The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the choice of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly deepened at the weekend as some of the lawmakers threatened to dare the party in the leadership tussle.
Some senators-elect of the ruling APC have also frowned at what they described as the recent utterances of the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, over the composition of the leadership of the National Assembly, saying such outburst should not have come from a national leader of the party.
Some of the party’s senators-elect, it was further learnt, met in Abuja last night to discuss the decision of the party to determine the federal legislature’s leadership.
Tinubu had at the weekend in Lagos asked elected party members, not comfortable with the choice of Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as Senate President and House Speaker respectively, to leave the party or be ready to abide by party decision on the matter.
Reacting to Tinubu’s statement, a cross section of the senators-elect who spoke with newsmen on condition of anonymity said such a remark was unbecoming of a national leader of a ruling party like APC.
They also reminded Tinubu that the party belongs to all stakeholders and not an individual saying: “Asiwaju should be reminded that many political parties agreed to collapse their structures to form the nucleus of APC some five years ago; so, the party does not belong to him.”
The legislators-elect said rather than threatening the elected lawmakers, the party leadership ought to have engaged them on how to evolve a vibrant leadership for the ninth National Assembly.
A senator-elect from the North-central told reporters: “As we speak, the party leaders have not deemed it fit to call all APC senators-elect to a meeting only for us to be told publicly by Oshiomhole that Senator Lawan is the party’s choice as next Senate President.”
According to him, “We will do everything possible to resist imposition of any leadership on the next federal parliament.”
Another senator-elect from North-central zone affirmed that the imposition of Lawan on others will not fly. “We are ready to take on the party leadership on the matter and ensure that all stakeholders are carried along,” he said.
He advised the party not to make the mistake it made in the 8th Senate which produced Dr. Bukola Saraki as Senate President as against Senator Lawan, then the choice of the party.
The ranking senator said senators-elect of like minds across political divides will meet in Abuja this week in the course of the orientation programme for all elected federal lawmakers.
“Our colleagues have started arriving in Abuja for the orientation programme being put together by the management of National Assembly for all the 479 members-elect of the federal parliament and we’ll use the opportunity to reach out to them and take a firm decision on the kind of leadership we desire in both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he said.
He added that senators-elect, who are against the imposition of Senator Lawan, had met at the weekend with those who are routing for former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, as next Senate President with a view to harmonising their position and come up with a candidate to face Lawan on the day 9th Senate will be inaugurated in June.”
This, he further said, are some of the issues that would be discussed with their colleagues from across the country, including legislators-elect from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other parties who have representation in the 9th Assembly.
APC Senators-elect Meet in Abuja
Meanwhile, some APC senators-elect scheduled a meeting in Abuja last night to discuss the contentious issue of the leadership for the next assembly.
The legislators-elect who call themselves “Like Minded Senators-elect,” It reliably gathered, scheduled to meet after the formal opening of the orientation programme for senators-elect and House members-elect at the Transcorp Hilton.
The orientation programme, which is in batches was scheduled to commence by 7p.m. last night after which the like-minded senators-elect, who are against Lawan also scheduled to retire to the room of one of the arrowheads of the plot at the same Transcorp Hilton where all the legislators-elect are being accommodated to brainstorm on their position as regards the leadership of the next Senate.
Gbajabiamila Declares Amid Protests from North-central Lawmakers
The Majority Leader, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere I Federal Constituency, Lagos State on APC platform, has declared interest in contesting for the position of speaker of the 9th assembly.
But there are indications that he would still need to contest against the incumbent Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who defeated him in the 2015 race.
There are, however, indications that just as in 2015, his 2019 ambition is still faced with antagonism from various camps among lawmakers in the assembly, particularly lawmakers from the North-central who are protesting that they are better positioned to take the speaker’s seat.
Gbajabiamila, in an elaborate event held yesterday at the Lagos-Osun Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, joined the leagues of the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Hon. Yusuf and Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, who have all stated their ambitions to become the next speaker.
Though the fifth term Lagos lawmaker (Gbajabiamila), who attracted 170 old and newly elected members to his official declaration is most favoured for the position, as he enjoys the backing of the party leadership, which hopes to zone the speakership to the South-west where he comes from, THISDAY learnt that his ambition would face yet another litmus test as some members are prepared to square up with him.
Addressing the gathering yesterday, Gbajabiamila said he is seeking the office of the Speaker to bring tendencies together and unite Nigeria as a country, stating that “I seek the office of the Speaker to bring governance even closer to the people, to mentor the next generation and galvanise honourable members to make life more abundant for every Nigerian.”
According to him, “I seek this office with a rich legislative background and pedigree and having just won a historic fifth term mandate to the House. I have in the last 16 years dedicated my life to the service of my constituents and Nigeria.
I have studied and understood the intricate workings of the legislature, a critical arm of government and I have come to understand the imperative of striking a delicate balance in the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government without compromising the latter’s independence. Indeed there is an essential need for a symbiotic relationship between all arms and all tiers of government if we are to make progress in nation building.
“In these 16 years I have been a principal officer for 12 years. I have occupied the office of leader of the opposition and successfully my party from opposition to majority in the House and thereafter assumed the position of house leader, placing me in a uniquely advantageous position of understanding the nuances and intricacies of this very critical arm of government and the need for its independence and at the same time interdependence with the executive.”
Even though some members drawn from across party lines, including the ruling APC, opposition PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), African Action Congress (AAC) and the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) declared support for Gbajabiamila candidacy, some aggrieved lawmakers and interest groups said if proper considerations are not taken, the Gbajabiamila agenda may not see the light of the day.
For instance, another APC member, Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, representing Ogo-Oluwa Federal Constituency, Oyo State, who is also eyeing the speakership seat, said his party would be making a major mistake if the national leadership of APC does not give all aspirants a level playing field to vie for the position.
Stating that Gbajabiamila has not been named as the party candidate, he said: “These rumours are everywhere. I am a member of the APC and up till now, nobody has ever given a public announcement, officially, that there is a micro zoning of the leadership of the House. There is none! Even rumours have it that they may likely zone it to the South-west, which means every qualified member from the zone can express their intention to contest. So, up till today, unless you can give me the fact, I have never got the information. I was at the meeting called by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and nothing of such was mentioned.
“If the party zones the positions, there are loose cannons – the new members who are coming in, who are susceptible to being influenced by other members to go against the party’s wish. What is the party doing about them?”
He said: “There is a way to achieving it, even if the party has interests. It is just a matter of inviting the leadership of the APC caucus in the House and we will give them the way to go about it. Nobody has said anything about lobbying. Influencing members is part of the politics of the National Assembly. Lobbying is a major activity in the National Assembly. So, any new member that is coming in must also be aware that he would lobby and they would lobby him.”
While several other lawmakers have confided in THISDAY, their displeasure with the way and manner the APC is going about the emergence of the leadership of the 9th assembly, a PDP lawmaker, Hon. Timothy Golu representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam of Plateau State, said the ruling party is on the verge of making similar mistake it made in 2015.
Referring to the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who said his party’s lawmakers should go ahead to dominate the 9th assembly, Golu said: “He is talking rubbish, I am telling you. He is just talking rubbish. None of them is a member of parliament and when the election will take place none of them will be there. They are only talking to impress so that the president will say this man is loyal.
“They are just playing to the gallery. As far as I am concerned, Oshiomhole is playing to the gallery. He doesn’t know what happens in here. They don’t feel forms to do this election. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not involved where he can manipulate. It is the members themselves; nobody filled form. So, somebody can wake up that day and contest.”
“This is not Federal Executive Council (FEC) where they have their chamber there. This is the National Assembly where we have gallery. Everybody sits down there and then watch what will happen. It is not FEC where they ask everybody to go out and then they take a decision and it is final. There is no decision that can be taken here. No APC man or party can sack an elected APC senator. People know these things. After their elections, it is the party that will start begging them. It is the presidency that will start begging them. They don’t know how they won the election. It is just under the party.
“Look at what Oshiomhole is saying; that all chairmanship position is going to APC and someone said they want to amend the constitution to make the president life president; all these kinds of things mean that you will have a dummy that will do anything they want. You think the PDP members, most of them who are even more experienced than the APC senators and APC House members would come here and sit under a stooge that will come and determine life presidency! Remember, everything goes the same way; whether it is a bill, whether it is a motion, whether it is to spend money without appropriation, whether it is foreign relations without any law; all these will follow. So they will never allow anything like that, I am telling you. Except the National Assembly is not inaugurated and what the president only has to do is that the National Assembly is going to be inaugurated on this day. He would not be there! He doesn’t have a vote! The vice president doesn’t have a vote. No minister has a vote. Oshiomhole cannot come close. So why saying this type of thing?”
In another development, a coalition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) youth groups under the umbrella of North-central APC Young Patriots has vowed to resist any attempt by the leadership of the party to zone the speakership of the House of Representatives to the South-west region.
The aggrieved APC loyalists told journalists at the weekend at the Stone Edge Hotel, Abuja, that they are not in agreement with the decision of the party leadership to zone the speakership to the South-west.
The coalition’s leader and convener, APC Young Patriot, Mr. Dominic Alancha, urged that since the party is yet to officially announce the zoning to the South-west, it should not take such decision to avoid a situation where the anointed candidates of the party lose key leadership positions in the 8th assembly.
According to him, “If the party goes ahead to zone the position of the Speaker to the South-west because it wants to foist a particular candidate on lawmakers disregarding popular support and equitable zoning formula, it will be short-changing the North-central of its hard-earned right and this will be resisted by this group.”
Stressing that the motto of APC is justice, peace and unity, Alancha said: “One would expect that since the Senate Presidency was zoned to the North-east being the zone that contributed the highest number of votes after the North-west (3,238,783), the Speakership position will naturally go to the next in line-the North-central zone who produced the second largest vote after the North-east (2,465,599). So, why is the party suddenly shifting the goalpost when it comes to zoning the Speakership position by considering the South-west that performed less than the North-central and even already has the number two position of a vice-president? ls this an equitable thing to do?”
Querying how the party hopes to engender party loyalty and supremacy without an equitable zoning arrangement, the APC loyalist insisted that the North-central parades qualified lawmakers who can effectively lead the green chamber.
“One of such persons is the current Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Ahmed ldris Wase, who is the most ranking North-central member having returned to the House for the fourth term,” stressing that: “Hon Wase is a true leader who has the unique ability to carry his colleagues along, protect the interest of the party, and possess the political sagacity to build bi-partisan consensus when needed. He is very much popular and loved by his colleagues who rally around him for true leadership.”
Asked how the group intends to ‘resist’ the party in case the position is zoned to the South-west, he said: “We hope to do that through advocacy. We are going to meet members-elect. We are going to reach out to party leaders to ensure that this crisis is not created by zoning it (Speakership) away from us.”