About 500 pro-democracy civil society groups in Nigeria have vowed to hold massive protests across the country to reject the All Progressives Congress’s imposition of principal officers for the 10th National Assembly.
The groups said the foisting of Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas down the throats of parliamentarians for Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively is unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The CSOs made their displeasure known at a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja.
Speaking on behalf of the groups, Hon. Dauda Yakubu said what the APC has done is to coronate some individuals who would not necessarily earn the acceptance of their colleagues.
“We were shocked to read reports that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has come up with a zoning template and even went further to rub salt on injury by attaching names to the positions of principal officers – Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker and all other offices of the National Assembly,” the statement said.
“It is on record that the APC kicked against such an arrangement in the past, describing it as a hijack of democracy. It is therefore ironic that the persons in APC who rejected the imposition of leadership on the National Assembly are either ominously quiet now or are the ones undermining our democratic tenets.
“The imposition of leaders is nothing but a coronation of some individuals who would not necessarily earn the acceptance of their colleagues, which implies that they also will not enjoy the acceptance of the constituents of their colleagues.”
The CSOs believe that the outgoing Speaker in particular, Femi Gbajiamila, is desperate to foist his loyalists on the Reps.
The statement added: “We are aware that the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is a key factor in this ongoing rape of democracy. It is unbecoming that Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila, who has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of our democracy, could be the one machinating to sabotage the institution that defines him in Nigerian politics.
“Had usurpers dictated the composition of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly he certainly would not occupy the position of the Speaker today and would consequently not have the clout to attempt imposing a leadership on the National Assembly.
“This move becomes even more abhorrent with the realization that Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila is on his way to becoming part of the executive in one form or the other. He has been tipped as a potential Chief-of-Staff to the incoming president, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The implication of his coronating the leadership of the National Assembly while assuming an executive position is that he would erase the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature and creation of a rubber-stamp parliament.
“A rubber-stamp National Assembly is precisely what the country does not need currently bearing in mind the extent of reform-oriented legislation and oversight that is needed in the months and years ahead. Nigerians need a parliament that they can hold accountable and not one that answers to a kingmaker in the person of Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila.”
The CSOs, therefore, urged “men of good conscience within the APC and conscientious Nigerians including those in the opposition to rise in defence of Nigeria’s democracy.”
The statement further reads: “They should come out and add their voices to the demand that the members and senators-elect should be allowed the independence granted by the principles of separation of power to decide on the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
“The Coalition of Pro-democracy CSOs further calls on Nigerians and the international community to start watching the APC, particularly Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila over his anti-democratic moves. The party should be informed in clear terms that its partisan interests should not be escalated for sabotaging our democracy”.
The CSOs, however, vowed to embark on mass protests should the ruling party uphold its coronation of leaders for the National Assembly.