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Race for NASS Leadership Hots Up

  • We Won’t Accept Imposition – Lawmakers
  • We’ll Ensure Right Leaders in Place – APC
  • Top contenders

The race for the leadership of the incoming 9th Assembly has commenced with several senators-elect and members-elect indicating interests to vie for different positions, Daily Trust on Sunday has learnt.

 

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There are four leadership positions to be filled when the 9th Assembly is inaugurated in June this year, as the lifespan of the current 8th Assembly will come to an end on June 9.

The four positions are Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

The early jostling followed the outcome of the February 23 National Assembly election, where some serving senators and House of Representatives members are retaining their seats. Key positions are normally reserved for ranking members, meaning those who have been in any of the chambers more than once.

It was gathered that those interested in occupying the four top legislative positions have started making contacts among returning and new lawmakers-elect of the federal legislature.

Those eyeing the leadership positions, it was learnt, are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which has so far garnered comfortable majority in both chambers to form the leadership.

From the results announced by INEC so far, the APC won 64 Senate seats with the PDP having 41, the Young Progressives Party (YPP) has 1. There are three undeclared seats, one each in Kogi, Plateau and Imo states, one or two of which could go to any of the parties.

The 64 seats won by the APC are more than the 61 the party got in 2015 when it formed majority at the time.

The APC has also reportedly won over 220 out of the seats declared so far in the Green Chamber. This figure is more than the 213 APC got after the 2015 elections. The PDP reportedly won a little over 100 seats so far. There are dozens of undeclared Reps seats across the states, meaning the figure for both parties could rise.

In electing the leaders of the National Assembly, a simple majority is required. Thus, it is believed that APC has the numbers to elect the four presiding officers among its fold.

 

The contenders for Senate President

Several APC senators, it was learnt, have indicated interest in vying for the position of Senate President, among whom are the Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan (Yobe), Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa).

So far, there are no signs that the two returning senators from the South-South, namely Francis Alimekhena (Edo) and Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta) have indicated interest in the Senate President’s seat.

However, some among those that indicated interest so far may have to forego their ambitions to contest for the Senate President and gun for the Deputy Senate President, it was learnt.

Ndume, who has been in the Senate since 2011 after serving as a member of the House of Reps from 2003 to 2011, is said to have commenced underground campaigns among his colleagues to be elected as the Number 3 Citizen.

He has since established a good relationship with most of his colleagues, especially when he served as the Senate Leader, before his unceremonious removal in 2017, following his insistence that Ibrahim Magu was not rejected by the Senate as nominee for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairmanship.

He is believed to have stood by the APC through thick and thin and has paid his dues for the party as a strong loyalist. His loyalty and commitment to the party recently earned him the position of the director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in the North-East where the APC got its second largest votes.

As for Ahmad Lawan, he was part of the legacy parties that formed the APC. As a member of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Lawan has been a vibrant lawmaker since 1999 when he came to the National Assembly, first as a member of the House of Reps, and after serving two terms, he became a senator in 2007 for Yobe North, a position he has been holding since then.

Lawan was a major contender for the Senate President’s seat in 2015, and he almost got it but for the attitude of some of his APC colleagues, whom many considered as renegades at the time because Lawan was APC’s choice for the job. He lost the seat to Bukola Saraki, and the then APC leadership did not waste time in nominating him to become the Senate Leader.

Another likely contender for the Number 3 seat is Abdullahi Adamu, an experienced legislator who has been in the Red Chamber since 2011, after serving as a 2-term governor of Nasarawa State between 1999 and 2007.

Adamu is one of the major players that made the popularity of APC to soar in his home state, having joined the party in 2014. He was one of those that stood by the party during the 2015 leadership debacle in the Senate.

Because of his commitment to the APC, he, just like Ndume, was appointed as the director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in the North-Central zone, an assignment he reportedly carried out diligently, which resulted in the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in Nasarawa State for the first time since 2003.

In the case of Goje, a former 2-term governor of Gombe State, he has been a committed member of the APC since his defection to the party in early 2014. Goje has worked tirelessly for the APC and made the party popular in his state so much so that during the 2015 elections, the party won two Senate and majority of Reps seats in the state.

Goje did not relent as he ensured that the APC won all the three senatorial and six Reps seats in Gombe last Saturday, causing the defeat of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who wanted to come to the Senate. Though Goje is said not to have opened up to anybody on the Senate President’s seat, it is believed that he is only waiting for the right time.

Other senators, such as Alimekhena and Omo-Agege from the South-South may join the race for the Senate Presidency, but it is believed that they may settle for Deputy Senate President.

 

The Contenders for Speaker

In the House of Reps, a number of members-elect have already indicated interest to contest for speakership.

A major contender for the position is House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who, like Lawan, was APC’s choice for the Number 4 seat in 2015, but lost it to Dogara. Having won his re-election to represent Surulere 1 Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Gbaja, as he is fondly called, has once again indicated his interest for the position.

As a matter of fact, Gbaja is believed to have kick-started a subtle campaign for the speaker’s seat even before last Saturday’s election. An experienced, articulate and eloquent lawmaker who has been in the House since 2003, many lawmakers look up to Gbaja this time around as far as the contest for speaker is concerned.

Another contender for the speaker’s seat is Ahmed Idris Wase from Plateau State, who is also a ranking member, having been in the House since 2007. Wase, as his colleagues prefer to call him, enjoys the support and cooperation of most of his colleagues as he is considered as an elder who is blessed with a lot of wisdom.

Owing to his character of a leader, Wase was made Deputy Leader of the House late last year after the demise of the former Deputy Leader, Buba Jibril. Soft-speaking and thoughtful, Wase is believed to have commenced underground campaign among those that matter both within and outside the National Assembly for the realisation of his ambition.

Babangida Ibrahim, who chairs the House Committee on Finance, is another contender for the office of the Speaker. He first came to the House in 2011 under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Since becoming the chair finance, Ibrahim has become one of the forces to reckon with in the House as he is among its power brokers. Though he is from the same state as Buhari (Katsina), some believe that he could still clinch the position as the lawmakers may decide to do away with any zoning arrangement that the party may come up with.

Some argue that the issue of zoning was thrown away in 2015 when APC settled on Gbaja to become speaker despite being from the same state as the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It is argued that since it is a game of numbers, the North-West, South-West and North-East can produce the Speaker, having given the largest number of votes and produced large number of APC reps.

Yet another contender for the speaker’s seat is Mohammed Tahir Monguno from Borno State, who has been in the House since 2007 and headed different committees. Monguno is unrivalled in terms of commitment to legislative activities as he is one of the few members that never missed plenary sitting.

Monguno almost became Deputy Speaker in 2015 as he ran together with Gbaja for the position. His defeat last time was due to the emergence of Dogara, who is also from the North-East.

However, it was learnt that Monguno who is a former Attorney General of Borno State, is now taking his time to study the situation, especially the decision of the party on zoning, before coming out with full force for the speaker’s seat this time. But should the Senate President be ceded to the North-East, his ambition may become untenable that will ultimately affect his ambition.

Daily Trust on Sunday’s findings also revealed that Abdulrazak Namdas, chairman of the House Committee on Media, is eyeing the speaker’s seat and has started making contacts for it.

Namdas came to the House in 2015 and has since endeared himself into the hearts of many of his colleagues. Interestingly, Namdas is from the constituency of the PDP Presidential Candidate Atiku Abubakar, but he defeated the party’s candidate who had the full support of the former vice president.

Namdas himself used to be a political boy to Atiku until they parted ways when the former vice president left the APC. Some believe that should the APC decide to zone the Speaker’s seat to the North-East, it may push for Namdas in order to spite Atiku.

Similarly, Umar Bago from Niger State is said to be seriously pushing for the seat. Bago is going for his third term having come to the House in 2011. A close ally of Dogara, Bago is seen as a young man who, if given the opportunity, can prove his mettle for the Number 4 seat.

Bago, just like others, has been a loyal member of the APC, although he was one of those that supported Dogara to emerge as speaker against party’s wish. But he has since reconciled with the party’s leadership and contributed immensely to its success in his constituency of Chanchaga.

There are other contenders who may be keeping their ambitions to their chests and waiting for the right time to make that public.

 

‘Avoid pitfall of 2015’ 

An outgoing senator, Abu Ibrahim, told Daily Trust on Sunday in Abuja that the APC national leadership should step in on time to avoid what happened in 2015 when some senators of the party went against its wishes.

“There are more experienced people coming in, and the party will have to take control from the onset and provide leadership. They should come out and decide who will be part of the leadership,” he said.

A newly elected House of Representatives member for Lere Federal Constituency, Engr. Ahmed Manir, has urged President Buhari to guide the APC in the selection of the leadership of the 9th assembly.

He said President Buhari should not allow “selfish people to hijack the National Assembly as they did in 2015.”

Also, some of the returning lawmakers who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said they would not have issues with zoning if the positions would not be “zoned to individuals” but that they would oppose imposition.

Another lawmaker simply told Daily Trust on Sunday that “we don’t want too much interference or grandstanding by the party on the issue of leadership. Let’s try to avoid what happened last time for a better working relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.”

The question many Nigerians are asking is: will the APC zone the positions in the National Assembly?

 

We’ll play our role in NASS leadership election – APC

Meanwhile, the APC has promised to discharge its responsibility by ensuring the right kind of leadership in the National Assembly.

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, told Daily Trust Sunday that the party would prevent the kind of leadership that held its government to ransom during the first tenure.

Issa-Onilu said both the executive and the legislative arm of government ought to be working as one in a presidential system of government.

“Of course, the party has a responsibility to ensure we have the kind of leadership that will have shared vision with our president and will understand what the issue of change is all about. We won’t dare go through the process that we had in this outgoing tenure where the government was held to ransom by the people that were supposed to be part of government that we are running.

“So, as a ruling party, this is a presidential system of government. And in a presidential system of government, you have a ruling party both in the executive and the National Assembly working as one. You don’t have National Assembly as an opposition to the executive. It is not done. It is not proper.

“You can’t find that in any other clime where presidential system of government is in place. We are supposed to have the executive and our members in the National Assembly representing the best interests of the party and fulfilling the tenets of our manifestoes. So, we have a role to play and we will ensure the right kind of leadership is put in place,” he said.

 

Spread of APC, PDP senators across geo-political zones

The results released by INEC so far showed that the North-West has the highest number of APC senators, with 20, followed by the North-East and South-West, which have 14 each. The North central has 11 APC senators with South-South having three, while the South-East has two.

As for the PDP, it has 15 senators from the South-South, 11 for the South-East, six from the North-Central, including the FCT, four each from North-East and South-West and one from North-West. The YPP’s lone senator is from the South-East.

Based on the rules of both chambers, any lawmaker aspiring to be a presiding officer must be a ranking legislator, which includes a returning legislator followed by a member of the House of Reps that joins the Senate – in the case of the Red Chamber.

Since the president-elect is from the North-West zone, the region is said to be automatically knocked out of the race for both the Senate President and Speaker, although the lawmakers may decide otherwise.

The contest is now among the remaining five regions of North-East, South-West, North-Central, South-East and South-South.

However, it is believed that the position of the Speaker is likely to go to the South-West or North-Central, leaving the contest for Senate Presidency to the North-East, South-East and South- South.

But while the North-East and South-South both have returning lawmakers in the APC, the two senators the party got from South-East are new comers. Going by this, the region cannot present any APC senator for the position.

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