By Segun James
As the ninth National Assembly begins to take shape with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) making returns in over 95 per cent of the country’s senatorial districts and federal constituencies, the lobby for the leadership of the federal legislature has become more intense, THISDAY has learnt.
Understandable, the battle has been within the All Progressives Congress (APC) that has majority of members in both chambers of the National Assembly, and intent on avoiding its mistake that led to leadership crisis in the eight National Assembly, the party hierarchy is said to be putting its heads together to select its choice of candidates for leadership positions in the federal legislature.
Several meetings, according to THISDAY sources, have been held in the nation’s capital city of Abuja to get the APC hierarchy to zero in on trusted legislators it feels would make the job of President Muhammadu Buhari, who now has a second term of four years, easier.
Already many aspirants have shown up with the North having a larger quantum than the South, raising fears that with its numerical strength it might take most of the leadership positions.
In the prevailing eight assembly, both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are from the North in spite of the fact that the president is from the geo-political divide of the country.
The situation, said APC party watchers, arose largely as a result of the failure of its leaders to act promptly in allotting the positions to the various zones.
That, explained an analyst, was also due to the fact that the party’s constitution, unlike the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), does not recognise zoning of political offices even when its leaders apply the principle in practice.
“Our leaders are determined to correct this and are working on it,” a senior official of the APC told THISDAY yesterday, saying the growing consensus is that the Senate president should come from the North, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives should emerge from the South.
Accordingly, he said, the growing plan is to allot the position of deputy president of the Senate to the South, while the deputy speaker post would move up North.
According to the reliable source, the thinking of the party leadership is that the since the president is from the North-west, the Senate presidency should go to the North-east. The deputy Senate presidency, he added, is being contemplated for either the South-east or the South-south.
The source explained that the South-west is being tipped for the Speakership, while the North-central might get the deputy speaker slot.
Although the presidency had said last week that Buhari would not interfere with the choice of the leadership of the federal legislature, the source said that is improbable as the president’s handlers have told him that the source of the hostility towards him by the current National Assembly was because he was not firm during the choice of its leadership.
“I think this time around, he is conscious of the need to make input and work for the emergence of the leadership of the legislature.”
Multiple presidency sources told THISDAY at the weekend that presidential foot soldiers have gone to work, using trusted newly elected legislators to identify and push its preferred candidates.
He hinted that for the position of Senate president, the current Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, was being tipped and might emerge as the preferred candidate of the party. He said the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, is also looking good as the party’s preferred candidate for the slot.
According to the sources, the main argument for the choice of the duo is their ranking status. Both have been in the National Assembly since 1999.
“Both of them having held leadership positions in the assembly and having demonstrated loyalty to the party, are found to be more suitable if the party is to avoid the stress of the last three and a half years plus,” an impeccable party source told THISDAY.
However, other legislator with strong links to the party leadership’s ambition is said to be threatening the zoning formulae. Mention is made of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the party’s National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, whose ambition to become the deputy president of the Senate might truncate the calculation of the party to yield the speakership to the South-west.
“The South-west cannot pick up both positions,” a source said, adding that this is a real problem given the influence of the Tinubu in the party.