By Eric M Kuju
The Nasarawa State House of Assembly (NSHA) is gradually becoming a one-party Assembly, so it seems. This much is obvious to anyone concerned about happenings in the State. Is seems every non-APC member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly is in a rush to defect to the ruling political party in the State. What is the attraction to the party? What are the implications for both the opposition parties and the ruling party in Nasarawa State?
These are some of the questions on the lips of observers of political development in the State.
At the start of the 6th Assembly on June 10, 2019, the 24-mmber Nasarawa State House of Assembly had 15 lawmakers from the APC making them the majority in the House. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had 7 lawmakers while the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) each had one lawmaker.
Although this placed the APC in the majority, it was not a very comfortable one. This was obvious in the way politicking for various positions in the House was done; the minority had to be carried along in the negotiations. It was expected that this was going to continue throughout this Assembly.
However, a wave of defections of members of the parliament is swinging the balance in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Honourable Abdulaziz Danladi, Member representing Keffi East was the first to defect. He moved from the SDP to the APC and his letter notifying his colleagues of his move was read on the floor of the House by the Speaker, Right Honourable Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi on Monday September 21, 2020.
The next to cross from minority to majority in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly was the Member representing Doma South constituency, Honourable John Osewu who defected from the PDP. His own letter of defection was officially presented to the House on Monday November 9, 2020.
Honourable Samuel Tsebe, the Member representing Akwanga South constituency also dumped his umbrella for the broom. The Speaker disclosed this to the House officially on Monday April 12, 2021.
Closely following Honourable Tsebe was no less a person than the House Minority Leader himself, Honourable Danladi Jatau who represents Kokona West constituency. He also left the PDP for the APC.
All the defectors gave similar reasons for their movement. They cited the “inclusive leadership style” of Governor Abdullahi Sule and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi as what drew them to the APC. Whether or not their reasons are true or valid is a topic for another discussion.
All over the world, the Legislative Arms of government have the vital responsibility of making laws and checking the activities of the Executive Arm of government. For example, they are the only ones with the constitutional power to remove from office, an erring President or Governor as the case may be.
The easiest way to understand the dynamics of the relationship between the executive and the legislature is to look at the former President of the United States of America, Donald Trump and the US Congress during his time.
Coming closer to home, many Nigerians celebrated the 8th National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker respectively. This was because although the leaders were members of the ruling APC at the time, they emerged largely (some will say solely) due to the influence of the opposition PDP members of parliament and so they were not a rubberstamp for the executives.
You will see how important the legislature is in government. You will also see how vital it is to have legislators that are not members of the same political party with the executive. It is the general expectation that such legislators will be more inclined to question and scrutinize the actions of the executive thus performing their duties.
That is what Nasarawa State is at the risk of losing completely at the State Assembly if the current tide continues. The minority has moved from having 9 members to 5 members and there is nothing to show that we have heard the last about defection.
It is worrisome that the voice of the opposition in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly which was already quite low, is being reduced further. People who know how a democracy should work, know that the opposition is very vital in a functioning system.
It is hard to say for certain how this will affect politics and governance in Nasarawa State. In fact, some persons will say there is no point writing all these lamentations. After all, between 2011 and 2015 the ruling Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Nasarawa State only had one member in the State Assembly while the opposition PDP had an overwhelming majority. In that period, apart from the trading of expletives, grandstanding and the unsuccessful attempt to impeach the then Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, it does not seem like the people of Nasarawa State benefitted from it.
Every citizen of Nasarawa State should be worried about this current move because no matter how good a government is, a vibrant and constructive opposition makes it better.
These defections which have mostly affected PDP has only further weakened the main opposition party that has been embroiled in internal crises. Add that to the fact that the loudest voice in opposition in Nasarawa State from 2015, Honourable Labaran Maku, has recently gone quiet since the litigations that arose from the 2019 elections were concluded, you will realise that there will soon be no opposition – be it figure head or actual – in our dear State. That is dangerous.
Unfortunately, the solution is not an easy one. It will require serious re-orientation of our minds. Many of the elected representatives go into politics in the first place, for selfish reasons. And since politics in the side of opposition is not very lucrative, they will always decamp to where the resources are being controlled. The electorate on their own part, accept or tolerate such actions from their representatives that is why it will continue to happen.
While the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House Assembly, the other APC Members and indeed the APC in the State are smiling and celebrating the big catches they have been recording to their fold, members of the opposition parties, especially the main opposition political party in the State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are wearing long faces and sulking.
Members of the public are holding their breath as to what would happen in the next few weeks and months in especially the State Assembly. Will Hon Abel Bala Yakubu, Hon Dr Ibrahim Peter Akwe, Hon Luka Iliya Zhekaba, Hon David Maiyaki (all of PDP) and Hon Musa S. Iyimoga of Zenith Labour Party hold their ground in the opposition or they would also be carried away by the wave of defections into the APC? The answer is buried in the sand of time!