With the National Assembly election, which ran simultaneously with the presidential on Saturday March 25, 2023, those who will make membership of the 10th apex parliament are nearly fully known. JOSHUA EGBODO writes on the power sharing expectations
The 10th National Assembly is expected to be inaugurated sometime in June this year. It is constitutionally required that the sitting president (in this case, President Muhammadu Buhari), at the expiration of tenure of the outgoing parliament, will issue a proclamation which automatically dissolves it, and also fix a date for inauguration of the new assembly.
On the fixed date, elected members of both chambers of the National Assembly, at their separate and special inauguration plenaries, will go through roll calls under the coordination of Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), which will subsequently be followed by announcement of the procedure on how a presiding officer and the deputy shall be elected. With the successful conduct of such elections, and the presiding officers and their deputies known, the new parliament will stand inaugurated from that date.
But the power game
With the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as President-elect, as already declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), painting a clearer picture that a new regime is underway, so also has the jostle for positions quietly began in the parliament.
In the Senate, it has been widely observed and believed that a lot of the odds may favour former Abia State Governor, and currently, the Senate majority whip, Orji Uzor Kalu as possible presiding officer of the upper legislative chamber of the Nigerian apex parliament.
Those, who for now are clandestinely promoting the card, believed that beyond his cognate experience in the red chamber, he has done a lot for the ruling party. It is also believed that the emergence of a president-elect against his kinsman of the south east extraction, Peter Obi of the Labour Party may be a plus for him in consideration of balancing the power equation.
Banking on the first-four established power structure in Nigeria, to such opinion moulders, if all goes well without any altering litigation fallout from the just concluded polls, the structure will be a president of the south west, a vice president of the north east, and if balancing power between the north and the south remains the norm, the stakes in the south will be for between south east and south south, and for the north; north central and north west.
There have been speculations also that former Governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio may be one of the front runners for the Senate presidency too.
Pundits observed that most of the presiding leaders of the parliament, especially of the outgoing assembly were purely ordained candidates of the ruling APC, which from all indications, will be maintaining the majority status in the coming assembly.
However, the party is yet to make an official statement on its power zoning arrangement. There had been rumours that it will do so in two weeks, but how true has remained the question begging for answers.
The House of Representatives
Analysts have observed that there is no doubt, the 10th House of Representatives would be filled with a reasonable number of freshers. There have been long term concerns over the high rate of turnover of lawmakers at every election year, and the current development goes further to confirm the fears.
This is however, not without the return of some bigwigs. Such notable high profile returnees and serving principal officers who have won their elections of Saturday February 25 include Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, his deputy,, Ahmed Idris Wase, and Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
Dramatically, Doguwa is currently facing criminal charges bordering on culpable homicide and incitement. He was alleged to have led an attack in a collation centre which led to death of an opposition political party’s supporters, a case which outcome to many is yet, unpredictable.
The surprising losses
Just as it was in many instances where the considered underdogs in contest for membership of the 10th National Assembly created many upsets, so was the case of some unexpected losses involving some strategic members of the House of Representatives. One such cases was that of the outgoing deputy majority whip, Nkiruka Onyejiocha of the APC, representing Isiukwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency of Abia state, who lost to Amobi Ogah of the Labour Party.
Another similar loss was that of outgoing minority leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu of the PDP, who many said has been retired by Ngozi Okolie of the Labour Party to represent Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency of Delta state.
Also on the list are Dr John Dyegh, who was floored by Regina Akume, wife of former governor of Benue state, George Akume, to represent Gboko/Tarka federal constituency of Benue state, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta of the Ukwa East/Ukwa West federal constituency of Abia state, who was defeated by Chris Nkwonta, amongst others.
APC still in majority
Available statistics at the moment shows that the ruling APC already had 162 members-elect, while the main opposition Peoples Democratic Part (PDP) trailed behind with 102 members. An incredible feat was demonstrated by the Labour Party, which will be sending in 34 members to the 10th House of Representatives.
As usual, the scheming for who becomes speaker of the 10th House of Representatives has begun, though member-elect has publicly voiced out his or her interest in that regard. In the opinion of many followers of the outgoing assembly, incumbent Gbajabiamila may have done greatly in leadership, the likelihood of his returning as speaker is almost a closed agenda. This they said, the emergence of Tinubu will certainly affect the earlier permutations.
There have even been speculations now that Gabajabiamila, rather than remain a redundant member on the floor, may concede the seat to another fellow of his Surulere 1 federal constituency by resigning, for other possible engagements by the new government, which many believe he played strategic roles in helping to win at the polls.
Possible successors to Gbajabiamila, as the names keep dropping are the likes of incumbent deputy speaker Idris Wase, and Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Muhtar Betara, who incidentally is from the same north east extraction with vice president-elect, Kashim Shetima.
Others include spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu and majority leader, Ado Doguwa. For Doguwa, however, while he may have the requisite cognate experience as a lawmaker in the House of Representatives, pundits have begun doubting the possibility of his venturing into the race, citing the current legal travails around him over alleged murder in the aftermath of the presidential and National Assembly elections in Kano state.
As the clock ticks on, more names as usual will be dropping on the speakership tussle, but with time, the jokers will in no time fissile out, leaving the space for the real players.
Watching the opposition
Though there are members-elect on the platform of other opposition political parties besides the PDP, pundits have questioned the possibility of such working in unison with the PDP to form a collective and formidable minority caucus.
Analysts have repeatedly condemned the style of opposition in the outgoing House of Representatives. To many, the minority caucus under the leadership of Elumelu was as good as non-existing, especially when put on the scale of its manner of leaderships emergence, all against the will of the leading opposition political party. A good number has however defended the minority leadership on grounds that Speaker Gbajabiamila successfully woo all with the “Nation Building, A Joint Task” slogan of his speakership.
Predictions at the moment has been for an expected drastic shift from the status quo. This, followers of the ongoing development pointed to the emergence of some calibre of members-elect on the platform of different opposition political parties.
Amongst such is Bamidele Salam, representing Ede Federal Constituency of Osun state, and elected on the platform of PDP, and Abdulmumuni Jubril, a former member, staging a comeback for Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency of Kano State, but now on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
He was widely credited with the doggedness he applied to see the emergence of Speaker Gbajabiamila, but reportedly somewhere along the line, lost out due to issues with his state governor Abdulahi Ganduje. He subsequently lost his seat from an ordered rerun of part of his constituency election.
Another figure many feel will be an eye of the minority caucus is Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere of the PDP, who defeated the Labour Party candidate, Pascal Obi to win election for the Ideato South/Ideato North federal constituency of Imo state.
He has been known for his fearlessness and outspoken posture, more as spokesperson of the CUPP, an umbrella body of Nigerian registered political parties.
The tussle continues
With governorship election billed for Saturday, March 11, to run alongside the State Houses of Assembly polls, the power game in the House of Representatives is far from being over. Pundits believe that state governors wield a lot of influence in making choices of such leadership, but there are worries from the experience of the just concluded National Assembly polls, in which many unexpected losses were recorded.
How much such influence will be of any significance, will therefore be a matter of time.