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The Hot Race For Leadership At The NASS

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With the 2019 general elections behind us, except for Rivers, attention is now focused on the federal legislature where the battle for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly rages.

The importance of the National Assembly in democratic governance cannot be overemphasised. Its lawmaking powers and oversight functions put it in a strategic position to make democracy work for the interest of the people or fail at the people’s peril.

For the National Assembly to effectively play its role, it must have a leadership that is capable, effective and cooperative with other arms of government, while maintaining some level of independence at the same time. Leadership at that institution must be such that the lawmakers themselves must have confidence in. The ideal is a leadership freely chosen by elected members themselves.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has zoned the Senate presidency to the North East geo-political zone. Among the top contenders for the position, as widely reported in the media, are incumbent Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan; Senator Ali Ndume and former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje. Senator Lawan and Senator Ndume are not new to the intrigues and power play in the quest for the Senate presidency. Both of them nursed the ambition in 2015, and in the case of Lawan, he was said to have been the anointed one before Senator Bukola Saraki grabbed the position by subterfuge.

Announcing his ambition to be Senate president of the 9th Senate recently, Senator Lawan promised that the Senate under his watch will work in partnership with the executive arm of government to make the country better through legislative engineering. He said that there is need to emphasise the necessity to make the Senate more productive and more focused in its legislative business.

On his part, Senator Ndume presents himself as the leader who would ensure that the Senate works in harmony with the executive, especially with President Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure that Nigerians enjoy dividends of democracy. He had been among the vociferous senators who opposed the cantankerous relationship between the 8th Senate and the presidency under Senator Bukola Saraki’s leadership.

Another contender for the coveted Senate presidency seat is former governor of Gombe State, Senator Goje. He was reportedly said to have been paying courtesy visits to powerbrokers to seek support for his senate president bid. Goje currently chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriation and many consider him ripe for the senate president job.

How far Senators Ndume and Goje will go in their Senate presidency ambitions remain to be seen, as already it has been widely reported in the media and confirmed by the leadership of the APC that Senator Lawan has been chosen by the party as its anointed candidate for Senate president of the 9th Senate. This did not sit well with Senator Ndume who did not waste time in opposing the micro-zoning of the position to Lawan. He insists that the position should have been thrown open for interested Senators from the North East.

In the House of Representatives, no fewer than six lawmakers have declared interest to become Speaker. Among the contenders is Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos). He recently clinched his fifth term in the House. He is the current House Leader, and before Dogara emerged as Speaker in 2015, he was APC’s choice for the position. He is from the South West and the only major contender from Southern Nigeria who has indicated interest in the position.

Also, Ahmed Wase (APC, Plateau) representing Wase federal constituency of Plateau State is a strong contender for the Speaker of the 9th House. The 55-year-old lawmaker was first elected into the green chamber in 2007, and was re-elected in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Umar Bago (APC, Niger) is another contender from the North Central. Bago who represents Chanchaga Federal Constituency of Niger State was first elected into the House in 2011. Mohammed Monguno (APC Borno), 52, who represents Jere Federal Constituency of Borno State, has also indicated interest to become the Speaker of the 9th House. He is the most ranking contender from the North East Zone. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC Adamawa), 50, who represents Jada/Ganye/Toungo Federal Constituency of Adamawa State, is the current spokesman of the 8th House. Mohammed Kazaure (APC Jigawa), 46, who represents Kazaure/Roni Federal Constituency of Jigawa State, is also interested in becoming the Speaker of 9th House.

Like in the case of the Senate presidency, the APC leadership has micro-zoned it to Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the party’s anointed candidate. To give impetus to that decision, the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has warned that any APC lawmaker who is not happy with the choice of Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate president and Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker should leave the party and go elsewhere, insisting that party discipline would be enforced this time.  While party discipline should be encouraged and supported, the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly without the lawmakers’ input may be counterproductive.

In the case of the tussle for Senate Leadership, I know Ahmed Lawan personally. I also know Ndume very well. Both senators were part of a political family I once belonged to that was headed by late Senator Usman Albishir, who until his death was the political boss of the Bornu-Yobe axis. Ahmed and Ali were not senators then. Our group, national in outlook operated within the ANPP fold but was powered by the governments of Yobe and Bornu States. Both men have the capacity and sagacity to be good Senate President but I am afraid that the handling of this matter has left a lot to be desired.

As the National Assembly fixes its leadership conundrum, let the lawmakers ensure equity and fairness. That is why many are shocked that the North Central was overlooked for the Speakership position of the House of Representatives. The zone has never held the position before. In the new dispensation the North West has the presidency; South West, vice president; North East, Senate president, while North Central will have nothing if the zone is denied the Speakership position. Let the stakeholders in the APC and the National Assembly avoid alienating any section of the country in the leadership of the 9th National Assembly.

– Aluta Continua!

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