Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not new to controversy. He has been courting it since his active days as the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). Oshiomhole, several times, took to task, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, declaring nationwide strikes and crippling activities over increments in fuel prices or other sundry labour issues.
He moved ahead to become the governor of Edo State, serving two terms of eight years.
When his name was brought forward as the man to replace the erstwhile national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, some governors and party stakeholders kicked against him for reasons perceived to be connected with his militancy and alleged arrogance.
But the power brokers in the party, supported by President Muhammadu Buhari, had their way, browbeating the governors and other dissenting voices into submission.
Since he assumed that role in June 2018, Oshiomhole has provoked crisis in the party, culminating in the massive defections that have hit the party at the National Assembly and some states across the country with senators, led by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives members and three governors, leaving the party for other platforms.
Oshiomhole has also received the former Senate Minority Leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, into his party, with some other characters that have returned to APC.
But we are not worried by the gale of defections across party lines, as that is characteristic of Nigerian politics, where ideology does not exist. We are only worried by the APC chairman’s disposition to the defections out of his party, especially his position that Saraki must be impeached for defecting from APC to PDP.
Ordinarily, we do not begrudge Oshiomhole for crying foul over the depletion of his party. He has a right to cry when the party he inherited is shrinking. We also accept the fact that loosing Saraki, the Senate president and, senators, hurts. But we are worried by Oshiomhole’s continued push for Saraki’s removal at all cost, even to the level of swearing and offering automatic tickets to APC senators to do his bidding.
For one, we know that the position of the Senate president does not have to do with the party. At least, the Nigerian constitution, which is the ground norm, did not leave the position at the mercy of the party.
It is the exclusive right of senators.
Section 50(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was very clear on the provisions for the removal of the Senate president or the speaker of the House of Representatives. It stated: “The president or deputy president of the Senate or the speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office -(a) if he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or (b) when the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or(c) if he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.”
It had also stated in Section 50(1) that: “There shall be:-(a) a president and a deputy president of the Senate, who shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.”
We note that the constitution makes it clear that the senators shall elect from themselves and that the Senate president and his deputy shall be removed from office by two-third majority of members of the House.
That is why we do not agree with Oshiomhole’s strong arm tactics of trying to force the removal of the Senate leadership at all cost. His utterances, his moves and his hard line posture on the issue are, at best, provocative and out of sync with democratic norms.
His umbrage against lawyers and journalists, who have argued against any illegal move against Saraki and the Senate leadership, does not help his cause in any way.
We acknowledge, however, that Oshiomhole insisted that Saraki would be legally and democratically impeached. We take that to mean that he would work towards getting the 73 senators needed for the removal of the Senate leadership.
As presently constituted, APC has about 56 Senators and the PDP 49, while four others belong to other parties outside the big two. We believe that to effect a change of leadership at the Senate, APC, led by Oshiomhole, would require working with about 15 more Senators from outside the party to achieve the goal.
But we also recall that the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, defected to APC in 2014 as the speaker of the House and held that position until the end of his tenure when he was elected governor. Heavens did not fall and hell was not let loose.
While we sympathise with Oshiomhole and APC for their loss, we insist that only democratic change of leadership would be acceptable at the Senate. We do not believe that the defections are enough to overheat the polity or sacrifice the democratic process.
Rather than shouting and browbeating senators in a way reminiscent of the Obasanjo era, we advise Oshiomhole to play politics of gaining more people to his side to achieve his aim.
If not, he would be making Saraki a victim, which the Senate president would be happy to lap up.
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