National chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, appears like a man who listens only to himself. And this came to the fore last week, when he spoke at the reception for members-elect of the House of Representatives of the incoming Ninth Assembly.
He had addressed this same set of lawmakers some weeks back, releasing vituperations against the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and vowing about the determination and desire of his party to make a clean sweep of all committee positions in the incoming Assembly.
The day after his meeting with the Reps, he also led Senators to the Presidential Villa, where he first introduced the idea that Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan has been endorsed as the Senate President of the Ninth Senate.
Despite the criticisms and the resistance that greeted the way he announced Senator Lawan, said to be without the usual preambles a politician would want to hear, Oshiomhole went about last week announcing Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as the anointed candidate for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives at the dinner with the President and the Rep-elect of the Ninth Assembly in similar pattern. He declared the readiness of the APC to render the opposition practically useless and that his members are not ready to dine with the “devil.”
Oshiomhole had said: “If you are elected, it means you are tested and trusted. The National Working Committee (of the APC) had a meeting with representatives-elect, three weeks ago and it was very revealing. Their intervention is a clear confirmation that Nigerians did not make a mistake by electing them. Their deep knowledge of the constitution would convince many that they were not first timers but seasoned lawmakers.
“I am confident that this time around, they are very hungry Nigerians ready to deliver on the mandates at the campaigns.”
He said that with 223 members out of 360 in the House of Representatives, the APC would not need to share power with the PDP.
He added: “In life, mistakes are permitted but it becomes a problem if the mistake is repeated twice. We are determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2015 in 2019, we have learnt our lesson.
“Out of 223 APC elected members, about 67 were re-elected, the rest are new members.
“In other climes, you don’t go into coalition when you are in the majority, you do so when you don’t have the numbers. We have the numbers, out of 360, Nigerians elected 223 APC members because they don’t want Mr. President to face the trauma of 2015.
“We cannot as a party, which has a comfortable majority, entrust critical committees in the hands of the PDP or the opposition.”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we have to conclude that Oshiomhole is sounding less than the leader of a political party. Maybe he can’t just shed the confrontational toga of an activist; something that has defined his living for long.
But politics and activism are poles apart. Whereas the winner takes all mentality thrives in the activism world, and you can see that in reality in the motor park democracy, the war lords of the parks play out each time they want a change of administration, in democratic governance, persuasion, consultations and team spirit are the hallmark of effective operation.
Unlike the situation that portends the opposition as enemy, which Oshiomhole had projected, perhaps, in trying to enliven the soldier spirit of the leader of his party, the opposition in our politics are no enemies. They are citizens who agree to disagree. In the parliaments, they are colleagues who disagree at one instance and agree again on the next motion.
Contrary to the image being painted by Oshiomhole, the opposition would have its say and the majority would have its way, which is the making of our democracy. The rules of the Senate and the House of Representatives do not provide room for the annihilation of the opposing view.
Having made similar comments at the earlier meetings, and with the statements bouncing off the wall, you expect Oshiomhole to check what was amiss with his position.
True that majority parties have their ways in a democracy. True that the majority would ordinarily preside over the parliaments. The chairman is also right to insist that his party could recommend preferred candidates to the incoming sessions of the parliaments. But the chairman must agree that even though the lawmakers are carrying the banner of the party into the chambers, they are required to swear to oath of office as Senators/Reps of the Federal Republic and also Oath of Allegiance to the Federal Republic. Thus, while the party serves as the vehicle that drives a lawmaker to the chamber, the party’s role almost practically dies at the entrance of the chamber.
And then Oshiomhole is not permitted to breathe down the necks of lawmakers in making his suggestions. He must act as a marketer of his party/ideas rather than an enforcer of ideas that did not necessarily emanate from democratic processes.
In projecting candidates for 9th Assembly, he can project their qualifications and acceptability. He can’t tell lawmakers to take it or get off. He can reach out to ambitious Senators and Rep members, lobby them and reach truce . In the end he can use them as foot soldiers.
Former Senate President, David Mark is popular with the refrain: “at the risk of sounding like a broken record…” He uses that to drive home his positive interventions in bills and motions. It is sad, Oshiomhole is adopting the agbero version of the broken record.