Rewind to 2011.The Nigerian opposition parties had managed to make public discontent count in their favour and had closed in significantly on the PDP. Though it still had more members, it was no longer in absolute control of the legislature. When it was time to elect a speaker for the House of Representatives and the PDP endorsed the candidature of Hon. Mulikat Akande Adeola from Oyo State to give the nation’s leadership structure a national look, a recalcitrant Hon.Aminu Tambuwal insisted on running. The opposition party members and a handful of PDP members voted him in as speaker in a most dramatic manner. It was reported that Tambuwal and his deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha from Imo State, had to disguise themselves to gain entrance into the House on that day.
From that point, the PDP was stuck with a speaker it couldn’t conveniently impeach because of the voting power of the opposition combined with his loyalists. His loyalty lay with the people who voted him in.
One can’t help but commend the political prowess of the speaker: he didn’t jump ship immediately; he had tagged along all this while despite being treated as a “hostile” PDP member. He was shut out of certain functions: a notable incident recently was when some soldiers insisted on searching his car before allowing him entrance into the Kaduna venue of a function. He never lost his cool. He associated with the nPDP (new PDP) but didn’t blindly swallow the cause for the “cause” hook, line and sinker in public.
Most people say today that that was the best time for him to jump ship but they forget we have a government that has no respect for our constitution. A proviso to Section 68 of the constitution allows a member or senator to retain their seats only if they changed parties as a result of a division in their former party or as members of a faction of that party. But with PDP still in charge at the centre, the most probable outcome would be “bulldozal” out of office by any means necessary if he had decamped at that time. He was smart enough to know the leaders of the new PDP who led the train to APC might have to pay the piper at some point: if not immediately after the president had finished fixing his leaking umbrella, then maybe after those covered by immunity lose it.
We all know Governor Sule Lamido, a prominent member of the nPDP who is still in the PDP today had his sons re-arrested by the EFCC when the dust was yet to fully settle. It was a risk not worth taking then. So what did he do? He publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the PDP; he was going nowhere.
Fast-forward to the present day: Mr Speaker has chosen the most appropriate time to decamp to the APC. The House won’t be reconvening until December 3, just before the contests begin. Simply put, no matter how you choose to see things, he has little or nothing to lose. He is reportedly already gearing up for the Sokoto gubernatorial elections under the platform of his new party.
But the speaker and his friends probably mistook us for fools and pawns in their political game when they started to scream to high heavens about the unconstitutionality of the withdrawal of his security details. A notoriously loquacious Nasir el-Rufai even said it was all part of a plot to assassinate him. The same people who conveniently chose to read and cite our constitution endlessly when members of the nPDP decamped to the APC have conveniently resorted to crying foul without citing the same constitution they love so much which provides in the same Section 68 paragraph G that: A member of the Senate or House of Representatives SHALL vacate his seat if he becomes a member of a political party other than the one that sponsored his candidature before the expiration of the period for which the house was elected.
Tambuwal’s defection is not covered by the proviso to this section because the nPDP has already been absorbed into the APC; so, technically, Aminu Tambuwal ceased to be a member of the House of Representatives when he decamped to the APC and isn’t entitled to security details and other perks of office. I agree he was humiliated but rightly so. He of all people should know better – he is a lawyer.
It is a pity we have been reduced to this: where any politician and his set of clowns feel they can conveniently whip up any sentiment they deem fit by exploiting public discontent with the ruling party. I have said it once that there is no difference between the APC and the PDP. One just happens to have what the other wants. If President Obasanjo who has played no small part in what the PDP has turned into today could be asked to come and lead the APC, then, we would be in trouble if we decided to associate blindly with what their “change” portends.
Politics is a dirty game in Nigeria and, as should be expected, hypocrisy is an indispensable tool in the hands of politicians who think they can fool all of the people all the time. Francois de la Rouchefoucauld said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue”. Aminu Tambuwal has played the cautious hero so well and has practically served out his tenure as Speaker. He chose to dine with the devil with a long spoon but any Cleric worth his salt would advise you to never dine with the devil in the first place.
– By Umar Sa’ad Hassan, a lawyer based in Kano