The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been inflicted with severe electoral damage to play any “spoiler role” in the emergence of the principal officers of the 9th National Assembly on June 10, 2019.
Going by the severe losses the PDP suffered at the 2019 general elections, the APC, which now has the upper hand, said yesterday that it does not need the votes of PDP lawmakers to produce the key leaders of the incoming NASS.
In 2015, the PDP outsmarted the ruling party through a “strange alliance” with some APC lawmakers to produce the leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Reacting to fears in certain quarters that the PDP could spring a surprise again by cashing on the current crisis in the APC over its “anointed candidates” to replicate the 2015 feat, by rallying round aggrieved APC lawmakers, the governing party said that the era had gone for good.
Through its national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC told journalists in Abuja yesterday, that it had taken full charge of the leadership of the National Assembly, adding that there was no threat from any quarter.
Issa-Onilu added the decision of the APC not to share the NASS offices with other political parties was in line with democratic norms as obtained in advanced democracies.
He said: “I have listened to the PDP react to this and in their usual style they exhibited gross ignorance. What we practise in Nigeria is called the presidential system of government and in such a system, it is winner takes all. Once you win, you take whatever you won. There is no room for power sharing. We do not need it because we do not need them (PDP) to run this government.
“We have enough number to run this government and in any case, when we were campaigning, we never told Nigerians that we were going to share power with any other party. We told them, ‘please, entrust power to us fully’. And Nigerians have graciously assented to that. It would be a betrayal of that trust to go ahead and start sharing power with a party, particularly the PDP that has been rejected by Nigerians.
“We are doing this from the experience of the last four years, precisely what happened in 2015 when some traitors in the APC fold sold our birthright to an opposition party and some people now considered that to be the new norm. It is not. In fact, that was undemocratic. It was treachery and we thank God that Nigerians have punished the people that were involved. They were rejected. Many of them are now on compulsory retirement from politics. That is the verdict of the people of this country for those who dared to compromise basic democratic principles which says that in a presidential system of government when you have the majority, you have the trust of the people to form a government without conceding anything to the people they have rejected. If they wanted PDP, they would have voted for the PDP. We patterned our presidential system of government after the United States of America (USA).
“When last did you see them go to the floor to elect the Speaker? Any party that has the majority automatically has the speaker. If you remember, Pelosi was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Immediately the Republicans got the majority, she became the minority leader. It is automatic except where you have traitors; people who do not have a commitment to values; whose only interest is to fester their own selfish desires. In the last election in the US, when the Democrats became the majority, Pelosi reverted and became the Speaker,” he said.
On whether the APC envisages an election for the NASS leadership, Issa-Onilu said: “All the principal officers are determined by a simple majority and because Nigerians have given us more than what we had even in the outgoing dispensation; we have enough members to elect all our officers. We do not need a single vote from the PDP and in any case, we don’t actually envisage any election on that day because we are going to present our members to occupy these positions and it is the collective decision of the party and all our members are very experienced politicians who understand what this means.
“When they get to the floor, they are going to read out the names and if the PDP so desire, they can bring a candidate and follow that candidate with the number they have. So, it will be an exercise in futility for the PDP to nurse the ambition to share from what Nigerians have taken from them.
“It is not the party that will determine whether there will be an election or not. By the time we announce these names, having a clear majority on the floor, anyone that wants to oppose would have to present his candidates, backing them up with numbers.
“So, there is only one person being put forward and then you have a consensus. So, even if there is going to be an election it would just be a mere formality. We do not envisage a situation where two APC senators would stand as candidates for a position. That would only happen if this party has not done its homework,” Issa-Onilu added.
Party Justifies Lawan, Gbajabiamila choice
Also yesterday, the APC gave more insight to why it not only zoned specific offices in NASS but also specifically named Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as its preferred candidate for the Senate presidency and Speakership respectively.
Though the party was non-combatant on where it stands on the person for the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives, it, however, said that wide consultations had gone on before arriving at who gets what in the 9th Assembly.
He said that the region and person to occupy the office of the Senate president was arrived after extensive consultations among party members in the executive, legislative and in the APC national secretariat.
Issa-Onilu said: “The party in its own judgment believe that we will not only zone, but we will also go as far as identifying who from a particular zone is fit and proper as the Senate president. From every zone of this country, we have ranking members in the National Assembly who are eminently qualified to be the Senate president but we cannot have two Senate presidents.
“So, in this case, considering other factors, the party, I am not just referring to the National Working Committee (NWC) because there were wide consultations across the country – the party leaders, governors, and Mr. President. So, this is not just something coming from the chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole or the NWC. It is the position of the ruling party. So, the idea of taking the thing to the zone is an option we have also considered before arriving at a particular individual from the Northeast.”
‘Ndume Merely Exercising His Democratic Rights’
On the ambition of Senator Ali Ndume to become the Senate president, the APC said that he was “merely expressing his democratic rights.” The party warned that Ndume must subscribe to its dictates.
Issa-Onilu said: “The day he subscribed to be a member of the APC, he signed off to abide by the dictates of the party and we take what has happened in the last 24 hours as an expression of how badly the news hit him. But we are also conscious of the fact that Senator Ali Ndume is a respected member of the APC; he is a leader in this party and he knows the right thing to do and on whose side he rightly belongs and that also includes any other person who has such grievances.”
Issa-Onilu also spoke on the case of Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC refused to issue a certificate of return to Okorocha as senator-elect because he was allegedly declared the winner of the Imo West senatorial seat under duress.
He said: “On the refusal of INEC to issue a certificate of return to Governor Okorocha who was announced as senator-elect in his zone, this party cannot take any action. Do not forget that Okorocha is on suspension. So, as far as this party is concerned, that situation remains. So, there is no way we can say somebody is on suspension and then we still go ahead and start….in any case, he also has not come forward to say this is the problem he has because he also realises that he is on suspension.
So, until that is vacated before the party can now step in and say we have a full member who has issues that we need to resolve,” he said.
He explained that the APC at the ward level has the powers to suspend Senator Kabiru Marafa if it found him to have contravened APC’s laws.
Issa-Onilu said: “It is within the powers of the party executives at the ward level. If they have good reasons to take punitive action against a member that they considered to have flaunted the rules of the party. In this case, we don’t have all the facts because it has not been brought to the NWC’s attention and they don’t really need to come that far before they can take that decision.
“Whoever that has happened to has the window to seek redress. So, we are watching to be sure that they stay within the rule.”
Commenting on the allegation of anti-party activities in Rivers State levelled against the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the party said that he has not done anything wrong since the APC is not fielding any candidate in the elections,
He insisted that there was nothing wrong in Amaechi working with parties that share the ideals of the APC.
Positions should be zoned – CSO
Meanwhile, a group under the auspices of Partners for Legislative Agenda for Nigeria (PLAN) has hailed President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC for zoning the Senate presidency to the Northeast but urged that the position should be opened for all the contenders in the region.
LEADERSHIP reported yesterday that President Buhari has endorsed Senator Lawan as the next Senate president.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the chairman of PLAN, Charles Ibiang said that the CSO was concerned about the need to avoid the unnecessary rancorous politicking that led to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and the subsequent psychological and physical combat that followed which affected governance negatively.
Ibiang said that the major intention of the CSO is to create a harmonious executive-legislative relationship that will help the country achieve sound and effective governance.
He averred that while it is imperative for a ruling political party to introduce a semblance of order and political stability in the leadership choice, historical antecedent has shown that imposition through influence peddling and invoking the name of the president has led to instability in leadership succession in the National Assembly in the past.
Ibiang described the seat of the Senate president as the chairman of the National Assembly which is very critical to the direction the country goes.
Kalu Vows To Win Deputy Senate President Seat For Southeast
Also, the senator-elect of the Abia North Senatorial District of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has vowed to contest and win the deputy Senate president seat.
Kalu said that his zone would not allow the second position in the Senate to leave the South East.
He said that as far as he was concerned as a senator-elect representing a zone from the South East, he would openly run on the floor of the Senate for the deputy Senate president’s slot.
The former governor of Abia State, who disclosed this yesterday at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos on his way back from Abuja en-route the US, said that though he would respect the party’s wish but South East cannot afford to leave the Senate President and that of deputy Senate president in the current political dispensation.
Kalu said: “I want to respect the party’s wish and the second position is what we are not going to allow to leave the Southeast. So, as far as I am concerned, in the South East, I am going to run openly on the floor of the House as a senator. I am not going to listen to anybody. Nobody who is going to be the deputy Senate president is more loyal than I am to the party.”
NASS Leadership Crisis Worsens As Abdullahi Hits Ndume
The chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, yesterday said that Ndume was being economical with the truth over his account of the nomination of Senator Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila for the Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively for the 9th Assembly.
While briefing journalists on what transpired during the meeting of the APC leadership and with senators under the party at the presidential villa on Monday night, Abdullahi said that the nomination of the duo was greeted with loud ovation from most senators-elect.
Abdullahi who announced that he doubles as Senate spokesman and the official mouthpiece of the Senator Lawan’s group added that it was not true that the senators were shocked with the manner the nomination of Lawan and Gbajabiamila was introduced.
Ndume had on Tuesday in Abuja at a media briefing in his residence alleged that the choice of Lawan for the Senate presidency by Oshiomhole at the presidential villa on Monday night, was imposed on the APC senators-elect and not through any consensus arrangement.
But Abdullahi said that Ndume lied as Lawan’s choice emerged from a recommendation which was accepted by majority of the senators-elect According to him, at the dinner attended by the APC governors and senators-elect, Oshiomhole in a family affair tone, recommended Senator Lawan for the position of the Senate president which was applauded by the senators-elect without any dissenting voice .
He said: “It is not good for people to peddle lies, I was at the dinner along with other APC senators-elect, the national chairman of our party never made any announcement or submission that can be described by anybody as an imposition
“He, in the spirit of avoiding what happened in 2015 along with the presidency gave the required direction for the party as regards the position of President of the 9th Senate by in a very persuasive and convincing tone, recommended Senator Ahmed Lawan for the position “The recommendation was spontaneously and instantaneously applauded by all the APC senators-elect in attendance without anybody dissenting .
“So for Senator Ndume to later tell a story of imposition and a shock to Nigerians through his media briefing is nothing but being economical with the truth,” he said.
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