Sharing Spoils of War: Wither Democracy?

May 20th, 2019

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.

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