By James Ojo, Abuja
AS the tenure of the Clerk of National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, draws to a close, the Assembly is set to witness a fierce battle over who will replace him between forces who wanted the status quo to remain and those calling for a change.
Investigations revealed that those beating the war drum are already in the trenches where they are digging deep on how to take the battle to the highest level in order to install their preferred candidate for the plum job.
Maikasuwa has a deputy, Ben Efeturi, who, by tradition, should succeed him but diverse interests within the National Assembly system and outside are pushing for an open contest to find who replaces Maikasuwa.
The outgoing clerk was elevated to the highest technocrat seat of the National Assembly on August 16, 2010, having served as deputy clerk from January to May 2010. He is to proceed on his retirement leave as from May 14, 2016.
Since the inception of the present political dispensation, appointment of the Clerk of the National Assembly has been shrouded by intrigues. Politics, religion, ethnicity and other interests have combined to challenge the existing succession order.”
The succession plan put in place was promotion from the Deputy Clerk, House of Representatives to Clerk, House of Representatives, to Deputy Clerk, Senate, Clerk, Senate, to Deputy Clerk, National Assembly and finally, Clerk of the National Assembly.
But last year, the Commission decided to tinker with the structure of the National Assembly by creating five new directorates from the existing seven departments and appointed a secretary designated as permanent secretary to head each of the directorate.
The newly created directorates are Legal Services, Procurement, Estate and Works, Finance and Accounts, Corporate Affairs and Common Services.
According to a source at the Commison, the motive behind the restructuring was to open the space for experienced hands to bid for the position of the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Such expansion of the space in the search for a Clerk, who is the accounting officer of the National Assembly, it was learnt, would enrich the process of achieving its mandate.
‘There are competent and very senior directors with enough knowledge and understanding of the workings of the National Assembly who by antecedents would surely perform better as head of the technocrats but were shut out by the existing arrangement.
But the reorganisation carried out by the Commission is seen from different perspectives particularly those who preferred the old order of succession based on seniority.
For instance, it was argued by some senior staff that by the new structure, the Commission had paved the way for extraneous factors to play key roles in who will emerge the next Clerk.
The Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, is expected to step up and mount the ladder, but feelers are of the view that he has a long battle ahead to achieve this.
‘‘That is how it should be, that is, for the Deputy, Mr. Efeturi, to take over from the Clerk, Alhaji Maikasuwa, but I can tell you that it will not be as easy as it used to be. The truth is that the foundation not to make it an easy ride on the ladder of succession had been altered’ , a director who retired recently observed.
According to him, the foundation of what is to happen in the next few weeks in the appointment of a new Clerk was actually laid in 2010 when the outgoing Clerk was drafted to become DCNA (Deputy Clerk of National Assembly) without serving in the House or in the Senate.
Indeed, the office of the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly was created during the period late Dr Chuba Okadigbo was the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly.
Alhaji Nasir Ibrahim Arab was the first to be appointed as DCNA, to be followed by Chief Yemi Ogunyomi, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, Mr. Niyi Adejokun and now Mr. Ben Efeturi.
If Efeturi eventually gets it, he will be following the steps of Nasir Arab, Ogunyomi and Maikasuwa, who rose to become the Clerk of the National Assembly from the deputy position.
But unlike Maikasuwa who will be retiring after five years and nine months in office as CNA, Efeturi, if he is made the clerk, will only spend six months in office, as he is expected to proceed on retirement leave as from November 2016 by records of service.
The short period left for him in service is what observers have pointed to as his determination to ‘sit on the clerk’s chair, even if only for one day’.
It was learnt that the group working for him to be promoted as Clerk have open contacts with known forces that always influence appointments in the National Assembly.
He is said to be enjoying the support of the present leadership of the Senate, having worked with almost all the principal officers at one point or another since he was deputy Clerk of the Senate.
‘‘Give it to Ben, he has a robust working relationship with Senators, past and present and he still enjoys their confidence’’, one of the directors who will retire from service before the end of the year noted.
Efeturi however featured prominently in the controversy which dogged the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President, a development which is now a subject of litigation.
One of the speculations is that his alleged roles in the saga may be used to ease him out of the race even though he should be the automatic successor.
Another point in contention was his grip on the bureaucracy of the Senate when he influenced the appointment of his loyalists both as acting Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the Senate.
For reasons best known to him, he still attends the plenary of the Senate and some staff said it was not common for DCNA to sit in the chamber during plenary.
This move, it was observed, prevented the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr Ataba Sani Omolori from moving up the ladder as was usually the case whenever such vacancy occurs.
One of the difficult nuts to crack by the National Assembly Service Commission is the appointment of DCNA when the office becomes vacant in the next few weeks.
However, a source who is familiar with the intrigues of succession in the National Assembly dismissed fear of any war resulting from picking the next Clerk or the Deputy, noting that the Commission wielded enough powers to make their choice.
Citing the powers of the Commission in appointing persons to hold or act in the office of the CNA, DCNA, Clerk of the Senate, Clerk of the House of Representatives, Deputy Clerk of Senate and Deputy Clerk of House of Representatives and all other offices in the service of the National Assembly, the Commission was empowered to go beyond the National Assembly service.
In actual fact, section 2, sub section 3 of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) act of 2000 stated that “where the Commission thinks it expedient that any vacancy in the staff of the National Assembly should be filled by a person holding office in the Civil Service of the Federation, or a state, it shall notify the appropriate Civil Service Commission to that effect and the Commission May after consultation with the said Civil Service Commission concerned cause such vacancy to be filled by way of transfer.”
The above section of the act which established the commission was cited as an important tool that the commission will employ to navigate the mines when it is time to appoint the Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, a source at the Commission, said.
‘As at now, the race is fluid, it can go either way, the Commission has many factors to be considered in appointing the next Clerk. The established transition method is there, the secretaries of the new directorates are there and section 2(3) of the 2000 Act is also there, so this time around, it will not be one way method’, the source explained.
From the pool of the secretaries of the Directorates are Daniel Adem of Legal Services, Mr O Adelami, Procurement, Estate, and Works; Lasisi Bukoye of Finance and Accounts; C. J Usman Corporate Affairs and Dr. Momoh of Common Services.
It was learnt that since they are in the rank of Permanent Secretaries, they are eminently qualified for appointment as Clerk of the National Assembly. For instance, it was mentioned that Mr Adelami is an alumni of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.
The final choice of who takes over from Alhaji Maikasuwa as Clerk of National Assembly and the next Deputy would be a combination of many factors from internal and external interests who were bent on calling the shots.
Both the commission, the present leadership of both chambers, the outgoing Clerk, the Presidency, religious groups and ruling party have positioned themselves to outwit one another in recommending who will take over the seat.
At the Commission’s office in Utako, the issue of succession in the National Assembly was not dominant in open discussion, rather workers were complaining of the delay in the payment of salaries.
Nobody was wiling to open debate on the issue at the office of the chairman. “ Let them chose whoever they want, I don’t have any input, it is the choice of the commissioners and the chairman, “ a staff said.
Notwithstanding, in the next few days, the commission will become the hotbed of the war on who becomes the next Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly.