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Obasanjo the root of executive, legislature rift – Na’Abba

by Dolapo Adelana

A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba has said former President Olusegun Obasanjo was responsible for the unending war between the executive and the legislature since the return to democratic rule in 1999.

Na’Abba made the disclosure on Friday 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).

Giving a background, the former speaker said Obasanjo’s move to impose the leadership of the National Assembly in 1999 was responsible for the frosty relationship that has since existed between the two arms of government.

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Na’Abba said Obasanjo changed the inauguration date of the National Assembly from June 3, 1999, to June 6th to provide room for the manipulation of in favour of his choice candidate Evans Ewerem as against Chuba Okadigbo, who was preferred by his colleagues.

He said, “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 characterised 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.”

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A professor, Jibrin Ibrahim who also spoke at the conference also blamed the former president for setting a precedent where party supremacy was not recognised.

“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.”

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