- To zone remaining offices before inauguration
By Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed satisfaction with the level of support for its official candidates for the ninth Senate president and House of Representatives speaker, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila respectively, revealing that the remaining leadership positions would soon be zoned.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu, told THISDAY yesterday that the APC had done the needful and was satisfied with the support for its candidates from its members.
“The fact remains that we have mobilized our members and we have told our members the party’s position and they are complying with it. We are satisfied with the support we have got so far,” he said.
He said the APC was still consulting and would announce the zoning of the remaining leadership positions for ninth National Assembly, before its inauguration in June.
The party dismissed speculations about moves by certain elements in the northern part of the country to go against the APC’s choice, saying there is no cause for alarm.
Some of the party’s bigwigs from the northern part of the country were said to have developed cold feet in supporting the two lawmakers already endorsed by the party.
They were said to have become apprehensive following their findings that both Lawan and Gbajabiamila might be linked to the national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, and that such affinity would give the former Lagos State governor undue influence over the party if allowed to stand.
Also those opposed to the growing influence of Tinubu are said to be worried that the eventual emergence of Lawan and Gbajabiamila as Senate president and speaker would increase Tinubu’s grip on the party and may pave the way for his easy push to pick the ticket of the APC for 2023 presidency.
It was learnt that the brewing crisis of confidence had led to the regrouping of some northern stakeholders to possibly anoint alternative candidates that would square up against the ones endorsed by the APC.
THISDAY gathered that the party is presently at the risk of losing the fragile solidarity it gained after emerging victorious at the last presidential election if the situation is not arrested urgently.
As part of the moves to stir the party away from crisis, it was learnt that some of the concerned leaders are trying to arrange a peace meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari where issues could be sorted out before it becomes late.
One of the contenders for the Senate presidency position and the former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, has continued his campaign tour across the country to solicit support from his colleagues for his ambition.
Ndume had insisted that the APC national leadership has not asked him to step down from the race and as such he would go ahead and present himself for the coveted post.
However, when asked about the feeling of the party on the actions of some of its members-elect, who have continued to disregard the warning not to contest against APC’s favoured candidates, Onilu said he would not want to take issues with any of the members.
Onilu said: “The party has made its position clear and the president has also stated his position regarding the issues very clearly; and I don’t think I should say more than that.”
On what the party intends to do to the remaining leadership positions in the National Assembly Onilu said: “They will be taken care of before the inauguration.”
THISDAY had earlier reported that the ruling party was planning to use the remaining National Assembly leadership positions as carrots to negotiate and to placate those of its stakeholders currently kicking against the APC’s zoning arrangement.
The remaining positions are, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Majority Leader in both legislative chambers, Chief Whip of the two chambers as well their deputies.
Lawan: I’m Sure of PDP Senators-elect’s Support
Meanwhile, Lawan has expressed optimism about the unflinching support of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators- elect towards his ambition to become Senate president.
This is coming just as former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, who is also an aspirant for the 9th Senate Presidency, asked the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to have a rethink about the adoption of a particular candidate for Senate president.
The two ranking Senators spoke to THISDAY in separate telephone interviews yesterday evening.
Lawan stated that he had engaged the PDP senators-elect about his ambition and from their responses they would key into the project.
His words: “We continue to talk to our colleagues in the PDP and this has resulted in some PDP senators-elect visiting our campaign office in Abuja to show their solidarity and be part of the Lawan for Ninth Senate President campaign train.”
He said although the consultations and campaigns in the last few weeks had been very engaging, he would continue to talk to all stakeholders especially the senators-elect about the need to have a vibrant leadership in the ninth assembly.
“The vibrancy is what I represent and we have continued to make additional efforts towards talking to people again and again without leaving out anybody as we cannot afford to take any senator-elect for granted,” he said.
This, he further said, has informed his reaching out to the lawmakers on the need for them to elect him as Senate president when the ninth National Assembly is inaugurated in June.
Lawan reiterated his readiness to chart a harmonious working relationship with the executive if he becomes the Senate president “without necessarily making the legislature a rubber stamp of the presidency and we’ll carry out our oversight functions without fear or favour.”
He stressed that as part of his engaging the public about his mission and vision, his media campaign via visit to media houses in Lagos and Abuja will continue this week.
He said: “Last week we embarked on visits to media houses over this our project and we hope to continue this week so as to engage the public by letting them know what we have to offer to take the Senate and by extension the ninth National Assembly to the next level.”
Lawan, who expressed happiness with the way stakeholders had so far responded to his ambition declared: “I earnestly look forward to the day of inauguration of the ninth assembly in June.”
APC Should Revisit Endorsement, Ndume Urges
On his part, Ndume said there is the need for APC to take another look at the adoption of a particular senator by the party for Senate president.
He said this is the only way for the party to carry along all senators-elect of the ruling party in the emergence of the leadership of the next Senate.
According to him, the ideal thing is for the party to allow all senators-elect from the North-east that the position is zoned to agree among them on who to field.
“The party should just allow we the APC senators-elect from the North-east to sit down and do shadow election to choose who should be our candidate for Senate president after which we can now tell the party who our choice candidate is. So, the party should look at the issue again and I believe there is still enough time to do this,” he said.
He said the same shadow election was used in June, 2015 before his emergence then as Senate leader.
Ndume said: “Before the inauguration of the 8th Senate in June, 2015, the party gave the North-east the office of Senate Leader and we were allowed to choose among ourselves and even when senators Goje, Binta and Bayero were interested in vying I was able to convince them and they all settled for me as Senate leader.
“This is the kind of shadow election we should have for the office of the ninth Senate president. What we are saying is that the decision of the party did not go down well with us in the North-east and should be revisited forthwith.”
Ndume, who is Chairman of Senate Committee on Establishment, reiterated that the preamble and Article 2 of APC constitution as well as Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) frowns at the imposition of any candidate for any election.
He emphasised that if the party fails to rescind its decision on the adoption of a candidate which he described as unfortunate and illegal, he would have no choice but to stand for election as Senate president because he has the constitutional right to do so.
According to him, “God is my strength and has been good to me. I’m a son of nobody who became somebody and the good Lord will not allow this imposition by the party to come to fruition.”