By Oke Epia
Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal is no doubt a great man. Not only because he is the first Speaker of the House of Representatives to make history in Nigeria by transiting from the legislature to the executive arm of government as governor of Sokoto State. And not just because he successfully navigated the banana peels often strewn around the green chambers to achieve a largely stable and successful tenure as speaker. And certainly not because he brandishes a broad disarming smile in those few and far-in-between tensed moments of political combat on the floor of the House.
He is a great man also because he is on track to make it as the only Nigerian politician whose name is becoming a peculiar item in the political lexicon of Nigeria. The literature is lavish with quotable quotes by statesmen and politicians but miserly on the adjectivization of names that have impacted the political landscape in some sense. In American political history, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy had the misfortune of having his name adjectivized as McCarthyism, a reference to the vicious wave of anti-communism that reigned during the Cold War era. Thanks to former Kano State governor and now senator, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso who first used the word, ‘Tambuwalize,’ Governor Tambuwal is making an interesting contribution to the political lexicon of Nigeria. And the new addition is fast gaining currency in the polity with many feasting on it. While some analysts have woven a theme of betrayal around the Tambuwal episode in 2011 and reinforced it with his rancorous exit from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) towards the end of his tenure four years later, the good thing is that the current coinage is clearly not about some repulsive political scandal. In fact, it has inherent positive values in that the Tambuwalization episodes (both past and present) have the potential of enriching the polity as far as independence of the legislature is concerned. In this regard unfortunately, the All Progressives Congress (APC) committed a faux pax that has escalated the leadership crisis rocking the national assembly.
As indicated earlier, the adjectivization of Tambuwal is a throwback to 2011 when the now Sokoto governor emerged as speaker of the House in defiance of the dictates of the PDP, the ruling party on which platform he came to the House at the time. The rebellion that then was has become a dejavu thus making the coinage Tambuwalization an easy reference and fitting description for the extant scenario which the APC has found itself. On June 8th, 2015, Bukola Saraki Tambuwalized the APC apparatchik to become President of the 8th senate. In my opinion, the events that threw him into office can hardly be related to deliberate betrayal of the party. It can more realistically be attributed to some political prowess that would make his late father, the legendary progenitor of the Saraki political dynasty, Oloye Abubakar Saraki, to flash a satisfied grin on his son from wherever he is. The former Kwara State governor outwitted the political establishment of the APC in a dramatic fashion to become President of the 8th Senate. His closest rival in the race and anointed candidate of the party, Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State was contrived out of sight by some queer design. At a time the senate was already convened with senators-elect seated in their numbers enough to form quorum, Senator Lawan was marooned alongside a cluster of other APC senators at the International Conference Centre (ICC) waiting for an ill-timed meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari that never was. By the time Lawan’s supporters made their way back to the National Assembly the deed had been done – Bukola Saraki was seated at the dais with the gavel in hand as President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To make matters worse for the APC, Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP from Enugu State got elected as Deputy President of the Senate! Saraki had fully Tambuwalized the APC! In much the same way Tambuwal Tambuwalized the PDP in 2011 although under different dramatic circumstances. While Saraki said he hid in a small car in the parking lot of the national assembly to avoid possible truncation of his ambition, Tambuwal on that fateful day disguised himself in a loose black suit adorning a mismatched fedora hat to be able to outwit a security cordon set up to prevent his entry into the green chamber. At the end of proceedings, he was Speaker, much to the consternation of PDP goons detailed to deliver Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, the choice of the party.
Shortly after the Saraki shocker, the bloodied nose served the ruling party received further punches as a majority of members of the House of Representatives spurned the party’s anointed choice for Speaker and elected Hon. Yakubu Dogara instead. The Tambuwalization of the National Assembly was a fait accompli and the rest like they say, is history. Left with broken brooms and a bruised ego, the APC has since been huffing and puffing, brandishing empty threats that may eventually lead to its unravelling. And by extension, a crumbling of the much-vaunted change manifesto of the APC. It is this sad possibility that the party ought to be concerned about and be smart enough to let bygones be bygones instead of engaging in unnecessary supremacy battle that is neither backed by the constitution of the Federal Republic nor the regulating instruments of the national assembly. Much has been written of the APC faux pax which led it to this blind alley: the initial prevarication over zoning; disharmonious tunes from party and presidency; imposition of candidates; a contrived mock election; and attempts to arm twist certain individuals and all and all.
Clearly, the APC failed to learn its lessons from what happened to PDP in 2011. Worse still, they are failing unfortunately to manage what is left of the humiliation of June 8 unlike the PDP which licked its wounds and quickly moved on. It is high time the party pursued genuine reconciliation and articulate a way forward. At least for the sake of the Buhari administration that would invariably need the national assembly to continually cooperate with it in order to actualize its campaign promises to Nigerians. This must have informed the decision of the national chairman of the party, Mr. John Oyegun, to publicly assert that the party has accepted the outcome of events in the federal legislature. Unfortunately, it was a declaration that has pitched him against powerful forces in the party that are now directly and indirectly calling for his head.
With regards to the other principal offices of the House of Representatives, the APC must be advised against its dangerous insistence on truncating federal character as enshrined in the constitution and negating the principles of fairness, equity and justice vis-a-vis other geo-political zones of the country. If the south west already has the deputy speaker, it would only be unfair to canvass for the position of House Majority Leader to be allotted to same zone. That is why it is sensible and commendable that the group loyal to Speaker Dogara has asked the Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila faction to fill the vacant position of House Leader from any other zone aside the south-west and north-east. In the senate, Saraki was quick and smart to complete his ‘coup’ with a complete negation of the dictates of the APC by naming other principal officers and then adjourning the senate for weeks to allow tempers cool. The signs are clear enough. APC must retreat now and restrategize or become incapacitated to fight again. Because he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day, so said a wailing wailer some decades ago. For the buffeted brooms of APC, there are many battles ahead indeed. It either bonds together now or be prised permanently apart.
About Oke Epia:
He is an ex-parliamentary adviser at the National Assembly. Follow him on Twitter via @resourceme.
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