BEVERLY HILLS, April 14, (THEWILL) – Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba has accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of being responsible the frosty relationship that has existed between the executive and legislature since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Speaking at a national conference on ‘Political Party Supremacy and the Dynamics of Parliamentary Autonomy’, organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the former speaker said Obasanjo wanted a subjugated legislature, but met a stiff opposition in the House of Representatives.
The former speaker said the decision of former President Obasanjo to impose a leadership on the National Assembly and the resolve to fight back by the lawmakers is responsible for the relationship that has existed between the two arms of government since 1999.
Tracing the origin of the crisis, Na’Abba said the first step by Obasanjo was to change the date of the inauguration of the National Assembly from June 3, 1999 to June 6th to allow him ample opportunity to manipulate the election of the Senate President, thus paving the way for the emergence of Evan Ewerem as Senate President instead of Chiba Okadigbo that was preferred by most senators.
“The action of 3rd June 1999 by Obasanjo, the election of Ghali Na’Abba as speaker of the House of Representatives on 22nd July, 1999 and the election of Senator Chiba Okadigbo as Senate President convoluted to define the relationship between the legislature and the executive.
“The relationship between the National Assembly and the executive arm became characterized by antagonism. It was clearly more than the necessary kind of friction which was desirous for the proper functioning of the legislature.
“In doing what he did in the senate, the President did not carry the PDP along. The intention of the President in all of those was to ensure that he governed with a subjugated legislature. In the House of Representatives, he met with stiff resistance.
“That was the reason he insisted that the Speaker be impeached. Up to the time the House came to an end, he did not succeed. In the senate, Senator Chiba Okadigbo was impeached eight months after he was elected.”
Also speaking at the event, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim blamed the former President for the lack of party supremacy in the current political dispensation, pointing out that by declaring himself as the leader of the party, he succeeded in eroding the powers of the party to control their members.
“The original sin was committed in 1999 when the then newly elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo declared himself the leader of the party thereby usurping the power of the party chairman.
“Once he did that, sitting governors in the state declared themselves party leaders at the levels. Party executives then became simple figureheads without real power or influence.
“One of the most serious consequences of this development is that the party becomes completely incapable of insisting that their elected executives and legislature implement the programmes on which they have been elected. The notion of party supremacy has completely disappeared in Nigeria’s political culture since 1999.”