Speaker of the 7th session of the House of Representatives Honourable Aminu Tambuwal is currently on a roll. In terms of political signaling, even a desultory media tracking of his movements and pronouncements in recent times would appear to indicate where the Young Turk representing the Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency of Sokoto State is headed. This has become a legitimate point of worry for the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); with good reason.
To the political opposition, Tambuwal is something of a hero and a potentially important tool in their power grab plots ahead 2015. To the ruling PDP on which platform he ascended the coveted speakership throne he is something of a pesky tse-tse fly perching on the scrotum. In this delicate position the cheeky insect would need to be swathed with utmost care. To himself, Tambuwal probably comes across as something of a new age nationalist sent by God to re-invent parliamentary practice and teach his party good table manners to booth.
At every opportunity Tambuwal has told Nigerians who cared to listen that he is the Fourth Citizen of Nigeria, not PDP – and that his first loyalty is to the country and not to PDP. While he does not miss any photo opportunity and personal appearance at any political event in the south-west convened by the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) he is usually coy or outright brash in turning down attendance of state functions that actually have to do with his position.
When he avoided the May 27th Democracy Day state occasion in Abuja, Tambuwal had a glib excuse to offer. More recently when visiting Liberian and Malawian presidents were hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan during a book launch cum state mid-term dinner, the speaker also avoided the event. At a recent rally organised by Governor Wamakko of Sokoto State who was suspended and later recalled by PDP, Tambuwal condemned his part publicly and described Wamakko’s suspension as unconstitutional. These incidents would have been less significant if the speaker were from an opposition party.
Also recently, Tambuwal faulted Osun State Chapter of PDP which questioned the rationale behind his visit to Governor Rauf Aregbesola and lavish praise. “It has become imperative to state the fact that as the Number Four citizen in the country, the speaker is a national figure who must be seen to be above partisan considerations at all times. The Speaker is a leader and rallying point for all Nigerians, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic consideration,” the speaker’s spokesman fired back. In a recent sanctimonious preachment, the speaker was reported to have indicted his party, alleging internal autocracy.
Still in recent months the air is filled with speculations of Tambuwal running for the presidency or governorship (or even both) in 2015 on the platform of the new opposition coalition of All Peoples Congress (APC). The speaker seems to be enjoying himself and has not come out openly to deny these. The emerging consensus amongst political observers is the poser: how far will this speaker go in his dodgy game before the ruling party reins him in? Who is the hidden drummer that the speaker is dancing to?
Against the background of these serial breaches of protocol and a body language that he is above the party on which platform he was elected, the speaker’s recent reiteration that “he is still a member of the PDP and will continue to work assiduously for the progress of the party at all times,” clearly sounds insincere. Perhaps it not surprising that linked to these recalcitrance very senior PDP officials are displeased with the speaker’s open romance with the APC. According to some political scientists, the concept of party supremacy is a widely respected pillar of party politics globally. From China, United States to Russia, party supremacy dictates the direction members of a party must go and how they must comport themselves.
Many are now asking – is Speaker Tambuwal above party discipline? Why is the speaker still pretending to be a member of PDP? Is he just a mole positioned by particular political tendencies and interest groups to undermine the ruling party? Is he been egged by the palpable sense of denial of power by the north or by a cunning south-west political script written by the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinibu? So many questions indeed. Perhaps a little peek at the background of Tambuwal may shed some light into his latter day gambits.
The current speaker started learning the legislative ropes from 1999 to 2000, while working as Personal Assistant on Legislative Affairs to Senator Abdullahi Wali, the then Senate Leader.
In 2003, he decided to run for a legislative seat as representative of the Kebbi/Tambuwal Federal Constituency. He was elected into the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Few months to the 2007 general elections, he defected to the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), alongside the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa. But when the DPP denied return tickets to former ANPP legislators, Tambuwal swung back to the ANPP, where he eventually succeeded in picking up a ticket for the election.
But then again, when the ANPP governorship candidate for Sokoto State in the 2007 election, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko dumped the party for the PDP, Tambuwal also followed suit.
Though it may not be fair to begrudge the Young Turk of these survivalist dance steps, it also cannot be brushed under the carpet that they are not grounded on principle, a feature he would want Nigerians to believe he they are. Actually Tambuwal could have a bright political future in Nigeria, especially in the north that is in a multi-faceted quandary but he must build this on clear integrity, principle and genuine vision.
Against this background of an unprincipled schemer making out as a saint, the challenge before the ruling party is to rein in Tambuwal now, especially as a most important political project of retaining the presidency in 2015 is looming fast. This because the worst combat scenario is to go into battle with internal enemies causing havoc.
The time for PDP to act is now.
· Chukwuma is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja (email@example.com)