Minority Leadership Position Divides PDP in N’Assembly

Former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last general elections, Atiku Abubakar, have renewed their hostilities over the choice of candidates for the minority leadership positions in the National Assembly, reports Sunday Aborisade.

Crisis appears to be brewing in the National Assembly over the choice of candidates for the minority leadership positions.

The executive arm led by President Bola Tinubu is alleged to be plotting to put in place, a friendly opposition in the nation’s parliament having ensured that his loyalists have assumed the presiding officers positions in the two chambers.

At the moment, those aspiring into the majority officers positions in the Senate and House of Representatives, are also, ranking federal lawmakers, who are in the good books of Tinubu.

The task of ensuring the emergence of an amiable minority leadership in the apex legislative institution, is now cause fir concern among the federal lawmakers.

Investigations by THISDAY revealed that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, is said to be in charge of the ranking lawmakers from the PDP for the minority leadership positions.

Similarly, the APC-led Federal Government is allegedly  working with former Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, to produce ‘friendly’ PDP members to be appointed into the body of principal officers from the minority caucus of the federal parliament.

The marathon meeting held between Wike and the presiding officers of the Senate last Thursday, was believed to be over the choice of candidates for the minority leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly.

It would be recalled that Wike had vowed to work against the victory of Atiku and by extension, the Peoples Democratic Party in the last presidential election and he made good his threat.

He did it then in agreement with four other aggrieved governors of the PDP,  otherwise known as G-5. They include Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).

The outcome of the election obviously revealed that the G-5 governors contributed immensely to the failure of the PDP to produce the president and majority in the nation’s parliament  during the 2023 poll.

At the end of the election, the APC produced  59 out of the 109 senators , PDP 36, Labour Party  eight, New Nigeria Peoples Party, (NNPP) two, Social Democratic Party,  (SDP) two, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one and Young People’s Party, one.

In the House of Representatives, the APC has 178 members; PDP 117; LP, 35; NNPP, 19; APGA, five; SDP, two; ADC, two; and the YPP, one, totalling 181 opposition members.

The current move by the APC allegedly being supported by Wike might deprive the PDP which has 36 out of the 109 members in the 10th Senate to produce the Minority Leader if the former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has his way with the presiding officers of the red chamber.

Strong  indications had emerged that Wike could influence the choice of minority leaders at both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Sources in the Senate explained that last week’s meeting was a strategic move towards blocking the choices of PDP for the minority leadership positions of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The party with the highest number of members in the minority caucus should automatically produce the minority leader but Wike is about to alter the arrangement.

Wike who was sighted in black suit, after the marathon meeting, left the Senate wing of the National Assembly at about 6:30pm in the convoy of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau.

The convoy also accommodated senators like Salihu Mustapha (APC Kwara Central),  Jibril Isah (APC Kogi East) as well as the recently appointed Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate ) to President Bola Tinubu, Senator Abdullahi Abubakar Gumel.

A source at the meeting who pleaded for anonymity , told our Correspondent that Wike’s plan with the leadership of the Senate, was to have a minority leader not chosen by PDP but by his own faction within the party.

The source explained that if Wike succeeded in factionalizing the caucuses of PDP at both Chambers, unpopular minority leaders might emerge from parties with smaller members in the 10th Senate.

The source said, “Having assisted APC to win Presidential election in Rivers State in February,  supported the aspirations of the now elected four presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly at inauguration last week, making his loyalists among the elected federal lawmakers from PDP is his plan now.

“He is very serious on the plan and getting the required support from leadership of the National Assembly as well as membership of the other minority political parties in both the Senate and the House of Representatives”

Eight principal positions are expected to be occupied by elected lawmakers on the platforms of both the ruling and minority political parties .

The four principal positions in the Senate , meant for elected lawmakers on the platform of the ruling party, are the Senate Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Whip .

The four principal positions on the part of the minority political parties are Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and the Minority Whip.

Further investigations by our correspondent revealed that the PDP might send the list of the minority principal officers for both chambers to the presiding officers before the July 4 resumption date of the federal parliament.

It was revealed that while Atiku Abubakar and the PDP have recommended Senator Aminu Tambawal, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives as the Senate minority leader, Wike is said to be strongly opposed to it.

A source told our Correspondent that Wike is allegedly angry with Tambuwal because he stepped down for Atiku during the PDP presidential primary, an action that made Wike to lose the election.

Senators Francis Fadahunsi (PDP, Osun East), Abdul Ningi,  a former deputy majority leader of the Senate, representing the Bauchi Central zone and Adamu Aliero, representing  Kebbi Central Senatorial District, are also said to be contesting the seat with Tambuwal.

Fadahunsi had said he was eminently qualified for the position if it is zoned to the South West.

Although the PDP got more votes in Osun State during the last general elections, which could have  given Fadahunsi an edge as a ranking senator but his state Governor, Ademola Adeleke, is said to be backing Tambuwal.

Reacting to the development, Fadahunsi said, “I am interested in the position of the Senate Leader. If the position is zoned to the South-West, then I am eminently qualified for the position.

“I am a ranking and experienced lawmaker in the South-West PDP. The South-East zone can also be considered, having lost out of the presiding officers, but the party didn’t even get enough votes there.”

Wike had reportedly started the supremacy battle in the House of Representatives by ensuring that one of his candidates was picked as the minority leader in highly controversial circumstances.

Shortly after the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly penultimate Tuesday some prominent members of the PDP caucus met over the minority caucus leadership.

It was at the meeting that Kingsley Chinda (PDP Rivers) was reportedly picked as the Minority Leader.

When contacted, another aspirant for the position, Bamidele Salam (PDP Osun) denied knowledge of the meeting, challenging those who selected Chinda to produce their signatures and minutes of the meeting.

“Who endorsed him?  I’m not aware of that. I know nothing about it. Ask them about the endorsement document. There should be a document like the minute of the meeting. They should produce it,” Salam said.

However, another top contender for the Minority Leadership position, Oluwole Oke (PDP Osun), said he was out of the contest.

“I have withdrawn from the race,” he said.

Chinda is loyal to Wike while Oke and Salam are from Osun State, whose governor, Ademola Adeleke, belongs to Atiku’s group.

There are also unconfirmed reports that about 22 aggrived members of the APC might defect to the PDP to form the majority if the minority leadership crisis was not handled with care.

No fewer than eight ranking senators including three former governors issued a statement in Abuja on Saturday and vowed that the  “ongoing attempt to destabilise the minority parties in the Senate would be resisted.”

The Senators included, Senator  Mohammed Adamu  Aliero; Henry Seriake Dickson; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Abdul Ningi; Patrick Abba Moro; Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi; Sumaila Kawu; and Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah.

They said: “It has come to the notice of the Minority Political Parties in the Senate of an attempt by forces inside and outside the Senate to divide the Minority Parties and foist a pliant and compromised leadership on them.

“We have pledged to work constructively with the new Senate leadership and the Executive branch to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people.

“We consequently hereby advise and caution that they should not aid any group inside or outside the Senate to divide and destabilise the minority parties and the Senate institution.

“Senators of the minority Parties would meet when the Senate reconvenes and, in consultation with our respective political parties, would select its leaders without undue interference from anti democratic forces within or outside the Senate.

“For the avoidance  of doubt, no Senator has yet been endorsed or selected for any Minority position as this would await due process as agreed by all Minority Parties in their last meeting.

“Attempt to foist a one party dictatorship would be resisted and would fail.

“We call on all members of the Minority Political Parties to work together in unity to defend the democratic institution of the Senate and Nigeria,” their statement read.

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