Ndume to Osinbajo, says I’m still in Senate Presidency race
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa on Monday met with one of the All Progressives Congress senators, Ali Ndume, contesting the Senate Presidency of the ninth National Assembly.
Although the agenda of the meeting was unknown to State House correspondents, Ndume denied that he entered an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party to help him clinch the seat.
Ndume, a former Senate Leader, who said he would not step down for any opponent, added that he was still consulting on the matter.
The Borno senator, who arrived at the closed-door meeting about 3.24pm, emerged from the venue around 4.18pm, declining to give any elaborate interview to waiting State House correspondents.
But the inquisitive reporters asked him whether he had yielded to pressure from the APC to step down for the preferred party choice, Senator Ahmed Lawan.
With a look of surprise on his face, Ndume responded, “Me, step down? I am still consulting.”
On the rumours that he was banking on forging an alliance with the PDP, Ali-Ndume ruled it out on the grounds that the opposition considered him to be an “enemy.”
He stated, “Me that is regarded as an enemy by the opposition?”
Ndume was a former member of the PDP, but he later defected to the APC ahead of the 2015 polls.
He won re-election to the Senate this year on the platform of the APC to serve in the incoming 9th National Assembly.
Dogara, lawmakers-elect reject imposition
But federal lawmakers-elect, who spoke in separate interviews with journalists at the ongoing orientation programme organised for them by the National Assembly management, said they would protect the sanctity and independence of the legislature by electing the leaders of their choice.
Leading the agitation on Monday in an interview with journalists was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who said history since 1999 had shown that any candidate endorsed by political parties as presiding officer, was usually rejected by lawmakers.
Dogara said, “Leadership is something that emerges from people. Some of us who have gone through the process know how it is done. My advice is that we study those going in for these positions to avoid less rancour.
“At the end of the day, we pray that we have who would be able to sustain what we have achieved in the 8th National Assembly and even surpassed our achievements. We don’t want any leadership that will set us back. We have made a lot of mileage.
“I will advise members to actually look out for those who are contesting and see who is in the race that would perform better than the records of the current assembly.
“I am not here to dictate to parties. They have their manifestos and they know how to conduct their business. It is always better for the leadership of the legislature to emerge from members but where leadership has been forced on the people, it doesn’t usually endure.
“If you look at the history of the National Assembly, it (imposition) has never endured. The leadership selection process from outside the chamber has always been causing crisis in the Assembly.
“Parties should ensure that whoever they are supporting has the backing of the legislators so that they can accept such candidate because they own the process and they own the leadership.
“That way, they will always come out to defend it. But in a situation where it (leadership) is forced down the throat of members, in most cases it doesn’t work even in the Senate. It doesn’t augur well.”
Also, a former governor of Benue State, who is a senator-elect, Gabriel Suswam, wondered why the ruling APC failed to learn from history and desist from imposing candidates on the National Assembly.
Suswan noted that the two candidates favoured by the APC as presiding officers, Messrs Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gabajabiamila, had the requisite knowledge and experience to handle the positions but expressed the fears that members might reject them.
He said, “I think the ruling party should have learnt from their past experience. Since 1999, it has always been an issue when names are thrown up. Those names are usually rejected even if the candidates are well qualified members of the National Assembly.
“It is even too early for the APC to bring up names. When subterranean moves are made from outside and produced presiding officers, there is the likelihood and tendencies that members would stoutly object to it.
“There may be surprises even within the APC because there are lots of resistance. We are talking to a lot of them. They are just keeping quiet but what will happen on the floor will be different because we are going to vote on that day.
“People who are bringing up names will not vote. So, you should expect anything but that is not to say that the people whose names have been bandied are not qualified.
“Ahmad Lawan has been a federal lawmaker since 1999, he is very vast and experienced. I wouldn’t mind him as a Senate president. But because he is appearing as if there is an imposition, people are beginning to question him.
“Ordinarily, Lawan is a complete gentleman who should be Senate president but the fact that people are feeling that he is the party’s choice is a factor.
“The same thing is affecting Femi Gbajabiamila, who has been in the House for a long time. He is a very experienced lawmaker who will make a very good speaker but the fact that members believe that he is the party’s choice will lead to resistance.
“The three people who are contesting the Senate presidency are all APC members and whoever that emerges will be loyal to the party. It is the impression of an imposition that is a problem.”
Another former governor who is now a senator-elect from Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, reiterated his earlier position to contest as Senate president on the inauguration day if the APC leadership failed to zone the Deputy Senate President position to the South-East.
Kalu, an APC chieftain said, “I am a very loyal party member and since the APC has already zoned the position of the Senate president to the North-East, it is left for the senators from that zone to produce somebody.
“I cannot contest against such candidate because I would not want to disobey my party. However, what I am saying is that they should zone the Deputy Senate President position to the South-East so that I will not disobey the party by contesting the office of the Senate president which I have the capacity to contest.
“I am pleading with the National Working Committee and other APC leaders to save the party from any form of division. We should maintain the unity among us as loyal party members.
“The view expressed by Senator Kabiru Gaya that says that zones with the highest numbers of votes should produce the presiding officers is not fair and did not represent the position of the party leaders.”
Another senator elect from Akwa Ibom, Mrs Akon Etim Ejakenyi, said she would not mind a situation where the two presiding officers that would emerge in the Senate on the day of inauguration would be members of different parties.
She said, “We have been told that voting on that day would be by secret ballot and the exercise would be properly conducted. Every senator has the right to contest any position so far they are qualified. In the eighth National Assembly, the two parties are represented. The APC produced the Senate president while the position of the DSP was won by the PDP.
“I think it’s a good arrangement because it achieved balance in the country’s political equation. If the ninth National Assembly will do the same, I will strongly buy into it. So far, the final decision has not been taken on it.”
Also, a House of Representatives member-elect from Osun State, Taofeeq Ajilesoro, said that political parties were free to anoint any of their members to contest as a presiding officer. He, however, noted that members would elect the person that would protect their interest.
Ajilesoro said, “Political parties should not determine whoever that would be chosen as our officers. This is a matter of who is going to protect our interest.
“The National Assembly is supposed to be an independent arm of government, meant to check the executive. So, if the party is now giving us somebody that will be a rubber stamp, it means that whatever the executive brings will just be passed like that. So, what is the essence of being lawmakers?”
Amosun keeps mum on ex-govs plot
On his part, the Ogun State Governor, who is now a senator-elect, Ibikunle Amosun, on Monday declined comments when asked if it was true that serving and former governors who would be part of the ninth Senate were backing a candidate to be Senate president.
Amosun, who was granting an interview with journalists when the question was asked, abruptly ended the session by simply saying ‘no comment’and left.
He, however, earlier advised the executive and the legislative arms to work together without compromising the principle of separation of powers.
“I am ready to work with my colleagues all over Nigeria so that we can take our country to the next level,” he added.
Gbajabiamila’s camp lobbies PDP lawmakers
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila has intensified his campaign for the speakership of the ninth National Assembly.
A member of Gbajabiamila’s camp in the House told one of our correspondents that the plot by the opposition to cause conflicts in the APC caucus had been uncovered, leading to a counter-move by the speakership aspirant.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the game plan, disclosed that part of the tactics by the minority group was to sponsor various aspirants in the majority APC caucus to deplete the votes of Gbajabiamila at the speakership election.
No fewer than 170 lawmakers, including four co-aspirants and many PDP and opposition members had attended Gbajabiamila’s official declaration ceremony, where they pledged their support for his emergence as speaker.
Explaining the counter-plot, the source said, “Go and watch all those who are campaigning against Gbajabiamila, they are those who voted for Dogara in 2015 and they still belong to that camp. And they held a meeting where it was planned that all of them should crowd the race; that they should run, spend money, do everything and not step down; so that at the end of the day, they will split the APC votes and nominate a candidate favourable to the PDP.
“But not all the APC members will work for Gbajabiamila and not all the PDP lawmakers will work against him. Gbajabiamila is also poaching members of the opposition and he seems to be the aspirant with the biggest offer and most massive moves for now. This is because he seems to have a clear picture of where he is going, unlike other aspirants who are still waiting for the party’s zoning formula. And this is also because the deputy speakership will go to either the North-Central or the North-East.”
Already, 16 lawmakers had declared interest in the speakership and one eyeing the deputy speaker seat. However, four aspirants had stepped down for Gbajabiamila. They are now lobbying for positions of deputy speaker and the majority leader.
The source disclosed that three of the four aspirants who stepped down for Gbajabiamila were considering succeeding him as the Majority Leader. They are Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Kawu Sumaila and Mohammed Monguno.
Last week, a source in the camp of the Deputy Majority Leader and speakership aspirant, Mr Idris Wase (Plateau, North-Central), disclosed that some officials in the Presidency, governors and leaders of the APC had intervened in the struggle for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly.
The source said, “The position is that the speakership and deputy speakership positions are going to be zoned to the South-West and North-Central. That has been finalised. Femi and Wase are going to work together and form a pact, so that whatever is decided, both of them will agree.”
But a speakership aspirant from Niger State, Mr Umar Bago, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the zone would not accept a deputy speakership offer.
Asked if he would accept the offer as proposed at the meeting between governors and Wase at the Presidential Villa, Bago said, “No.”
He added, “If we have contributed like we have contributed to get the APC to where it is today – to secure a second term in government – that means we are not renegades in this arrangement. The reason is not far-fetched; we gave more votes than the South-West that has the Vice-President (Yemi Osinbajo) already. What is the rationale behind taking away what is due to our people? It is not about me, it is about my zone.