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How 2023 Is Fuelling Battle For NASS Leadership

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Even before the inauguration of the elected political office holders that participated in the 2019 general elections, SUNDAY ISUWA writes that the struggle for the 2023 has already commenced with the first phase of the battle already at the National Assembly

There are intense intrigues, alignment and permutations which are already changing the politics of the National Assembly.

It was gathered that the battle over who emerged Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, unlike what is stipulated in the standing rules, is facing interference from external forces.

The elected members from all political parties that have the constitutional right to elect their leadership at the comfort of their chambers when they are inaugurated next month, it was gathered, might not have that luxury following interest from the leadership of some political parties having an eye on the 2023 presidential election.

The second term of President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to commence on May 29 and he will not be eligible to contest for another term.

Based on an unwritten agreement between some political leaders in the country, power rotates between North and South depending on the circumstances.

While some politicians from the southern part of the country believe that power will shift to the South after the eight-year tenure of President Buhari, if he triumphs over litigation filed against him by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP in the last election, some Northerners aside Atiku hold that the North can still retain power beyond 2023, hence, their attempts to influence the emergence of the leaders of the 9th National Assembly.

Already, Senators: Ahmed Lawan, Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje all from the North Eastern part of the country are vying to be Senate president and chairman of the National Assembly.

In the House of Representatives, many people have shown interest to be speaker. Among them are: Femi Gbajabiamila, AbdulRasaq Namdas, Ahmed Idris Wase, Mohammed Umaru Bago and John Dyegh.

The struggle over who emerges the chairman of the National Assembly and the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th leadership has prompted the ruling APC to endorse Ahmed Lawan for Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila for the Speaker.

The leadership of the party led by Adams Oshiomhole, a man accused of mismanaging their primary election last years is also facing a stiff opposition from some party members over the endorsement saga.

Some pundits within the APC including a former minister of Sport, Alhaji Bala Ka’oje, had accused Oshiomhole of not consulting members of his party before taking decision.

But LEADERSHIP gathered that some members of the APC who want to contest for the presidential election in 2023 are gunning for their allies to control the leadership of the National Assembly.

An associate of Kaduna state governor, Umar Gana in an article he posted on his Facebook page title, ‘Time to cage Tinubu,’ said in his opinion, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Borno state governor and Chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Senator Aliyu Wammako, Chairman of Northern Senators Forum as well as Mr Rotimi Ameachi, the Minister of Transport and immediate past Director General of APC Presidential Campaign Council, should fashion out an equitable sharing formula.

Gana who believes Tinubu worked for the emergence of Adams Oshiomhole as the APC National chairman against the immediate past chairman, John Odigie Oyegun, said the aforementioned people  should make nominations and submit the names of people they want them to take over the leadership of the National Assembly to NEC for ratification or amendment.

“As things stand, Oshiomhole can not be trusted. My opinion, Governor Nasir el Rufai of Kaduna State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Borno State governor and chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Senator Aliyu Wammako, chairman of Northern Senators Forum as well as Mr Rotimi Ameachi, the minister of Transport and immediate past director general of APC Presidential Campaign Council, should fashion out an equitable sharing formula. In addition, they should make nominations and submit the names to NEC for ratification or amendment,” Gana said.

“Significantly, the opportunity presented itself and Oyegun was replaced at a National Convention on June 23, 2018. Virtually, Tinubu railroaded   Mr Adams Oshiomhole, the labour-leader turned activist, to succeed Oyegun as National Chairman. Thereafter, the party has been running from pillar to post, enmeshed in one crisis or the other. From parallel congresses, to misrepresenting NEC’s position, including controversial primaries as well as substitution of candidates and alleged bribery, Oshiomhole has been at the centre of APC problems.

“On August 30, 2018, APC had adopted direct primaries to choose its flag bearer but  all other elections, according to NEC,  will be by the delegate system or indirect primaries. However, Oshiomhole had tried to misrepresent this position, especially through the National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena,” he said.

“In June, the National Assembly will be inaugurated and on the same day, the principal officers will be elected. APC, without doubt, will produce the leaderships of both legislative chambers as it has an overwhelming majority. Right now, we have 65 senators-elect while PDP has 37. Similarly, APC has 211 House of Representatives-elect as against PDP’s 111. So, with this comfortable margin, victory is assured and that is why Tinubu and Oshiomhole are flexing muscles.

“The National Chairman, without mincing words, has already endorsed Senator Ahmad Lawan for  Senate President. The rest positions, according to him,  will be zoned accordingly. However, for all practical purposes, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has been anointed as House Speaker in waiting.

“Significantly, both Lawan and Gbajabiamila are Tinubu’s men and the Asiwaju, like an autocrat, has ordered for their election. Point blank, he asked other legislators to either vote for them or leave APC. Party discipline, according to him, must be upheld to avoid the 2015 scenario, where PDP produced the Deputy Senate President. In principle, Tinubu’s rhetoric of party supremacy resonates with most party men but the reality is a different ball game,” he said.

“Specifically, his posturing has more to do with 2023, his blind ambition to become president, than party discipline. However, instead of lobbying for ‘’his candidates’’, Tinubu is talking down on the legislators-elect. In my view, the 2015 mistake will not be repeated but PDP, according to my findings, is mobilising to defeat our so called anointed candidates. Right now, Senator  Muhammad Danjuma Goje, ex Gombe state governor, has PDP support for the senate presidency. Similarly, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume is their alternative for the number three position. Indeed, both Goje and Ndume are APC  senators but if either of them clinches the position, PDP would have technically ‘’won’’ the senate presidency. For this reason, President Buhari, his kitchen cabinet and ardent loyalists should rescue the situation” Gana added.

Speaking, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Kaduna state, Kish Adamu also said the battle for the NASS leadership is about 2023.

“Naturally all attempts at installing a particular leadership on the NASS has bearing on 2023 calculations. Each of the gladiators, particularly the powers behind the scenes are playing a chess game,” he said.

However, Adamu said those permutations hardly ever play out the way those forces plan.

“In the long run, it becomes a wasted exercise and may not affect the outcome of the 2023 elections. My advice to the lawmakers is that they  should listen to their constituencies and consult widely in their choice of principal officers,” Adamu said.

“While it is their prerogative to choose their own leaders free from imposition, they cannot completely ignore the input of their parties. We often forget that our politics is party based. And while we practice separation of powers, we all belong to political parties and constituencies whose interest must be carried along. The different arms of government do not exist in isolation or islands of their own.

“Nigerians must be resolute in their determination to see democracy succeed. They must resist all elements of fascism and dictatorship and continue to demand for good governance anchored on justice, fairness and the rule of law,” Adamu added.

A chieftain of the APC, Umar Yahaya, also corroborated the earlier speakers. He averred that the struggle for the National Assembly leadership is all about who succeeds President Buhari when his tenure ends in 2023.

According to Yahaya, politicians with such interest will face a big surprise in the 2023 contest even within the party.

“That’s my take. It’s all about positioning for the likely successor to PMB,” Umar said while commenting on the present alignment going on in regard to the leadership of the 9th NASS.

“But the lawmakers need to appreciate that the electorate are getting wiser and more sophisticated going by the outcome of the last election. So, unless they co-operate and pursue policies that will improve the economic fortunes of Nigerians, they will be in for a big surprise,” Yahaya added.

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