The All Progressives Congress (APC) favourite candidate for the Senate presidency of the incoming 9th Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, is set for a landslide victory in tomorrow’s election as 37 senators-elect of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday endorsed him for the office.
Last Saturday, 62 senators-elect on the platform of the APC endorsed Lawan. With the action of the PDP lawmakers, Lawan is now on the clear lead with 99 senators on his side.
This leaves his only rival in the race, Senator Ali Ndume, with 10 supporters, including himself in the 109-member Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
The 9th National Assembly will be inaugurated tomorrow in Abuja.
Lawan, Ndume and Senator Danjuma Goje, all from the North East zone were vying for the office of the Senate president and the chairman of the National Assembly until last week when Goje stepped down and openly endorsed Lawan.
To ensure his victory at tomorrow’s election of the NASS leadership, Lawan yesterday met with PDP senators-elect where 37 of them threw their weight behind him. The meeting was held at the residence of the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Abuja.
Prominent among the PDP lawmakers who attended the parley were Senators Eyinnaya Abaribe, Emmanuel Bwacha, Dino Melaye, Theordore Orji, Philip Aduda, and James Manager.
The spokesman of the Senator Ahmed Lawan Campaign Organisation, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told journalists that the endorsement of the former Senate leader was part of the desire of the PDP lawmakers to serve Nigerians.
According to him, the 9th Senate “is poised to deliver to the expectations of Nigerians, without taking them for granted.”
He added that come tomorrow, Lawan would emerge unopposed as the Senate president.
Another lawmaker who was present at the meeting but spoke on condition of anonymity said that the decision by PDP senators-elect to support Lawan stemmed from the “urgent need to bring stability to the National Assembly.”
According to him, a total of 99 Senators have agreed to vote for Lawan tomorrow as the Senate president of the 9th National Assembly.
He said: “So far, 37 PDP senators-elect have agreed to support Lawan. If you take that number in addition to the 62 from APC, that gives you 99. What that tells you is that he will emerge unopposed on June 11, 2019, which is the day of the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
“The number is a clear message that the senators-elect believe in Lawan’s ability and competence to handle the affairs of the incoming National Assembly.
“This time around, we believe this collective decision by APC, PDP and YPP senators-elect is an indicator that the welfare of Nigerians comes first. It also tells you that we are prepared to serve Nigerians differently this time around,” he said.
For the office of the deputy Senate president which will also be contested on the floor of the Senate, LEADERSHIP gathered that none of the aspirants has been endorsed for the position.
The five contenders, NASS sources said are still working hard and reaching out to their colleagues for their votes.
The contestants are Senators Francis Alimikhena from Edo State, Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta), and Robert Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo).
APC Govs Endorse Lawan, Gbajiabiamila
Governors elected under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have endorsed the candidatures of Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila for foremost offices of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
They took the decision at a closed-door meeting in Abuja yesterday.
At the end of the parley, the state chief executives, who met on the platform of the Progressives Governors Forum, said that their position was in deference to the directive of the ruling party.
The governors therefore asked all the party members to vote for the two leaders, saying they were solidly behind the decision of the party.
The chairman of the forum and Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, told newsmen after the meeting that they believe that the leadership of the party took the right decision when they opted to support Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the principal offices.
On other offices, he said that they were party offices and that it wouldl take a decision on that.
On the crisis in the party, Bagudu said that members made comments but was silent on the position of the governors.
He said that the governors were solidly behind the President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of the party and were prepared to work with him to take the country to the next level.
Those present at the meeting which took place at the Kebbi Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro were the governors of Edo, Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kano, Jigawa, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos, Gombe, Niger and the deputy governors of Borno and Kaduna States.
Governors of Katsina, Ogun, Ondo and Yobe States were absent and did not send representatives.
Clerk Ready For Election, Ordered To Play By The Rules
Meanwhile, the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA) headed by Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori has assured Nigerians that it is ready for the election.
During the poll, the clerk will call the Assembly to order, take a roll call of the senators-elect, presided over of the exercise and swear in the winners.
A source in the CNA office said: “That will be the major assignment of the clerk of which we are ready. After he calls the house to order, he will take a roll call of the members-elect of the National Assembly and conduct the election. After the election, he will swear in the new leaders that will also preside over other lawmakers to take their oath of office.”
There were also Indications that the presidency has charged the clerk to conduct the elections into the presiding offices of the National Assembly in strict compliance with existing rules of the legislature.
A source close to the management of the National Assembly told LEADERSHIP yesterday that Omolori was at the Aso Villa on Friday to brief the president on the preparations for the NASS elections.
The source said that Omolori was there to honour a presidential invitation on the NASS leadership race and election.
The method of voting has been a source of serious disagreement between the two main contenders for the seat of the Senate president.
On Saturday, Senator Omo-Agege told journalists in Abuja that he was sure that secret balloting as contained in the Senate Standing Rule of 2011 would be used in the election.
Omolori allegedly told the president that there was the need to ensure that the image of the National Assembly was not endangered in conducting the elections and drew President Muhammadu Buhari’s attention to the existing rules of both chambers.
Buhari, it was said, appreciated the fact that Omolori expressed his readiness to stick to the rules to avoid chaos and disorderliness.
The source said: “The clerk briefed Mr. President on the procedures for the election of the presiding officers and what the rule says. Right there, the president directed the clerk to ensure that the right thing is done by sticking to the rules of both chambers. In fact, the president was impressed that the clerk did not show any sign of compromising the rule.”
Speakership: Bago, Nwajiuba May Shock Reps
The contest for the Speaker of the House of Representatives may be tougher than imagined as Hon. Umar Muhammed Bago (APC, Niger) and Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, are set to cause a major upset in the speakership and deputy speakership contest tomorrow.
In fact, those rooting for the duo, said that the South East and North Central zones look good to produce the next speaker and deputy speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
A reliable source within the APC said that the leadership of the party was in a dilemma over the candidature of its preferred candidate (Gbajiabiamila) because of the allegations of conviction and perjury levelled against him.
He said: “We do not want a repeat of the Salisu Buhari and Evan Enweren cases in the National Assembly again.”
A former member of the Lower House accused the handlers of Gbajiabiamila of not divulging the truth about his ambition which, he said, was encumbered.
He hinted that former speakers of the House had met and endorsed the Bago/Nwajiuba ticket for the leadership of the 9th House.
The former speakers who reportedly met in Abuja resolved to hit the ground running in convincing the new lawmakers on the need for balance in the House which the Bago/Nwajiuba ticket represents.
The erstwhile presiding officers frowned at the current arrangement that alienates the entire South East from leadership of both the National Assembly and the executive arm of government.
Also, a group of former principal officers of the National Assembly has expressed concerns over what they termed “negligence of religion” in the upcoming election of the leaders of the 9th National Assembly.
The lawmakers are of the view that a situation where the president, Senate president and speaker of the House are Muslims in a multi-religious country, could spark off crisis.
They also pointed out the fact that the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) is a Muslim.
One of the ex-principal officers warned that if religion and ethnicity were not factored into the arrangements, it could breed tension and restiveness in future which could negatively affect governance and national Unity.
On his part, a former chief whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie, appealed to the incoming legislators to vote for a candidate from the South East as the next speaker.
Owie described Hon. Nwajiuba as a competent legislator who could effectively manage the House.
CUPP Seeks Religious, Moral Consideration In Electing Speaker
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has also urged members-elect of the Green Chamber to consider religious balancing, character and integrity in electing their speaker.
The group, comprising the opposition parties in the country, made the appeal yesterday in Abuja at a press conference addressed by its co-national spokesperson, Mr. Mark Adebayo.
CUPP argued that with the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of the country, efforts must be made to ensure balance in political offices.
Adebayo said: “President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim, the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo is a Christian. It is also clear that the position of the Senate president will be occupied by a Muslim senator from the North East.
“Therefore, in line with the APC zoning arrangement, the speaker of the House of Representatives from the South West must be a Christian. The delicate religious inclinations in the country must be balanced.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella Christian body, has already raised the red flag on this and it is important for members-elect to take cognisance of the fact,” Adebayo said.
Adebayo said that while CUPP was not against the decision of the APC to zone the leadership of the parliament, it would be wrong for the ruling party to micro-zone the positions to certain individuals.
“It would not be out of place to quickly remind the authorities that competence, capacity and character cannot be ruled out in the speakership race and that doing everything against the voice of reasons and all evidences to the contrary will not portray Nigeria well.
“In truth, the composition of the House and its leadership is our national identity and the face of the nation. The top echelon of the ruling party and spirited Nigerians must not look the other way,” he said.
Gbajiabiamila’s Camp Moves To Track Votes
To counter the new development, the ruling APC in collaboration with the Gbajiabiamila/Wase Campaign Organisation move plans to ensure that the new members-elect vote for their preferred candidate (Gbajiabiamila).
Sources close to the Gbajiabiamila camp, said that the plan is to issue the lawmakers-elect with what it called a green card tomorrow to ensure that they cast their votes for him.
The reps-elect, who pleaded anonymity, said that the members will write the serial number of their ballot papers on the card which will be submitted to designated party leaders afterwards.
This, according to him, was among measures designed to ensure that they do not play any double game by voting for other candidates during the election and, to keep track of the number and voting pattern of the members.
The plan was reportedly devised after the camp unsuccessfully tried to get the National Assembly management to manipulate the voting system to allow for open instead of secret ballot system.
Last Friday, the National Assembly management said that it would stick to the standing rules of the House, which stipulate secret balloting.
The APC has a total of 119 new members-elect, with the North West leading the table with 39 members, while the South West follows closely with 33.
Others are the North Central 22, South/South, six, leaving the South East with one new member elect.
The Gbajiabiamila group has consistently bragged that it has the support of new members-elect across party line.
Also, at the weekend, a group of lawmakers under the aegis of Forum of First Term Members, at a gathering, pledged their support for the former leader of the House in Abuja.
Gbajiabiamila at the gathering expressed appreciation to them for the confidence they reposed in him as the next speaker Lower House.
Akume Asks APC Lawmakers To Vote Party’s Candidates
A former Senate minority leader, Senator George Akume, has urged APC lawmakers to vote according to the directive of the party in tomorrow’s election.
He urged them to vote for Lawan as Senate president and Senator Omo-Agege as deputy Senate president and Gbajiabiamila as Speaker and Wase as the deputy speaker.
Akume, who stated this in an open letter to the new members of the National Assembly, said that it was in the interest of the country that they vote wisely and be guided by the traditions and practices of the legislature worldwide.
He said: “You should remember that you stood for election on the platform of your political parties and the parties must have a say on who becomes a leader.
“We can recall two specific instances during which the party prevailed: NPN’s Benjamin Chaha during the President Shehu Shagari’s tenure in 1983, and Senator David Mark of the PDP in the 6th and 7th Assemblies.
“The Nigerian 1999 Constitution does not recognise independent candidature. Therefore, those elected into the Senate or the House of Representatives must endeavour to tow the party line,” Akume said.
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