Forces Realign as Race for 9th Speakership Peaks


• Ahmed Bago may pair Nwajiuba
• Gbajabiamila considers Wase as deputy
• As PDP N’Assembly caucus fails to reach consensus
• Lawan, Ndume boast, confident of victory
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

Ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and the elections of the presiding officers for both the Senate and the House of Representatives, there is a new but stealthy realignment of forces, both for and against the candidates gunning for the different leadership positions.

Sources from the contending camps disclosed at the weekend that the realignment of candidates showed that Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Surulere, Lagos, might contest for the speakership of the House of Representatives with Hon. Idris Wase from Plateau State as his deputy.

In the same breath, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba from Imo state is likely to pair with Hon. Mohammed Bago from Niger State as speaker and deputy speaker for the next Tuesday elections of the presiding officers of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

Also, it is still being decided who between Nwajiuba and Bago should step down as the meeting of their realignment is yet to be sealed.

A meeting to decide between the two who becomes the speakership candidate has been scheduled for Sunday night in Abuja.

Nwajiuba is from the South-east geo-political zone, while Bago is from the North Central zone respectively.

In the senate, however, the struggle for senate presidency has been narrowed down to between Senator Ali Ndume and Ahmed Lawan, following the withdrawal of Senator Danjuma Goje from the race at the weekend, even as both Ndume and Lawan have continued to boast of sufficient supports from senators-elect, enough to see them through on Tuesday.

But the point of convergence in the House, it was learnt, was how to ensure equity and balance in the political equation amongst the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, a development said to be generating attention among members of House of Representatives ahead of the election.

According to some new members-elect, in a position made available to THISDAY, “We are operating on this platform to avoid any marginalisation of any zone and ensure inclusiveness to avoid tension in the House on the account of marginalization.

“All the candidates, who have presented themselves for election for either as speaker or as deputy speaker are all qualified, but we are looking at factors will help engender unity and avoid crisis within the parliament.

“This is where equity and justice come in. Gbajabiamila and the vice president are from the same zone. Whereas zones like the North Central and the South-east have nothing so far coming to them in this power equation.

“We expect our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to take the trajectory of power equation by ensuring that zones are represented and avoid accusation of marginalisation. We are meeting Saturday on this and our positions will be communicated to the leadership of the party”.

Consequently, there is palpable tension within the camps of the APC following allegations by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) that Gbajabiamila, who was positioned to clinch the seat had earlier been convicted for “willful dishonesty” by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia in the United States of America and that Doris Wase is also being accused of enriching himself while in office.

The CUPP, through its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere Imo, said in a press conference in Abuja that Hon. Gbajabiamila’s choice for speaker, was “morally, politically and constitutionally wrong”, because of allegations of conviction and perjury against him.

The CUPP spokesman also disclosed at the press briefing that the Action Peoples Party (APP) had commenced criminal proceedings against Gbajabiamila before Grade I Area Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Karshi.

Though Gbajabiamaila has since denied the allegations of dishonesty, insisting that he was not corrupt and has never been indicted of corrupt practices anywhere in the world, THISDAY gathered the CUPP allegations might have thrown spanners in the works for the APC choice candidate as some members of party are said to be weighing other options especially, with the consequences of electing someone with skeletons in his cupboard.

It was learnt that it was as a result of the allegations raised against Gbajabiamila that some chieftains of his party asked him to address a live world press conference to address issues raised against his person.

A member of APC, who spoke to reporters in confidence, as he was not authorised to speak, said, “We don’t want to support any candidate, who is said not to be clean or has some dirty skeleton in his cupboard. We recall the case of former Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1999, Salisu Buari, who was forced to resign his seat as speaker and member of the House of Representatives, because of certificate forgery, claiming that he went to university of Toronto in Canada.

“Any candidate with baggage will certainly not command respect among his colleagues and such a person will easily be tossed around because of his past encumbrances.

“Also bearing in mind that in this dispensation, the southeast has elected members of the House of Representatives, unlike in 2015, when there was no Member of House of Representatives from the Southeast”, the APC chieftain said.

Already, there are two members of the House of Representatives from the southeast in the race.

They are Nkeiru Onyejiocha and Emeka Nwajuiba. Nwajiuba, who is the current chairman of Tertfund and a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, stepped up his campaign for the House speakership last night with presentations before APC members elect and those of other political parties.

Group Champions South-east Speakership

The South-east Equity Alliance headed by a former commissioner in Imo State, Dr. Orikeze Ajumbe and the Chuba Okadigbo Rainbow Organisation led by Dr. James Okoroma, have joined the campaign for the emergence of Hon. Nwajiuba as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a statement issued in Abuja, the National Chairman of the Chuba Okadigbo Rainbow Organization, Okoroma said Nwajiuba’s election as speaker would give the South-east, a sense of belonging in the country.

He said any arrangement in the National Assembly that excludes the South-east would generate perceived marginalization of the Igbo and therefore appealed to the National leadership of APC led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to balance the polity by ensuring that all ethnic nationalities are represented in the sharing of leadership positions to curb restiveness.

He added that since the Southwest has produced the vice president, the South-east should also be allowed to produce the speaker for fairness and balance.

He further expressed the view that the race for the speakership should be left to the South-East and the North-Central, which appear short-changed now at the topmost level of the nation’s political leadership.

But newly elected members of the House of Representatives under the auspices of Forum of First Term Members-elect announced their endorsement of Gbajabiamila and Wase.

The group, which comprises 183 members drawn from various political parties, announced their support for the APC preferred candidate Saturday at an event held at the Chelsea Hotel, Abuja.

The Coordinator, Hon Olubunmi Tunjl-Ojo told journalists that the decision to throw their weight behind Gbajabiamila was as a result of experience and the widespread support he enjoys among old and new members.

This however prompted Gbajabiamila to assure the elected lawmakers that if he emerged Speaker, he would ensure a cordial working relationship between the legislature and the executive arm of the government and avoid the stagnation witnessed in the 8th assembly.

Similarly, the odds seem to favour Senator Ovie Omo Agege to emerge the deputy senate president of the 9th Senate. He is from the South-south zone.

THISDAY gathered that he appears the preferred candidate for the balancing of geo-political interests. His closest contender is former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who won the senatorial election on the platform of APC.

PDP N’Assembly Caucus Fail to Reach Consensus

Indications that senators and House of Representatives memberts-elect on platform of the PDP did not reach a consensus for a block vote for any of the candidates aspiring to become a presiding officer in the 9th National Assembly came to the fore, when they walked out of a recent meeting designed to reach a consensus.

No communique was however issued at the end as the meeting ended abruptly.

At the meeting, which took place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, not one of the PDP senators-elect for the 9th Assembly attended the meeting, while only the immediate past Minority leader in the 8th House of Representatives, Leo Ogor, attended.

Leader of the party in the 8th Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who heads the PDP National Assembly caucus, was absent at the meeting.

Before the meeting, however, five returning senators-elect: Peter Nwaoboshi from Delta state, Clifford Ordia and Mathew Origheade both Edo State and Abba Moro from Benue State have already endorsed the candidacy of Ahmed Lawan for senate presidency.

Outside the Lagos hall venue of the meeting, a majority of the House of Representatives members in attendance were heard asking their colleagues that they should vote their conscience.

While others were seen asking others to go on individual negotiations as some of them were already committed on whom they would vote for on the Tuesday, June 11, when the legislature would be inaugurated and the election of principal officers held.

Leo Ogor was later seen leaving the venue of the meeting at exactly 20.40 after failing to convince the lawmakers on the agenda of the meeting.

Some of the members-elect from North Central and South-east were seen canvassing for support for either Nwajiuba or Bago.

According to them, they wondered how two zones of southeast and North Central should be left out in the sharing of political offices.

But to further show strength, Senator Lawan’s camp might today openly display the list of all the senators supporting the candidacy of their candidate for Senate Presidency.

Lawan: I’ve Support of 60 APC, 38 PDP Senators-elect

Former Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, has said 38 out of the 44 Senators-elect of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are backing his ambition to become the Ninth Senate President.

Lawan, who made the disclosure at his public endorsement by 60 All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators-elect in Abuja, declared that most of the PDP Senators were working for his emergence as the presiding officer of the Ninth Senate.

“Let me start by paying tribute to very distinguished PDP senators, who have identified with us. Many of them are working for us. It was a conscious decision not to have their signatures for endorsement in this paper.

“Theirs is a sacrifice recognised by all of us. And I can tell you that out of the 44 PDP (senators-elect), we cannot have less than 38 senators-elect supporting us. And we are looking forward to a time that we will all sit like this with everyone”.

For his colleagues in the APC, the Senator emphasised that his endorsement was the first time legislators of a particular political party “would come together in this unanimous way to endorse a candidate for the office of a Presiding Officer.

“Out of the 62 with returned certificates in APC, 60 have signed here. But you know we will love to have the 62 sign. We are a family. And we will not get tired of talking to people because we want to get there united, focused and perform for the sake of our people. We are not prepared to go and start fighting amongst ourselves. We will do everything possible to bring everybody on board, because we don’t want distraction”.

According to him, Nigeria needs a legislature that would do its work of representing the people of the country “and ensuring that we address those issues that are agitating the minds of Nigerians as to do otherwise will be to fail and we are not prepared to fail”.

Lawan said his endorsement by his colleagues spoke volumes and showed that he was not imposed on the lawmakers.

Said he: “The trouble we have gone through tells a story that we are not an imposition, because everybody here wrote his or her name and signed. We have been working extremely hard, talking to each and every senator-elect to say this is who we are”.

Speaking earlier, Secretary of the Ahmad Lawan for 9th Senate President, Senator Barau Jubrin (Kano North) had read out the names of the 60 APC Senators-elect that endorsed Lawan as contained in six pages personally signed by the lawmakers with red biro.

The list include Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central), Barau Jibrin (Kano North), Francis Alimikhena (Edo North), Solomon Adeola (Lagos West), Aliyu Abdullahi (Niger North), Olubunmi Adetumbi (Ekiti North), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East), Robert Borrofice (Ondo North), Sadiq Umar (Kwara North), Yakubu seni (Kogi Central), Adelere Orilowo (Osun West), Biobarakuma Degi-Eremenyo (Bayelsa East), Bulus Amos (Gombe South), Hezekiah Dimka (Plateau Central), Ignatius Longstan (Plateau South), Halliru Jika (Bauchi Central), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), Ajibola Basiru (Osun Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) and Umaru Al-Makura (Nasarawa South).

Also on the list are Senators Danladi Sankara (Jigawa NorthWest), Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia (Jigawa North East), Kashim Shettima (Borno Central), Sabo Mohammed (Jigawa South-West), Godiya Akwashuki (Nasarawa North), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central), Buhari Abdulfatai (Oyo North), Adedayo Adeyeye (Ekiti South), Bello Mandiya (Katsina South), Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Kebbi South), Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (Taraba Central), Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), David Umaru (Niger East, Isah Jibrin (Kogi East), Suleiman Abdu Kwari (Kaduna North), Ashiru Yisa (Kwara South), Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe East), Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto North).

Others are Senators Lawal Yahaya (Bauchi South), A.M. Bulkachuwa (Bauchi North), Ashiru Ahmed (Adamawa Central), Michael Bamidele (Ekiti Central), Olalekan Mustapha (Ogun East), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun Central), Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Teslim Folarin (Oyo Central), Uba Sani (Kaduna Central), Abubakar Shehu (Sokoto South), Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun West), Orji Uzor-Kalu (Abia North), Kabir Barkiya (Katsina Central), Bima Muhammad Enagi (Niger South), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano Central), Ibrahim Oloriegbe (Lagos East), Osinowo Adebayo (Lagos East), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Saidu Alkali (Gombe North), Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North).

Ndume: I Do My Numbering Not by Publishing Names

Another major contender to the office of the Senate President, Senator Ali Ndume has said his ambition would translate into votes on Tuesday when his colleagues would elect him, saying he had done his numbering too but not by publishing names fdor the optics.

Reacting to Lawan’s alleged endorsement, Ndume told reporters yesterday evening that he was not looking for endorsement but votes of his colleagues.

“I do my numbering too but not by publishing my colleagues’ names. I am not looking for endorsement but looking for votes on election day. You know clearly that there is the difference between endorsement and election.

“You would recall too that in 2015 that story of endorsement was canvassed. He has the endorsement but what happened on the floor of the Senate was different. This kind of thing has been there all along. We have seen endorsements against several elections.

“I believe that my colleagues shall vote according to their conscience and they shall vote for a candidate that is more suitable for the position of the Senate President.

“I am not bothered about endorsement rather, I am more worried about the election. I shall go into the election on Tuesday and it shall have two sides which is either one loses or wins,” Ndume further said.