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NASS Leadership: Uneasy Times For APC

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As the controversy and jostling over key positions in the National Assembly continue to rage, GABRIEL ATUMEYI in this report takes a look at the new developments

All is still not well within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress (APC), despite the party’s leadership efforts to ensure that its members fall in line with its directive on the selection of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly.

Ali Ndume, the Senator from Borno South is still making moves to clinch the exalted position of Senate President, even after his home Governor, Kashim Shettima threw his weight behind Ahmed Lawan’s bid.

Similarly, hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met with the party’s leadership and reps – elect of the party to micro-zone the coveted speakership position to the house leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, John Dyegh (APC Benue) went ahead to publicly declare for the position.

In making his declaration, he said “My party the APC in her wisdom zoned the position of speaker to the South-west and even micro-zoned. I am a party man and my loyalty to the APC is 100 percent, however, the North-central zone has not been convinced nor given reasons why their votes should not count and why we should not run and we feel very strongly that there is still room for negotiation because we believe it is not over until it is over.

“We are therefore appealing to the party to have a rethink and rezone the speakership to the North Central for justice and fair play. We pray to God Almighty to touch the hearts of our leaders to reconsider us favourably.

“My ambition is also a response to the clarion call by my Constituents, Honourable Colleagues in the Green Chamber across party lines, party faithful and other stakeholders in the North Central geopolitical zone and Nigeria in general, for me to offer myself for this office.“

Dyegh added that it is unfair that the North-central that produced the third highest votes for the APC behind the North-west and North-east should be ignored while the South-west despite coming fourth and with the Vice President already will be given the Speaker ahead of them.

“We are saying that reward in politics is based on what you bring to the table and the North-central brought the third highest number of votes in making President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term a reality and enabling the APC to form federal government”.

Dyegh seems to echo the sentiments of political observers who opine that given the speakership of the ninth senate to Femi Gbajamiala who is also from the southwest, the same political zone as the vice President is tantamount to a negation of the principles of equity and fairness.

Dyegh and his political kinsmen in the North-central region believe that they deserve to occupy the speakership of the ninth House of Assembly, given the region’s support to President Muhammadu Buhari’s and APC victory at the elections.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, deputy national publicity secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, added his voice to the North-central cause, saying “The APC has elected National Assembly members from all geopolitical zones of the country. Hence, the party’s leadership and indeed the presidency must take deliberate efforts to provide a fair and justifiable zoning arrangement for the ninth National Assembly leadership.

“The zoning arrangement must also respect the fact that the North-west and South-west has already produced the president and Vice- president respectively.

“So, for equity and adherence to the principle of federal character which is a constitutional requirement, the positions of senate president, deputy senate president, speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives in the incoming 9th National Assembly must be occupied by APC members from the remaining four geo-political regions of the country.

“The deputy Senate President should be zoned to the South-south while the speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-central and South-east in any order agreed by the party’s leadership.”

At the moment a number of reps members from the North-central that have been parading themselves as potential pick for the speakership job if the party’s leadership has a change of heart or if they could muster additional support from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Those positioning themselves for the plum job from the region include Umar Bago (Niger), Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Mark Terser Gbillah (Benue), and John Dyegh mentioned above.

However, in the meeting between the President, party leaders and reps-elect, on Tuesday, The party in a statement by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu said the deputy speaker position has been zoned to the North-central, which is a notch down from what the North-central dissidents within the party are asking for, and why there seems to be no willingness to retract their swords.

But if they decide to fall in line with the party’s decision, then it would be a struggle between Umar Bago, Ahmed Idris Wase, Mark Terser Gbillah, John Dyegh and Abubakar Lado Suleija.

In the ensuing wrangling for the man that should deputise Gbajabiamiala if he eventually gets the speakership according to the proposed APC formula, Hon Ahmed Idris Wase, the current deputy majority leader of the House of Representatives, could emerge as his deputy given his standing in the house which made him to be made deputy majority leader of the house after the death of honorable Buba Jibrin in March of 2018.

Even though it is now official that the party has zoned the deputy speakership to the North-central, others from beyond the zone are not in a rush to sheathe their sword.

Those who have also shown interest in the deputy speaker position include Hon Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila (APC, Kano); Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano); Garba Muhammad Datti (APC, Kaduna); Magaji Da’u Aliyu (APC, Jigawa).

Deputy Senate President: South-south versus South-east

The battle for the deputy senate president is another theatre that would test the cohesion within the ruling party. The drama was such that it was initially rumored that there is a plot to handover the role to Sen Remi Tinubu, wife of the APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

However, that view seems to have lost steam with the high level of wrangling’s and horse trading involved in the few key leadership positions in the National Assembly.

The South-east has been clamoring to continue their hold on the deputy senate president in the person of Orji Uzor Kalu. The former governor of Abia state has not shied away from openly declaring his ambition to be the deputy senate President and is not in a hurry to backdown.

In a recent interview he was quoted as saying “I am a very loyal party man. The party has zoned the senate presidency position to the North-east and I want to respect the party’s will but the second position is what we are not going to allow leaving the South-east.

“So, as far as I am concerned, in the South-east, I am going to run openly on the floor of the House for the position of deputy senate president.

“I am not going to listen to the party neither will I listen to anybody. Nobody that wants to be the Deputy Senate President is more loyal than I am to the party.”

But there are those within the APC who believe that the South-east has no right to demand or insist on getting the deputy senate president’s position having failed to deliver for the party and the President in their zone.

Kabiru Gaya, the senator from Kano-south represents that shade of opinion. In a recent interview with newsmen he was fronting himself for the deputy President of the senate. He told them that four of the key positions of presiding officers in the two chambers of the National Assembly have been zoned to the North-east, North-west, South-west and North-central.

He said “You know that these zones contributed the highest votes that led to the election of Mr President in the just concluded 2019 general election. And if the Vice President is from the South-west, and the position of the Speaker also goes to the South-west, it is only fair and politically logical that the position of the deputy senate president should come to the North-west, my zone, and I am the most ranking Senator from there.”

According to him, ”our party’s position is that, the position of the senate president has been zoned to the North-east and speakership of House of Representatives has been zoned to the South-west respectively.”

Senator Gaya added that the North-west has been given the slot of deputy president of the Senate while the North-central is to occupy the position of deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.

Even though the party has not taken an official position on the zone to produce the deputy senate president, the national chairman of the party has alluded to the South-south zone producing it. Which some in the party think might be secured for Oshiomhole’s kinsman, Senator Francis Alimekhena. Alimekhena represents Edo-north Senatorial District.

Also a second term senator, the 71-year-old lawmaker is the deputy chief whip of the Senate and the deputy chairman Senate Committee on Housing.

Another lawmaker that has a good chance of becoming the deputy senate president if it is zoned to the South-south is Sen Ovie Omo-Agege, who was the man at the centre of the stolen mace controversy.

Omo-Agege first came to the Senate in 2015 under the platform of the Labour Party to represent Delta Central Senatorial District. However, he joined the APC in 2017. He got re-elected to the Senate under the APC’s platform in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections. He is considered a staunch Buharist and is believed to enjoy the backing of some APC chieftains to occupy the position of the deputy senate president if the party eventually decides so.

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