A fresh crisis is looming in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as some of its aspirants for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, last night, rejected the party’s consensus candidates for positions of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker.
APC National Working Committee (NWC) had yesterday endorsed former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abass (Kaduna), as its preferred choice for the seats of Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives.
The party also ratified the candidature of Senator Barau Jibrin from Kano State (Northwest) as Deputy Senate President, while Ben Kalu from Abia State (Southeast), was endorsed for the office of Deputy Speaker. National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, confirmed the development at the end of the NWC meeting held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
Morka explained that the decision was arrived at after consultations and meetings held with the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, other party leaders and stakeholders on zoning arrangement for the 10th National Assembly leadership positions.
The party canvassed the support of stakeholders of the party to ensure the victory of its preferred candidates for the leadership of the National Assembly. In a bid to calm frayed nerves over the zoning arrangement, the President-elect is said to have expressed his preference for the North Central to present the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Sources told our reporter that the decision was in line with his resolve to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of offices in the country. The source said: “You will agree with me that this is another powerful position. As I speak to you, the President-elect will appoint somebody from the North Central zone after he is sworn into office by the end of the month.”
But in a swift reaction last night, the current House of Reps Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, and current Majority Leader, Alhasan Ado Doguwa, rejected the consensus arrangement announced by the party.
Speaking at a press conference, Wase and Doguwa said they would not allow the 10th National Assembly to be “hijacked.” They also vowed to proceed with their separate bids for the speakership position.
Also, in defiance of the APC zoning arrangement, a leading aspirant for Speaker, Aliyu Betara, yesterday, declared his intention to occupy the exalted seat in the lower legislative chamber.
Betara, who is under pressure to drop his bid for the Speakership, insisted that he remains the most experienced and prepared to lead the House. He declared his bid for the seat shortly after APC revealed its preferred aspirants to occupy the leadership positions of the 10th NASS. The event held at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja was attended by scores of lawmakers and his supporters from across the country.
Furthermore, stakeholders of the party from the North Central, led by Salihu Ibrahim, have faulted the zoning arrangement, noting that the zone has been marginalised. The group called on the party leadership to reverse the decision and zone the speakership seat to the zone. He said: “We are being marginalised as regards the sharing formulas of offices of the 10th National Assembly. The party has not taken the North Central into consideration and it is outrageous.
“We are not happy right from the emergence of the APC. We the North Central have contributed largely to the development of the APC and up till date we are still on it.
Piqued by the APC’s decision to anoint Abass as the Speaker, the Minority Caucus of the House has vowed to render the decision an exercise in futility.
The caucus, led by Nicholas Mutu, argued that they have the “Greater Majority,” with a combined members-elect tally of 183, as against the APC’s total of 177, to pick from among themselves the next Speaker of the House.
The caucus contended that its position is further buoyed by their dominant numerical strength, which by parliamentary ethos, precedent and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, allows them to contest the presiding officers position.
To achieve their objective, the caucus has put together an 11-man committee, charged with the task of shortlisting, screening and making eventual recommendation of aspirants for the Speakership and Deputy Speaker positions. Afam Victor Ogene is appointed as Secretary of the Committee with the mandate to turn in its report in one-week time.
Members of the committee, drawn majorly from the different minority parties, include Abdulmumini Jibrin, Deputy Chairman (NNPP); Oluwole Oke (PDP), Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi (SDP), Beni Lar (PDP), Dr. Ali Isa JC (PDP), Kabiru Alhassan Rurum (NNPP), Donatus Mathew Kuzali (LP), Yusuf Salisu Majigirir (PDP), Nnabuife Chinwe Clara (YPP), Gwacham Maureen Chinwe (APGA), and Idris Salman (PDP).
In a related development, some Senators-elect at the 10th National Assembly induction programme held in Abuja, yesterday, expressed their divergent views on the decision of the party to anoint some members for NASS leadership position.
Senate President aspirant, Sani Musa, said his colleagues would decide his fate notwithstanding the decision of APC to settle for Akpabio and Jibrin as its choice of Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
Speaking during the start of the retreat, he noted: “I am a senator and we have 109 senators. Whatever decision any other organ will give is going to be advisory. And once you give us an advisory note, we will look at it, consider it and we will act in the best interest of Nigeria.
“Everywhere around the world where there are true democracies, parties make inputs but decisions are left with those elected. I am not aware of that yet. Until when it is officially put before us, then I will comment.”
Nevertheless, Akpabio, who expressed satisfaction with the zoning arrangement of the party, said he remains unperturbed with the purported plan by senators to revolt against the APC decision. He said: “I believe that justice will be done in terms of balancing the political equation in the country, to ensure peace and a very peaceful tenure for the incoming president. I am not worried. It is a normal thing for aspirants to form alliances.
“I always describe politics as a game of concentric circles of conspiracies. So, I am not worried about anything. I strongly believe that the will of God will be done.”
On his chances of emerging victorious, he said: “It is in the hands of my colleagues, senators-elect. They will take the decision. The lawmakers are going to be the ones choosing the next Senate President. When you talk about the fact that there should be independence, I believe that there should be cooperation between the parties and the lawmakers.
Abdulraham Kawu Samaila (NNPP Kano) said they will follow the constitution in electing leadership of the NASS. He said: “There is a clear and express provision in the Constitution, which allows members of the National Assembly to choose their presiding officers among themselves, irrespective of party affiliation, religious or ethnic considerations.
“Each of us has the qualification to lead the chambers as presiding officers. It is not a just cause that the Senate Presidency should go to the South because of religion. It is against the constitution and morally wrong. It is against the character of democracy.
“We are practicing constitutional democracy and the presidential system of government, which provides for the National Assembly, Executive and Judiciary. “The parliament is an independent arm of government. The executive is detached from the parliament and judiciary. Therefore, we are canvassing a situation where we will have true separation of power. Let the executive led by Mr President, exercise its power to balance its positions.
Senator-elect Ned Nwoko, representing Delta North Senatorial District on the platform of the PDP said: “The defining issue for us is to have an independent National Assembly. We must be independent of the executive. As a third arm of government, we must hit the ground running.
“We should not have leaders that are imposed on us by the executive. In this case, the issue of the South East must be taken into account. The overwhelming majority of the senators-elect are of the opinion that we must be independent. That is the only way we can take the executive to account.
“The parliament is not meant to be pocketed by the executive. There are some of us that are already well established before we came here. So, we are not pushovers. We are very independent minded.
Senator Osita Izunaso, on his part, pointed out that the most natural thing for the APC to do is to zone the office of the Senate President to the South East, because it is long due. He said: “If you are ever contemplating zoning to the South, it is a natural thing that it should go to the South-East. The zone has been part of the process. South East voted for the APC. If you tell me that the South East did not vote for the APC, I will tell you that you are not telling the truth.
“Despite the pressure on the South East regarding Peter Obi’s candidature, we were able to deliver six Senate seats and two governors. The Labour Party has six senators while the PDP has two. APC members in the South East have done exceedingly well. South East Senators-elect met yesterday and we are categorical that the office of the Senate President should be zoned to our zone in the spirit of justice, equity and balance.
“If we must achieve oneness and unity of Nigeria, the Senate President must be zoned to the South East. That is our standpoint and personally, I am not ready to step down for anybody. I’m running for the position of Senate President.
“On the moves by some aggrieved APC aspirants to form alliance with opposition political parties, Akpabio said he was not worried about it because it remained a normal legislative practice. He said, “I am not worried at all. It is a normal thing. I always described politics as a game of concentric circles of conspiracy. I am not worried about anything. I believe strongly that the will of God will be done.
“My colleagues would decide my fate on the floor during the inauguration. The Senators-elect would take a decision. The lawmakers would elect the next Senate President. I believe that there should be cooperation between the parties and the lawmakers.
“Once the leadership is put in place, there should be collaboration between the leadership and the Parliament to ensure a smooth administration and we are all mutually dependent on one another while at the same time, exercising our legislative duties and independence. On the whole I believe that we can only get better as our democracy matures.”
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has disclosed that the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, urged him to step down for Godswill Akpabio in the race for the 10th Senate’s presidency. Umahi made the disclosure on Monday at the Muhammadu Buhari International Airport, Onueke while fielding questions from newsmen on arrival to the state from Abuja.
The governor said: “I discussed the issue with him when he was in Paris and on return to the country, he invited me. It was an honour to be invited by the President-elect and he told me that he had made commitments.
“It is his right as the President-elect to make commitments and anyone running for such office makes promises. I did not want to be a clog in the wheel of his progress so I accepted,” he said. Umahi said that his withdrawal from the race was in the interest of the Southeast, as it could no longer continue to be in the opposition.
“We cannot continue opposing everything as politics is all about dialogue, give and take. What could have happened if I said no and considering our efforts to promote the APC in the zone, we will get a tangible position,” he said.
The governor said that he was not aware of any resolution of Southeast senators to support former Abia governor, Senator Orji Kalu, for the position. “I am the chairman of the Akpabio campaign council and can tell you that we have more APC senators on our side,” he said. He said that he would never lobby to be appointed a minister in the incoming administration but leave the decision to destiny, Tinubu and the party.
“I will accept whatever God wills for me but as a person, I will prefer to be in the senate to rest. I will however, have no choice if it is the sacrifice to make in the interest of the party, Southeast and to help the president-elect,” he said.