Senate Leadership: APC to Agree on Zoning Next Week

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House members await party’s decision

Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to meet in Abuja next week to agree on a zoning formula for the six presiding and principal officers of the Senate ahead of its inauguration in June.

This is coming as some APC ranking members in the House of Representatives have claimed that they are looking up to the party for guidance in evolving a new leadership for the 9th House.

The APC won 65 senatorial seats as against 40 seats secured by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 National Assembly polls as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

One ranking APC Senator and a senator-elect in separate interviews told THISDAY that the APC leadership would convene a meeting of stakeholders, including the senators-elect early next week to agree on how the presiding and principal offices will be shared among the senators from the six geo-political zones.

The offices include two presiding officers namely Senate President and Deputy Senate President, while the four principal officers are Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Senate Chief Whip and Senate Deputy Whip.

The two senators emphasised that the meeting was shifted from this week to next week to allow all the senators-elect be part of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections in their various states and ensure victory for the ruling party.

The duo expressed confidence that the proposed meeting will be able to address the issue once and for all so that the party can forge ahead in its drive to provide purposeful leadership at the legislative arm of government in the 9th National Assembly billed for inauguration in June.

According to the senator-elect from South-west “there is no problem about the issue as the party leadership is handling the matter and will meet with us next week; although there had been meetings of various groups among the senators-elect since last week but the major meeting will be that of next week”.0

THISDAY however gathered that APC leadership may likely zone the Senate Presidency to the North-east due to the party’s inability to produce a ranking senator from the South-east, which was initially favoured to clinch the position.

Sources further said that the South-west is also being considered in the event that the idea of the coveted seat going to North-east zone did not get the endorsement of all stakeholders.

The office of Deputy Senate President, it was learnt, may go to the South-south zone and two ranking Senators- Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta North) and Senate Deputy Whip, Francis Alimhekena (Edo North) are highly favoured and are reported to have started reaching out to their colleagues in this regard.

This much was corroborated by Mr. Benjamin Atu, the Special Assistant to Senator Alimhekena, who confirmed his principal’s ambition but said he was not desperate about it.

Atu described Senator Alimhekena as a loyal party man that is not desperate for power who will wait for the party to zone the offices “but that does not mean he does not desire to be Deputy Senate President”.

Some re-elected APC members of the House of Representatives emphasised that the party will have the majority seats in the 9th House with the results announced so far by INEC.

They therefore submitted that the leadership of the party will properly guide the House in the election of the presiding and principal officers.

On his part, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas representing Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo federal constituency of Adamawa State, said the APC has a full grip on who the next Speaker will be, adding that the members are all willing to abide by any position taken by the party.

According to him, “In the ninth assembly, we are loyal party members; whatever the party decides that is what we are going to do.

“But every zone is lobbying to have the speakership. We are making our cases. For example, we feel that the North-east is the most impoverished. We have only had the speakership for four years and we want to have it for eight years so that we can consolidate.”

Speaking on the qualities expected of the next Speaker, Namdas who emphasised that “already you are talking to a candidate,” noted that “I am also aspiring from North-east zone. We need a speaker who is a party person, who has the experience and the ability to carry everybody along. But more importantly, the Speaker must be somebody that will listen to the party and I am a good listener

“We are in an era of party discipline and we cannot afford to have a Speaker that the party will not be sure of his position, and whatever happens, we must pick somebody who has the party at heart and is loyal to the party. Issue of the National Assembly is a technical matter so the Speaker must also have the ability to preside over the House.”

On the possibility of opposition PDP breaking the APC rank, he said: “I don’t think so. When the inconclusive elections are concluded, I assure you the APC will have up to 230 or 240 of the 360. I think we are 220 now and there are inconclusive elections everywhere. So, I don’t think another party will compete for the speakership. The only thing is that whoever they support, it can increase the number of votes, but not enough to upstage the APC.

“Though their number is important, you cannot say they do have the numbers in terms of forming leadership APC has clear majority.”

He said his election as Speaker will bring in vibrancy while he”ll key into the programmes of the federal government and across party lines to ensure that Nigerians feel better impacts of the legislative assembly.

Also speaking, Hon. Nicholas Ossai, representing Ndokwa/Ukwani federal constituency of Delta State, is optimistic that the South-south and the South-east have competent lawmakers who are capable of holding the position.

According to him, though “INEC has not released the entire strength of each party, when they release the entire strength of each party we would know how it goes and look at what it takes. We have still experienced hands from the South-east and the South-south in the APC and PDP on both sides.

“At least, Nkiru Onyejeosha is from Abia State and she won under APC and also we still have some old members from Imo State coming under APC. We still have some old hands coming from APC Edo State and some South-south states have APC, PDP; experienced people. I think the position should be well distributed.”

Asked if he thinks the South-south and South-east stand good chance to clinch the speakership seat, Ossai said: “Of course. We are going to look at it in view of our strength and be able to know whether it might come to the South-south based on competence”.