The Ife University management, then led by Professor Michael Faborode, had rusticated some Students’ Union leaders: Akinola Saburi (Malcom X), Ogunma Segun Adrew (Karl Marx), Taiwo Hassan (Soweto), Tunde Dairo(Barry Blacky) and others for politically-motivated reasons and had the very vibrant Union proscribed earlier in 2006. The students, particularly we the then freshmen, were left at the mercy of the University management and its notorious security men known as “crackers” (a group that fallout of the earlier Modakeke-Ife crises) whose mandates includes but not limited to harassing, intimidating and supressing students’ voice particularly students with progressive orientations and ideological groups on the campus. This was sometimes in 2007.
I joined the ranks of the Union when its ban was lifted in 2008. Against all “admonitions”, and at great personal risks, I joined the movement to campaign for the reinstatement of the victimised activists. It was at this point that I admired the invaluable role played by the Union legal adviser, Jiti Ogunye in seeing to the reinstatement of these lads. This was my faintest recollections of Comrade Jiti Ogunye. Akinola Saburi(Malcom X), the victimised Union President; Ogunma Segun Andrew(Karl Marx) his Speaker, were reinstated in 2011, the same year I graduated. I later came to know that for all his efforts; Jiti’s Chambers did all he did for us at no extra cost to our funds-starved Union. There is always a price to pay for holding fast your conviction!
Recently, Comrade Jiti wrote under the title: SENATORS SARAKI AND EKWEREMADU’S ELECTIONS ARE A NULLITY, which contains his thoughts on the controversial National Assembly leadership election. I must say that I am still impressed by this man’s dexterity in his calling, but whether I agree with him on his opinion is another matter altogether.
Before I proceed, let me make some germane clarifications. First, I am not a lawyer; therefore I must be quick to admit my limited knowledge of the technicalities in Law. Unlike Jiti, I will look at the issues purely from political standpoint(s). Secondly, I am not, and will never be in support of thuggery, hooliganism and utter recklessness as witnessed during the June 9 National Assembly leadership election. On these two points I guess I am still on the same page with Jiti.
In the said article, he raised several points steaming from morality to legality to criminality. Let us start with the issue of morality. I noticed he mentioned more of “should” and “ought to” in the articles which connotes normative interpretations. I have learnt to stop using some words, as far as politics is concerned. The “shoulds”, “ought tos”, “supposed tos” etcetera form the bloc of words I avoid like a plague!
He made the following point: “…the APC, correctly and responsibly,…conducted a straw poll among its legislators to determine the popularity and acceptability of the aspirant and adopt consensus of the party for the position.” I agree it was acts of betrayal and gross indiscipline for Bukola Saraki and Yakub Dogara to proceed to contest the positions against the interest of their party, the APC. But if we agree with the German statesman, Otto van Bismarck, that “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable-the art of the next best” then we will see that interests have roles to play in politics.
As far as this writer is concerned, even though we were thought in political theory classes that “what is morally wrong cannot be politically right” I know for a truth that this only ended just as it came-a theory. The morality in the issue is purely relative, while ambition is the key word. Politics is about negotiating and compromise, in some cases with the devil! If the APC missed out on this, then it’s too late to cry.
It is not just enough for the APC to conduct a straw poll, it behoves the party to set up the mechanism to ensure its members to toe the party line. All before then, the PDP has been in crises, since it removed Alhaji Adamu Muazu, it suddenly found its lost unity and embraced its lost sheep in Saraki and Dogara. The PDP simply put behind it its presidential election defeat and braced up for a new challenge-the control of the Legislature. I see nothing unusual in this!
Let me still take a look at the picture painted by Jiti. In the Senate, the APC had 59 members as against PDP’s 49. On the surface, it looks good for the APC to “control” the House. But what the party fails to realise is its own underestimation of the desperation of its rival, PDP on the one hand and the facts of precedence on the other hand.
I have written in my earlier articles on the National Assembly crises (in all of which I placed the blame of the party’s post-presidential election strategies) that if there is anything the APC got wrong, it is their gross underestimation of the PDP’s ambitions. Someone with 49 “standing” or bloc votes out of possible 109 votes can only be underestimated at one’s own peril. Saraki only needed a minimum of 6 votes from the flesh of APC’s 59 to clinch the seat. Politics, again, is a game of numbers. How often have we heard this told?
There is also a question of precedence. In 2011, Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP came up against his party’s candidate, Alhaja Mulikat Akande for the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives. With the PDP’s votes largely divided, Tambuwal sort the support of the then, Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) which had about 71 members, the All Nigerian People’s Party(ANPP) and the Congress for Progressives Change(CPC). In addition to the votes he could get from PDP’s flesh, he won the election. It is instructive to note here that Tambuwal later joined the APC in the eve of the 2015 election. Can we say that Saraki played the same game the APC once won?
I am also tempted to delve into the issues of legalities and extra-legalities raised in the article. I must confess at this point, I have not read the Senate Standing Orders, either the one of 2011 or 2015(?) but one thing I know for certain is that the Standing Orders, derive their foundation from the sacrosanct provisions of the 1999 Constitution. Again, to be elected as Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives, one needs only 55 votes out of 109 to win a simple majority. I am not so good in arithmetic, but I know what simple means. If 57 out of 109 is not simple majority, then I don’t know the meaning of the term!
While not holding brief for any party or faction in the crises, my take is that if there is a Presidential Proclamation declaring the National Assembly open, then 51 APC Senators’ absence when such an important function was going in the Senate is discomforting if not suspicious. As Jiti himself noted, the House will not wait for anyone who absent himself or herself from the session!
Again, even if the 51 APC senators were on the floor of the Senate, they would have come against 49 PDP reunited with their 8 former colleagues now in APC. As far as my knowledge of the 1999 Constitution can serve me, only a simple majority (of senators voting) is required to will the election as Senate President. That also reminds me, in the case of the House of Representatives, where all the members voted, did that still prevented Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, the APC candidate from losing the Speakership?
That leads me the next point raised in Jiti’s article-Forgery. In my opinion, the case of forgery largely applies to Senator Ike Eweremadu who, as a PDP member, “won” election as Deputy Senate President in an APC-controlled House. It has been alleged that he forged the Senate Standing Orders, 2011 to accommodate his own ambition. I will reserve my comment on this matter especially now that the case is in Court. I am also aware that full scale police investigations are in top gear on the matter. Should anyone, including Senator Saraki, be found culpable, I submit not only should they lose their positions, they should also be made to lose their seats in the House, in addition to their being banned from holding political offices for an upward 20 years!
It is very easy to “moralise” and “ethicize” the arguments now, but we I know, morality is a branch of study to which no one can claim to have sole authority because it is highly subjective. What transpired on the floor of the National Assembly was just a game of chess where one is beaten in his own manoeuvres. I am defending a fraud? I wish I hadn’t written this!