A Member, House of Representatives representing Buruku Federal Constituency under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev, is Senator-elect for Benue State North West Senatorial District. In this interview, he listed why the All Progressives Congress (APC) would failed in it open adoption of Senate President and House Speaker candidates. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: The incoming 9th Assembly has many things to offer Nigerian, as the expectations are high. But with the state of the economy, insecurity and other challenges, would the assembly be able to meet the expectations or surpass the 8th assembly?
Orker-Jev: Hopefully, yes. I think the best thing to human being can cling to is hope. Once, there is no hope it means you are just wasting your time. So, I think there should be a lot of hope in the 9th assembly. My only concern is as little as a legislature and as a Nigerian is that there appear to be the more of the same thing. I mean the leadership is looking like the ones that we have in the 8th assembly that led us into some of these problems that we are talking about. And this is the unwholesome relationship between the legislature and the executive. I don’t think it is right to have a group of lawmakers elected in their own right coming together, supported by the constitution as an arm of government, and you begin to start maneuvering to force a leadership on them. That is my worry in all of this.
Make no mistake about it, who presides over the House of Representatives and the Senate is not a party thing. Conventionality, the majority party will throw up the leadership of the house. There is no doubt about this because they have the numbers, but it is not cast in stone. If you remember in the second republic, Chief Ume Ezeoke was Speaker of the House of Representatives, even though he belonged to a minority or opposition party due to an alliance. Presently, we have the Deputy Senate President coming from the party other than the majority party. So, it means that you would have to come up with a coalition of all that were elected. Section 50 of the constitution says there shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected from among the members. There is no mention of party and same is in respect of the Speaker of the House. But now the APC is turning it into the political thing and is annoying and irritating people and can they market those they have endorsed.
Senator Ahmed Lawan on his own can convince members to vote him as the Senate President and there will be no problem about it, same for Femi Gbajabiamila in the House but the moment you begin to make it look like those are the anointed, some people will reject it. I am afraid that if it is not handled well, there would be a repeat of the past, because once people feel that the leader is forced on them they would not work harmoniously.
DT: Do you think any party would not be directly interested in the leadership of the National Assembly?
Orker-Jev: No responsible party will be uninterested. They should be interested, but it should not be a matter for the headlines, coming out and addressing the media that this is the person that would be Senate President or House Speaker. This should be done behind closed doors. The same way the opposition parties are looking out for their own, is the same way the other party is doing it too. But in doing that, respect the wishes of other parties because it is not a party thing, strictly speaking, anybody can be the Speaker or Senate President. The presiding officer can be anyone, so they should not force anyone on us. We have tried this before. I was part of the 6th assembly when Mrs Patricia Etteh was called to the Villa and handed the Speakership. People were grumbling and she did not last for more than five months. In 2011 an attempt was made to do foist Mrs Mulikat Akande-Adeola but members resisted and a collation was formed and Aminu Tambuwal emerged.
DT: The APC claimed the outgoing assembly has frosty relationship with the executive because they did not have the members who believe in the party ideology and agenda. Why would you not agree with that?
Orker-Jev: There should harmonious relationship otherwise it is the country that would suffer. And I also agree with them that they should have somebody that will carry out their agenda, but in doing that, they should respect the sensibilities of our members. Others are not there to observe, they are also there to contribute and are also going to vote. If you go to the Senate, the APC has comfortable majority outside of opposition parties to elect somebody they want. Why is it becoming difficult because even within the party? It should not have been a problem for the party, but it is because they did not handled it rightly. If they handled it rightly by coming out that this is the person they are presenting and even if other parties reject the person, they would still succeed, but there is discord within the APC.
DT: Where does this put party supremacy, if there is dissent among elected members who are supposed to agree with the party?
Orker-Jev: Party supremacy and control is important. But it should not cross the lines. There are three arms of government as we know, the judiciary, the executive, the legislature. Now, you cannot do party supremacy in your party such that it would impede activities of the legislature. They should have done it in such a way that every member of that party would accept. But as it is now, the party is not being able to control its house, and the rest of us are concerned. You can only enforce party discipline on your members and not me or other that are not your member. You cannot have party discipline or supremacy if there is lack of internal democracy.
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