•Omo-Agege emerges deputy Senate president, Wase clinches deputy speakership
•Buhari, Saraki, govs, parties congratulate winners
•Oshiomhole: Defiant lawmakers will be penalised
Chuks Okocha, Deji Elumoye, Shola Oyeyipo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With their victories yesterday in the elections of presiding officers for the Ninth National Assembly, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, have vowed to put the bitterly-fought campaigns for the posts behind them and work towards uniting members of the two legislative chambers to present a united front in achieving their legislative agendas.
Sources close to the two principal officers told THISDAY yesterday, shortly after their elections, that their main priorities was to ensure that whatever ill-feelings that arose in the process of their emergence as presiding officers were assuaged so the legislature would present a united front and not be distracted by the kind of crises that bedevilled the Eighth National Assembly, whose presiding officers, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara whose emergence was tainted by accusation of perfidy against them.
Earlier in the day, Lawan had defeated his main challenger and a fellow All Progressives Congress (APC) member, Senator Ali Ndume by 79 votes to 28 to be elected the Senate president.
In the race for the Senate deputy presidency, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, also of the APC, polled 68 votes to defeat his predecessor, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 37votes.
In the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila of the APC, with 281 votes trounced his rival and party mate, Hon. Umar Bago, who scored a meager 76 votes.
However, in the deputy speakership election, Hon. Idris Wase emerged unopposed.
Lawan, Gbajabiamila and their deputies’ elections have elicited a wave of congratulatory messages from President Muhammadu Buhari, Saraki, governors, former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu as well as APC and PDP.
The road to victory began for Lawan when the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, read the proclamation letter from Buhari and informed the senators-elect that the open-secret voting method would be adopted for the election.
Some APC senators-elect, led by Barau Jibrin ( Kano North) protested.
They said: ” No! No!! No!!! Didn’t you receive court judgment,” in apparent reference to an Abuja High Court order that suspended the 2015 Standing Rules, which recommended open-secret ballot system be used for the election of Senate presiding officers.
But the CNA said ordinarily he would not have replied the question but he would do so out of courtesy.
“I also heard about the order but I have not been served so we will go according to the 2015 Standing Rules of the Senate which made provision for open-secret mode of voting,” he added.
The CNA directed the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, to take a headcount of the senators-elect present before proceeding for the election.
While Lawan was nominated by an APC senator-elect, a PDP senator-elect nominated Ndume for the Senate presidency.
At the close of voting, Lawan emerged winner with 79 votes as against 28 votes scored by Ndume.
For the deputy Senate presidency race, Omo-Agege polled 68 votes to beat Ekweremadu who polled 37 votes.
In his acceptance speech, Lawan said he would be fair to all his colleagues, irrespective political, ethnic or religious affiliation.
According to him, the Senate under his leadership will do justice to all, to ensure that it performs its role for the benefit of Nigerians.
He said: “Elections are over. It shows that we voted for a united Senate and it is clear that the outcome is bipartisan.
“All parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party(YPP), voted for me and with this outcome, the Ninth Senate is ready to take off as a united Senate.
“Today means so many things. It is the commencement of another decade of our democracy and we will work to ensure best global parliamentary practice among other things.”
Lawan said he would ensure a secured and prosperous future for all Nigerians, adding: “I’ll run a Senate that would be responsive to the needs of the masses on whose mandate we are at the Senate.”
He called for the support of his colleagues to ensure a robust Senate, saying that, “we will not settle for anything less than the best. We will dream big, aim high and take good initiatives.”
He said the Senate would work in collaboration with the executive, to tackle cattle rustling, kidnapping and other crimes.
Under his leadership, the legislature will also work towards finding lasting solutions to the educational challenges in the country.
He said it was embarrassing to have about 14 million children out of school.
On his part, Ndume congratulated Lawan on his victory, saying he is ready to support him.
He expressed his readiness to work with Lawan in the interest of the country.
Ndume described Lawan as a well-experienced lawmaker who was four years ahead of him, adding that he happily contested the election in tandem with the tenets of democracy.
He expressed hope that APC would not see his action as a rebellion, but as a step taken in deepening democracy.
“I hope the party would agree with me that what I did was in the interest of democracy and I do know that power belongs to God. It’s God’s will that my colleague becomes the president,” he said.
Ekweremadu, while also pledging his support to Lawan, said he contested for the Senate deputy presidency not to win but to prove a point.
“I believe there must be a referendum. Look at what happened on a day I was presiding and the chambers were invaded. It is embarrassing that someone who led that operation will take a bow and we all walk home like it does not matter. I wanted a situation where we could present a referendum in respect of what transpired.
“Early this morning, we were not minded to run for any office, we thought that our friends in APC would present a consensus candidate that we could all be proud of. We did not want a situation where we would say what happened here and then you come and endorse same person deputy president of the Senate. We need to exonerate ourselves. It was not a contest to win or lose, I wanted to make a point,” Ekweremadu said.
He later took to his social media handles after the inauguration of the Ninth Senate to congratulate Lawan and Omo-Agege on their elections.
Gbajabiamila Emerges Speaker
In the House of Representatives, it was a smooth transition for Gbajabiamila, who was the majority leader in the Eighth Assembly to become speaker of the extant legislature.
He was nominated by the Director-General, Gbajabiamila/Idris Wase Campaign Organisation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, representing the Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency while Hon. Linda Ikpeazu of the PDP seconded the nomination.
Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere I, Lagos State, polled 281 votes out of 358 cast by his colleagues to defeat his Bago, representing Chanchagi Federal Constituency, Niger State, who got meager 76.
Sani-Omolori who pronounced Gbajabiamila as the speaker-elect, said: “Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, having secured the highest number of votes over and above the required number of votes, has been returned as the speaker of the House.”
Wase, who also emerged deputy speaker was returned unopposed by members.
In his inaugural speech, Gbajabiamila said after the election, it was time to work in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
He assured his colleagues that his leadership would work with every member, irrespective of their party affiliation.
He said: “No greater honour can be done a man than to be elected by his peers as their leader and standard bearer. This is the honour you have given me today and from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.
“I understand that I hold this office in trust for you and Nigerians. Conscious of this sacred trust, I hereby dedicate myself to the service of this honourable House and of the good citizens of this great country, with the commitment that I shall at all times strive to defend the constitution of our republic.
“I equally commit myself to always observe the tenets of justice, equity and fairness in my dealings with my colleagues, and to apply the ideals of transparency, probity and accountability in my management of the affairs of this honourable House.
“The contest for the speakership of this Ninth Assembly is now over and it is time to move on. Our country is presently confronted with a myriad of problems and it is our responsibility as members of this institution to set aside political, ideological and other differences that may distract us from the assignment the Nigerian people have sent us here to perform.
“There is a lot more that unite us than divide us. There is much work to be done and we must now pull together, roll up our sleeves, settle down and attend to the peoples’ business.
“Whatever political party each one of us may belong, we must be conscious of the fact that Nigerians are truly desirous of good governance and are looking to us to be the agents that will through meaningful legislation combat security, poverty, corruption and other problems and contradictions that have held our country back and stunted our development.”
He immediately announced the appointment of a former Speaker of Zamfara State House of Assembly, Hon. Sanusi Rikiji, as his chief of staff.
Buhari Congratulates New Principal Officers
Congratulatory messages started pouring in for Lawan, Gbajabiamila and others immediately after their elections with the president, saluting their doggedness.
Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, also saluted all national legislators and their political parties for their display of patriotism and non-partisanship before and during the elections.
He commended the transparent and fair nature of the voting process, adjudging it as a plus for the democracy in the country.
Buhari described the emergence of the new leaders of the legislative branch of government as “a new dawn, different from duplicity and perfidy of the immediate past.”
He, however, charged the winners to use their exalted positions for the higher interest of the country, her people, and for the growth of democracy.
”The executive does not desire a rubber stamp legislature. While separation of powers is essential, collaboration among all arms of government should be the name of the game. Opposition need not be virulent,” he said.
The president urged contestants who lost out to be gallant in defeat and join hands with the victors who should exhibit magnanimity and eschew vindictiveness.
Saraki, Okowa, Sanwo-Olu Greet Lawan, Gbajabiamila
Also, Saraki, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and his Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, congratulated Lawan and Gbajabiamila on their elections as presiding officers.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki also congratulated Omo-Agege and Wase on their elections.
“As you set forth on your legislative endeavours in the next four years, I ask that you always put the Nigerian people first in all that you do and protect the integrity of the legislative institution,” he said.
On his part, Okowa, in a statement in Asaba, lauded the resilience and political sagacity of the newly-elected presiding officers.
He commended members of both chambers for their choice of leaders, noting that Nigerians are eagerly waiting for a vibrant and independent National Assembly to make good laws for the good governance, security and welfare of the people.
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gbenga Akosile, described Lawan’s and Gbajabiamila’s victories as results of focus, hard work, resilience and team spirit.
He said the keenly contested elections in both chambers of the National Assembly indicated the deepening democratic culture in Nigeria.
He urged the newly-elected principal officers to see their new positions as a heavy responsibility because according to him, “Leadership itself is responsibility’’.
APC: Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Others Emergence a Triumph of Democracy
The APC described the emergence of Lawan as the president of the Senate, Omo-Agege as Senate deputy president, Gbajabiamila as speaker and Wase as deputy speaker as a triumph of democracy over brazen anti-democratic forces in the opposition party.
The party, in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the landslide victory by APC candidates was a triumph of internal democracy, anchored on consensus building.
The ruling party said the support of the National Assembly would remain critical as an arm of government to enable the APC-led administration to continue to deliver on its current scheme of provision of infrastructure throughout the country to boost economic development; provide jobs to the citizenry; and to increase the tempo of social investments and empowerment of our people.
PDP Salutes New N’Assembly Leadership
The PDP National Working Committee (NWC) also congratulated the Ninth National Assembly for its successful inauguration.
The party, in a statement, commended all those who made the contest robust for helping to deepen democratic practice.
It said it would always stand on the side of decency and utmost respect for the institution of the National Assembly and the values Nigerians hold as a people.
“The Ninth National Assembly therefore must work hard to save our nation from the prevailing despondency caused by the misrule of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, by effectively applying its statutory legislative instruments to guarantee good governance and fiscal prudence, curb corruption, check the excesses of the executive and protect the rights of Nigerians from incessant violations,” PDP added.
Kalu Hail New Leadership
In his reaction to the emergence of new leadership for the legislature, Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr. Orji Kalu, congratulated Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Omo-Agege and Wase on their elections.
According to him, the new leadership of the National Assembly will develop and sustain a harmonious relationship with the executive and judiciary arms of government.
Kalu described the newly-elected officials as experienced parliamentarians with the capacity to drive the affairs of the national assembly.
Oshiomhole: APC Will Discipline Errant Lawmakers
Also yesterday, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiohmole, said his party would look into the activities of recalcitrant members of the National Assembly who contested against the party’s choices.
Oshiohmole told National Assembly correspondents after Gbajabiamila and Wase were elected that those who think something was wrong with the ruling party have been humbled by the victory of the party’s preferred candidates in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
“We have rules. We expect people to obey the rule and the rules of democracy are clear. When we have taken a position as a party, we expect party members to comply. We will look at the constitution and we will see what does it say about people who resort to deviant behaviors,” he added.
Why Ekweremadu Ran against Omo-Agege
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Ekweremadu decided at the last minute to run against Omo-Agege after the PDP gathered that the APC senator’s main challenger whom the opposition party senators-elect had decided to back, Senator Francis Alimikhena, might back out from the race.
The alternative became necessary when the party’s Senate caucus, having reached a decision not to vote Omo-Agege, for his alleged role in the theft of the Senate mace in the Eighth Assembly.
According to sources, it was to fill in the gap that Ekweremadu was mandated to run against Omo-Agege.