Senate: Plots over minority leadership positions and danger of ”banana peel’ 

Ahead of election of principal officers for the 10th Senate on Tuesday next week (July 4), plots and counter plots are on to fill the positions. TAIYE ODEWALE writes.

The principal positions 

As provided for by relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution and standing rules of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, aside two presiding officers’ positions, both chambers have eight principal positions to Senators by eligible lawmakers for full fledged parliamentary operations.

The positions are eight in number. Four for the party with majority of the seats and the remaining four for party or parties with  minority number of seats.

For the 10th Senate as presently configured, the four principal positions for the party with majority of the seats, which are Senate Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Whip, are up for grabs by eligible ranking Senators on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The four other principal positions of Senate Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip, are up for grabs by elected ranking Senators on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).

Membership configuration in the Senate shows that APC has 59 Senators PDP 36, Labour Party  8, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) 2, Social Democratic Party  (SDP) 2, APGA 1 and YPP  1.

Procedure for election or selection of principal officers 

In line with parliamentary practices globally, after election or emergence of Presiding Officers who are in the case of the Senate, are the President and Deputy President of the Senate respectively, the eight Principal positions follow through nominations to that effect by political parties of the lawmakers caucuses in the parliament.

Apart from the 8th Senate under Senator Bukola Saraki and 9th House of Representatives under Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, when nominations to that effect by parties were not honoured, emergence of lawmakers for such positions at different Assemblies, has always been based on nominations made to that effect by political parties. 

It would be recalled that the 8th Senate under Saraki at takeoff in June 2015, rejected nominations of Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume by the National leadership of APC for Principal positions of Senate Leader and Deputy Senate Leader , just as the Hon Femi Gbajabiamila led 9th House of Representatives, rejected nomination of Hon Kingsley Chinda as Minority Leader by recognising Hon Ndidi Elumelu chosen by a faction of the minority caucus.

Plotting for the Elumelu scenario in the 10th Senate 

Strong  indication emerged on Thursday last week in Abuja that the Elumelu scenario of the 9th House of Representatives, is being plotted for the 10th Senate  as a way of preventing  the biggest of the minority political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to have its nominee, appointed as Minority Leader of the Senate.

In a strategic move towards blocking the choices  of PDP for the Minority leadership positions of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the immediate past governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, held marathon meeting with the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, on Thursday in his office.

Wike who was sighted in black suit, left the Senate wing of the National Assembly at about 6:30pm in the convoy of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau and other Senators like Salihu Mustapha (APC Kwara Central), Jibril Isah (APC Kogi East), David Umahi (APC Ebonyi South)  as well as the recently appointed Senior Special Assistant, National Assembly Matters (Senate) to President Bola Tinubu,, Senator Abdullahi Abubakar Gumel.

A highly placed source at the meeting who pleaded for anonymity, told the Blueprint Newspaper that Wike’s plan with the leadership of the Senate, is to have a minority leader not chosen by PDP but by his own faction within the party.

According to the source, though the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives , are being very careful with the plan but at the same time, believe that if Wike, succeeded in factionalizing the caucuses of PDP at both chambers, having unpopular minority leaders from their folds, are possible.

“Having assisted APC to win presidential election in Rivers state in February, supported the aspirations of the now elected four presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly at inauguration last week, making his loyalists among the elected federal lawmakers from PDP is his plan now.

“He is very serious on the plan and getting the required support from leadership of the National Assembly as well as membership of the other minority political parties in both the Senate and the House of Representatives”, said the source.

‘Banana peel’ angle of the plot 

Irked by the move, Senators in the minority caucus , issued a jointly signed strong worded statement on Saturday, warning the President of the Senate to back out of the plot.

The Senators in the statement titled  “Ongoing Attempt to Destabilise Minority Parties in the Senate would be Resisted”, said attempt to foist a one party dictatorship  in the Senate, would be resisted and would fail.

The statement reads: ‘It has come to the notice of the Minority Political Parties in the Senate of an attempt by forces inside and outside the Senate , to divide the Minority Parties and foist a pliant and compromised leadership on them.

“We have pledged to work constructively with the new Senate leadership and the Executive branch to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people. 

“We, consequently, hereby, advise and caution that they should not aid any group inside or outside the Senate to divide and destabilise the minority parties and the Senate institution.

“Senators of the minority parties would meet when the Senate reconvenes and, in consultation with our respective political parties, would select its leaders without undue interference from anti democratic forces within or outside the Senate.

“Attempt to foist a one party dictatorship would be resisted and would fail.

“We call on all members of the minority political parties to work together in unity to defend the democratic institution of the Senate and Nigeria”.

Apart from Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of APGA, Senators of the other minority political parties, signed the statement.

They are Senators Muhammad Adamu Aliero (PDP Kebbi Central), Henry Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (PDP Sokoto South), Abdul Ningi (PDP Bauchi Central), Patrick Abba Moro (PDP Benue South), .Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi (Labour Party Imo East), Sumaila Kawu (NNPP Kano South) and Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah (YPP Anambra South).

Apart from Senators on the platforms of the various minority parties, kicking against the move, considerable number of others in APC, are not also happy with the alleged plot.

One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Blueprint Newspaper said,:”If the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, is hatching the plot with outside forces as reported, he may end up re – awakening the long dead Banana Peel in the Senate.

“There is no justification for such move at all and will not get the support of majority of the APC Senators, the outcome of which may be unpalatable for him because irrespective of party affiliations, what Senators want now, is a united Senate for the good of all Nigerians and not a destabilised or pocketed one, for vested interests of individuals”.

With  date for resumption of the Senate for plenary (Tuesday, July 4 , 2023), drawing closer, time will tell whether PDP nomination for Minority Leadership position, would be honoured or not and what would follow , thereafter.