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To avoid a repeat of the 2015 mistakes when some All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers connived with their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts to hijack the leadership of the 8th Assembly, the national leadership of the ruling party has stepped into the ongoing leadership race.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC) yesterday met with new and returning members of the House of Representatives to forge a common front on the emergence of the Green Chamber’s principal officers.
In the same manner, President Muhammadu Buhari also held a meeting with APC governors and senators-elect to ensure a strong bond between the Executive and Legislative arms of government in the next dispensation.
In the unfolding scenario, the APC leadership is favoulably disposed to the current House leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Speaker of the Lower House, LEADERSHIP has learnt
Gbajabiamila was the preferred candidate of the APC for the office in 2015 before it was clinched by the incumbent Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who rode on the support of PDP lawmakers to outwit Gbajiabiamila.
In the same way, Senator Ahmed Lawan was the anointed candidate of the APC for the Senate Presidency but he lost the office to Senator Bukola Saraki in the power game that produced the outgoing NASS leadership.
Dogara defeated Gbajabiamila with 182 votes to 174.
A competent source confirmed to LEADERSHIP that at a meeting which journalists were not allowed to cover, the party presented Gbajabiamila as its candidate for the speakership to the new lawmakers-elect.
It was learned that some members were not comfortable with the party’s choice of Gbajabiamila as they alleged that he may be difficult for them to work with.
The source, who craved anonymity, stated that the meeting wanted the matter properly handled so as not to disenfranchise other eminent and qualified persons who have indicated interest in the office.
Earlier, APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who led the NWC members to meet the lawmakers yesterday, had declared that the party would not allow the mistakes of 2015 to recur when the new National Assembly is inaugurated in June.
Oshiomhole said that Nigerians had reposed confidence in the party by giving it an overwhelming majority in the House assuring that the party would use the numerical strength to its advantage.
He, therefore, sought the collaboration of the APC legislators to enable President Muhammadu Buhari to execute the party’s programmes during his second term.
Addressing the newly-elected members of the House of Representatives at the Shehu Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, Oshiomhole said that the APC was not prepared to share the principal offices of the House and headship of critical committees with the opposition PDP, except for positions reserved for minority members.
He said: “The first is the challenge of ensuring that this time around we will ensure that we have the leadership of the National Assembly that shares the vision of the executive. Although we speak of separation of powers, there is only one government and unless the various arms pursue the same agenda it is difficult for the executive to realise it purpose because legislative backing is often required for most executive actions.
“So I will expect that you bear in mind that we are one family joined together as shown in our broom, with a shared commitment to bail Nigeria out of the condition in which we found it in 2015.
“And that you have the numbers and we will use those numbers to ensure that we have a leadership that commands the trust and the respect of all the members of the House of Representatives. There will be contestation, that is why we are in a democracy but after the contestation and debate we have to agree, and once you have agreed you move forward.
“We have the numbers to produce the Speaker and we will produce the Speaker, who must be a member of the APC. We have the numbers to produce the Deputy Speaker and we will use the numbers to produce the occupant of the office, who must be a member of the APC. We have the number and we must use the numbers to elect the House Leader who must be a member of our party.
“We have the numbers and we will use the numbers to produce a Chief Whip and a Deputy Whip who must be members of the APC. I think the only position that we are not interested in is the Minority Leader. Let it remain minor in the hands of the minors in the opposition.
“We will not share power in the House of the Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired by APC members. If the Nigerian people wanted them to be chairmen of the committees they would have voted for them.
“So all the chairmen of committees, except one that is statutorily reserved for the opposition, which is Public Accounts, they can have that. So, we would not do the kind of thing that happened the last time in which some APC members became distant spectators in the management of committees, when the PDP had the majority of the strategic committees in the House, that will not happen in the next Assembly,” he said.
While calling on the new federal lawmakers not to allow anybody to break their rank, Oshiomhole said that his leadership would carry out extensive consultations with President Buhari and all the leaders of the APC on the leadership matter.
“We will work out a sensible zoning formula that carries everybody along and gives people chances to demonstrate their capacities and capabilities.
He congratulated them for their success, adding that “we are proud that Nigerians in your various constituencies have reposed confidence in the APC. I was looking at the number this morning and I realised that at the level of the House of Representatives, Nigerians gave the APC a resounding vote of confidence.
Oshomhole said that before the election, the APC had 190 members, noting that Nigerians elected and re-elected 223 members of the House on the platform of the APC in the 2019 general elections.
To the new lawmakers, Oshiomhole said: “You have been elected at a very challenging time to provide legislative backing for APC agenda and manifesto. Our president who has been re-elected reminded us that the three critical issues on which we canvassed for votes in 2015 are still valid even now in 2019. The president is doing everything possible to turn the economy around and to ensure that we work and create job-led growth and not jobless growth where we celebrate abstract statistics that do not reflect the quality of life of the Nigerian people.”
At a dinner hosted by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa for APC governors, serving senators and senators-elect, Oshiomhole maintained that in the 9th Assembly, the APC is far ahead of the opposition in both parliaments.
He said that “we are far ahead of the main opposition in the parliament. With 223 of 360 lawmakers, we have all the numbers required to make all the laws in the National Assembly.
“The purpose of the dinner is to congratulate you and to provide a platform for the senators-elect to interact with you. We want to produce a leadership that is purely APC and the one that will cooperate with the executive.
The senator-elect on the platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Ifeanyi Uba, attended the meeting even though he has not officially defected to the ruling APC.
North Central Insists On Speakership
Meanwhile, the clamour for APC to zone the office of the Speaker of the Lower House to the North Central has gathered momentum.
The proponents based their demand on the fact that the North Central produced the third highest votes for the ruling APC in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
The Northeast, which produced the second highest votes for the APC after the Northwest, is being considered for the position of the Senate President.
In their defence of the zoning of speaker’s seat to the North Central, the agitators argued that both the Northwest and the Southwest have produced the president and the vice president-elect in the person of Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo.
Besides, they asserted that the North Central is the only zone that is yet to produce the speaker of the Green Chamber since the current democratic dispensation.
The chief campaigners under the aegis of the Coalition of North Central Groups said that for equity, justice and fairness to reign, the region should be considered for the Number Four seat in the country.
They said Section 14 (1c, 3 and 4) and Article 7 (i, ii and ix) of the APC Constitution should be the guiding principles of the party in zoning the speaker’s position.
The coalition further said that the APC has ranking and experienced returning lawmakers from the North Central to man the office and support the party in executing its programmes and policies, especially those that require legislative backing.
Also, some stakeholders noted that the North Central is best suited for the position of the speaker at this time.
Reps’ Spokesman Joins Speakership Race
Meanwhile, the incumbent chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, has concluded plans to declare his intention to run for the office of the Speaker of the 9th House.
LEADERSHIP learned that the House spokesman would announce his ambition ahead of the APC s decision on the zoning of the principal offices of the incoming Assembly tomorrow.
Namdas, who is a returning member, represents Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo federal constituency of Adamawa State.
Elected on the platform of the ruling APC in 2015, Namdas’ declaration will bring the number of top contenders for the post to six.
Other lawmakers who have indicated interest on the position are Gbajabiamila from Lagos, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Hon. Muhammad Umar Bago (Niger), Hon. Babangida Ibrahim (Katsina), and Hon. Aminu Sulaiman (Kano).
Imposition Of Candidates, Undemocratic – APC Lawmakers
As the race for the Speaker heats up, members of the House on APC platform have kicked against purported plans by the party leadership to impose some candidates, especially for the Speakership on them.
The members-elect who were at the meeting with Oshiomhole yesterday, condemned the plot, describing it as “meddlesome and undemocratic.”
The member-elect, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while it was the party’s responsibility to zone NASS leadership positions to geopolitical zones it deems fit, it was unbecoming for it to insist on a particular candidate for the House.
He noted that in the event the party insists on the candidate, it would only show that it didn’t learn from the mistakes in 2015.
Another lawmaker, who has indicated interest in the race and pleads anonymity, asserted that the members would not support any candidate imposed on them by the party.
He said: “We won’t allow the party to dictate to us who will be our leader. We are an arm of government just as the executive is. If we allow this to happen, it means we are not independent.”
An aspiring speaker, however, noted that the party was yet to declare its stand and cautioned that members wait for the announcement of the zoning formula.
S’East APC Group Want Speaker Zoned To Region
Also yesterday, a group under the aegis of South East All Progressives Congress (APC) Youths Consultative Forum has called on the leadership of the party to zone the position of the speaker to the zone.
The national coordinator of the forum, Sir Romanus Oguleme, told journalists in Abuja that the zone has credible and ranking members in the National Assembly to head any of the two chambers.
Oguleme pleaded that the zone should not be schemed out of the National Assembly leadership like in 2015, adding that zoning the speakership to South East was in line with President Buhari’s promise of an inclusive government.
Ndume Declares For Senate Presidency
Relatedly, former Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, has asked the APC to allow him to become the Senate President because he is the most suitable for the office.
Ndume said that he had decided to step forward with the hoping that the Senate president’s position would be zoned to the Northeast zone where he hails from.
In a letter of intent dated March 25, 2019, and addressed to Oshiomhole, he said that his decision to seek for office was borne out of his desire to help accelerate the socioeconomic development of the country.
He said: “Following the successful conduct of the 2019 general elections and the overwhelming victory of our great party, the APC at all levels, I hereby forward my letter of intent to contest for the office of the president of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly.
“I wish to emphasise that my decision to contest for the Senate presidency is informed by my conviction to contribute my quota to nation building,” he stated.