Congressional leadership stability is a key feature of advanced democracies, particularly the United States of America. This is anchored on natural progression by ranking members into positions reserved for “wise men” held in high esteem by their peers, respected by the executive and trusted by the people. In the US Congress, the progression rule has been institutionalised, resulting in leadership stability in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In Nigeria, there has been a measured attempt to copy the US Congress via pragmatism in recognising seniority and experience when constituting the presiding officers’ positions. The ranking rule has been enshrined in the standing orders of the National Assembly and it is time it was enforced, stricto sensu, in order to deepen the legislative convention in Nigeria.
Significantly, the convention will rid the Federal Legislature’s leadership of extraneous stuff. Consideration for the positions of Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker will no longer be the prerogative of the moneybags. It will not matter if a legislator is a former governor or if a legislator enjoys the support of his party leadership. If she or he is a new member, the ranking rule, ipso facto, becomes a bar.
Conversely, legislative returnees are thus properly positioned to vie for presiding officers’ spots. The convention is utilitarian by helping to eliminate rancour generated by aspirations for legislative leadership positions. When the rule is added to the deliberate zoning decision, the leadership selection becomes much more streamlined and much less acrimonious.
Order 3 (2) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended on election of presiding and other officers, wherein ranking rule is clearly specified, states inter alia: “Nomination of senators to serve as presiding officers and appointments of principal officers and other officers of the Senate or on any parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of senators. In determining ranking, the following order shall apply- (i) senators returning based on number of times re-elected; (ii) senators who had been members of the House of Representatives; (iii) senators elected as senators for the first time…”.
A similar provision in the House of Representatives’ Standing Orders is captured in Order 2 (3)(a), and adumbrated in two words, to wit: legislative experience. The order specifically reads: (3) “The election of Speaker shall be conducted in the following manner: (a) “A member-elect, addressing the Clerk, shall propose another member-elect with legislative experience as member of the National Assembly to be Speaker and shall move that such member-elect, ‘Do take the Chair as Speaker of the House of Representatives’.”
Amusingly, while in 2015, the election of presiding officers in both chambers complied with the ranking rule with the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu as deputy Senate president, Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Hon. Yusuf Lasun as deputy Speaker of the House, both the APC and PDP caucuses in the Senate circumvented the rule in the selection of some principal officers. Read more>>>>>