Horse-trading, intrigues intensify over 9th National Assembly leadership
• APC’s Sharing Formula Heightens Campaigns
• PDP Working To Spring Surprises
• Gbajabiamila Declares Speakership Bid Today
• Dogara, Doguwa, Onyejiocha Eye Top Job
The release of the zoning formula for leadership positions in the Ninth Senate by the All Progressives Congress (APC) has effectively introduced new dimensions to the race for top offices in the upper legislative chamber.
After last week’s announcement of Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan as its preferred candidate, the APC moved a step further by releasing the full details of its zoning arrangements for other leadership positions in the Senate.
The South South geo-political zone, which is to produce the next Deputy Senate President has the current Deputy Whip, Francis Alimikhena from Edo South and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from Delta State in contention for the position, even though the latter still has legal battles to fight. Both senators who have become ranking lawmakers have begun quiet lobbying, particularly in the South South for support.
Alimikhena, who represents the Senatorial District of the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is said to be favoured for the number two position in the Senate.
This puts his rival, Omo-Agege, at a disadvantage in addition to the fact that he is currently struggling to regain his mandate, which the Court of Appeal pronounced illegal last Friday.
Another interesting dimension introduced by the zoning arrangement is that it has put other contenders for leadership positions in the Senate, especially that of the Senate President is that it has rendered it an all-comer affair.
At the moment, apart from the former Senate Majority Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, who has indicated interest to run against Lawan, there are other APC lawmakers, who are quietly campaigning.
They include former governors of Nasarawa and Gombe States, Abdullahi Adamu and Danjuma Goje, who are said to be making serious underground negotiations ahead of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly in the second week of June.
Already, the tactless manner in which the APC leadership moved in to announce its preferred candidates has generated hot air within its caucus in the Senate.
Some influential Senators-elect particularly former governors are believed to be opposed to what they call attempts to impose leaders on the legislature and turn it to a rubber stamp institution.
However, the leadership of the ruling party, it was learnt, is not leaving anything to chance. Many options, including persuasion and coercion are being deployed to get all members to toe the line of the party.
Another critical factor is the fear of possible block vote from senators-elect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In fact, those APC aspirants opposed to the party’s choice are at the moment competing for attention and favour of PDP lawmakers, who are equally working on modalities to spring surprises in the election of Senate’s principal officers.
The Guardian, however gathered that majority of the lawmakers returning to the NASS, as well as new members are against putting in place a leadership that would be subservient to the Presidency.
It was also learnt that some of the ex-military generals, who failed in their bid to stop President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election are not relenting in their bid to ensure the emergence of independent-minded lawmakers as leaders of the next NASS.
Some of the retired military generals are seriously working behind the scene to ensure that Lawan, in whom the Presidency has indicated interest in does not fly.
In this direction, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is allegedly backing Goje, while the incumbent Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who has been silent all this while is also strategising along with some PDP and APC senators to pull a stunt.
Apart from Alimikhena and Omo-Agege, others that are equally eyeing the Office of the Deputy Senate President include Ajayi Boroffice from Ondo, Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia State, and Remi Tinubu from Lagos State.
Boroffice appeared to have tuned down his public campaign for reasons best known to him, but Kalu is insisting that the leadership of the APC must concede something to his zone, and that he is also qualified to contest the position.
Remi, wife of APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, also has a chance of emerging if she gets the support of northern APC senators.
The decision by the leadership of the APC to zone the speaker of the House of Representatives to the South West Geo-political Zone may not go down well with its members in the lower legislative chamber.
Those opposed to zoning the speakership are of the view that the six most powerful positions in the country, that is offices of the president, vice president, senate president, deputy senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy speaker ought to be shared to the six geopolitical zones of the country.
They further argue that since the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is from the South West, it would be unfair to other geo-political zone if the same zone is still favoured by the party to produce the speaker of the House of Representatives.
All the while, the party has been threading softly on the issue of the House speakership, but a member of its National Working Committee (NWC), Malam Adamu Fanda who confirmed the decision to The Guardian assured that the remaining principal positions of the National Assembly would be fairly distributed among the six geopolitical zones.
That notwithstanding, there are fears that dissatisfied APC members of the House who are unhappy with the arrangement might be forced to work against the interest of the party, and elect their preferred candidates from the list of contenders.
Already, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere Federal Constituency 1, who is being touted as the party’s preferred candidate is billed to formally declare his bid for the position today.
Gbajabiamila, who is presently the House Leader is taking a shot at the office for the second time after losing out narrowly to incumbent, Yakubu Dogara in 2015, when the current leadership of the 8th NASS came into being.
There are also indications that Dogara would seek to be re-elected following the resolve of the PDP to field candidates for principal offices of the National Assembly. The PDP has about 120 members in the lower legislative chamber.
However, history would be repeating itself if the duo end up rekindling their rivalry, albeit on the platform of the APC and PDP, as against the 2015 scenario where they both contested on the APC platform.
Gbajabiamila’s media aide, Mr. Wasiu Olarewaju Smart confirmed that his principal would declare his bid for the office today at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja.
Gbajabiamila, a fourth termer is admired by some of his colleagues for his brilliance and oratorial skills, but his affinity to Tinubu, whose domineering influence in the APC is already overwhelming, might turn out to be his albatross.
The APC’s anointed candidate is also billed to trade tackles with Abdulrazak Namdas (Adamawa), Nkeiruka Onyejiocha (Abia), Chike Okafor (Imo), Mohammed Tahir Monguno (Borno), Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Mark Terser Gbillah (Benue), and Ado Alhassan Doguwa (Kano) who are all opposed to the zoning of the speakership to the South West.
Both Nkeiruka and Okafor have argued that the South East deserves the seat in the interest of fairness and equity.
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