The events heralding the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly in the new political dispensation are becoming more curious, and may end up being more difficult and frustrating to the ruling APC than the 2015 scenario.
Contrary to early expectations and predictions of political analysts, that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will enthrone leadership of the apex legislative assembly in an atmosphere devoid of rancour and agitation, the process is rather becoming rancorous and obviously enmeshed in intrigues and horse trading, which may jeopardise the chances of the ruling party.
In 2015, the APC, which just took over power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then, made desperate efforts in vain, to install the National Assembly leadership of its choice, that would be loyal to the party hierarchy and perhaps be an appendage of the executive.
As at that time, the party’s leadership zoned the Senate Presidency to the North East and zeroed in on Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) as its preferred candidate, and then allotted the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South West as well as adopted Femi Gbajabiamila as its candidate.
However, a group of democrats amongst the then senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect, led by Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara respectively, went against the decision of the party, scuttled the zoning arrangement and produced leadership for the two legislative chambers, to the rage and persisting animosity of the executive.
The situation is worse in the Senate, where Saraki went into an alliance with the PDP, and the opposition produced the Deputy President of the Senate in the person of Ike Ekweremadu. This is among the reasons that the party and the Presidency are not in harmony with the National Assembly till today.
There is no gainsaying that the negative ripple effects of the centrifugal actions of these parliamentarians on the economy and general governance of the country are still unmitigated, as the two arms of government became arch enemies, to the detriment of the citizenry, who are expecting to be provided with optimal dividends of democracy.
Still grappling with the wounds of the unending Executive-Legislature rift in the last nearly four years, the APC, having won elections at the centre by winning the Presidency and the majority seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2019 general elections, its leadership, under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, felt that it would not be in the best interest of the party to allow what happened in 2015 to repeat itself in 2019.
APC’s preentive measure
So, the party not wanting to have what may appear to be the bitter experience of 2015, quickly read riot act to its members, threatening to sanction any National Assembly member that goes contrary to the party’s directives, with regards to the emergence of the leadership of both chambers.
Therefore, the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had on Monday, March 25, 2019 in Aso Rock, told the 65 APC senators-elect that Ahmad Lawan had again, been endorsed by the party for the position of President of the 9th Senate while Hon Femi Gbajabiamila was anointed by the party hierarchy as Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
This arrangement and the concomitant threat notwithstanding, it appears that some members of the ruling party have made up their mind to bring back on the nation’s political stage, the drama of 2015, as at least two other members of the party who got re-election to the Upper Chamber, are angling to occupy the Senate Presidency in June this year.
After Oshiomhole’s announcement on March 25, one of the top contenders for the office of Senate President, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), in less than 24 hours, addressed a press conference in Abuja, where he vehemently opposed what he described as imposition of candidates on the two chambers of the National Assembly by the APC leadership.
Ndume who expressed his opposition to any form of imposition on the National Assembly by the ruling party, also described the endorsement of Lawan and Gbajabiamila for Senate Presidency and Speakership of the House of Representatives respectively as unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Reacting to Oshiomhole’s announcement, Ndume accused the national chairman of taking the ruling party back to the 2015 crisis, which eventually put the party, the Presidency and the National Assembly at permanent loggerheads.
Relying on the constitution
Stressing that such endorsement was contrary to the provisions of Secrion 50 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Ndume argued that the arrangement would not be in the best interest of the party and the country.
Quoting Section 50 (1a), which states that: “There shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that house from among themselves”, the politician argued that by the provisions of the constitution, neither Oshiomhole nor President Muhammadu Buhari or any other party leader, has the right to force leadership on the elected senators or members of the House of Representatives.
He also faulted the meeting that took place at the Villa, saying: “What took place at the presidential dinner in Aso rock on Monday night where Oshiomhole as the party chairman, announced Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as President of the 9th Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, was very shocking to me and many of my colleagues”.
Ndume expressed serious concerns that the party which was expected to have learnt its lessons from the 2015 experience, was being made to follow similar path that would cause it harm.
According to him, since 1999, there was no time leadership was imposed on any of the chambers of the National Assembly without such imposition crashing at the end of the day.
“Under PDP, it happened with the imposition of Evans Enwerem and Adolphus Wabara as Senate President at different times and also with Patricia Etteh as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007 before the party eventually got it right in the 6th and 7th National Assembly, particularly in the Senate when Senator David Mark served twice as President of the Senate through supports in form of votes given to him by fellow senators and not endorsement by a party chairman. “For the sake of cohesion and stability among party members as regards aspirations for such positions, what was expected from the party leadership, was to just zone the positions and allow contenders within each of the zones to sort it out either through consensus or shadow election.
“The 109 elected senators and 360 House of Representatives members are the constitutional kingmakers as far as emergence of presiding officers of both chambers are concerned and not national chairman of a ruling party or even the President”, he insisted. Demonstrating further that he was willing to go against the party decision, Ndume on Tuesday, April 2nd, rolled out a 9-point agenda for the 9th Senate, if elected as its President.
In the agenda contained in a pamphlet, Ndume promised to make the office of Senate President unattractive by reducing most of the unnecessary privileges attached to it. He also promised to uphold the independence of the Legislature while at the same time, work harmoniously and inter-dependently with the executive without undermining the principles of separation of powers.
The politician further said that he would prioritise and ensure the passage of the Constituency Development Bill to make constituency projects more transparent, accountable, efficient and effective while promising that he would in cooperation and synergy with other senators-elect, make the Senate to agree on timeline for confirmation and passage of bills especially the annual budgets which he said would not exceed 90 days from the day of submission. Goje in the race? Although Saturday Telegraph learnt that efforts are ongoing within the ranks of the APC to persuade Ndume to jettison his ambition, another underground contender, Danjuma Goje, who never publicly declared his intention to run for the highest legislative office, is said to be working behind the scene, backed by the PDP to contest for the exalted office.
A group under the aegis of Amalgamated Youths from the North East, had last week stormed the National Assembly, to mount pressure on Senator Goje, to join the race for the Senate Presidency by publicly declaring his intension to run. Urging Goje to come out publicly and declare his intention to join the contest, the youths group led by Mr. Bello Ambo from Bauchi State, said that neither the endorsement of Lawan by the national leadership of the APC nor expression of interest by Senator Ndume, should prevent Goje from joining the race.
He said the group was mobilising and canvassing for Goje’s emergence as the President of the Senate of the 9th Senate because, as far as public service experience is concerned, Goje stands far above the other two, having controlled a whole state for eight years between 2003 and 2011 and been in the Senate since then with required parliamentary experience.
“Position of Senate President requires administrative and parliamentary knowledge enormously possessed by Goje as against the two other contenders from the zone”, he said. When reminded that the APC had officially adopted Lawan last week Monday, the Coordinator of the amalgamated groups said that senators-elect are matured people who could decide who their leader should be and should be allowed to do so. Expulsion, suspension loom However, there are indications that the leadership of the APC will raise its sledge hammer to punish any National Assembly member-elect, who defiantly violates the party’s zoning arrangement for the emergence of the leadership of the 9th Assembly in June this year.
Saturday Telegraph investigations, as earlier reported, had reveal that the party’s leadership, headed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is not ready to go into any form of negotiation, with a view to pacifying any member of the apex legislative Assembly, plotting to rebel against the party’s decision concerning the emergence of leadership of the 9th assembly.
Therefore, the current intrigues and horse trading in the National Assembly, whereby some ranking senators are angling to vie for the Senate Presidency and the Speakership of the House of Representatives, contrary to the publicly announced zoning arrangement, are likely going to be categorised as anti-party activities and result in the suspension or outright expulsion of some chieftains of the APC. Sources within the National Assembly and the APC had confided in the Saturday Telegraph that Ndume is risking expulsion from the party if he fails to drop his ambition. PDP catching in on APC’s division Their argument is premised on the notion that the 2015 option may be exploited by the PDP, if the APC is not united. Moreso, when feelers are rife that some PDP members are seeing this division as an opportunity to make inroads into the leadership position, as some of them have begun jostling for the top seats within both legislative chambers.
It was learnt that the members of the opposition are planning to take advantage of the cracks within the ruling party to field a candidate and produce the President of the 9th Senate. Three possible candidates that may emerge from the PDP are Senators Ike Ekweremadu, who is the current Deputy President of the Senate and Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) and James Manager (PDP, Delta South). Many of their colleagues have said that Abaribe may be the preferred choice among the PDP trio, reason being that the other two PDP senators had been in the Assembly since 2007 and senators may be having a sense of monotony to have Ekweremadu presiding over them.
Some have however argued that though Manager is well experienced and also qualifies to hold the office but Abaribe is perceived to have more acceptance among his colleagues, especially with the high level of carriage with which he had been operating in the Red Chamber in the last 12 years. Though many people think that it will be difficult for the opposition to produce the President of the Senate, the truth is that, if the PDP is able to woo 15 APC senators to its side, the APC, with its 64 senators-elect may end up losing the position to the PDP, which has 41 members. The calculation being that simple majority of 55 senators out of 109 senators can give victory to any party