The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some House of Representatives members-elect and senators-elect on the party’s platform are on a collision course over the election of presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly. TAIYE ODEWALE and BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report examine the insistence of some aspirants to contest despite the party’s directives.
Just a few days to the elections of presiding officers of the in-coming 10th National Assembly (NASS), the scramble for principal offices among members-elect and senators-elect on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken a new dimension.
Members and senators-elect on the party’s platform have indicated that they might change allegiance and renegade from the party’s zoning arrangement.
The crisis rocking the party over the leadership of the 10th NASS got to the point of highest tension when the party’s leadership officially confirmed the endorsement of former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godwill Akpabio, as the President of the Senate and Tajudeen Abbas as the speaker of the House of Representatives for the 10th National Assembly. They also zoned the deputy president of the Senate to Senator Barau Jubrin (Kano) and deputy speaker Benjamin Kalu (Abia).
Despite the endorsements, Senators Abdulaziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West); Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North); Osita Izunaso (APC, Imo West) are still forging ahead with their aspirations.
Likewise, in the House of Representatives, in what appears to be a rebellion against the choice of presiding officers by the party, six other aspirants seeking to be Speaker of the House have vowed to resist the party’s preference. They are incumbent deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase; House leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; the chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Aliyu Muktar Betara; the chairman, House Committee on Water Resources, Soli Sada; the chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yussuf Gagdi; and the chairman, Committee on Internal Security and Intelligence in the 8th Assembly, Aminu Sani Jaji.
However, some senators-elect who spoke with Blueprint Weekend rejected the endorsement of Senator Akpabio by the APC. In their separate reactions, the senators contacted through telephone conversations, confirmed the rejection of the endorsements made by the APC.
One of those contacted, Senator Sahabi Ya’u (APC, Zamfara North) said Senator Abdulaziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West) has the constitutional rights to run for Presidency of the 10th Senate.
“Senator Yari’s aspiration for the Presidency of the 10th Senate is in order and very constitutional. His aspiration is not in any way an affront against our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)), being in line with relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he said.
In his reaction, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North) said he is still in the race and, in fact, in working alliance with another aspirant, Abdulaziz Yari, from Zamfara state.
He said, “I won’t step down for anybody. We are talking with Governor Yari. Our group and his group are talking, intimate talks and partnerships. We will make sure that no one zone can produce the senate presidency.
“Like I used to tell people, no one zone can produce the president of Nigeria. What we are trying to do with senator Yari is a united partnership that will work for Nigeria. In the coming days or weeks, that partnership will be unveiled; so, we are in serious talks.
“I cannot deny it; Yari is a friend of mine and I’m his friend and we have decided to talk. We have been speaking for the past four weeks and the result will be unveiled by our sponsors; he has his sponsors and I have my sponsors.
“So, the sponsors will come together to decide what direction this partnership will be. I’ll be very happy to reveal what the sponsors will say. Two of us are thinking of the integrity of the senate and support President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima who were our colleagues. If you are thinking about what happened during Saraki’s time, it will never happen again.
“We won’t disappoint Nigerians. We are capable of representing ourselves – Yari-Kalu – Kalu-Yari – we won’t disappoint Nigerians. We will give Nigerians what they require and the Nigerian people won’t be disappointed.”
Also, kicking against Akpabio’s endorsement by the APC, Senator-elect for Kano South Senatorial District on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Summaila Kawu, told Blueprint Weekend that the 109 senators-elect for the 10th National Assembly would decide their leaders on inauguration day and not pronouncement by any party.
“Aside from Akpabio endorsed by APC for the position of Senate Presidency, some other senators-elect on the same political platform, are also aspiring for the position which shows that the fate of whoever will emerge as President or Deputy President of the Senate on the day of inauguration would be decided by the 109 senators and not zoning arrangement pronouncement by political party.”
However, some other senators-elect contacted, like Solomon Adeola (APC, Ogun West); Adetokunbo Abiru (APC, Lagos East); Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central); Ali Ndume (APC, Borno North), etc, said Senators Godswill Akpabio and Jibrin Barau endorsed by the APC will emerge as President and Deputy President of the 10th Senate .
A political analyst, Dr. Jide Babatunde, in a chat with our reporter, called on the ruling party and its lawmakers to exercise caution in its choice of presiding officers in order not to create tension in the polity.
He said: “With all attempts at diplomacy to create a nexus of understanding gradually failing by the day, there are indications that the Northern and Southern parts of the country may be on a collision course over the race for the 10th National Assembly leadership.
“From all indications, some political forces in the North, who are miffed by what they believe is an attempt to impose presiding officers from the zone on them, may adopt an approach that is certain to lead to conflict ahead of the June 13 inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.
“In order for ethno-religious balance and regional representation, one would expect the APC’s power-sharing formula to be such that it brings unity and diversity. For me, since the president-elect and vice-president-elect are both Muslims from South-west and North-east respectively, the Senate President should be a Christian from the South-south or South-east. The post of the speaker of the House of Reps should be zoned to the North-west.
“Frontline Senate President hopefuls in the APC like Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia in the South-east and Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom in the South-south. For these two, one will expect a battle royale. They are both former governors and are both believed to have the capacity and other necessary requirements. They are both influential in and out of the party; while Orji Uzor Kalu will be expected to exert so much influence among the Labour Party dominated South- east caucus. Akpabio having been former minority leader of PDP in 2015 despite been a first time senator would be expected to rely on its former base in the PDP, his South-south caucasus, and the fact that he contested the primaries of APC, stepped-down and worked for the emergence of the eventual winner, the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“While some hopefuls for both chambers are banking on their regional contributions to the APC presidential victory, some are challenging on the basis of their seniority in APC, others are looking at the region with highest numbers of APC senators between South-South and South East. Some are even canvassing on the basis of history of regional domination of the position of Senate President and speaker of the House of Representatives.
Similarly, an associate professor of Political Economy at Kogi State University, Anyigba, Micheal Adaji, in a chat with our reporter, described the imposition of candidates by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC for the 10th National Assembly as “autocratic and divisive,” saying it should not be allowed to prevail.
According to him, such imposition posed serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power.
He said, “What the party has done is an autocratic imposition, which has no place in a democracy as it poses serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power. The concerned senators-elect should be allowed to make their choice based on the experience, competence and the qualification of each aspirant.
“If you are zoning it to a particular zone of the country, you cannot say this is the person that should be the Senate President from that zone when you have other candidates from the same zone who have expressed interest in the position.
“Since the Senate President was zoned to the South-south geopolitical region, I expected the party not to limit it to just a candidate because the region alone has six states – Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Edo states.
“At this point in time when Nigeria is faced with multitude of challenges, we cannot afford to inaugurate a new government and the National Assembly on a shaky and controversial note and we can avoid this by not giving room for imposition as the APC leadership has done.”
The Saraki, Dogara scenario
Similarly, Babatunde warned that the ‘Saraki/Dogara scenario in the 8th assembly where aspirants not endorsed by the party emerged as presiding officers against the ruling party’s directive could repeat itself.
He said: “What is playing out at the National Assembly concerning the leadership of the 10th Assembly where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) handpicked some persons to superintend over the affairs of the two chambers for the next four years, signals a battle that the party may be the worse loser if not properly handled.
“Over 80 per cent of the members-elect and senators-elect are at daggers drawn and are ready to go against the party’s decision concerning the zoning and endorsement of these key positions in the two chambers.
“The aggrieved lawmakers on their part have vowed that if the party leadership fails to rescind its decision they were prepared to ensure that there would be a repeat of what happened during 8th Assembly, when Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, against the ruling party’s directive.”
Continuing, he said, “Recall that the 8th Assembly suffered same fate when the power drunk executive arm of government tried to foist its loyalists on the two chambers of the National Assembly, unfortunately the party and the schemers ran out of luck after the primaries conducted by the party produced Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as official candidates for the positions of Senate President and House of Representatives speaker eventually worked against the party.
“However, the two main challengers, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, consequently, resolved to go ahead with their ambitions with or without the party’s support. They fortunately enjoyed the blessings of the PDP which held the aces. So, it became clear that the opposition PDP would determine the leadership of the two chambers.
“They insisted that they will not respect the outcome of the mock election. At the end of the power tussle, the lawmakers elected their leaders at the 8th National Assembly. There is this speculation that there will be a repeat of that scenario if the leadership of the party in collaboration with the executive arm of the government fails to stop meddling in the affairs of an independent arm of the government.”