Party Discipline and The Senate of Toads and Squirrels -By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

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Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

 

Up till now, the dominant parties, the (PDP) and the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) offer Nigerians no discernible ideological content and no institutional core from which an enduring philosophy can be derived. That is why it is easy for commitment problems to arise in the APC due to the divergence between pre-election calculations of the APC as a party, as it sought control of the Presidency and the legislature, and the post-election calculations facing individual legislators, whose driving interests are different.

The duty of legislators is to enact laws and laws are enacted from vote based measures. As a result, a legislator’s behavior in the House of Representatives or in the Senate is the sum of his voting preferences and party affiliation. This means the political behavior of the legislature as a whole, is the collective choices as revealed in legislative outcomes that reflects preferences and partisanship.

Before now, the politics of our polity under the overwhelming majority rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), gives no incentive for political parties or candidates to carry out pre-defined policy actions promised in their manifestos when they come to power. It was politics of selfishness, crass indulgence, impunity, corruption and “cash and carry”. Up till now, the dominant parties, the (PDP) and the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) offer Nigerians no discernible ideological content and no institutional core from which an enduring philosophy can be derived. That is why it is easy for commitment problems to arise in the APC due to the divergence between pre-election calculations of the APC as a party, as it sought control of the Presidency and the legislature, and the post-election calculations facing individual legislators, whose driving interests are different. In advance democracies, party discipline is invoked because it shapes fiscal policy choices and determines national spending and the sharing of public on public goods. In this Senate, it is about ambitions, the stifling of change, the furtherance of entrenched interests, extortion of ministries, departments, agencies and corruption.

Party discipline is available and standard when a political party can induce members to toe the party line. When there is party discipline, a political party will have the ability to induce post-election adherence to an agreed position. For political relevance, survival and electoral success, it is in a political party’s interest to make campaign promises to further their electoral objectives, but the effectiveness of these promises will reflect their ability to ensure compliance.

Without a shred of doubt, Dr. Bukola Saraki has forged a consuming alliance that does not and cannot advance the change agenda. Along with his fellow Senators of “like minds”, it is safe to assume despite their protestations, that the campaign promises of the APC may be non-binding to them as they take crucial votes in the months ahead. The crisis at the NASS, has exposed the influence of moneybags and stolen money on our politics. It also shows we can only begin to elect credible people into offices when political parties can present politicians whose successes will depend on their character, the institutional characteristics of the party and its role in financing their campaigns. Party discipline is available and standard when a political party can induce members to toe the party line. When there is party discipline, a political party will have the ability to induce post-election adherence to an agreed position. For political relevance, survival and electoral success, it is in a political party’s interest to make campaign promises to further their electoral objectives, but the effectiveness of these promises will reflect their ability to ensure compliance. Given this, the parties will want to use what tools they have at their disposal to induce the elected politicians to honour their party’s promises and commitment to the party platform.

Buhari’s respect for the doctrine of separation of powers, is commendable. In a democracy, the legislature exists to legislate and the executive to execute and the judiciary to interprete and adjudicate. Normally, in a democracy, politicians should represent the interests and welfare of the groups that they seek to represent, but we do know that in Nigeria, it is most often not the case. Politicians in Nigeria represent their own interests or the interest of their sponsors. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari’s aloofness in the events leading to the NASS elections became a costly endeavour. President Buhari is finding out that the political environment, the institutional contexts and future ambitions of ranking politicians in the legislative chambers play very important roles in determining the degree of conflict between the legislature and the executive.

The forty-nine Senators from the PDP, the unholy alliance of Bukola Saraki with them and the Senators from the APC who went rogue are important political variables that will shape the contours of legislation in the Buhari administration.

The President should expect that the texture and colouration of legislation coming from the legislative assemblies will take after this conflict unless a miracle happens. The forty-nine Senators from the PDP, the unholy alliance of Bukola Saraki with them and the Senators from the APC who went rogue are important political variables that will shape the contours of legislation in the Buhari administration. Right after being elected, the President represents a broader set of interests than the legislators because he is elected nationally, while each Senator only represents his Senatorial district. That is not to say there will be no overlapping interests, but can the Senate with its culture of entitlement, aggrandisement and corruption, even before the leadership crisis, be a people-first Senate? Can they align with the people’s interests?

It is commendable that the President’s body language has sent a clear signal to Dr. Saraki and his treacherous Decembrists, that it is now business unusual. The forgery case against his PDP enablers has exposed the extent of their creative destruction, occasioned by greed and the political calculus of power at all costs.

I like that Bukola, the chief toad of the Senate has shown himself, warts and all. Nothing will prevent the chief toad from croaking along with other toads whose natural habitat are threatened by the change hurricane. Unless, President Muhammadu Buhari and we, the people, stamp our authority by supporting the President on this journey, the squirrels (the newly elected Senators), who are just interested in having their share of attractive and stratospheric emoluments will soon develop warts. Senator Shehu Sani has already blazed the trail by condemning the Police for doing its job. Suddenly his imagination calcified! In this century, a Sani bought camels for his constituents. Camels! The same Shehu Sani who, months ago, was our darling on Social Media saying the right things until he got his first N15 million legislative paycheque. The song changed! We don’t even care if anyone is an ugly, bloated, warty toad or a greedy scavenging squirrel looking for every available crumb. Our discontent with the congressional leadership is tied to the continuation of impunity, subversion and violation of laid down procedures and the promotion short cuts and unauthorised alternative routes. Anyone can be ambitious but they must approach their path with decorum, respect for process and the people.

It is commendable that the President’s body language has sent a clear signal to Dr. Saraki and his treacherous Decembrists, that it is now business unusual. The forgery case against his PDP enablers has exposed the extent of their creative destruction, occasioned by greed and the political calculus of power at all costs. Without a political solution to the forgery case, and an all but certain case against Mrs. Toyin Saraki at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who knows if these shattering turn of fate will occasion a little more modesty and circumspection. Whatever happens, history will record this time as tricky, in our march to instituting an enduring democracy.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times‘ Editorial Board. Twitter @olufunmilayo

 

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