The foregoing are thoughts that have been on my mind for some time. Not sure what the point of this piece will be in the end, but I hope there’s a point or two in there somewhere.
There is a level of insincerity within our elite class that I find demonic as it is difficult to understand the level of selfishness and self-centredness within their ranks. We probably can count the number of elites that have actually walked the talk on one hand. Given the scale of patronage in Nigeria, these elites have always had the means and power to do what is right for our country without necessarily sacrificing their self-interest. But time and again they choose to be demonic.
It is obvious to me that the only way Nigeria can move forward is to restructure and reform. This can only happen if and when the legislative arm of government wants it to happen. As powerful as the executive arm is, the most they can do is propose bills, only the legislative arm can pass them into law. For whatever reason, we’ve paid little attention to the legislative arm of government especially those at the federal level. I can forgive some parts of the general public for this lack of focus on the legislature (ignorance, lack of/inadequate education etc), but I find it hard to forgive members of the elite especially the political ones for this oversight. What bills have El Rufai, Atiku Abubakar, Oby Ezekwesili, Pat Itomi, Ngozi Okwonjo-Iweala, HRH Sanusi, Raji Fashola, Asiwaju Tinubu, Charles Soludo, Femi Aribasala, Reuben Abati, Segun Adeniyi, Omobola Johnson, Akinwunmi Adesina, Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomole, Kayode Fayemi, Alex Otti, Tony Elumelu, Bismarck Rewane, Prof Oyebode – sponsored or lobbied their representative in the NASS since our return to democracy to help move Nigeria forward? I explain.
We are all aware of the insolvent nature of most of our states or sub-national governments, particularly the need for each federating unit to have more control over its affairs and resources. Prof Soludo actually gave a fantastic speech at UNN in 2010 titled “Who will reform politics in Nigeria?” (please find it if you can – I can email a copy if you want). The issue I have is that what efforts have those with the means to lobby NASS effectively made to ensure this structurally positive step is actualised? For example, the need for this structural change will be known to someone like Gov El Rufai. What steps has he taken (beyond fighting Shehu Sani) to lobby his state’s representative in the NASS to propose bills that will lead to federating units having more control of their resources? Even if he lays claim to not being responsible prior to becoming Governor, now that he is, what is he doing? This isn’t an El Rufai bashing piece. The same allegation can be laid at the feet of every current and past governor. The governor’s forum is quite clearly a powerful one; we’ve seen how powerful they can be when they defeated hapless ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in the ECA case at the Supreme Court. Why can’t they lobby their representatives in the NASS to bring about the necessary change their state so glaringly needs? What sort of lobbying am I referring to? The type that resulted into the creation of the 13% derivation formula in our Constitution as well as the type that Senator Remi Tinubu tried to get for Lagos when she introduced the defeated Lagos Special Status bill.
We all know the means available to Turaki Adamawa. Since our return to democracy, has he prevailed or lobby the NASS members of his state to band together with other like minds to push reform bills through the legislature that are in line with his stated belief that Nigeria needs to reform and embrace true federalism? What exactly is stopping Turaki to prevail on his friends in politics like Senate President Saraki or Asiwaju Tinubu to come together and drive reform through the NASS? Must they have control of Aso Rock before they can do this? Another example, why can’t Governors agree at their forum to sponsor a bill establishing State Police and lobby their NASS representatives to push the bill through? Why must they wait for the Executive to propose this bill? Wouldn’t the establishment of State police have helped fight Boko Haram, Herdsmen crisis or even help (*sideeye*) Gov El Rufai maintain peace in Kaduna? State police for example can be placed under the State AGF if there are fears Governors can misuse them?
If I have a point in my rant above it is that these ‘usual suspects’ that have paraded themselves as messianic to our problems have always had the means to bring about the real change our nation needs by lobbying the legislature appropriately. But for whatever reason, they’ve chosen no to do so, seemingly preferring to wait until they get the keys to Aso Rock just so that they can be the one that takes the glory of being in power when reforms happen? Turaki may never become President but if he’s sponsored reform bills like those mentioned above, won’t it be on record that he led Nigeria’s reform? Given how useless NASS seems to be, the next logical step is for elites with access to proper intellectual resource to come to the aid of our NASS so that they can rationalise our laws and pass appropriate and reasonable amendment acts. Besides, it is likely that two terms of office may not be enough to complete the reform objective, does it then not make sense to start well before?
Personally I’d like to see smaller parties like Kowa, NCP focus more on invading the legislature with qualitative people than waste money chasing executive offices. The change that Nigeria needs can only come from the legislature. If our people need to be more educated on democracy and governance, then it is the arm of government with more people in public office that is better placed to spearhead that education. If Kowa, NCP and others are focussing on getting executive power, then their strategy will be wrong in my view. Let them start with aiming to get control of at least a third of NASS in 2019.
What is the point here? I think our salvation lies in the legislature. It is where we can really show people power. My hope is that in 2019, we focus more or at least as much on the legislative elections as we do on the executive elections. The legislature can constrain the executive and it is where the real power is. The executive can’t act outside of our laws, if they do, they leave themselves open to impeachment!!! We also need to test our recall mechanism. I hope one of the small parties can pick two federal legislators – one from each chamber – and get them recalled, just to bare their teeth and give confidence to the public that we proved in 2015 that we can change executive power at the centre, we can do the same to any federal legislator too!
The big hitters have already begun moves for 2019. Some of them have manoeuvred themselves into tight spots already. Let me speculate.
Ex VP Atiku clearly is interested in contesting in 2019. I can’t see how he’ll pick up APCs ticket. In my view, incumbent President Buhari is ahead of him and if he decides not to go for a second term, Gov El Rufai is also ahead in the pecking order. His options will then be to either form a new party or join one of the existing ones. Decamping to PDP for example will ensure his defeat. He could choose to exit APC with ACN/nPDP and align with Asiwaju Tinubu and Senate President Saraki. Asiwaju doesn’t seem to be interested in becoming president so he can be a real tool for Atiku to get as much support as possible. If Asiwaju and Atiku join forces that will increase the likelihood that VP Osinbajo may not be on President Buhari’s ticket in 2019. The assumption here is that they will accept that they won’t win SW votes; most they can get is Ondo and maybe Ogun given the recent outcome of the Ondo election and President Buhari’s longstanding relationship with Gov Amosun. That will leave President Buhari to go for the SS/SE votes to compliment his Northern votes to retain office. Front runners for running mate in that case appear to me to be Rotimi Amaechi or Adams Oshiomole. Rochas Okorocha seems to me to be a political lightweight.
Where does this leave Gov El Rufai? He’s been trying his best to be and sound more like President Buhari in order for the President’s inner caucus to accept him as a worthy/direct replacement should the President choose not to pursue a second term. Given what he wrote about himself in his book The Accidental Public Servant, El Rufai has had to contradict himself or who he claims to be just to be accepted as successor. The extent of this contradiction and the length he is going to prove it seems to suggest that the inner caucus aren’t quite buying his act. If he misses out on the 2019 ticket and given the rotational nature of the ethnicity of who should occupy the Presidency, Gov El Rufai may need to wait until 2031 to have another shot. By then though, he’ll be 71! I can’t imagine he wants to be President at that age so I expect the heaviest push for his candidacy from 2H2017 all through to 2018.
So when the campaigning begins officially in 2018, please remember this point.