Nigeria : National Assembly – Away With ‘Ranking’, Zoning

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After the swearing in of the President and Governors, attention has shifted to the legislature, especially the National Assembly, which will be inaugurated next week. Shortly after, the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives will be decided.

The sessions may be rowdy because of the unsettled questions of the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the “ranking” procedure in the Senate, which will limit the chances of some becoming principal officers in both chambers.

The zoning arrangement of the PDP compels the National Assembly to pick the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the North Central and South West, respectively. Even if the case of North Central is understandable because of the performance of the party in the zone, the zoning of Speaker to the South West is more troublesome. The South West voted massively to reject PDP for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.

While the battle over the oddity of the PDP zoning continues, the “ranking” rule in the Senate, which the House of Representatives might adopt in appointing its principal officers, causes further complications. The rule dictates that the more times a senator is elected the higher the senator’s ranking in consideration as a principal officer.

This will not only create a cult of super-privileged “oldies” and under-privileged freshmen and women, it will also preclude the impetus of fresh ideas in the wake of a massive weed-off of members of the outgoing session of the National Assembly at the last election.

This rule will ensure the survivors from among this class must be imposed on the rest of the members and the polity by extension.

Votes counting mean the expressed wishes of the voting public should reflect in decision-making. Of the 360 members of the House of Representatives, the electorate voted out 260. Only 36 of 109 senators are returning. This massive thumb-down by voters should be respected in the appointment of the leadership of the National Assembly.

The PDP and the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, lost more members in the two chambers. The ACN, the newly formed Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, recorded impressive gains. Nigerians would want to see the inputs of these new senators and representatives in fresh ideas to drive the National Assembly.

The zoning formula of the PDP and the “ranking” rule are not only self-serving, they are undemocratic and specifically created to thwart the independence of the National Assembly. They are factors of imposition and impunity. Besides, now the newcomers are in overwhelming majority they can change the rules with their numbers or rebel against the party. This is a recipe for avoidable dichotomy and instability.

We call on the National Assembly to shun any rule that curbs the democratic right of the duly elected to aspire to principal offices. Such impositions run contrary to the Constitution, which is superior to the rules of a political party.

Contenders to these positions should freely campaign among their colleagues. The decision on leadership of the National Assembly must be freely made by the members as a first step to enthroning democracy in the National Assembly.

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