- Begins consultations on new zoning plan
By Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
A week after the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) secured majority seats at the National Assembly, the party is in a dilemma as to which geo-political zone to back for the office of the Senate President, ahead of the inauguration of the 9th Senate in June.
THISDAY gathered last night that the leadership of the party has commenced considerations for a new zoning arrangement that will guide its members in electing the leadership of the apex legislative arm of government.
APC won 65 Senate seats out of the National Assembly election results declared so far by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the opposition Peoples Democratic (PDP) winning 40 seats and Young People’s Party (YPP) one seat while four senatorial seats election that were declared inconclusive by the electoral body will be concluded this Saturday.
However, multiple sources confirmed to THISDAY yesterday that APC, which won a clear majority seats in the 109-member senate appears to be in a dilemma over which among the ranking senators should be nominated for the coveted office of the Senate President.
With the President and Vice President coming from the North-west and South-west respectively, the South-east would have been favoured to produce the next Senate President but the two APC Senators-elect from the zone – Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo North) are fresh senators and may not be eligible to vie for the position, going by the rules of the Senate.
Another Senator from the zone, Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC Imo North), who is seeking re-election, did not win during the February 23 election as INEC declared the senatorial election inconclusive but the election will be concluded on March 9.
If he wins as a second time Senator, Uwajumogu stands a chance of being considered for the Senate President by the party leadership and the senators.
Although the APC leadership has not come up with a zoning formula to guide the election of the presiding and principal officers of the 9th Senate, there are however indications that some senators are already being prodded for the positions, especially the Senate President.
The ranking Senators being considered include Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North); former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South); Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje(Gombe Central), and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West).
These four Senators have started networking with their re-elected colleagues and senators-elect with a view to sensitising them ahead of their inauguration in June.
There are, however, some Senators who believe that since the President is from the North-west, it will be ideal to pick the next Senate President from the South-west and not the North-east, where Lawan, Ndume and Gombe hail from.
Sources named some ranking APC Senators from the South-west that are being considered for Senate President to include Teslim Folarin (Oyo Central), who is returning to the senate for the third time having been in the fifth and sixth senate and at a time was the Senate Leader.
Also being considered is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who is also returning to the Senate for the third time although the tide may turn against her because she is the wife of the National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Another ranking Senator Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North) is also being considered.
He has been in the Senate since 2011 and was a former senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan.
It was further gathered at the weekend that the 40 PDP Senators that will form part of the 9th Senate are already considering the possibility of the Senate President coming from the South.
Some of the re-elected PDP Senators were said to have impressed it on their colleagues at an informal meeting weekend the need for the next Senate President to come from the South.
THISDAY learnt that the ranking PDP Senators have started reaching out to their colleagues on the matter and may not hesitate to replicate what happened at the take-off of the 8th senate in June, 2015 when the 9th senate is inaugurated in June.
It will be recalled that the PDP senators ganged up against the choice of Lawan as Senate President and voted for Dr. Bukola Saraki, then an APC senator as president of the 8th Senate on June 9, 2015.
Sources further told THISDAY that the leadership of the APC may meet in the next few days to take a definite stand on the matter although the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, last Tuesday met with some APC Senators at his Aso drive, Abuja residence.
One Senator that attended the meeting that lasted till 2 a.m., confided in THISDAY that the issue was raised by Oshiomhole who stressed the need for the party to have a unity of purpose and not repeat the mistakes of the past apparently referring to what played out at the inauguration of the 8th Senate in June, 2015
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the top leadership echelon of the party is currently consulting on the issue, preparatory to setting up of a committee.
A chieftain of APC revealed to THISDAY yesterday that the next meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party will be devoted to fashioning ways of handling the issue.
Although there has not been any formal meeting held to discuss the issue of zoning, the matter is being considered as the next major challenge the party may have to face after the victory at the presidential and National Assembly polls.
According to the source, the party wants to wait for the conclusion of the next Saturday’s governorship and state Assembly elections before taking a final decision.
APC won majority seats in the National Assembly in 2015, but the party allowed the simple issue of election of principal officers to degenerate into crisis due to indecision and poor judgment.
Another senior decision-maker in the APC, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY that the outcome of last the Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly poll has already altered the existing zoning equation.
For instance, he said that the South-east has now produced senators and House of Representatives for APC, which puts the zone in serious contention for the position of senate president or deputy senate president.
“We are yet to take a decision on the zoning formula but the matter will definitely form the agenda of the next meeting of the NWC after the governorship election. The party will definitely review the zoning arrangement to accommodate new realities,” he said.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Yekini Nabena had urged the party leadership to urgently put in place an inclusive and fair internal zoning/selection arrangement to enable the APC caucus produce all its preferred principal officers for the incoming Senate and House of Representatives.
Nabena who spoke to journalists at the weekend cautioned that in order to avoid a repeat of the political crisis that followed the election of the National Assembly leadership in 2015, the party should urgently put in place an inclusive and fair internal zoning/selection arrangement to enable the APC caucus produce all its preferred principal officers for the incoming Senate and House of Representatives.,