd of the House members to remove the Speaker or the Senate President. Yet, the office of the Speaker or that of the Senate President is naturally reserved for the ruling party (unless there is a deal ceding it to another party in coalition with ruling party as happened in the Second Republic when Edwin Ume-Ezeoke became the Speaker of the House of Reps from the Nigerian Peoples Party in the National Party of Nigeria-led Federal Government) and the PDP still enjoys a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives.

A few weeks ago, the news of Tambuwal’s nocturnal meetings with the APC top notches made the rounds in the social media. Such meetings were said not only to make way for his seamless transition from the PDP to the APC, but also were said to be partly for the plots to stop either President Goodluck Jonathan or Vice-President Namadi Sambo or both in the coming 2015 polls.

Tambuwal has always set his eyes high on top of the political ladder and had been openly consulting on running for the office of the President in 2015. He had frequented one of the political Meccas of Nigeria – Ota Farms – apparently for the same purpose. His posters to that effect, which many said he used to test the waters, also flooded Abuja and Sokoto streets on more than one occasion.

Many also believe that he later rescaled his ambition to the governorship of Sokoto State, when it was obvious that Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) was again running for President for the fourth time, despite his promise to make 2011 presidential election his last!

Pundits equally claim that this grand betrayal by the Speaker of the party on which back he rose to stardom was part of the grand plan of the northern interests and power brokers to wrest power from Jonathan. Tambuwal was said to be a recurring decimal in the plan, so much so that he only pulled back at the last moment from declaring for the APC when some PDP members of the House of Reps defected.

Apart from the need for the Speaker to resign based on time-honoured convention, it stands also to reason that he should not heat up the polity by waiting for the said absolute 2/3rd majority to be mustered. Dragging the nation and her young democracy through this process at this nick of time will be unkind.

One has come to also realise that politics bears a very close resemblance to prostitution, making one to say: Politicians and diapers should be changed regularly and all for the same reason. Little wonder Winston Churchill of all people once called democracy the worst form of government. Maybe, he said so because treachery is now practised as virtue in democracy in Nigeria.

Yet, at the level of the Speaker, the occupier of such an office owes the nation so much. It takes a statesman to succeed appreciably in discharging the burdensome responsibilities associated to that position. Statesmen and politicians are not the same and that is why one said that while statesmen are thinking of the next generation, politicians are thinking of the next election. History therefore beckons on Tambuwal to be a statesman, not a politician. The choice is his.

Ordinarily, in civilised climes and true democracies, one can resign from such a position in similar circumstances without waiting for push to come to shove. Most people in Nigeria do not resign; they wait to be shoved aside and many go to court to either stall the process or challenge it. Unfortunately, it means there is only one way to leave power in Nigeria: by kicking and screaming.

Yet, Tambuwal can show a different example by reining in his vaulting personal interest now running amok. Let his strife of personal interests stop masquerading as principles and common interest, for it is not. For Tambuwal’s claim that he is now in the APC to save Nigeria and Nigerians cannot be supported by his achievements as Speaker, as he cannot be said to have inspired any revolutionary bill or policy to change the lot of Nigerians. He is also believed to be active in retaining the status quo, including working against true federalism, which is anti-people. Neither did he attempt to jettison the outrageous allowances and salaries enjoyed by federal lawmakers reputed to be the biggest in the world.

Beyond Tambuwal’s great betrayal however, lies very important lessons for the PDP, which has always taken so much for granted as the so-called biggest party in Africa – a giant with a feet of clay!

Imagine what would have happened if the Senate President and his deputy are on the same voyage with Tambuwal. David Mark and Ike Ekweremadu halted the tsunami planned by the APC in the National Assembly when the mass defection swept through House of Reps and made its way to the Senate. While Mark and Ekweremadu were working to stop some senators from defecting from the PDP, Tambuwal contrarily, was not disposed to that idea.

Party loyalty and integrity are clearly in short supply in the Nigerian brand of democracy. When a Nigerian politician says yes, he means maybe; when he says maybe, he means no and when he says no, he is said not to be a good politician.

This is happening because those who should show example are the very ones throwing integrity and principle to the dogs. The PDP needs to rise to the challenge and prove that its members must be good party men and women to enjoy perks of office they occupy based on its platform. More importantly, those who the party should offer its tickets, especially to the National Assembly, ought to have demonstrable loyalty, and are tried, tested and trusted as they now say in political parlance in our clime.

What this also means is that how the PDP handles the Tambuwal defection will either set a good or dangerous precedent. Some have argued that, going by Sections 50 and 68 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that Tambuwal staying put in office is legal. Even if legal, it does not make it right. As a lawyer, Tambuwal knows how wrong it is to approbate and reprobate.

Tambuwal should not be allowed to benefit from both sides: he cannot work to perpetrate failings at the expense of common good and be allowed to cash in on it. Well meaning Nigerians ought to prevail on him to resign and not stay as Speaker to make things more difficult for the ruling Party and Nigerians. That is not democracy.

Mefor is a Forensic Psychologist, based in Abuja

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