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Struggle for leadership of Senate, Reps begins

By Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
07 April 2015   |   8:30 am
AHEAD of June 6 this year when the seventh National Assembly is expected to expire, jostle for the posts of Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives has begun.
House Of Representatives. Image source Nigeriacamera

House Of Representatives. Image source Nigeriacamera

AHEAD of June 6 this year when the seventh National Assembly is expected to expire, jostle for the posts of Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives has begun.

Essentially, following the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the 2015 presidential election, attention is now shifting to the power blocs that would produce the next Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

While pundits think that the post of the Senate president currently occupied by David Mark of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would still be domiciled in the North central geo-political zone, it is difficult to guess which of the zones in the country would lay claim to that of Speaker of the House of Representatives.

All eyes are already on Senators Bukola Saraki (Kwara State), George Akume (Benue State) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa State) as likely replacement of Mark whose PDP has lost its grip on the National Assembly leadership positions going by the outcome of the last National Assembly and presidential polls.

Sources said Buhari and a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, may have agreed on who to pick for the job. It was learnt that prominent leaders of the APC have expressed their preference for Saraki, just as it was gathered that Akume has been penciled down for the seat.

The APC leaders pushing for Saraki follow the zoning of the post of Senate President to North Central zone by the party.

Prior to the presidential election, the party was said to have considered the option of rewarding the North-Central with the Senate presidency and the South-east with the Speaker. The Secretary to the Federal Government or the Chief of Staff is reserved for the South-South.

But, with the presidential election over, the party leadership may no longer be disposed to the earlier arrangement. One of the National Working Committee members said: “It would amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The party leader from the North-East who pleaded anonymity argued: “How can the party reward the zones that worked against the party and our presidential candidate with juicy positions while the zones that delivered the party are allocated mere deputies. I am sure the party will reward hard work.”

APC in South-South returned only one Senator in Edo North while South- East returned two members of the House of Representatives from Imo State.

“PDP also posted massive victory in North-Central where it won states like Plateau and Nasarawa.”

The APC’s leadership, it was gathered has scheduled a meeting for Abuja after the Easter break to continue with the discussion on power sharing.

For the seat of Speaker of the House of Representatives, currently occupied by Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who may move on to become the governor of Sokoto State after this Saturday’s governorship election, the questions on the lips of many revolve around which of the three geo-political zones – South-South, South West, and North East, would be better placed to have a shot at the seat.

There is a consensus among pundits that North-west geo -political zone is clearly out of the race for the office of the Speaker since it has produced the president, Muhammadu Buhari. Same fate applies to the South -East geo political zone over its inability to produce a single card carrying APC member for the House of Representatives when the polls took place penultimate week. The North central zone which is most likely to produce the Senate president is also not in the consideration.

What this implies is that the fight for the Speaker of the lower legislative chamber has been narrowed to the South-South, the South West and the North East geo political zones who contributed seats to the National Assembly and to the success of the APC.

For the South-west which has produced the vice president in the person of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, it would not be surprising if it goes for the seat of the Speaker going by the pivotal role it played in the ouster of President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP at the election. Already there is a view that the South-West which has a strong voice in the person of Bola Tinubu might just refer to the era of Tambuwal and Vice President Namadi Sambo who are both from the North -west geo political zone to make a case for one of their own in the post of Speaker this time around.

The House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, whose performance as an opposition lawmaker in the outgoing dispensation is a source of pride to the APC, is the man to watch since he has got the requisite experience to oversee the House.

The South-south zone would surely make a case for the seat of Speaker based on equity and fair distribution of power among the six geo-political zones. The South-south zone survived all the odds to produce three Reps, including ranking lawmakers in the mould of Peter Akpatason and Pally Iriase.

APC leaders in the North-East zone of the APC have clearly indicated interest in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. A statement issued in Abuja by the APC National Vice Chairman (North East), Babachir David Lawal, explained that the zone deserves the seat because it has immensely contributed to the party’s victory at the elections. “ I want to seize this opportunity to call on the APC national leadership to cede either the Senate Presidency or Speaker of the House of Representatives to the region where we have an abundance of talent and eminently qualified candidates for these positions.

“This will set the region on a course of accelerated development that it so desperately needs. But for us to reap the full benefits of an APC government at the centre, we must also have APC in government in the six states in our zone. This will facilitate coordination and planning of development and infrastructural projects that will have to be embarked upon by both tiers of government. An opposition government in any of the states will destroy this synergy and put any prospect of our rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation in jeopardy.”

With the exception of the period, 2007-2011, when the North East produced Deputy Speaker, Usman Bayero Nafada, the region which is ranked third most populous in the country after the North-west and South-west is yet to occupy either office of the Senate president or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections, the North-east produced the second highest number of votes for the APC and second highest number of federal lawmakers for the party.

Those pushing for the zoning of the seat argue there is need to compensate the region adequately in the incoming government for the sacrifices it has continued to make for the unity, stability and indivisibility of Nigeria.

Such call may have thrown up the possibility of a ranking lawmaker and a leading light from the zone, Yakubu Dogara, coming out to snatch the coveted seat of the Speaker. The 48-year old lawmaker representing Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State, who boasts of vast legislative experience, is described as an embodiment of knowledge, with 22 years experience in law practice.

He is regarded as one of the most adored and respected lawmakers in the House as his colleagues always look up to him for guidance. His contributions to debates on motions and Bills are apt, superb and insightful.

Although a PDP member then, Dogara led the debate on January 8, 2012, during the first special session of the House of Representatives, on fuel subsidy removal which resulted into street protest nationwide for eight days. During that debate, Dogara urged Jonathan to listen to the voices of the Nigerian people who were on the streets protesting, saying “The voice of the people, is the voice of God.”