President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have endorsed the Senate Leader of the outgoing 8th National Assembly, Senator Ahmed Lawan, as the next Senate president.
Feelers from the dinner the president held for governors and senators-elect on Monday night at the presidential villa, Abuja, showed that both Buhari and the APC are more favourably disposed to Lawan’s leadership of the Senate than Senator Ali Ndume.
LEADERSHIP learnt that Buhari and the APC opted for Lawan because of his loyalty to the party and the Buhari administration as well as his political maturity.
Apparently to avoid any unnecessary altercations, which marred the relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government during the 8th Assembly, the president and the APC reportedly prefer Lawan to other contestants because he is seen as a bridge builder and an ardent follower of Buhari.
The inauguration of the 9th National Assembly members is slated for June 10 this year.
Although some lawmakers have either pitched their tents with Lawan or Ndume, the presidency and the APC have insisted on Lawan.
What Happened In 8th Senate Regrettable – PMB
Meanwhile, President Buhari has described some actions and decisions of the 8th National Assembly as regrettable.
The president spoke on Monday night when he hosted state governors and senators-elect of the APC to a dinner at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari particularly cited the deliberate and persistent delay in passing the annual budget by the National Assembly.
He, therefore, challenged the incoming 9th NASS to do things differently, especially from the outgoing 8th Senate to enable his administration to achieve its goal of transforming the country.
Buhari said: “This is my fifth and last time of standing for an election -for that reason, I’ll like to leave something behind. And what I want to leave cannot be successfully done without your support.
“That is why I’m seeking your support. What happened in the last Senate and so on is regrettable because I still feel it shouldn’t take seven months to pass a budget. You have a very serious job ahead of you.
“So, what I’m appealing for is that any major decision you are going to take, please reflect more on the country than on yourself- what effect will it have on the country,’’ he said.
The president promised to work with the 9th NASS in promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the country.
In an interaction with State House correspondents after the meeting, Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, said that the meeting reviewed what happened in 2015 and the lessons learnt.
He said: “We took a step back to 2015 and reviewed what happened in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Now, we want to go as one APC family notwithstanding our brothers from the other party.
“We are now talking about Nigeria first. The president requested that we all work for the betterment of Nigeria. As regards the leadership, the president requested that we work hand-in-hand to ensure that we come out as one family so that what belongs to the majority goes to the majority and what belongs to minority goes to the minority,” Yari said.
On his part, the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said that the meeting was a “right step in the right direction”.
According to him, “what the president has done, I think is the right step in the right direction. The last time we did not have the opportunity of this politics but now, Mr. President invited us. Because, we are governors and we also dialogue with our senators,” he said.
APC Senators Divided Over Lawan, Ndume
But APC Senators are divided over the choice of Ahmed Lawan and Ali Ndume. It is observed that the senators’ preference for either Lawan or Ndume has kept the ambition of the former governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje, hanging in the balance.
On Monday, the APC leadership adopted Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for the speaker of the House of Representatives and Lawan for the Senate president, but the lawmakers have remained divided over who emerges as the chairman of the National Assembly.
Some of them kicked against the attempt by the party to impose their leaders on them.
LEADERSHIP further findings revealed that as a fallout of the meeting held with the lawmakers at different fora, there is a subtle division as to how to arrive at the candidates for the various principal offices of the National Assembly.
While the APC leadership is on the one hand interested in zoning the offices and selecting the candidates that will occupy them, the APC Caucus of the 9th Assembly is presenting an option of being allowed to select its leadership even though they conceded the powers of zoning to the party.
One of the lawmakers said: “The issue now is that the party is interested in zoning and also selecting the candidates but the members do not want this.
“Their position is that they will respect the zoning formula as handed down by the party but electing their leaders should be an exclusive preserve of both chambers of the 9th Assembly.
“However, they are afraid that the ex-governors and others with access to serious finances can move against the party’s desires,” he said.
Already Lawan has since commenced his consultations while Ndume started yesterday from his home state of Borno.
When asked what he would do if the APC zoned the office to a region outside the North East, Lawan replied: “I am a party man. I will respect the decision of the party.
“We need the support of other groups. I always believe that if we should work well with the Executive arm of government, first, we must have unity,” Lawan said, even as he described himself as a “unifying factor for the 9th Assembly.”
But Ndume who hails from Borno State said yesterday that he has what it takes to emerge the next Senate president.
During an interaction with journalists in Abuja yesterday, Ndume said that he was very much in the race for the office of the Senate president and the chairman of the National Assembly, and appealed to the senators-elect to support him.
Ndume, who said that he would always stand for the truth, declared that a lot of Nigerians and his colleagues asked him to vie for the office of the Senate president when the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated.
He said: “My ambition to be the next Senate president is still intact because I have the qualities.
“For you to contest for the office of the Senate president, you must have been supported by your people. The elders are in support and most of my colleagues and senators-elect are in support of my ambition,” Ndume said.
He, however, warned that APC would be threading the same path of disaster by pairing Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the Senate president and speaker of the Lower House on the contest of June 10, 2019.
Ndume’s warning followed the pronouncement of the APC’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on Monday night in Aso Rock, at a meeting with 65 APC senators-elect that Lawan (Yobe North), had been endorsed by the party for the position of the President of the 9th Senate along with Gbajabiamila as the speaker of the Green Chamber.
He described the party’s endorsement of Lawan and Gbajabiamila as unconstitutional and a “journey through the same path of disaster threaded in 2015.”
The former Senate leader who reacted to the party’s position at a media briefing in his Apo Legislative Quarters’ residence, said that such endorsements, run contrary to the provisions of section 50(1a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The section 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.’’
According to him, by this provision of the constitution, neither Oshiomhole nor President Buhari or even any party leader has the right to impose an elected senator or member of the House of Representatives as their presiding officers.
“What took place at the presidential dinner in Aso rock on Monday night where Oshiomhole as party chairman announced Senator Ahmed 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
“Oshiomhole in making the announcement or endorsement and did not even allow myself or Senators Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) widely known to be in the race for the position to say anything.
“More disturbing was the fact that even Senator Ahmed Lawan who the party endorsed for the position was not allowed to make any comment in form of an acceptance speech or soliciting for support from other interested senators,” Ndume lamented
He, however, declared that his loyalty to the party and in particular, President Buhari remains intact.
Amid the arm-twisting of the APC lawmakers by the party leadership, some of them have insisted that they would vote according to their conscience and for the candidates of their choice on June 10.
They insisted that it was strictly a legislative affair and appealed to the APC leadership to refrain from any form of imposition of candidate
Namdas Formally Joins Reps’ Speakership Race
The chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas, has formally declared his intention to contest for the speakership position in the 9th Assembly.
Namdas, however, clarified that he was not anointed by any political godfather, adding that he was the candidate for all Nigerians who possesses the requisite legislative and personal credentials to lead the House to greater heights.
He said: “I am offering myself for the position of the speaker because the 9th Assembly deserves the best of leadership. We are presenting a new legislative charter, which is our covenant with the Nigerians. This is a contract that will be driven by good laws and ethical legislative practices.”
Earlier, Hon. Abdulrahman Shuaibu commended Namdas for taking the bold step and assured him of the support of other lawmakers.
Shuaibu called on the APC leadership to allow legislators to choose their leaders.
Our Members Can Seek Any NASS Office – PDP
Also yesterday, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared that its elected senators and members of the Lower House were constitutionally eligible and can seek election into any presiding office of both chambers of the National Assembly.
The PDP noted that the position of the Senate president, the speaker of the House, the deputy Senate president and the deputy speaker were not the exclusive preserves of any political party, but a constitutional right of every elected lawmaker in both chambers.
PDP national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that it was laughable and amounted to empty grandstanding for President Buhari and Oshiomhole to posture as if the presiding offices and committee chairmanship in the National Assembly were the exclusive rights of the APC.
At a meeting with members-elect of the House of Representatives at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja on Monday, Oshiomhole said the APC would not share the offices of principal officers of the House and chairmanship of juicy committees with the opposition PDP, except for the position reserved for minority members by the constitution.
But Ologbondiyan in a statement he issued yesterday, said: “President Buhari and Oshiomhole should wake up to the fact that the National Assembly belongs to no political party but to all Nigerians, who exercise their control through their elected representatives.
“For emphasis, Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is clear in providing that “there shall be: (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”.
“Section 92 (1) makes the same provision for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of State House of Assembly,” the party said.
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