Posted by By Emmanuel Aziken, Abuja on
Following their failure to deliver on the constitutional amendment proposal at the National Assembly, senators and legislators who had hoped to get automatic ticket to return to either chamber of the legislative arm appear to be coming to terms with the reality of primaries that are not likely to be skewed in favour of some politicians.
Following their failure to deliver on the constitutional amendment proposal at the National Assembly, senators and legislators who had hoped to get automatic ticket to return to either chamber of the legislative arm appear to be coming to terms with the reality of primaries that are not likely to be skewed in favour of some politicians. This report takes a look at how these legislators got to this sorry pass and what they are doing to redeem their political aspiration.
The feeling of panic was visible last weekend as senators and members of the House of Representatives rushed to their constituencies following what many saw as a hurriedly arranged break.
The two chambers of the National Assembly last Thursday stood down plenary sittings for two weeks on the pretext of attending to the budget presented by President Obasanjo last Wednesday.
But beneath the surface, the legislators, Vanguard learnt, were planning to use the break and the Sallah holidays in between, to consolidate political allegiances in their constituencies and consolidate relationships with their state governors.
Some other federal legislators instead of rushing home were following the footsteps of the embattled Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, in seeking spiritual relief as they journeyed to the Islamic holy land for the lesser hajj.
Fueling the unease was the seeming determination of the dominant party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to renege on what several of the otherwise loyal and steadfast party members had believed was the promise of automatic return tickets.
Though no commitment, verbal or written has been pointed to by any one, it is, however, generally believed that the pro-third term legislators in the National Assembly were promised an automatic party return ticket for their efforts at the thick of the third term controversy.
A number of senior party officials had given near credence to such agreement with assertions that the party would not be unmindful of the efforts of loyal party members.
But with their glaring failure to deliver, that promise if ever, has now become a pipe dream.
The confusion of the legislators is, in some cases, being compounded by the strengthened hand of loyal PDP Governors who seem to have taken pre-eminent position in determining the fate of several federal legislators.
The sense of panic among the legislators was being heightened by their fading hope of reaping political gain through support for President Olusegun Obasanjo by nailing Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in the probe of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
Though the Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba led ad-hoc Committee is set to commence public hearing anytime this week, there were strong indications that the Committee had become of little consequence to the political calculations of the President in his continuing battle with his deputy.
One notable indication of the breakdown of the trust between the PDP leadership and the federal lawmakers is the brewing senatorial aspiration of Dr. (Mrs.) Mariam Ali, wife of the national chairman of the PDP, Col. Ahmadu Ali.
Mrs. Ali who hails from the Delta North senatorial district is set to challenge the two term rabid pro-Obasanjo loyalist, Senator Patrick Osakwe, who is aiming for a third term in the Senate.
Beside the powerful Mrs. Ali, Senator Osakwe is also contending with another important Obasanjo ally, Ned Nwoko, a former member of the House of Representatives suggesting that the battle for Osakwe’s seat would be a battle between pro-Obasanjo friends.
Beside Senator Osakwe, a number of the federal legislators aiming for a comeback including some of the most steadfast loyalists of Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman of the PDP board of trustees, have deserted Abuja for their constituencies aiming to consolidate on their political positions.
Those who would otherwise have depended on what they could manipulate from Abuja have practically relocated to their constituencies in the hope of consolidating their political formations.
"The truth must be told and no one is short-changing anyone on this issue. Since they could not deliver third term there is no way they can hold anyone to the promise of automatic return," one source conversant with the deal between the Senators and the PDP leadership disclosed.
President Obasanjo had given formal rejection of the agreement on automatic return during the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party when he affirmed that the processes leading to the primaries and the primaries itself must be transparent. The President had gone further to assert that he as the life leader of the party would reject any candidate who emerged by crook during the primaries.
"I want to say it here and now and I can also speak for the Chairman of the party, I hope I can also speak for the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, that I have no candidate for any elective office," President Obasanjo said at the last NEC of the PDP on September 28.
By saying that he could speak for the chairman, but only hoping that he could speak for Chief Anenih, Obasanjo may have inadvertently revealed what some believe to have been a chasm between the two otherwise close political allies.
One of the reported causes of the chasm is the rumoured difference between the two men on who succeeds Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State.
Like in Anambra where he is said to have endorsed one of his special assistants, the President is said to have also endorsed one of his close aides from the Edo North senatorial district for the 2007 governorship ticket of the PDP. Chief Anenih on his part in the twilight of his political odyssey is reportedly determined to give the governorship to anyone of his faithful loyalists from his Edo Central senatorial district.
Despite his perceived inclinations in Edo and Anambra States, the President at the PDP September ending NEC meeting asserted his determination to ensure credible primaries in the selection of the party’s candidates.
"It is good that we have many aspirants. Out of these aspirants, candidates will emanate. But for candidates to emerge, they must be those of the party not those of individuals or groups," President Obasanjo had further said in a major blow to the aspiration of the pro-third term legislators.
Vanguard further gathered that the national leadership of the party was itself losing confidence in a number of the legislators in the pro-third term camp with the belief that many of the legislators did not stand with the party on principles but rather because of monetary gains.
Besides, nothing more has stained the President’s anti-corruption profile than his association with some of the pro-third term legislators many of whom were primarily concerned with how they could advance their political and financial interests instead of the Obasanjo legacy that was said to be at the heart of the third term saga.
One hope of the pro-third term elements in the National Assembly of reinventing their credibility was to use the opportunity of the face off between the President and the Vice-President to consolidate rapport with the President and as such guarantee automatic return for them.
When President Obasanjo submitted the report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry that indicted the Vice-President to the Senate last month, it was immediately seen by the pro-third term Senators as another opportunity for them to revitalise their link with the President after their miserable performance during the third term saga.
The camp, Vanguard gathered, had a number of meetings to strategise on how they could push through measures to help nail the Vice-President. It was one of such early meetings that recommended the probe of the PTDF.
Last weekend as the Senate ad-hoc panel of enquiry fine-tuned its preparations for the hearings on the PTDF, there were suggestions that the whole hearing would be of little benefit to the pro-third term Senators or their quest to clinch automatic re-election tickets.
"The President has nothing to benefit from the PTDF hearing and any hope that we can get political capital from siding him is increasingly bleak as the deed has been done successfully through the administrative panel of inquiry," one Senator in the pro-third term lobby told Vanguard.
"Forget the PTDF hearing, nobody is going to see anything meaningful coming out from it and we are all pre-occupied with getting our tickets. What will the hearings do worse than the panel report which forbids the Vice-President from contesting," the same Senator said.
Besides, federal legislators who had until recently been at logger-heads with their Governors are also seeking ways of rapprochement with the seeming determination of the PDP not to truncate the party structures in some of the States.
With the notable exception of Plateau, Adamawa and now Ekiti, and Bayelsa and Edo States, most of the other PDP Governors are in near iron-grip control of the PDP structures of the States.
"Come with 25 delegates at the ward, local government and the States, tell me a Senator needs a miracle to better a loyal Governor during the coming congresses," one source disclosed.
The seeming ascendancy of the Governors, Vanguard learnt, is forcing otherwise recalcitrant Senators and House members to seek understanding with their Governors.
As the Senate and the House of Representatives closed down for the two- week break from plenary sittings the majority of the legislators contacted last weekend disclosed that they were on the way to their constituencies.
Some others in seeming solicitation of the help of the divine were making last minute arrangements to proceed for the Islamic lesser hajj.