By Demola Abimboye
In the past couple of weeks, especially since the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, emerged victorious in all the 2019 elections, spoil mongers – those “who promise or distribute public offices and their emoluments as the price of services to a party or its leaders” – have gone to the drawing tables fashioning out who gets what once members of the National Assembly are sworn in on May 29, 2019.
The most contentious area, for now, has been who emerges President and Speaker of the 9th Senate and House of Representatives respectively. The two chambers are expected to be inaugurated on May 29 but would elect their principal officers early June.
Although President Buhari has not come out to state categorically who he wants to occupy the offices, two party stalwarts – Adams Oshiomhole and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, chairman and national leader of APC respectively – have appropriated to themselves the power to determine who becomes what in the National Assembly. The two men have practically embraced the phrase ‘To the Victor Go the Spoils,’ an expression championed in 1832 by William Marcy, a senator from New York. The lawmaker, in an argument against the Democratic Party, contended that there was nothing wrong “in the rule that to the victor belong the spoils of victory,” meaning that the winner takes all.
Tinubu and Oshiomhole have foreclosed any idea of the members of the hallowed chambers electing their leaders. They have told the whole world that Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila from Yobe and Lagos States respectively, should be Senate President and Speaker without proper thought for other contenders or geo-political zones. The two men simply zoned the two offices to the North East and South West respectively. More importantly, they have micro-zoned the offices to Yobe and Lagos States. Thereafter, they warned other aspirants to either fall in line or leave the party.
While one respects the right of Lawan or anyone for that matter to aspire to be Senate President, methinks the power brokers should have done a proper appraisal of what each Senator from the North East contributed to APC’s victory before arriving at who contests for what office. There is absolutely no need to be fixated on one man from the zone made up of six states – Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba.
Now, as a result of Tinubu and Oshiomhole’s insistence on Lawan, there is a growing disenchantment with the micro-zoning arrangement. Senators Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje from Borno and Gombe States respectively, have shown interest in the plum job. It is obvious that neither of them would subjugate his interest to that of an anointed candidate.
Against this background, it stands to reason that since the North East has been tipped to produce the Senate President, one believes there are eminently qualified legislators for the plum job. Senator Ali Ndume, a very high ranking Senator, fits the bill.
Born on 20 November 1959 in Gwoza, Borno State, Ndume was a former senior lecturer at the famous Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri and was awarded the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Post-Graduate Scholarship in 1988 to study Business and Computer Education at the University of Toledo Ohio, United States of America. He bagged M.Ed in 1990 and was awarded Magna Cum Laude academic honour.
He was also admitted into the Phi Kappa Phi academic society for outstanding performance. He returned to Ramat Polytechnic and lectured till 2003, when he won election on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s party, ANPP to represent Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 2007 and was unanimously elected as the Minority Leader.
Ndume decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in December 2010, barely 100 days to the 2011 elections; contested for Borno South Senatorial District and won 146,403 votes, as against those of Dr. Vilita Bashir of the ANPP, 133,734 votes and Alhaji Unaru Ibrahim of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, with 20,414 votes. In the 7th Senate, Ndume served as Chairman of the Committee on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs. He was re-elected Senator in 2015 and emerged Leader of the Senate.
A level-headed bridge builder, Ndume has the network to ensure smooth operation between the legislature and executive arms of government. Recall that he was instrumental to truncating impeachment plots against the president in 2018 and stabilizing the legislature after the gale of defections that swept through the chamber.
But the insistence by two party leaders on an anointed candidate has invariably raised the question as to who has the power to zone positions or offices to be occupied by Senators or Representatives in the 9th Assembly. Normally, the party has the sole responsibility to decide what goes to each geo-political zone. Instructively, the decision ought to be taken jointly by the party and the Senators rather than by two individuals.
In any case, the 1999 Constitution stipulates how the Senators and Representatives should elect their leaders. Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that there shall be: (a) a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
This is the way it should be done.