- Odds favour Bukola Saraki, Yakubu Dogara
- South-West Reps reject Gbajabiamila
Today’s battle for the leadership of the 8th National Assembly is a straight fight between the All Progressives Congress, APC and the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP. The nPDP was led by five former PDP governors who defected to the APC to form the party in February 2013.
In the power struggle that ensued, the nPDP wing of the APC has been left high and dry with plum positions going to the original parties which came together for the merger. For instance, the National Working Committee, NWC of the party is made up of mainly original APC members, the national chairman of the party, the president and the vice president all followed the same trend.
To members of the nPDP, it appeared as if there is an unwritten law which debars them from getting anything in the party. This perhaps explains why members of the nPDP led by former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, have been putting up spirited fights to install two of their own as both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The APC that had hidden their choice of candidates right from the word go, came out last Saturday to endorse the duo of Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State as its preferred candidates for Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps, respectively.
With the party having taken a position, this opened up a flurry of opposition even within the ranks of the party. The opposition PDP saw this as a window to team up with aggrieved members of the party to truncate the choice of the party.
Odds favour Saraki, Dogara
Permutations point to the glaring fact that the odds favour the emergence of both Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as leaders of the 8th National Assembly. Insiders say that Senator Saraki has received the assurances of at least 30 of the APC’s senators-elect, despite the intimidation by the APC hierarchy to the contrary.
An insider into the happenings confided in Nigerian Pilot that with the way things stand as at yesterday night, barring any political catastrophe, Senator Saraki is set to emerge as the Senate President. “You can be rest assured that Senator Saraki is the next Senate President. But Bola Tinubu is not sleeping or resting. He is determined to foist his cronies on the 8th Senate. As at yesterday, he had compelled all APC Governors to shepherd senators from their states to his Abuja residence to sign an undertaking to back Senator Lawan. And in deference to him as leader of the party, many of the governors did, but I can tell you that was to fulfil all righteousness as many of the senators had already queued behind Saraki before this latest order from the national leader of the party.
“Tinubu’s calculation is simple; the emergence of Senator Lawan as the Senate President will rub off positively on Gbajabiamila to become the Speaker. But unfortunately, he has become some sort of an albatross to the aspiration of both Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
“What the senators and members of the House alike are kicking against is the perceived influence of Tinubu. Many members of the House would have ordinarily supported Gbajabiamila because of his glowing contributions and legislative acumen, but they are afraid of what becomes of Femi as Speaker with Tinubu breathing down his neck,” the source said.
Despite the coercion by Tinubu, at least two APC states are vehemently behind Saraki; Kwara and Zamfara. The godfather of Zamfara politics, Senator Ahmed Yerima is backing Saraki’s ambition. A Reps’ member-elect from Zamfara told Nigerian Pilot that though the party had told them whom to vote for, Zamfara delegation is waiting for last minute signals from the governor of the state who is the leader of the party in that state.
“The party has told us whom to vote for, but the ultimate direction is with the leader of the party in our state, who is the governor. We are still waiting for signals from him on who to vote for,” he said.
If Senator Yerima, who is the political godfather of the governor of Zamfara is backing Saraki, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Zamfara delegation will vote for Saraki. Yerima is not the only former governor backing Saraki. Former Governor Emmanuel Udughan, it was learnt, had passionately appealed to senators-elect from Delta to back Saraki based on the long standing relationship between Saraki and former Governor James Ibori who though in a UK prison, still has control on the politics of the state.
Similarly, former Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Wammako, is also backing Saraki and there are strong indications that being the immediate past governor of the state, he still controls the political activities in the state and this may certainly affect how other senators from the state would vote.
Though former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso showed up at the venue of the APC “mock” election that threw up Lawan as the party’s candidate, insiders say he may actually be working for Saraki, given the fact that Hon. Abdulmunmin Jibrin, his known ally, is spearheading the campaign of Dogara, who is working closely with Saraki.
Triumph of the PDP
The saying that revenge is sweeter when it is served cold may be going on in the minds of PDP elements. With the likely emergence of Saraki as the Senate President with the help of the PDP, the opposition would have got its pound of flesh on the APC. What is generally known today as the “Tambuwal scenario” in Nigeria’s political lexicon, happened in 2011 when the then opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN truncated the zoning arrangement of the then ruling PDP.
So, the resolve of the PDP to back both Saraki and Dogara may be more out of expediency than of revenge. A member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, BoT who spoke to Nigerian Pilot on the plans of the party to pay back the APC in their own coin, said that Gbajabiamila would have been a perfect fit for the job of the Speaker, but his role in “de-marketing” the PDP cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
“In politics, there is always a payback time. Femi Gbajabiamila is an intelligent boy who is fit for the job of Speaker, but he was in the forefront of painting the PDP as evil; this is the time to pay him back and I hope this is what the party will do,” he said.
APC fights back
Having read the bold handwriting of imminent defeat, the ruling APC has been running frantically to evade the shock. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with the party’s national chairman till late in the evening yesterday and from the parley went straight to confer with the party’s Reps members-elect, apparently to stave off the PDP onslaught. The call from APC hierarchy has been for every member of the party to put the party first before personal ambition.
Addressing the media after meeting with the Vice President, APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, appealed for calm and urged the party members to respect the choice of the party in battle for NASS leadership.
He said: “I want to appeal to APC members of the National Assembly-both Senate and the House of Representatives-to please respect the party, the views of the party and the decision that they themselves took in selecting the persons that will be presented to the National Assembly as presiding officers. At the House of Representatives level, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and at the Senate level, Senator Ahmed Lawan. I want to make it quite clear that all the party did was to provide the platform for all elected members of the party only. No other person joined them in stating their preferences. It is still left for the House to elect its leaders and the House is made up of both APC and non-APC members.
“But, we (the APC) thought rightly in my view that we should provide a platform for our members of the National Assembly to state their preferences for the key offices in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This they have freely done by themselves in the presence of the party leadership and almost the entire NWC. But it seems that some of the aspirants are not satisfied with the preferences of the majority of the members either of the House or the Senate.
“So, for me and the NWC, this is an appeal that no individual interest should be allowed to override the interest of the party as a whole. Members contested on the platform of the party, the party did not contest on the platform of members. So, the party’s views and method of doing things should be respected. All we did was to provide the platform.”
“We recognised and accept that we cannot impose leaders on them. Of course, we can provide guidance as to how things ought to be done and the kind of persons we think they should look for and that is all we have done. My appeal is that they respect the arrangement that has been made by the party; that they respect the views expressed in a secret vote that the majority of the members of the House of Representatives and their senior colleagues, the Senate and let peace be. We have preached change and you cannot undertake change with a flip. The change must start with the conduct of members of the party themselves.
“The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo will also address members of both Houses and I hope that thereafter, peace will prevail. This is the first stage of the distribution of the spoil of office. The APC has survived a lot of predictions in good shape and this too shall come to pass,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
However, with the degree of bad blood that has seeped into the party, it is yet to be seen how the party will manage to wriggle out of this seeming logjam. Governors of the APC have called an emergency meeting to seek ways of reuniting the ruling party that is threatened by a major crisis over the choice of new leaders for the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It was confirmed at the national secretariat of the APC that the meeting was called by chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum and Governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha.
A source at the secretariat said the meeting would hold by 5pm to discuss how to find a solution to the crisis generated by the election of a new Senate President and Speaker.
The APC had conducted a mock election to elect candidate for the two offices on Saturday and Messrs. Ahmed Lawan from Yobe and Femi Gbajabiamila were elected as Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.
However, the two main challengers to the posts, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, who are also members of the party, boycotted the election and rejected its outcome.
They also vowed to defy the party and seek for the mandate of their colleagues in an election billed for Tuesday.
The APC National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, had on Sunday issued a statement urging Messrs Saraki and Dogara to abide by the decision of the party.
The two contenders rejected the plea by the party leadership and vowed to challenge the party’s candidates on Tuesday.
Osinbajo meets with Reps-elect
It is understood that after several failed attempts by the party leadership to persuade Messrs Saraki and Dogara to drop their ambitions, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has decided to wade into the matter.
One of the lawmakers loyal to Mr. Dogara confirmed that the Vice President had invited all members to a meeting, even as he said they would boycott it.
“We received text messages from the party informing us of a meeting with the Vice President today; however, we see no difference between the Vice President and those trying to impose leaders on the House of Representatives, so we would not be attending,” he said.
Court fails to stop Gbajabiamila
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday turned down a request for the disqualification of Gbajabiamila from contesting as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
A group, Social Justice and Civil Rights Awareness Initiative, had on June 4, 2015, filed an ex-parte application asking the court to restrain the House from accepting Gbajabiamila’s nomination as an aspirant for the Speaker of House.
The plaintiff filed the application along with the main suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/501/2015) in which Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives and the Attorney-General of the Federation were joined as 1st to the 3rd defendants.
It filed a motion on notice seeking an interim injunction against the respondents, a prayer similar to what is contained in its ex-parte application.
The plaintiff’s prayer was hinged on alleged “conviction” of Gbajabiamila in the state of Georgia, United States of America, for unethical practices in the course of his practice as a lawyer.
Gbajabiamila was said to have been suspended from practising as a lawyer for 36 months in Georgia State of the USA.
The plaintiff also accused Gbajabiamila of possessing United State of America’s passport even as a Nigerian descent. The plaintiff alleged this contravened “our Constitution as regards membership of the House of Representatives.”
Also, Justice Abdukadir Abdu-Kafarati, yesterday, rejected the plaintiff’s ex-parte application seeking to disqualify Gbajabiamila to contest for the office of the Speaker.
The judge, after listening to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), inside his chamber, however, ordered the respondents to appear in court on June 18 to show why the prayer should not be granted.
Southwest APC Reps reject Gbajabiamila
Nigerian Pilot learnt last night that House of Representatives members from the South-West zone had resolved to reject Gbajabiamila. The lawmakers are said to be angry that only Lagos was benefitting from the ACN joining the APC.
A Reps-elect accused Tinubu of cornering every office, including his presentation of Gbajabiamila for the Speakership.
He said: “The lawmakers from the other states have expressed their displeasure on the candidature of Gbajabiamila as Speaker; they wondered whether Lagos is the only state in the South-West, and as such must corner all major political appointments.
“It will be surprising to many that most of the South-West lawmakers may not vote for the party’s candidates today.”