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NASS Leadership Tussle: Aspirants, opposition may gang up Against APC

There are indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may face a repeat of the 2015 scenario where some of its members joined forces with members of the opposition party in the National Assembly to emerge as leaders, Daily Trust on Sunday can report.

Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, both of whom rode on the back of their former party, the APC, emerged on June 9, 2015 against the adopted candidates of the party for the positions, namely Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila.

Just like in 2015, the APC, which produced majority of members in both chambers, has again nominated Lawan, who is Senate Leader, for the Senate President’s seat, and Gbajabiamila, House Leader, for the speaker’s seat.

Though the party has come out through its national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to adopt Lawan during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari about a fortnight ago, it is yet to make that of Gbajabiamila public.

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But party sources said the Gbajabiamila’s endorsement and adoption were a done deal just like that of Lawan.

Despite the adoption of the duo, it was learnt that they were not leaving any stone unturned in wooing and lobbying their colleagues to curry their support to emerge as leaders of the 9th National Assembly.

However, the decision of the party did not go down well with a number of its lawmakers-elect for the 9th Assembly, who are in talks with major elements in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to thwart the APC’s decision.

Already, some senators-elect and members-elect have expressed fears that if care is not taken, the 2015 scenario would be repeated with the way the APC was going about the endorsement.

Some of the lawmakers-elect told Daily Trust on Sunday that the party did not consult with them before coming up with the position.

In the case of the Senate, initially, there were four senators gunning for the Senate President’s seat, namely Lawan, Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) and Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa).

Though both Goje and Adamu did not make any public pronouncement about their ambitions, sources close to them said that they truly had serious interest in the position.

But it was learnt that since the announcement of Lawan as the party’s preferred candidate for the plum job, Adamu has retraced his steps and supported the endorsement.

However, that cannot be said of Ndume, who has vowed to be in the contest to the last.

Only few days ago, Ndume unveiled what he termed ‘9-point agenda for the 9th Senate,’ in which he captured some of the areas of priority should he get the seat.

Ndume said one of his cardinal points would be to make the office of the Number 3 Citizen less attractive by ensuring that he reduced any unnecessary privilege attached to the office.

He said he would prioritise the passage of the Constituency Development Bill, which he said would make constituency projects more transparent, accountable, efficient and effective.

Another point in his agenda is “to make laws that will block leakages devise improved means of generating revenue, especially through the amendment and review of our tax laws which will help to reduce reliance on local and foreign loans to finance budget.

He also promised “To run the 9th Senate transparency, through open accountability with full participation of all Senators. For example, we will transfer the approving powers of the privileges of the senators like foreign travels, allowances to Senate services committee or a new committee to be known as Ways and Means Committee.”

As for Goje, he has maintained silence over his ambition, at least in the eyes of the public, but on Thursday, some groups from the North-East zone stormed the National Assembly, demanding that he should come out and contest for the seat.

The groups said Goje has all it takes to be the Senate President as he was a governor in Gombe State for eight years, and is now going for his 12 years in the Senate since 2011.

It was also learnt that Goje has in the last few days held meetings with some of his colleagues where he expressed his intention to go for the Senate President’s seat.

But Lawan appeared more visible in the eyes of the public even as he is always seen with APC lawmakers around him.

Lawan was said to have also commenced secret meetings with some major stakeholders, including state governors in an attempt to get their buy-in on his project.

But the major source of fear for some APC lawmakers was the fact that PDP senators were plotting to stage a major upset for the APC, by supporting any APC senator other than Lawan so as to spite the party.

With 43 senators in its kitty, the PDP is looking for 13 APC senators to make their plan come to fruition and in turn get rewarded with the position of Deputy Senate President as they did in 2015.

The APC boasts of 65 senators for the 9th Senate, higher than the number they got in 2015, which was 62.

An APC senator-elect who does not want to be named told Daily Trust on Sunday that though he would support Lawan to emerge as Senate President, he faulted the way and manner the APC was going about the adoption of the Yobe senator.

“I believe there’s an element of arrogance in the approach. You know this is politics, anything can happen. We should be able to give everybody among the contestants some level of respect. They should understand that every senator has the constitutional right to contest for the seat.

“Another thing is that if truly they want Lawan, they should call the other contestants to a meeting, possibly with Mr President so that everything will be settled. Remember nobody is a child among the senators. I think that’s the way to go.

Another senator-elect said the PDP senators-elect’s plot to work with any APC senator that is ready to play ball and emerge as Senate President, while the opposition senators snatch the Deputy Senate President was for real.

“But I believe they will fail this time around, because we have the numbers. Remember when Ekweremadu emerged as Deputy Senate President in 2015, majority of APC senators were not on the floor that day. That won’t be repeated this time,” the senator-elect said.

In 2015, Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP member, emerged as Deputy Senate President following an alliance between some APC senators and their PDP counterparts.

Should the PDP succeed in getting the support of 13 APC senators, they would have gotten 56 senators to go on with their plot.

 

Lawan may benefit from ongoing horse-trading

Horse-trading has commenced between the campaign team of Senator Ahmad Lawan and one of the aspirants from the North-East over the Senate Presidency, it was gathered. The development may pave way for the emergence of a sole candidate and bring to an early end the raging battle for the seat.

Three aspirants are vying for the post from the North-East zone.

The discussions, which commenced at the instance of the aspirant, were held last week in Abuja and “initial interactions show that in the coming, weeks both camps will have a cheering news to announce to the APC leadership and Senators-elect.”

Sources said it would take a couple of weeks for final agreement to be reached because of political complications occasioned by the fact that both Senators are from the same geo-political zone.

“In the light of the political reality, he came with a request that he should be given the Chairmanship of Appropriations Committee for the consideration of Senator Lawan and his camp,” a source at the meeting said.

Sources said the camp of Senator Lawan while welcoming the development pleaded for time to consider the request because wide consultation needed to be made before a final decision could be made.

Various sources at the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja confirmed that the party has been briefed of the development and that the move was made by the aspirant because of the stand of the party on the emergence of the President of the 9th Senate.

 

The case in the Green Chamber

In the House of Reps, where over a dozen of contenders have emerged for the speaker’s seat, the situation seems dicey.

Apart from APC’s adopted candidate, Gbajabiamila, returning members such as Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Umar Mohammed Bago (APC, Niger), Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), Muktar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno) and John Dyegh (APC, Benue) are in the contest.

Wase and Bago come from the North-Central, which has never produced either a speaker or deputy speaker since the return of democracy in 1999.

The agitations from major stakeholders in the North-Central that the position of speaker should be zoned to the area seems to be paying off as there are indications that Gbajabiamila maybe paired with Wase as speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.

But Bago, who is a right hand man of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, is said not to be relenting in his bid to clinch the position as a member from the North-Central.

Dyegh from Benue State, who had hitherto aligned with Wase, suddenly joined the contest a couple of days ago. It was learnt that he did a u-turn after getting wind of attempts to pair Gbajabiamila with Wase, hence he felt he should also be in the race.

As for Namdas and Betara, both of whom are from the North-East, the position of the Senate President has already been zoned to their area, and from all indications an APC senator from the zone is likely to emerge.

Thus, their chances are tied to whether or not the Senate President comes from the zone as the election of the Senate presiding officers comes first before that of the House.

Babangida, who is from Katsina State, is also believed to have the backing of some major players, but his major challenge is the fact that he comes from the same state with President Muhammadu Buhari, hence it is believed that he cannot get it.

According to some members-elect, Gbajabiamila appears to be the candidate to beat with a lot of members rallying support for him. But it is believed that anything could happen as he enjoyed similar support in 2015 until Dogara surprised him.

For this, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt Gbajabiamila has upped his game this time around, blocking all loopholes despite the support of the APC.

His candidature got a boost last Sunday during his official declaration when three members-elect who hitherto were contenders for the seat openly declared support for him.

The three former contenders are Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) and Khadijah Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe).

One lawmaker said: “I think Gbaja will get it this time around. I can say that he’s the candidate to beat because of his pedigree. He has been relentless, going to meet members one-on-one, despite his endorsement by the party.

“Yes, in politics anything can happen, but from what we’re seeing, we won’t have the Dogara scenario this time around. But we can’t say anything with high certainty, because like I said, anything can happen.”

 

Dogara’s henchmen regrouping

Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that those that worked for Dogara to emerge speaker in 2015 from both the APC and PDP were regrouping to have one of them succeed their mentor.

Among the contenders for the speaker’s seat, Bago, Babangida, Namdas and Betara are believed to be close to Dogara, but it was learnt that since their declaration to join the contest, they have maintained a distance from the Number 4 Citizen.

But sources disclosed that members of the Dogara group were working underground to spring surprises the way they did in 2015.

They are said to be enjoying the full support of the Speaker, who is said not to be comfortable with Gbajabiamila as his successor.

However, it is not clear whom they would support among them to confront Gbajabiamila in June when the 9th Assembly is expected to be inaugurated.

 

Senator-elect wants contenders grilled in debate

A senator-elect has demanded that the four contenders for the Senate Presidency should be engaged in a debate.

The senator-elect, who spoke anonymously, said the debate should be organised by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) or a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO).

The lawmaker, who has been at the National Assembly since 2007, said all the senators-elect, irrespective of their political parties, should be allowed to grill the contenders.

He also suggested that the debate should be aired live to enable Nigerians know the capacity of each of the contenders.

“Whoever is aspiring for presiding officers positions should come out and tell the world what he will do differently when elected as the Senate President. We will want to scrutinise the contenders vis-a-vis what they have for the Senate.

“There should be a question and answer session for the senators-elect to grill the contenders. It is not a question of the party making recommendations and like cows, we will just vote for that person. No, no.

“What will the contender do differently? Will that person be loyal to us, Nigerians or the Executive and the APC? This is the way to go,” he said.

 

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