Former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is leaving no one in doubt that he calls the shots in the party as he has penciled down his key men to lead the new National Assembly, NASS, to be inaugurated early June.
With the party’s power sharing formula, Tinubu has positioned his men to takeover available positions zoned to the regions. APC zoned the Senate Presidency to the North-Central, Speakership to the South-West, Tinubu’s region, which also produced the Vice President, the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF to the South-East and the Senate Majority Leader to the South-West.
Going by the zoning arrangement, the battle on how to fill the vacancies has started in earnest with Tinubu said to have lined up three strong contenders to take over the leadership of the 8th NASS.
He is alleged to be backing Senator George Akume, former Benue State Governor and long time political ally from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN to be the Senate President.
In the same vein, Tinubu is backing Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, his political protégé to take over as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, while at the same time positioning his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, to be the Senate Majority Leader.
Though he is said to be facing stiff opposition from those backers of Senator Bukola Saraki, mainly from the party’s governors, Nigerian Pilot learnt that he is playing a religious card in pushing the candidature of Akume and Gbajabiamila.
Tinubu’s argument, it was gathered, is that if Saraki is allowed to be Senate President, and Hon. Gbajabiamila becomes the Speaker, it would open the party to criticisms given the fact that the President-elect is a Muslim and both Saraki and Gbajabiamila are also Muslims.
According to Tinubu’s argument, the religious balancing would come only when the Senate president is a Christian and the natural choice is Akume.
The former Lagos governor also allegedly blackmailed Saraki’s backers with a case of N21billion preferred against the former governor of Kwara State by the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police. He purportedly told them that the party cannot be championing anti-corruption and at the same time promoting someone who has such a “dirty” case still hanging on his neck. This, according to insiders, has ruffled many feathers in the APC hierarchy with many afraid the party may slide into a one-man show.
The zoning of Speakership to the South-West, it is understood, has caused a friction between Tinubu and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the party’s national chairman, who had passionately pleaded that the party zone the slot to the South-South in order for his preferred candidate, Mr. Pally Iriase, from Edo State to get the office. For all Odigie-Oyegun’s pleas, Tinubu reminded him how he also went against the wishes of many and installed him as the APC chairman.
With the Vice President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo being Tinubu’s ally, Odigie-Oyegun’s argument is that it would amount to unexplainable greed for the party to allow Tinubu to also take the Speakership slot.
However, Tinubu is understood to have stood his ground, threatening to throw the Speakership position open to contest, a position he well understands he would have upper hand because of the number of House of Representatives members from the South-West as compared to Odigie-Oyegun’s South-South.
If Tinubu bulldozes his way through as he is bent on doing, it means that he would have been responsible for three of the four most powerful positions in Nigeria. He singlehandedly nominated the vice president-elect.
Meanwhile, the zoning of the SGF to the South-East has opened a fresh battle on who succeeds Chief Anyim Pius Anyim between Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Dr. Chris Ngige, all former governors and eminently qualified for the office.
Insiders in the party are favouring Onu, arguing that he is more of a stabiliser, tilting towards a technocrat than Ngige who is seen as an everyday politician.
Onu’s maturity and for the fact that he comes from the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP wing of the APC, may stand him in good stead ahead of Ngige who comes from the ACN wing of the party. ANPP has not really benefitted much in terms of sharing positions in the party and if it is still denied this, it may cause great disaffection in the party.
…NANS asks APC, Buhari to allow NASS elect own leaders
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has urged the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari and APC to allow a free process in the election of the leadership of NASS so that the best hands would emerge, rather than resorting to zoning.
President of NANS, Comrade Tijani Usman, who reacted to media speculations that Buhari and the leadership of the APC were involved in series of meetings to finalise the zoning of the NASS principal officers, Comrade Usman, in a statement said: “While we acknowledge that there is a need to have national spread in assigning responsibilities, we must also be mindful of the fact that the work ahead in moving this nation forward is much and only competent hands can deliver on the expectations of the generality of Nigerians.
‘It is a known fact that the leadership that has emerged by mere sentiments of zoning has failed us in the past as they have at best served as rubber stamps for the executive. The vibrancy currently witnessed in the House of Representatives is a good example of what we get when the process of selecting legislative leadership is seamless,” he said.
He called on interested parties in the Speakership race to emulate Hon. Abdulmumin Jibril, House Chairman on Finance, who has stated his antecedence in the House and what he intends to do if elected.