The fear of the National Assembly seems to have become the beginning of wisdom in the Presidency. Since the resumption of the federal lawmakers from their annual vacation, there has been tension that the on-going crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will rub-off on the federal legislature.
Before the resumption, there were speculations that the first sitting in both chambers after their vacation would be turbulent, leading to fear gripping some presidential aides while the plenary session lasted.
The impression was that members of the National Assembly in the mainstream PDP, led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan (aka old PDP), and those of the splinter group (nPDP), led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, with the support of the G-7 ‘rebel’ governors, were ready to flex muscles.
A presidential aide revealed that calls kept coming in during the Tuesday plenary by people who wanted to know the atmosphere and unfolding events in the National Assembly, and also to find out whether the bookmakers were correct in their prediction that the opening session was going to be rowdy.
To heighten the tension was the purported increasing membership of the nPDP in both chambers.
Despite the anticipated crisis, the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, dismissed the speculation. He said there was no way the Senate would witness any crisis.
Ndoma-Egba said, “First, let me concede the point that any crisis within the PDP will have repercussions on the polity generally for the simple reason that the PDP is the party in government. Whatever crisis we have will certainly have consequences on the polity for better or for worse. But, having said so, let me remind that crisis is the feature of any active political party.
“But whether or not that is going to affect the leadership of the National Assembly, I can speak for the Senate. Like I said earlier on, no matter the crisis we have in the PDP, it is likely to impact on the polity generally. And the historical role of senate, not just in Nigeria but all over the world from time immemorial is to stabilize the polity in times of crisis and I believe that this time around, the Senate will once again, rise to the occasion of stabilizing the country in spite of the current tensions in PDP.
“I don’t see the current tension in the PDP affecting the leadership of the Senate because the Senate is made up of statesmen who appreciate their historic role in stabilizing the polity and they will not do anything that will create instability.”
What nearly proved those who had predicted a turbulent session right was the visit of the G-7 Governors with the executive members of the nPDP-led by Baraje to the National Assembly.
The ‘rebel’ governors and the PDP faction reportedly visited the two chambers of the National Assembly to draw support from the federal lawmakers which, if they had succeeded, would have been the beginning of impeachment process against President Goodluck Jonathan.
The nPDP and ‘rebel’ governors were received by the Senate President after the plenary. The leader of the delegation, Baraje, noted that the PDP had, in recent years, started declining in its democratic image mainly due to what he described as “lack of internal democracy as a result of undue interference of the Presidency especially as it concerns the election of party national officers .”
According to him, the development has affected the quality and style of leadership that pride in illegal dissolution of state party structures and other acts of impunity.
Baraje said that as a result of the anomalies, “some governors, former governors, party elders and indeed members of the National Assembly decided to act to rescue the party from undemocratic tendencies and by extension save the country from collapse”.
He told the Senate President that their mission was to report to him most of their grievances against Tukur and Jonathan. The grievances are: the crisis in the Rivers State PDP, suspension of the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, from the party, interference in the election of the Chairman of NGF, the dissolution of Adamawa State executive committee of the party and the exclusion of stakeholders from the running of the party. Most importantly, he said that it was unconstitutional for Jonathan to seek third term.
Before the visit of the nPDP, the Senate President, while welcoming senators from vacation, had told them that the polity was assailed by political tremors on account of the 2015 elections. He reminded them that they are first and foremost senators; and though not impervious to the present centrifugal political pulls, they must put the interest of the country above every other consideration.
Mark told his colleagues, “We must not only rise above narrow, parochial and partisan considerations, we must also very eloquently, by deeds and words, demonstrate the capacity and willingness to moderate national discourse and balance the polity. This we can only do by always standing with the people and on the side of truth and by painstakingly striving at all times to do what is legally and constitutionally right and morally justifiable.
“It is disheartening that even though the general elections of 2015 are two years away, political jobbers, sycophants and hustlers have prematurely seized the political space and are being allowed to set the tone of national discourse. This is unnecessary and avoidable distraction by characters or hirelings who are desperately in search of relevance.
“They are only out to feather their own nests and in the process unduly overheat the polity. They employ every weapon, including the threats of war and open saber rattling to advance their partisan causes. I am therefore compelled to urge restraint and to call on putative contestants to various political positions in 2015 to advise themselves and call their various supporters to order”.
He warned those behind the plots and drums of war to desist from it, saying, “beating the drums of war, chanting war songs and blackmailing the nation with fire and brimstone are outdated and unacceptable tools of political brinksmanship.”
In a statement after the plenary, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emordi, stated that those who had expected that the National Assembly would witness a rowdy session were put to shame.
She said, “Those prophets of doom underrate the patriotic spirit of the members of the National Assembly and their commitment to preserving our democracy knowing very well that Nigeria is bigger than any narrow group ambition.”
She reminded members that the legislature had always been at the receiving end of every truncation of democratic governance, but expressed optimism that the members were committed to preserving the democracy.