With the defection of Senator Stella Oduah from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last week, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the number of senators is inching towards 73 which is two-third of 109. TAIYE ODEWALE reports…
Importance of two – third majority
In any form of democracy, be it parliamentary or presidential, any political party that forms government at the centre (known as Federal Government in Nigeria), always tries to have majority of members in the parliament known as National Assembly in Nigeria and House of Assembly at the state level.
The quest for majority of members in the parliament by any political party in power, particularly at the Federal level, is driven by provisions of section 143 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which contains procedures and processes of impeaching a sitting President.
Specifically, steps 4 and 8 of the procedures and processes as contained in section 143 of the Constitution, require the consent of two-third majority of members of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
This is aside section 8 of the Constitution which deals with States Creation where two – thirds of members at both chambers of the National Assembly, State House of Assembly etc, are required as well as provisions made in the constitution for its amendments.
History of two-third majority
Aside the 5th, 6th and 7th National Assembly during this fourth republic when federal lawmakers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had two-third of membership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, there is no other time, such two-third of majority of members was achieved by any political party in power from the first republic to the present moment.
APC momentum in the 9th Senate
With 65 at inauguration in June 2019, members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Senate, have risen to 70, remaining just three for them to form two-thirds majority of 109, which is 73.
Senators on the platform of APC rose to 70 from 65 due to defection of six senators from the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) at different times into its fold and lost of Sokoto South Senatorial seat to PDP through litigation .
At inauguration on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, Shehu Tambuwal Abubakar of the APC was sworn in as Senator representing Sokoto South Senatorial District but later replaced by Senator Ibrahim Danbaba of PDP in October of the same year in line with Court of Appeal ruling.
Though APC also lost the Ekiti South senatorial seat to PDP through similar litigation but used the Kogi West senatorial re-run election in November 2020 won by Senator Smart Adeyemi, to replace the Ekiti South loss which brought in Senator Biodun Olujimi of the PDP as against Adedayo Adeyeye of the APC.
The Defection galore
First to defect from PDP which had 43 members at inauguration of the 9th Senate in June 2019 and increased to 44 with judicial victory of Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto South), was Senator Elisha Ishaku Abbo (Adamawa North), to APC on the 26th of November 2020 on alleged divisions in the Adamawa chapter of the party.
Abbo’s defection move was followed seven months after by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi from Delta North who dumped PDP on the 25th of June this year.
Four days after, precisely on the 30th of June 2021 on the floor of Senate, the three senators from Zamfara state, namely Sahabi Ya’u Alhaji (Zamfara North), Mohammed Hassan (Zamfara Central) and Lawan Hassan Anka ( Zamfara West), defected from PDP to APC.
Though the three Zamfara senators claimed existence of two factions of PDP in their state as reasons for their defections but it was apparent that they took the decision as a way of being on the same page with Governor Bello Mattawale of the state who made similar move on the 29th of June, 2021.
Adding the figure of defectors from PDP to APC in the 9th Senate to six last week, was Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah (Anambra North) who anchored her move on the need to change the APC narrative in the South East ahead of the coming November 6, gubernatorial election in the state and 2023 general elections.
A statement by APC Director of Publicity, Salisu Dambatta quoted Oduah as saying she defected to co-change the “political narrative” in the Igbo-speaking states.
“She said during the occasion that she joined the APC family as part of the process of the changing political narrative in the South-East”.
But in countering her, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South) in a statement few hours after Oduah’s defection last week Thursday, said the defection would not in anyway affect the fortune of PDP in the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra state or help in changing APC narrative in the South East in 2023.
“If the stated reason for her defection is to change the narrative of APC in the Southeast, that amounts to a tacit confirmation that there is no APC in the Southeast.
“We should not forget in a hurry Governor Matawalle’s dilemma who barely few weeks into joining APC has resorted to asking for a declaration of a state of emergency. Recall that his reason was to enable the party, APC, to assist Zamfara fight insecurity”, he said .
Likely implications of two- third majority
As good as the two-third majority of members of the ruling party may be in a parliament, it may also work against national interests.
A very good example of this was the direction in which the APC Senators voted during the consideration and passage of the 2010 Electoral Act (amendment) Bill 2021 as regards the clause on electronic transmission of election results .
For reasons best known to the APC senators in July before the Senate and the House of Representatives went on long recess, they used their numerical strength to water down the provisions of electronic transmission of election results by subjecting the exercise to confirmation of National Communications Commission (NCC) as far as adequacy of national network is concerned.
While Clause 52(3) of the bill as presented by relevant committees of both chambers , recommends that ” INEC may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”, the enforced amendment through numerical strength by the APC Senators states: “INEC may consider electronic transmission of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the NCC”.
Although since the House of Representatives retained the original provision of the clause during consideration and passage of the bill, both chambers will still revisit the clause on resumption through harmonization Commitee but the clear numerical strength may stiil be used in similar way on other important bills.
One of such bills is the expected report on Constitution Review exercise by the Ad-hoc Commitee set up for that purpose.
Though state creation exercise requiring two-thirds majority of members during voting, seems to have suffered setback at the level of consideration by the commitee but other recommendations requiring simple majority votes, may be given similar treatment of numerical strength as against national interests by senators on the platform of the ruling party.
But going by the backlashes that followed their decision on electronic transmission of election results in July, even if before the consideration and passage of the report on Constitution Review exercise, APC secured two – thirds majority in membership of the 9th Senate, it may use such advantage in the direction of national interests and not partisan ones.