We must follow legislative best practices in choosing ninth NASS presiding officers — Adeyeye, APC senator-elect
Prince Dayo Adeyeye served as spokesman of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, in the days of the struggle against military rule. A former minister and spokesman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adeyeye was elected to represent Ekiti South Senatorial District in the ninth Senate on the platform of the APC. In this interview, he speaks on the budding crisis over the leadership of the ninth National Assembly. Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, brings excerpts:
There are indications members of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may vie for presiding officer positions in the coming Assembly. What do you think your party can do to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2015?
In the United States of America (USA) as we speak today, the Republicans are in the majority with three or four senators over the Democrats in the Senate and yet nobody in the minority party ever contemplated nominating any of their members to become the Majority Leader because that would be against the ethics and the norms of parliamentary practice and procedure. I think it will be totally unbecoming of any senator to make that kind of statement. By now, after 20 years, we should stop experimentation. By now, we should start a proper culture, ethics and norms of the advanced democracy. We should reflect what the public expect should be the outcome of an election, the implication of the result of an election.
The implication now is that Nigerians have given the All Progressives Congress (APC), the majority of the seats in the Senate; they, therefore, expect the APC to control the Senate. Nobody should try to subvert the will of the people by trying to play any game or causing any division, even among the majority party such that the will of the people, freely expressed at the polls, could be subverted. I do not expect any member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to come out and contest for leadership positions meant for the party with the majority seats on the day of inauguration of the ninth National Assembly.
But don’t you think a situation in which you have up to three members of the APC contesting already makes a fertile ground for the PDP to thrive?
Every contestant on that day should be APC members. Since Nigerians deliberately voted for the APC to constitute the majority in the nation’s parliament with about 64 senators, the contest for the leadership positions should be within the APC; the PDP should not interfere in it. The opposition party should not produce any candidate and its members should not contest on that day. That is the practice in the advanced democracies; no minority party plays any game to take over the majority when it did not win the highest number of seats during the general elections. Even if the APC is presenting the three senators, I do not expect that the PDP would try to take the advantage of the situation by sponsoring one of its members to contest the position of the Senate presidency. We don’t want such attitude in the Senate. I think by now, we should have rules and proper democratic norms and values. What would prevent us from doing that is not expected of us as a party and as members of a party.
But there is a difference in our laws compared to the established democracies you have mentioned. Our constitution says the lawmakers shall elect the presiding officers from among themselves, which means that all elected members are free to contest…
It doesn’t have to be written in the constitution or in the House Rules. It is like if we are running a parliamentary system of government, the party with the majority of the seats in the legislature is expected to form the government and appoint senior members as ministers. Are you then saying that if there is a contest for the leadership of the parliament under that system, the opposition, the minority party, will take the advantage of a division to say they want to form a government? No, it doesn’t happen that way. Even if there is a leadership challenge, like what happened during the time of Margaret Thatcher (in the UK) when John Major came in, the people rejected a particular leader but insisted that the new must Prime Minister and the ministers must be the also be from the ruling party. What I expect is that, going forward, each party should have a Senate committee which would ensure that they control the majority in the federal parliament just like what they are doing in the US, by raising money to sponsor candidates so that they can be in the majority in the Senate. We are not doing that in Nigeria but waiting to cut corners after the people have elected their choice.
So what should your party do now to prevent the hijack of the positions meant for the majority in the Senate?
My party should do everything possible within its powers not to allow the PDP to take the advantage of the situation by presenting one candidate for the election on the floor of the House on the day of inauguration.
Your party has announced a single candidate for the post of Senate President and also Speaker of the House, but some of its members are kicking and insisting on contesting the seats. Is that not an invitation to the opposition?
The two ranking senators have the right to say they want to be Senate President as long as they are APC members, more so when the position has been zoned to their area. However, I think we can always find compromise. It is a matter of give and take. I think the leadership of the party in the country should do well to assuage the feelings of those who might not have been favoured in the selection process by inviting them and letting them see reasons since the interest of the party is more important than individual interests. When we fight for and protect the collective interests, individual privileges and interests can still be met.
Would you support a situation where any member of your party wishing to contest the position of Senate President would align with members of the opposition to win?
Such situation is not within the control of any person. However, I do not expect a person contesting the seat of the Senate President to make a member of the opposition party, his deputy in order to win the election. That would be a total betrayal. I expect that the party with the majority seats would produce the presiding officers and the principal officers meant for the ruling party. That has been the situation in Nigeria up till 2015 when we had the aberration.
It is high time we put a stop to such an unholy collaboration when we would have a Senate President from the ruling party, having a deputy from the minority party. What is currently happening in the eighth Senate temporarily halted the democratic tradition we were developing but we are trying to resuscitate it.