It was the first battle between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the newly empowered All Progressives Congress, APC and the ruling party did not mince breaking convention to push its way.
It had been the Senate convention that two Senators from a state must approve whatever nomination from the state made by the president.
However, when it came to the nominations into the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and the Federal Character Commission, FCC, PDP senators did not mind breaking that convention to ensure that the APC was humilated.
Yes, these questions arose, given the fact that the president, apart from not consulting governors from the states of the appointees on his decision, went for people who were in some cases seen as antagonists of their state governors.
The appointments of Henry Ogiri and Ephraim Etete as Executive Director Finance and Administration and Rivers State Representative respectively, in the 13-member Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Board, was carried out by the president without the knowledge of the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, just as reappointment of Professor Abdulraheem Oba as Chairman, Federal Character Commission, came without the notice of either his state governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed or his erstwhile godfather, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Both governors have since switched political camp, along with three others, to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, after months of raging differences between some members and the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In solidarity with their governors who have been drawn in a battle with President Goodluck Jonathan, two senators from Rivers State, Wilson Ake and Magnus Abe, vehemently rose against their state nominees just as two others from Kwara, Bukola Saraki, and Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi, opposed Professor Oba’s candidature. They all claimed that apart from not consulting their various states of the decision for the offer by President Goodluck Jonathan, the nominees were not the popular candidates of the people of their states.
Interestingly, the four senators are equally among the aggrieved members of the PDP. They cannot openly defect to the APC due largely to constitutional encumbrances. But unlike Senators Ake and Abe who are loyalists of Governor Rotimi Amaechi on positions, Senator Saraki dictates what Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed of his state does, having been the one that installed him as his successor.When the report of the NDDC board screening was presented at the Senate committee of the whole by its chairman, Senator James Manager, PDP, Delta South, last Wednesday, the two senators from Rivers State protested. They claimed that they sent their letters to the committee objecting to the confirmation of the Rivers State nominees but that it was not reflected as minority report.
In what played up like solidarity, Senator Shola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central, noted with regret that minority views by the two senators were not reflected in the committee’s report, saying: “In democracy, majority will always have its way but the minority would be heard.”
Senators Ake and Abe, while supporting their opposition to the clearance of the two Rivers State nominees, noted that references were supposed to be made to the state before nomination of anybody for appointment, saying it was not adhered to by the president.
Senator Ake particularly said: “It is unfair not to consult the state on the appointment. The interest of the state is not protected. I am saying that we should be given time, let us go home and see how we can resolve the issue.”
But the Senate Deputy Leader, Abdul Ningi, PDP, Bauchi Central, cautioned against allowing state politics to play in the Senate, saying every objection had to be logical and legal even as he admitted that the issues raised by the two senators were fundamental.
“At any given situation, this Senate must insulate itself from issues between the presidency and state governors,” he insisted.
He was supported by all other senators who commented on the issue, as they all concurred that the nominees from Rivers state merited the appointments and so, competence should not be sacrificed on the altar of local politics.
Senate President, David Mark who presided over the day’s session, appealed that state politics should not be brought to the Senate, urging people to look at issues from the nationalistic point even as he concurred with the position of some senators that the objection was supposed to reflect on the report, saying that would not mean that objection would carry the day.
Less than 24 hours after, a similar controversy trailed the confirmation of reappointment of former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Abdulraheem Oba, as Chairman, Federal Character Commission, FCC, following strong opposition by Senators Bukola Saraki and Shaaba Lafiagi, who are well known sympathizers of opposition APC. Besides, the duo is not only against President Jonathan who they accused of nursing re-election ambition but Professor Oba, who they believe have not been loyal to their satisfaction.
The development became like a battle between PDP and APC senators when the Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, APC, Benue North West, when he led APC senators in a battle to frustrate the confirmation. He claimed that Oba’s performance in his first appointment as FCC chairman was below expectation.
This man is not worthy to be returned to that office whether he is from the North or North Central. He is a failure as far as implementation of federal character is concerned,h insisted.
But Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, rose in support of the nominee, saying the Senate must rise above local politics just as he noted that there was a limit to local politics.
“This man has impacted in leadership. Yesterday, this distinguished Senate, again, considered after several hours bearing the nature of a national or zonal appointment and the nature of a state representation. And this distinguished Senate in its wisdom, agreed that local politics should be limited to local representation and that when national or zonal appointments are being made, there is a limit to local politics.”