Senate Presidency: APC Chieftain  Makes Case for South-south

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Vice Chairman, North-west, Dr. Salihu Lukman, has said that the ruling party should compensate the South-south for giving more votes to the party compared to the South-east by zoning the position of Senate president to the region.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday titled, ‘APC and Tasks of Negotiating 10th National Assembly Leadership’, warned that unregulated contest for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly could produce another Muslim as Senate President.

The party chieftain recalled that at the time of inaugurating the 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC was unable to regulate the conduct of elected party members in the National Assembly, notably Sen. Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara who respectively emerged as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Lukman noted that their emergence as leaders of the 8th National Assembly was in defiance against the preference of APC’s leadership for Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for the position of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

However, he said  this situation was corrected in 2019 and a wider consultative process involving both the NWC, elected members of the two chambers of the National Assembly and other party leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari was initiated by Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, saying this accounted for the successful emergence of Lawan and Gbajabiamila-led 9th National Assembly.

Lukman said: “As a party, it would seem that APC has relapsed back to the 2015 mode of allowing elected National Assembly members to proceed with the business of constituting the leadership of the 10th National Assembly in an unregulated manner. This is very risky, not just for APC but for the country.

“Given that as a party, we contested the 2023 elections with a Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Sen. Kashim Shettima, unregulated contest for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly could produce another Muslim as Senate President. In fact, there is also the high probability that a Muslim could also emerge as Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.”

Lukman pointed out that it was quite frustrating for many members of the APC NWC mandated to provide leadership in managing affairs of the party have become onlookers in matters that they should be directing, saying this must be urgently corrected.

He was of the opinion that the APC NWC led by Sen. Abdullahi Adamu needs to become more aggressive in driving the process of negotiating leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

The party chieftain noted that the laid-back attitude of the NWC  has produced embarrassing situations of public disagreement with the National Chairman over the issue of consensus Presidential candidate before the party’s Presidential Primary in June 2022.

He said it was also responsible for some of the disagreements between some members of the NWC with the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) before the 2023 elections.

Lukman lamented that part of the challenges was that it has become a practice whereby NWC continues to appropriate powers of superior organs of the party, especially the National Executive Committee (NEC).

According to him, so long as the NWC continues to govern the party based on the strategy of usurping the powers of NEC, elected representatives of the party will continue to organise rebellion against what could be regarded as positions of the party.

“We need to strongly appeal to the National Chairman, Sen. Adamu to consider a wider consultative process in managing affairs of the party,” he said.

Lukman maintained that adopting a wider consultative process would require invoking provisions of the party constitution to convene NEC and National Caucus meetings.

The party chieftain stressed that this public appeal has became necessary given the flood of aspirants for leadership of the 10th National Assembly, adding that if left to continue unregulated could throw up unexpected people in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

He said if that was allowed to happen, it might result in producing the undesirable consequences of destroying the electoral viability of APC in future elections.

Lukman noted that as a ruling party mandated to provide political leadership to the country for the next four years, everything must be done to sustain the confidence of Nigerians.

He added: “Dousing ethnic and religious tension in the country will require sacrifices on the part of all of us both as leaders and members of APC. Without going into the details of the sacrifices required, we certainly would need to invoke the powers of superior organs of the party where all proposals could be tabled, debated and decisions taken, which should be binding on everyone, including elected representatives in the National Assembly.

“Perhaps, we need to acknowledge that the critical issue before us as a party today is the decision about zoning formula for offices in the National Assembly and in the Asiwaju Tinubu-led government.

“Partly, because of the ineffectiveness of the party’s National Secretariat, no proposal is on the table for consideration of any organ of the party. Instead, we have many fake proposals circulating with hardly any attempt to initiate alternative proposals for debate within the constitutional structures of APC.”

Lukman stressed that the configuration of the leadership that would be assuming office on May 29, 2023 would be similar to that of 1999.

He recalled that in 1999,  former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar respectively from South-West and North-East.

The APC National vice chairman said, taking bearing from that, the Senate President was from the South-east and Deputy Senate President from North-Central, while the National Chairman of the ruling party was from North-Central.

He further recalled that in the House of Representatives, the Speaker was from North-west and Deputy Speaker was  from South-south, while other positions in the leadership of the National Assembly were distributed accordingly to other zones.

Lukman said given the challenge of neutralising religious tension in the country, this would appear to be advantageous.

He noted: “For instance, if the Senate President is to come from the South-east, he would certainly be a Christian. The only problem is the experience of 1999 – 2003, which highlighted problems of instability with the South-east holding the position of Senate President. Also, as at 1999, the South-east strongly voted for the PDP to emerge as the ruling party. The same could not be said today.

“Perhaps, to avoid that and to compensate the South-south, which gave more votes to the APC, including winning the Governorship election in Cross River and majority members of the Edo State House of Assembly, consideration can be given for the South-south to produce the Senate President.”

Lukman argued that most of those aspiring for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly  hardly recognise the challenges of national cohesion.

He also decried that  most of those aspiring for positions of leadership in the 10th National Assembly appeared to be disrespectful to structures of the party and their membership, including the NWC, saying hardly do they show any interest to consult the NWC as an organ or its members individually.

He said: “For instance, I have people from North-west declaring to contest for the position of Senate President without the courtesy of consulting any of us from North-west in NWC. As much as I respect every elected National Assembly member from North-west, I will appeal to those aspiring for the position of Senate President to step down their aspiration in the overall interest of national cohesion and to ensure that in line with our commitment as leaders of the North-west to support the administration of Asiwaju Tinubu to assume office in May 29, 2023 with a good support base from Nigerians across every section and irrespective of ethnic and religious divide in the country.”

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