Who leads the 9th National Assembly is already a contentious issue. Although the National Assembly is self-regulatory, the controversy was sparked off by the endorsement of personalities for the positions of the Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives by the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC).
President Muhammadu Buhari, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, settled for Sen. Ahmad Lawan and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila for Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively.
Buhari at a dinner for Senators-elect of the APC, impressed it upon them that Lawan, the current Senate Leader, would be the party’s choice for the Senate Presidency.
“Buhari made it known that Lawan is his choice and begged the Senators-elect to support him.
“He spoke about how the present leadership of the National Assembly slowed down his government, stressing that the last four years have not been good for his government because of the hostilities from the leadership of the National Assembly.
“The president said that he spent 12 years aspiring for the presidency and that the first four years was almost ruined and frustrated by the leadership of the National Assembly.
“He said that though there would be friction between the executive and legislature, he wants a situation where if there is a misunderstanding, it will be settled like a family,” a Senator-elect who attended the meeting said in an interview.
Oshiomhole, who also spoke reaffirmed the president’s position.
According to him, the essence of the meeting is to plan on how to manage the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure that there will be no business with the opposition this time around.
He declared that the leadership of the 9th National Assembly will comprise only APC members and won’t be “adulterated’’ by the opposition.
Oshiomhole noted that the ruling party had already about 65 Senators-elect out of 109 and 223 House of Representatives members out of the 360 and could take decision at any time without recourse to other political parties.
In the same vein, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, explained that the party leadership preferred Lawan to other contestants because of his consistency and intellectual capacity.
However, the position of the national leadership of the APC appeared not to be acceptable to all the members.
Already, leaders from the North-Central zone had rejected zoning of the speakership to the South-West, while Sen. Ali Ndume, from the North-East like Sen. Lawan said he would contest the Senate Presidency.
Ndume demonstrated his seriousness to contest the position as he recently released his agenda.
Ndume, who has been in the National Assembly since 2003, promised to improve upon the performance of the 8th Senate.
He said that he would make the Office of the Senate President less attractive by reducing the unnecessary privileges attached to it.
Ndume remained unyielding, after a recent visit to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at Presidential Villa, Abuja, which may not be unconnected with the Senate Presidency issue.
He told State House Correspondents in a brief interview, “Me step down? I am still consulting.”
APC stakeholders from the North-Central zone recently lodged their protest at the National Secretariat of the APC in Abuja.
They demanded zoning of the House of Representatives speaker to the zone.
The group, under the auspices of North-Central APC Ambassadors, in a letter dated April 1, addressed to the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, insisted that the zone should be given the opportunity to produce the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The zone, they said, should be rewarded for giving Buhari 2.4 million votes in the presidential poll.
The letter was jointly signed by coordinators from Kwara, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi and FCT.
However, Mr Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, did not condemn endorsement, but advised political parties to resist the urge to impose candidates for leadership positions in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Dogara spoke at the orientation ceremony organised for 9th National Assembly members-elect.
According to him, history has shown that sponsoring candidates by political parties for NASS leadership positions is always a futile effort.
He advised political parties with such agenda to ensure that they carried all their members along so that they would have a sense of belonging and defend their leaders, when the need arose.
He said: “I am not here to dictate to the parties, parties have their manifesto, parties know how they conduct their businesses.
“But one thing I have said, if you followed the business during this induction exercise, it is always better to allow the leadership to emerge from the people.
“But where leadership has been forced upon the people, in the history of the NASS, we are all part of this history in Nigeria, it has never endured.
“Whoever a party is sponsoring or supporting, they should make sure that they have the backing of the legislators so that they accept it, own the process and own the leadership.
“That way, they will always come out to defend it, but in a situation where it is forced, literarily driven down their throats, in most cases, even in the Senate, it doesn’t augur well.”
The speaker said that an aspiring leader must possess the ability to go about achieving his ambition without rancour.
He further said that such an aspirant must also have the ability to steer the affairs of the legislature to surpass the achievements made by the 8th Assembly.
“Some of us, who have been on the field know how that is done and our advice is that we stay calm,” Dogara said.
He said that even though many people were aspiring for leadership positions in the NASS, it would be imperative to have a rancour-free election.
He said that the important thing was for the emergence of those that would “be able to sustain what we have done in the 8th Assembly and even surpass it.
“We do not want any leadership that will take us back, we have made a lot of mileage.
“And we hope we are able to get the kind of leadership that will build on the achievements of this assembly, which is unparalleled in our legislative history.
“So, I will advise members to look at members that have thrown themselves into the race to see who it is that will aggregate their aspirations better and be able to surpass the records of this current Assembly,” the speaker said.
Meanwhile, a group that calls itself All Progressives Youth Solidarity Network, has appealed to the leadership of the APC to withdraw support for incumbent Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, as their anointed choice for the presidency of the 9th Assembly.
Addressing newsmen recently in Abuja, Coordinator of the group, Shuaibu Usman, said all the contenders for the exalted office should be rejected having played prominent roles in the current Senate leadership led by Senator Bukola Saraki.
“On this note, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and party faithful to immediately come to the aid of the APC members and shop for a candidate without PDP connection ahead of the June inauguration of the National Assembly.’’
Contemporary observers say it is obvious that the way things are going, what played out in June 1999, when Chief Evan Enwerem was elected Senate President may repeat itself.
Enwerem was the preferred candidate of then President Olusegun Obasanjo and the party leadership. Dr Chuba Okadigbo, from the South-East where the position was zoned defied the endorsement.
He contested against Enwerem, and on the floor of the Senate on June 17, 1999, Enwerem defeated Okadigbo.
The Okadigbo group did not give Enwerem, whom they perceived as a stooge to the executive a breathing space, and on Nov. 18, 1999 he was impeached and Okadigbo elected Senate President.
The executive and other forces ganged up against Okadigbo, and he was subsequently impeached in August, 2000 and Anyim Pius Anyim elected as Senate President.
How the leadership issue in the 9th National Assembly will end up is still uncertain, but the advice of Dogara and his postulation should not be ignored.
“But where leadership has been forced upon the people; in the history of the NASS, we are all part of this history in Nigeria, it has never endured.’’
All the gladiators in the leadership question in the 9th National Assembly should learn from the lessons of history, and make a difference from the age long adage that people do not learn from the lessons of history.
Ukoh is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Yiaga Africa Blames Govt For Voters’ Apathy
Independent election observer group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed worry that increasing voters’ apathy as witnessed in the Anambra governorship election may not have been caused by insecurity but increasing loss of confidence in government.
A board member of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu held the view in Awka during a post-election reflection meeting with leaders of Civil Society Organizations.
Nwagwu reiterated that the ugly trend was not necessarily occasioned by insecurity that had always heralded elections in the past, but growing disconnect between the government and the masses, saying it is time populace held government to account to bridge the gap.
He said: “Election is over. Now we have to watch governance and the only way to do that is to clearly design pathways through which we can hold the government accountable.
“One of the ways is for the citizens to engage the government with budget process. Government every year estimates what it uses the people’s resources to do for them.
“Unfortunately, the people involved don’t show any interest, and four years later, the same people will start complaining that government has failed, even when there was nothing to track.
“We need to see how the Media and Civil Society groups can collaborate and produce what I call a citizen charter demand that they can hand over to the new Governor-elect.
“They can liaise with other professional bodies to conduct infrastructural assessment in the state and use that as a document to organize a town-hall meeting to engage government officials.”
Nwagwu also identified what he termed “fear and complaint industries” as major impediments to the growth and development of the state, insisting that the two factors must be shut to enable people of the state enjoy democracy dividends.
He added: “We need to close up the two industries of fear and complaint that have gripped the state, especially after the election so people can leverage the benefits of governance.
“If we continue with this scare-mongering and complaints, we will only succeed in having few persons taking over the government and dictating the pace.”
CVR: Fresh Registrations Hit 4.2m
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that fresh registration in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has hit 4,297,494.
The commission disclosed this in the second quarter, week seven, weekly update released by the commission in Abuja recently.
The commission said that as at 7 a.m. on Monday, November 22, 1,856,771 persons have completed their online and physical registration.
According to statistics provided by the commission, 1,856,771 persons who completed their registration, include 941,098 males, 915,673 females.
It also added that 741,183 persons completed their registration online, while 1,115,588 completed it through physical registration.
Saraki Visits Benue Over Presidential Ambition
A former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has visited Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State over his ambition to vie for President in 2023.
Saraki, after a close door meeting with Governor Ortom, also met with the State Working Committee members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to familiarise them with his intention to kick start consultations for his ambition to rule the country.
He said that the nationwide defection of party loyalists from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP was an indication that there might not be anyone left in the party before the next election.
“A party that cannot organise its affairs has no business leading this country. A party that has organised its affairs is ready in leading this country and that is the PDP,” he said.
Saraki added that the North Central Zone has paid its dues by working so hard in keeping the country together as one united entity just as he pointed out that, “this time we must stand for our own and charity begins at home.”
The ex -senate president, who was accompanied on the visit by former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, former National Chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje, Senator Suleiman Adokwe and Prof Iyorwuese Hagher, Chairman of Council, Saraki for President Campaign, thanked the Benue governor for standing out for the zone.
Earlier, Governor Ortom, eulogised Saraki for being one of those Nigerians that had contributed immensely to the development of democracy.
Ortom said it was time to rescue the country from bottom, a position it was placed by the APC government, to the top, adding that Saraki deserves the presidential seat to enable him salvage the country from its current mess.
On his part, the State Chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede, represented by his deputy, Isaac Mfo, said the party in the state had remained intact even as he assured the presidential hopeful that they would back his ambition to rule the country.
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