By Ebubedike Akabuwa
During my undergraduate years, it was the norm for every student with passion for students’ rights activism, to imbibe good oratorical skills and a mastery of popular quotes. Back then, I would leave my regular course work to scavenge for materials on remarkable quotes with a view to mobilizing students to protest against perceived injustices in the system. Increasingly, we enriched our “Aluta” vocabulary and as comrades lived ever happily after.
In my quest for strong “Aluta” words, a certain quote by Pastor David Oyedepo, founder and presiding bishop of the Living Faith Church , struck me. The quote is drawn from the biblical story of Samson and Delilah and it goes like this : “You cannot sleep on Delilah’s laps and expect to wake up in Abraham’s bossom”. Those who are familiar with the story of Samson and Delilah will readily attest to the truism of this saying.
Samson, a Jewish Nazarene, whose strength lay in the locks of his hair and had been instructed not to cut the locks or lose his great strength. The love struck Samson defied the boundaries of divine instruction and Jewish culture by marrying Delilah, a Philistine woman at a time when the Jews and Philistines were enmeshed in a bitter territorial conflict. She succeeded in persuading him to tell her the secret of his strength and was goaded to sleep on her lap. While he slept, she brought her kinsmen to shave his locks and when Samson woke up, he was shocked to see himself just as weak as an ordinary man. He was captured and had his eyes gouged out by his Philistine captors.
This brings me to the central premiss of this article.
In 2011, Our great party-PDP emerged victorious in the general elections by returning president Jonathan (hereinafter referred to as GEJ) as President and with a comfortable 2/3 majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. Given this dominance, the coast was clear for GEJ to berth the transformation ship to a shore that was in dire need of transformation. In every multi-party democracy, it is a very solid advantage to have your political party control both the executive and legislative arms of government. It accelerates the passage of executive bills and engenders the much needed executive/legislative harmony that leads to overall good governance.
Whereas State Governors (both ruling and opposition parties) settled for State Assembly leaderships of their respective choices, President GEJ was arm twisted into accepting a rebellion by Tambuwal and co against the decision of the party to cede the speakership of the House of Represenatives to the South West. I recall that President GEJ traveled to USA on the eve of inauguration of the National Assembly and thus set the stage for the emergence of Tambuwal as Speaker against the Party decision and despite his indictment by EFCC in Bankole’s ?10 billion loan scandal.
In a dramatic fashion, the duo of Tambuwal and Ihedioha were pardoned by the then National Chairman, Haliru Bello Mohammed, barely 24 hours after disobeying the party and without any investigation or disciplinary measures meted against them. The chairman could neither wait for the President to return to the country nor convene a NEC or board of trustees meeting before granting the rebellious members pardon. When GEJ returned and decided to move on with Tambuwal in the “interest of democracy”, I knew he was fast asleep on Delilah’s laps.
The fact that Tambuwal is the genesis and “Forcet Origo” (apologies Patrick Obahiagbon) of GEJ’s travails today is undisputable and well known to every political toddler in Nigeria. First, Tambuwal’s emergence as speaker flagged off an era of impunity and created the mischievous impression that GEJ is a weak president whose political decisions can be vetoed by anyone who cared to dare. It was therefore not surprising to see that GEJ’s decision to nominate a party Chairman (a routine exercise by his predecessors and Governors at the state chapters) generated so much controversy and dust that is yet to settle till date.
Secondly, Tambuwal’s speakership has successfully heralded the biggest destructive opposition to any executive administration in our history. We have a speaker of a ruling party whose allegiances publicly lie with the opposition. A paradox which saner democracies will find very hard to comprehend. Right from the Farouk “cap banking” political subsidy probe to the Herman Hembe onslaught on Arunma Otteh and the recent Ngozi Okonjo Iweala ordeal before a house committee, it has been a no love lost relationship.
The climax of it all was when Tambuwal chose the occasion of Budget 2013 presentation to lambast the President without subjecting the budget to proper debate at the floor of the House. In August 2012, he resorted to demonizing the President for not achieving 100% implementation of a budget that was barely 5 months old (2012 Budget was passed in March). He also deliberately delayed passage of Budget 2013, which was presented timeously in October 2012, to March 2013. The cumulative effect is delayed implementation and public disaffection against GEJ.
Tambuwal has a way of stalling consideration and passage of executive bills forwarded by GEJ for reforms in key sectors. The Petroleum Industry bill has been lying fallow in the house while Tambuwal is junketing from one conference to another delivering lectures on the need for people to take GEJ’s government to the guillotine. The National health bill is gathering dust on the shelves of that hallowed chamber. Upon resumption of plenary sessions in August 2013 (after 2months recess), FG caused to be laid before the house the Medium Term Expenditure framework (MTEF). Tambuwal abdicated the all important consideration of MTEF but rather chose to invite the Baraje led faction of PDP to address members on New PDP- A new Fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy.
Thirdly, Speaker Tambuwal has not made any pretences about his affinity with the opposition APC and G7 Govs/nPDP. When he is not seen hobnobbing with Buhari/Tinubu, he is busy arranging a private jet for stranded Gov Amaechi and attending Gov Wammako’s anti party rallies. I was therefore not shocked that 37 members of the PDP in the House of reps defied instructions of the ruling party and the clear provisions s.68(g) of the constitution to defect to APC.
Speaker Tambuwal is a lawyer and knows the position of law with regards to the effect of defection of legislators to another party where the parent party is not encumbered by any factions or divisions. He is also aware of the High court ruling affirming Tukur’s chairmanship of a united and indivisible PDP. But he is not favourably disposed to any attempts by leadership of the PDP to declare those seats vacant.
Already, there are drumbeats of impeachment against GEJ in the house under Tambuwal’s watch. I saw it coming in 2011 when GEJ went to sleep on Delilah’s laps (Tambuwal). The president cannot reasonably expect to wake up on Abraham’s bossom (smooth tenure). It’s not possible.
Ebubedike Akabuwa is an Abuja based legal practitioner and member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). His Twitter handle @akaebube