- PDP lawmakers hold the ace
There are strong indications that tomorrow’s inauguration of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly may not go the way the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, wants it.
In order not to go into tomorrow’s election divided, the party had on Saturday conducted a straw poll to pick a candidate for each of the posts of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The straw poll became necessary owing to the inability of the party to convince any of the frontrunners to the positions to back down for the party’s preferred candidates. However, in trying to solve the problem of not going into the election divided, the party only succeeded in creating more problems for itself as the ‘mock’ elections witnessed sharp divisions amongst the different camps.
For instance, in the ‘mock’ election conducted to choose the candidate for the speaker of the House of Reps saw Hon Yakubu Dogara and his supporters storming out of the international conference centre Abuja,, venue of the event, while the one conducted for the senate president was boycotted by Senator Bukola Saraki and his ‘Like Minds’ group.
Despite the walkout and the boycott, the party went ahead to nominate Femi Gbajabiamila and Ahmed Lawan as its candidates for the speaker and the senate president respectively. The party’s national secretary, Mai Mala Buni while announcing the result, declared that Hon Gbajabiamila scored 154 votes to defeat his rival, Hon Yakubu Dogara, while Senator Lawan scored 32 votes to defeat Senator Bukola Saraki.
While giving his acceptance speech after the straw poll, Senator Lawan thanked the party and appealed to the party to bring all the aggrieved members on board. “This is history in the making. Change has come to Nigeria and our party is experiencing change. Our party has painstakingly chosen us and we will not disappoint. I want to thank the National Working Committee of the party for giving all of us the chance to aspire. We have every confidence that the NWC will bring other people on board.
“I am saddened by the fact that some of our colleagues chose not to participate. This change can’t be real if we are divided. I want to assure you that we will embark on reaching out to our colleagues. I appeal to the party to help in reaching out to our colleagues. We will not disappoint you. We need to reach out to our PDP colleagues in the senate. We want to see a senate that will want to be bi-partisan in approach. I want to assure Nigerians that the 8th legislature under me will be a focused legislature that will bring dividends of democracy to the people,” Senator Lawan pledged.
Saraki, Dogara kick
While Lawan and Gbajabiamila celebrated the party’s backing, the duo of Saraki and Dogara kicked, describing the ‘mock’ poll as illegal and going contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s public avowal not to interfere with the workings of the legislature.
Addressing a press conference at the Bolingo Hotel, spokesperson of the group, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, denied participating in the election.
The consolidation group stressed that they will not allow a Speaker that will be pocketed by one selfish individual and asked Nigerians to remain patient.
“APC leadership keeps telling the public that the mock election was conducted and that 154 voted for Gbajabiamila as against three votes for Dogara. The acclaimed result was a blatant lie and very shameful. This shows the extent the party has degenerated.
“All these were arranged and done in the presence of our party. I want to say we never participated in the election. It was a fraud and we do not associate with it. The party should follow the part of honour. The stability of the House is very important.
“We will not allow a Speaker that will be pocketed by one selfish individual. It is important for us not to forget history in a hurry. We ask Nigerians to remain patient because on Tuesday, the real strength of our candidate will emerge.
“Is it the kind change we want? The kind of intimidation and manipulation we saw has never happened. We have been threatened but we have remained courageous and resolute. We will go ahead despite the mockery of the primary election.
“We will go ahead; we are not backing out. We know we belong to a political party; the House of Reps does not belong to any political party. We believe that the President has the integrity and capability to deliver a dynamic leadership” Hon Jibrin Abdulmumin said.
Similarly, Saraki’s group, known as the like minds, described the straw poll as a mockery of democracy. “As responsible citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and leaders in our own right, we have resolved and hereby state that we shall not be part of a process that promotes undemocratic electoral process that may resort to rancorous and uncivilised situations which inhibits the rights of individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice, as this process will further divide us than unite members of our party”, the group said.
Why the party prefers Lawan, Gbajabiamila
Contrary to the public posturing of the APC and President Buhari, the hierarchy of the party has from the word go backed Senator Lawan, North-East for the senate president and Hon Gbajabiamila, South-West for the Speaker of the House of Reps.
According to insiders, the position of the party is clear; only original members of the party can be trusted for such sensitive positions. To the party and backers of President Buhari, anybody who has been ‘tainted’ by the PDP must not be trusted, at least for now and both Saraki and Dogara were hitherto PDP members unlike Lawan and Gbajabiamila who are original members of the legacy parties that merged to form the APC.
Also, insiders say the duo of Lawan and Ggajabiamila are close confidants of the party’s two most prominent leaders: President Buhari and Bola Tinubu and therefore, the party is compelled to bend over backwards to accommodate whatever request these two leaders put forward.
APC panics as PDP holds the ace
However, there are very strong indications that the APC may be in for a shock as both Saraki and Dogara, now both regarded as ‘renegades and rebels’ with the party’s hierarchy, have got the backing of the opposition PDP. This has sent panic signals to the leadership of the APC who hurriedly issued a statement last night, begging aggrieved party members to sheathe their swords and work for the party.
In statement signed by the party’s National Secretary, Mala Buni, the party appealed to those it described as aggrieved to put the interest of the party first.
“We must put the interest of our party above personal interests and avoid a situation whereby any other candidate, apart from those picked by the party, will emerge as Senate President and House Speaker on Tuesday.
‘’Any outstanding issue will be resolved by the party so we won’t go into Tuesday’s election with more than one candidate each for the two posts- Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives,’’ it
said, adding that it would be a shame if, despite its majority in both chambers of the National Assembly, the APC is unable to produce a Senate President and a House Speaker of its choice,” the party pleaded.
APC explained that its role in the entire business of ensuring a common front within the party ahead of Tuesday’s election is that of an honest broker, saying its goal of ensuring that the party does not go into the election with more than one candidate for each post has now been achieved.