President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday lamented that despite the All Progressive Congress (APC) being the ruling party and having dominance at all levels of government, the party’s unnecessary squabbles led to it losing some governorship and legislative seats during elections.
He said this when he inaugurated the Executive, Legislative Party Consultative Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Council Chambers in the State House,
The party lost Adamawa, Bauchi, Oyo and Zamfara states to opposition due to internal party wrangling. According to him, this should never have happened.
He said the committee was set up to avert the occurrences in future. The meeting was attended by the National Assembly and the APC leaderships. President Buhari said: “Our party commands a clear majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Vice President, the Distinguished Senate President, the Right Honourable Speaker and I, all belong to APC and working relationships between the Executive and the Legislature has been excellent so far.
“Our joint responsibility is to keep things that way and see where we can improve our communication and coordination.
“But we must admit to ourselves that our party has been too often embroiled in bitter, and on occasions, totally unnecessary squabbles, causing us seats in the legislative and gubernatorial elections. This never should have happened, we are here to make sure such occurrences never happen again.
We must now ensure regular consultations between the party and government.
“I am a firm believer in the doctrine of Separation of Powers, which is fundamental to our constitutional democracy, but our practice should be harmonious checks and balances, devoid of bitterness and petty rivalry. As one government, we must further align ourselves and be alive to our electoral promises. We need to nurture our party, which is the platform that will take us and our country forward.
“Your Excellencies, Distinguished Senate President, Right Honourable Speaker, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am placing great faith in this consultative committee to help improve our governance and achievements to the people of Nigeria. I expect regular feedback on your activities and I am as always ready to lead and find solutions.
“…Your success will directly enhance the success of this administration and greatly improve the conditions of our people.”
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said the consultative forum will enhance good governance.
He said: “The legislature, the executive arm of government and of course the party in power, have seen the need to bring everybody on board so that we are able to consult widely before major issues are table before the citizens of this country. “Specifically, what we intend to achieve is to improve the quality of governance and service delivery to Nigerians. We have promised Nigerians and Nigerians voted for the APC at all the levels, so it is incumbent upon us at all levels and as a party to ensure we meet the expectations and aspirations of Nigerians.
“Just like Mr. President expressed, we believe that the constitution rightly provides for the separation of powers and we believe in that. The legislature will always on its own ensure we oversight and we check possible excesses of the executive arm of government. But we also believe that separation of powers also means there should be cooperation, consultation, coordination and partnership for the benefits of the people of this country. This is not in anyway to compromise the different functions that we are tasked and scheduled to discharge.
“The party is our platform, it has a sense, direction, manifesto, programmes and projects and we, elected on both sides of government, executive and legislature will always ensure we stick to what the party provides for us to do. But I want to ensure that this is not in anyway to compromise the legislature, if anything, it is to strengthen the legislature. Because, with first hand, the legislature is to advise on any bill coming from the executive arm of the government, we will ensure we receive bills that will meet the expectations of Nigerians.
“We will always have different perspectives because we are legislature by design and orientation and the executive may bring a bill which it thinks in its judgement will enhanced governance but when the legislature bring its perspective and we advise, I think it will enrich it. And when it comes to the National Assembly, it is not an APC National Assembly, it has a representation of other political parties and we have so far enjoyed support and cooperation and partnership of our colleagues from other political parties, particularly the PDP and we commend them for that, we are grateful for that, we have done that for them before. And we expect that for this, the cooperation and the partnership in the National Assembly with different political parties will continue. Because, we are going to serve Nigerians with different political parties persuasion.
He said the essence of the committee is to ensure there is consultation on all major issues that requires legislation and maybe policy to ensure the citizens are the beneficiary at the end of the day.
“We have had situations I think were extreme when the legislature and the executive never agreed on anything. We believe they don’t have to agree on everything but they must have that feeling that there is inter-dependence in their functions and roles and until they realize that there is inter-dependence there will always be problems. The separation of powers is simply to ensure none becomes a terror. If you have an executive that is not oversighted, you may have a problem in your hands. Even the legislature atimes is checkmated by the judiciary atimes, maybe when a law is passed and the judiciary feels otherwise, they can declare such a law null and void.”
The Senate President also said that a situation where presidential aides disrespect the National Assembly will not longer be tolerated.
He said, “I believe that should be the end of it. We believe that we should work together. Mr. President made it very clear that he is not going to tolerate any of his appointees doing things that are not respectable, things that has no dignity to the National Assembly. For us in the National Assembly, I think what has happened has happen, we pray nobody goes to the National Assembly to do the kind of things that disrespect the president and of course abuse the the National Assembly, we are not going to tolerate that. Because anyone who wants to see nigeria progress will continue to ensure that this consultative forum produces the kind of result and outcomes that will make nigeria better in terms of governance.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the APC government being the ruling party cannot continue to speak in discordant tunes.
He said: “You cannot be in government and not speak with one voice, that’s discordant tune, and whether it is taking five years or 10 years, there has been a lot of issues, moving forward there will be wrinkles in a democracy, there will be a tug of war here and there especially when you have opposition and when you are in a constitutional democracy and so we have to ensure as a party that we speak with one voice without sacrificing constitutional responsibilities, principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.
They can go side by side and still operate in a harmonious relationship. It does not mean that because you have separation of powers and checks and balances, therefore there must always be discordant tune, no, those two can go hand in hand, you don’t have to sacrifice one on the altar of the other.
“Let me give you a very good example, we all look at the United States as a shining light in democratic governance. Today, the Senate of the United States is controlled by the Republicans who are also the ones in the executive, much as they may disagree which they will, hardly will you find the Senate and the Executive speak in discordant tunes in terms of policy, they are on one page. There may be different case in the House of Representatives where you have the opposition and that’s how democracy works unless we want to kid ourselves.
“For us we have to be clear that moving forward as elections approaches, there is going to be concerted effort for every party to want to position itself. What this is about is that we don’t allow as we approach 2023 to affect government and that is what a responsible government would do.
“And how do you not allow 2023 to affect your policies? By bringing your men together, that’s what a responsible party will do and that is exactly what Mr. President has done today and it happens all over the world. I believe this is a move in a right direction and you are not exempted as journalists, you are part of constitutional democracy and the role you will play as well will determine a lot whether you will have a smooth sailing in 2023 or not. For me it is a welcome development.”
On his part, caretaker chairman of APC,Mai Buni said the administration need a tripartite arrangement like this for President Buhari to deliver the much needed change.
Going forward, he pointed out that deviant behaviour would no longer be condoned in the party.
“As a party we are very happy with this development, this tripartite arrangement, it’s something that we have been looking for because the party is in control of both chambers senate and House of Reps in the National Assembly and the party under the leadership of his excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to deliver the dividend and work with our manifesto.
“There is time for everything, going forward there are certain things we will not condone because we are not running a neutral government and we campaigned based on some manifesto and we will work on that and like I said there is time for everything and this is the time for this tripartite arrangement and it is in this best interest of Nigerians and the party.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha said, another solid foundation in Buhari’s administration in advancing the cause of democracy and governance in the country has been laid.
He said: “The essence essentially is to create a synergy between the party which is the platform on which we were elected and the mandate of the party which we are exercising. It is expected that at the end of the tenure of this administration we will account to the people of Nigeria as to the mandate that they willingly and overwhelmingly entrusted in our hands in securing victory at the presidency, senatorial and the legislative elections.”