Tag Archives: PDP

The inevitability of Tambuwal’s defection

Throughout this political transfer window of movements between the PDP and APC, the announcement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that he was moving to the All Progressives Congress was treated with rather less surprise than a casual observer would have expected, considering that he is the fourth in line in terms of constitutional succession to the Presidency, and is hence the APC’s biggest defection in its one year of existence. Close watchers of Nigerian politics would not have been surprised. In fact, it has been perhaps the worst kept secret of the past one year, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Flashback to 2011. As the dust settled after the PDP’s victory at the 2011 elections, the speakership of the 7th house of representatives was zoned by party bosses to the South West, despite the decimation of the PDP in that zone at governorship and federal legislative levels. The choice of the party was Mulikat Akande-Adeola from Oyo, who secured another term as representative while most of her PDP colleagues fell away, but Tambuwal made his moves, ran against her and won. He did this with the assistance of then ACN lawmakers.

The result of this was a House of Representatives that stood relatively free of Presidential influence, and Tambuwal himself free to speak his mind at critical moments like during the fuel subsidy probes and monies unremitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC. The price for this was a Speaker who never quite fit in with his party. He was, to paraphrase the Bible, ‘in the PDP, but not of the PDP’. His absence at major events, together with his criticism of the executive branch meant that as soon the APC became a reality late last year, it eventually became an issue of when, not if, he would switch parties.

The current governor of his home state of Sokoto, Aliyu Wamakko, also moved to the APC, together with 27 of 30 members of the state house of assembly. This provided further incentive, especially as Tambuwal is rumoured to want to become governor. In fact, reports surfaced in January that Tambuwal would be offered the PDP governorship ticket, in order to prevent his defection. However, 3 house members, together with the deputy governor of the state Mukhtar Shagari (Yes, Shagari’s son) stayed with the PDP.

So, the PDP knew it was coming for some time. As soon as Tambuwal declared his switch on Tuesday, he promptly adjourned sitting till December 5th, ostensibly to secure his position. The PDP counter attack was to promptly remove his security detail, and the Inspector General of Police was quick to justify this move by quoting Section 68(1) of the 1999 Constitution:

A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

There are a number of issues here. First, the Inspector General has quietly moved from being a law enforcer, to a law interpreter, since he obviously serves at the pleasure of the Executive arm, separation of powers be damned. It brings up all the familiar fears about a federal police that is too close to the Executive for comfort, and is merely a continuation of the pattern seen in places like Rivers state – where Commissioner Joseph Mbu was used to intimidate Rotimi Amaechi – and several other examples. Clearly, the message remains that falling foul of the executive arm will see the police used against you.

Second, the IG is clearly poorly suited to being an interpreter of the law, because of all the cross carpeting done, no seat has been declared vacant by the courts, nor is it likely that will happen soon. In addition, in the specific case of Tambuwal, the Constitution has this to say in Section 50(2):

 The Speaker the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –

  1. If he ceases to be a member of the House of Representatives otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

  2. When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

  3. If he is removed from office by a resolution of the House of Representatives, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.

Therefore, as my learned friend Tex points out here, Tambuwal can either declare his own seat vacant, or be removed by two-thirds of the 360 members (240), a number the PDP do not currently possess.

The foregoing will then make it obvious why the Speaker chose to delay his defection till this moment, and embark on recess immediately after. The recess will allow for the necessary politicking by house members in their constituencies, but also allow Tambuwal to secure his position for the remainder of his tenure, by co-opting the support of his colleagues. He is no stranger to such an exercise, having out-flanked the Presidency’s chosen candidate in 2011.

Many agree that the honourable thing to do would be to resign as Speaker, pending another vote in the chamber, and a very likely conclusion to this particular 2015 sub plot could be a renewed vote of confidence in his leadership of the house, either through voice vote or actual casting of ballots.

While it is not certain that is how events will play out, Tambuwal’s reputation as a rather shrewd and savvy politician will only be enhanced should he retain his place as Speaker up till the elections.

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Attempting to define ‘stomach infrastructure’

In the first week of April, 2013, the warning signs were already there.

Over a year ago now, I attended a symposium organised by The Future Awards in Ikogosi, Ekiti State. At the session attended by the governor, Kayode Fayemi, one Ekiti indigene after another got up told the governor to pay attention to ‘stomach infrastructure’. That event is significant in hindsight, because if there was one danger sign ahead of a re-election push, that was it.

Now, people all over the country are trying to pick through the wreckage of a campaign that seems to have been dead on arrival. Instead of congratulations, there are post-mortems. The post-mortems are necessary because Fayemi was widely perceived as a governor who was performing. Some have even described him as the best pound-for-pound (apologies to boxing fans) governor in Nigeria. Why then did he lose?

The events on June 21st have confirmed to me that, were Gary Chapman to write the Nigerian political equivalent of ‘The Five Love Languages’, ‘Stomach infrastructure’ would be the top love language.

It is not like Nigerians do not appreciate good roads, hospitals, and other amenities. It is that there is something that matters to them a bit more than that. There was a lot of debate on social media about sharing rice to potential voters in the days before the election, but to restrict the idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ to food, whether cooked or raw, is naïve.

Stomach infrastructure is simply the system by which political patronage is dispensed to various groups in a particular society. This patronage can take many, many, forms. For instance, putting in a good word for the relative of a high ranking party chieftain, approving a contract or an appointment for a close political ally or their relative, and so on.

Stomach infrastructure means honouring an invitation to an important social club in Ekiti, and ‘declaring’ for its members. It can also mean turning a blind eye to a racket, or several rackets, for that matter. Other times, it is simply dispensing hard currency.

I am sure by now you begin to get the point. Grassroots politics, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is more or less a fancy term for building and maintaining stomach infrastructure. Having a strong ‘political structure’ is more or less the means by which this political patronage is consistently dispensed, the means by which it reaches the ‘masses’.

It is this (infra)structure that sustains you when you try to do unpopular things like take on the teachers and civil servants, as well as reform the civil service in general. It is this structure that enables you to call in favours on election day. It is this structure that enables you to ward off challengers like Ayo Fayose, backed as he was by a rejuvenated PDP.

Ibrahim Babangida, to name just one example, understood this idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ very, very well. MKO Abiola understood it too. Both men were famed for their generosity and people skills, traits which kept them relevant in Nigeria’s power play for decades.

My best guess about what happened, is that the culture shock of moving from the governance style of Niyi Adebayo, Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni, to the style of Kayode Fayemi, was so great that it produced a backlash. Overnight, the people of Ekiti went from experiencing one extreme to another, and they just could not take it. Then, along came a familiar face at just the right time, with just the right people skills, who had just the right party behind him.

The reason why Ekiti cannot be used as a barometer for the rest of the country, is that what happened there was a perfect storm. It does not take just one factor to bring about the defeat of an incumbent, especially by such a margin.

Fayemi took on the teachers over competency tests, and implemented the results, leading to the demotion of some who had served for decades. The rest of them never took the tests and punished him at the ballot box. This fight may have been better left for a second term. There was also a lot of friction over the payment of the new Teachers Salary Scale, which he said the government could not afford. Again, scaling back on ambitious goals to focus on ‘bread and butter’ issues could have saved the situation.

The biggest fall-out of this election is that it might cause many who want to seek political office to pause and wonder what the point is, if someone who is performing can be so summarily rejected. The best thing to do is learn. The majority of Nigeria’s electorate are preoccupied with basic issues of survival, and this affects everything else. No amount of political correctness can change this.

Democracy remains a popularity contest, and for as long as everyone above 18 can vote, then the wishes of the majority must be taken into account to a significant extent. If the people in a particular place want to be governed in a certain way, then that must be accommodated, even if it means deviating a bit from a pure focus on the traditional indices of governance.

 

Time to enforce campaign finance laws

Image‘There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is’ – Mark Hanna.

With the just concluded merger of opposition parties and reaction to the development sure to dominate political commentary for some time, it is safe to say that the 2015 election season has unofficially begun. 

As we once again contemplate elections, it is worth remembering that elections cost money. Democracy costs money. Campaigns cost money. Lots of it. Anyone who knows anything about the way politics is done in Nigeria, knows the huge cost of a campaign for public office. This cost is so high as to be prohibitive to all but the richest men, or those who have rich benefactors, or those who have their hands in public funds.

The figures are truly shocking. In the PDP, for example, to pick a nomination form for the State House of Assembly, you must part with the princely sum of N1m. Yes, N1m. For a form. If you wanted to be a House of Representatives candidate, you part with N2.5 million. For the Senate, N3m. Governorship, N5m. And for the Presidency, it is N10m. This is not counting other fees like the ‘expression of interest’, ‘formalisation of intent’, administrative charges, and all such levies which combine to make elections a game won by the highest bidder.

It can therefore not be surprising that after being elected, a public official’s first port of call could be to recoup all the investments made in his campaign, replenishing both his own funds, and those of his benefactors. The prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria, is a major reason why corruption continues to thrive.

This cost is actually enshrined in our laws. The Electoral Act in 2010 doubled the campaign spending limits in the 2006 Act. Someone running for the Presidency can spend up to N1 billion, a Governor can spend up to N200 million, N40 million for Senate, 20m for House of Representatives, N10 million for State House of Assembly and local government, and N1 million for ward councillor. Even with these limits, there is no enforcement of them from INEC, which has powers to monitor campaign finance, audit the accounts of political parties, and make that information available to the public, as enshrined in Section 153 of the Constitution, as well as Part 1 of the Third Schedule.

The lack of attention paid to this crucial area is of grave concern, because the unchecked influx of money into politics will produce governance that has been captured by a tiny minority, to the detriment of a majority. The result is a political process captured by special interests, resulting in an undue influence on government policy, distortion of political discourse, and a reduction in political participation. Whenever a waiver is granted, or foreign goods are banned, it is often to pay back a generous donor and wet the ground for the next cycle.

Another of the main dangers in money politics is that it becomes an arms race. The other party is doing it, so you have to do it too, or risk falling behind. In the run up to the last US elections, Barack Obama initially rejected donations from SuperPACs, groups who were recently allowed to use unlimited funds in support of a presidential candidate by the US Supreme Court, but he later accepted their support because Mitt Romney, his challenger, was already profiting from the organisations which backed him.

With just over 2 years to go till the next general elections, civil society groups need to impress on INEC the urgency of putting in place measures to track campaign expenditure in all political parties, at all levels, and enforcing the spending limits contained in Section 91 of the 2011 Electoral Act. Limits should also be placed on how much any one person can donate to a candidate, and information on donors to political parties should be in the public domain.

There is little hope of stemming the tide of corruption, while the stakes for public office in Nigeria remain so high. In the end, it will not matter whether an election is free and fair or not. He who plays the piper dictates the tune. If only those who are rich or have rich benefactors can run for office, the electorate is deprived of new faces and fresh ideas. That cannot be a good thing.