Politicians and lawmakers from the North East and North Central geo-political zones are mounting pressure on the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allow them to produce the Senate president for the ninth assembly.
Ranking APC senators-elect including former governors are pushing for the party to zone the seat and other leadership positions to their areas.
Sources said yesterday that the delay in zoning the leadership positions might not be unconnected with Saturday’s supplementary polls in five states which the APC and the Presidency are very much interested in the outcome.<
Some senators spoken to said failure of the party to zone the positions would lead to a repeat of the 2015 episode that resulted in a major crisis of confidence when Dr. Bukola Saraki was elected Senate President with the help of PDP senators while Senator Ike Ekweremadu of PDP emerged as his deputy.
To avoid the same scenario, they said APC should zone the post to either North East or North Central even as senators-elect from the two zones are working hard to outdo each other.
An APC senator-elect from the North East told Daily Trust last night, that “The outgoing Senate President is from the North Central and we urge the party to zone it this time to the North East.
“This zone delivered the highest number of votes to President Muhammadu Buhari after the North West. Besides, the North Central has so far produced four Senate Presidents since 1992, namely Dr. Iorchia Ayu, Chief Ameh Ebute, Mr. David Mark and Dr. Bukola Saraki. It is therefore timely, fit and proper for the North East zone to get this post this time around. We should also expedite the zoning of all the National Assembly posts so that we will safely avoid the crisis we had in 2015,” he said.
APC top gun Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is pushing for zoning of the key posts, just as he did in 2015. He added however that Tinubu also wants his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu to become the Deputy Senate President.
Saraki, Dogara move to install successors
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara are also reportedly rooting to install those who will succeed them during the inauguration of the coming 9th Assembly, Daily Trust has learnt.
While Saraki lost his Kwara Central Senatorial seat to Ibrahim Yayaha Oloriegbe of APC, hence he would not be in the 9th Senate, Dogara has secured his reelection, but his new party, PDP, has far below the required numbers to make him retain his seat.
Sources told Daily Trust in Abuja last night that the duo are now making frantic efforts to influence the emergence of their successors.
It was learnt that Saraki is using his PDP senators-elect to negotiate the seat of the Deputy Senate president for the party like he did in 2015 when he allowed Ike Ekweremadu to emerge as his deputy, while he was in APC.
It was learnt that the PDP may present Ekweremadu once again, or nominate another senator from its fold as deputy Senate president, should the plan sail through.
”Saraki has vowed to make the major person that worked for him to emerge as Senate President succeed him in June. That’s what’s on ground now. PDP senators meet almost every day to review the issue,” one of the sources said.
“What they want is to have someone in APC that would guarantee them the seat of the Deputy Senate President so that they would come en bloc and back the person. They’re working towards a certain former governor,” the source said.
Top among the contenders for Senate President are Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan (Yobe), Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa).
However, it was learnt yesterday that Borno State Governor and Senator-elect Kashim Shettima is also being considered for the Senate presidency.
Even though Shettima is a first-time senator, the source said party leaders consider him as the top party figure in the North East zone who contributed immensely to its success in the recent election.
“He is also intellectual, measured and widely respected for the way he managed crisis-torn Borno State in the last eight years and his leadership could bring much needed respectability to the Senate.
“As for Goje, who is going into his third term as senator, the source said party leaders tout him as a successful former governor, an effective legislator, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a major political strategist who wrestled Gombe State away from PDP rule after eight years,” he added.
Issues in House of Reps
Dogara was making moves to retain his seat. However, recent happenings revealed that Dogara has dropped that ambition and is now looking for a way to make “one of his own men” the next speaker.
As part of the move to install his successor, Dogara and his loyalists that backed him to emerge speaker in 2015, met in Abuja yesterday with a view to making one of them the speaker.
Among the Dogara loyalists contesting are Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) and Umar Bago (APC, Niger). It was also learnt that Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno), who is Dogara’s right-hand man, may be pushed to join the race.
Other top contenders who are not part of the Dogara loyalists are House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) and Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno). The duo contested for speaker and deputy speaker respectively but lost to Dogara and his current deputy, Yussuf Suleimon Lasun.
Dogara’s plan, it was learnt, was to bring the PDP reps-elect together to back one of his loyalists above, in case the APC zones the speaker’s position out of their zones.
Contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, initially declined to comment on the matter.
However, Olaniyonu later told our correspondent that “If Daily Trust has decided to descend to the arena of gossip, then you can go ahead to report the issue as news to your readers.”
Dogara’s spokesman, Turaki Hassan, neither picked his call nor replied to a message sent to him.
Also, Ekweremadu’s spokesman, Uche Anichukwu, did not pick his call last night.
Lawmakers-elect caution APC against zoning position to individuals
Meanwhile, some lawmakers-elect have cautioned the leadership of APC against zoning presiding officers’ positions to individuals, to avoid a repeat of 2015 episode.
The lawmakers advised their party to zone the positions to geo-political zones, and not individuals, as being speculated.
A ranking senator said the zoning of positions to individuals would be tantamount to imposition of leadership on the parliament.
“If they do that, it will generate crisis and it won’t favour the party, at the end of the day. Positions should only be zoned to geo-political zones and not individuals.
“Let the senators from that zone in consultation with our colleagues on the floor, elect who to lead us, so that we can have the feeling that we elect our own leaders and not imposition from outside,” he said.
The lawmaker said anything short of zonal arrangements will lead to rebellion as happened in 2015.
“Do you know the PDP senators in cahoots with their party are working to snatch it from us? They are just waiting for the time for them to strike. If care is not taken, the PDP will decide who becomes the Senate President because they are working in cohesion.
”But if APC throws it to zones and allow the zonal caucus to produce either two or three persons to the floor during election. The same thing should be done in the House, we will have our ways,” he said.
Another lawmaker from the North said zoning of positions to individuals would lead to instability. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the leadership of the APC embrace the zonal arrangements.
“The earlier it is done, the better for the party. But if it is zoned to individuals and the candidates are not popular, we will rebel and vote for another person, against the wish of the party.
“This will lead to instability and it won’t be good for the polity. It would be seen as appointment and not election. “It is we, the legislators, that will elect our leaders and not our party. The party lacks the powers to appoint leaders for us. Zoning is allowed and it has worked well in the past. If we don’t put our house together, the PDP lawmakers will complicate matter for us,” he said.
But another ranking senator, said the opposition lawmakers cannot be fenced out of the arrangements for the selection of the leadership.
“You cannot fence out the opposition. They have a stake and they must be allowed to contribute and play a role in the emergence of the presiding officers. It’s the senate of the Federal Republic and not APC Senate.
“The party should put forward two or three candidates. Of course, it should not be let opened without direction but also no candidate should be imposed. If they impose a candidate, it won’t work,” he said.
Speaking on the alleged plans by PDP to support the emergence a senator from the North East as Senate president, to enable Senator Ike Ekweremadu retain his seat, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the party would determine the leadership of the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, said the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and the minority PDP caucus was planning to decide the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives in the 9th National Assembly.
Nabena, in an interview with journalists in Abuja, said Senate President and the PDP had devised plans to ensure that their loyalists took control of the legislative arm of government.
The party’s national officer, who called for urgent intervention by the APC leadership, advised the ruling party to urgently roll out the zoning arrangements to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2015.