•APC charges lawmakers-elect to ensure victory in Saturday’s elections
•We hope to win minimum of 30 states, says Senator Musa
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stepped into the simmering issue of the prospective leadership of the 10th National Assembly, saying he has no preferred candidates for the leadership of the federal legislature to be inaugurated in June. Tinubu made this known at the Old Banquet Hall of the State House, while addressing new members-elect to the National Assembly at a meeting organised by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The president-elect’s position on the composition of the leadership of the soon-to-be composed 10th National Assembly was delivered at the meeting by Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima.
Although there were speculations ahead of the meeting that it was convened by the ruling party to sort out the likely distribution of leadership offices in the two chambers of the National Assembly, to avert a repeat of the 2015 scenario in which the party lost control of the affairs within the chambers, despite having the most seats in both houses.
The meeting chaired by the party’s chairman, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, was exclusive, as journalists were not allowed inside.
But one of the elected members of the House of Representatives, Festus Adefiranye of Ileoluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo Federal Constituency of Ondo State, confirmed that Tinubu’s speech was read by Shettima.
He said Tinubu urged the lawmakers-elect to network among themselves to agree on the emergence of a leadership that would be agreeable to them. He added that Tinubu said whomever they came up with would be presented to the party leadership, which would ensure that such complies with the principle of justice, balance and equity, in line with the zoning arrangement of the party.
On why the president-elect was absent at the meeting, another member-elect of the House of Representatives from Ilaje/Ese Odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State, Donald Ojogo, said Tinubu was busy working in Lagos ahead of the March 18 governorship and state assembly elections in the state.
Ojogo said Tinubu also charged the lawmakers-elect to return to their constituencies to work at the grassroots to ensure victory for the party this weekend.
The meeting, which held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, had in attendance, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, and other national executive members of the ruling party.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, the member-elect for Bungudu/Maru Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, Hon Abdulmalik Bungudu, said the issue of who would take office in the 10th National Assembly was not Tinubu’s priority for now.
Bungudu said the message delivered by Shettima, on behalf of the president-elect, was aimed at spurring members-elect to focus on the upcoming governorship and state legislative elections.
Bungudu stated regarding Tinubu, “For now, he said he doesn’t have anybody that he prefers to have as Senate President or Speaker, but consultations are going to continue to get the way out for the party and to also ensure the party emerges victorious in the forthcoming governorship and Houses of Assembly elections.”
But some of the senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, disclosed that APC’s message to them had nothing to do with choices for leadership positions in the in-coming National Assembly.
Aside agreeing that the issue of zoning of leadership positions in the National Assembly was not a point of discussion at the meeting, the members-elect, who turned up in an their number, confirmed that the focus of the meeting was on next Saturday’s governorship and state legislative elections.
Four of the members-elect, who spoke with newsmen, including Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume; Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Sani Musa; and the member-elect for Kaura Namoda/Birnin Magaji Federal Constituency, Aliyu Sani Jaji, all said the focus was next Saturday’s elections.
According to Gbajabiamila, “The meeting was to bring members-elect, both Senate and the House, together to assure members that in spite of all the odds against the party, we were able to overcome and we were able to congratulate everybody.
“On the issue on zoning, we did not talk about it because we’re not there yet. We have an election coming up this weekend. And we needed to make sure that everybody goes back home, roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty. We’re not there yet so we need to compel the victory before we start talking about the leadership of the national assembly. The reason we didn’t discuss zoning is because we all agreed to tarry for a while until we finish the elections.”
On the rumour surrounding him being considered for the office of Chief of Staff, Gbajabiamila said, “I don’t know anything about that Chief of Staff thing. All I heard was that I didn’t come here last week to pick up my certificate and for that reason, somebody conjectured that I must be in line for the office, because I didn’t care about my mandate.
“I was in Lagos and I could not leave Lagos because I was campaigning for my party. That’s number one. Again, it’ll interest you to know that I was not here four years ago to pick up my certificate, because I couldn’t make it. I don’t think it is anything significant. I’ll pick up my certificate today or tomorrow.”
Ndume, a former Senate Leader, said, “The meeting ended up well. That is what we are expecting from the party. We did an assessment of our performance and also go back home to ensure that we take the victory to the end. Nigerians have spoken and decided to elect APC and we have some ups and downs as usual in every electoral process.
“The party appealed to National Assembly members-elect to play down the leadership issues and focus more on ensuring that we take the election battle to the end and that is to ensure that we win our states. So the party has charged us and agreed that interactions like these should be frequent to allow us go in the same direction to avoid bad experiences of 2015 and 2019.
“The issues of zoning did not come up. The Nigerian government now is going to be the National Assembly government, because the president, vice president, party chairman, and secretary are all senators. So, we are going to have a rancour-free relationship.
“What we agreed is the members of the National Assembly should produce their leadership, based on who they think is the best and also considering the issues at stake and putting in place justice, fairness and equity. The president-elect will at the appropriate time take his decision.”
Senator Mohammed Sani Musa said, “This is a family affair meeting and it went very well. The national chairman and the vice president-elect welcomed all elected National Assembly members and we appreciated the thoughts they have given us, that we should all go back to our various states to make sure that come March 18, we are able to present our governorship candidates to the people so that on that day, they will emerge victorious.
“It is a family affair. This is not the right time to talk about zoning. All we need now is to consolidate our victory. We have won the presidential and we should be able to take at least a minimum of 30 states.
“After the governorship election, we are going to gather again and by then we’ll take stock of what we have achieved and then the zoning system that the party wants to adopt will be given us. The party agrees that all members will agree with what the party decides.”