Divisive Motions As Tinubu Meets APC Leaders, Lawmakers-elect Over NASS Leadership
Nigeria’s President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, would meet with the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and lawmakers-elect on Monday, March 13, 2023, Naija News learnt.
Though the agenda of the meeting is still sketchy as of reporting time, a source privy to the meeting at the APC secretariat told newsmen that the party stakeholders and president-elect are expected to deliberate on the zoning of the National Assembly (NASS) leadership.
The source told the PUNCH on anonymity that the meeting scheduled to hold at the State House in Abuja tomorrow would involve senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect on the APC platform in the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections.
“We feel that this was a frantic effort to avoid a repeat of the coup that brought in Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House in 2015, respectively, respectively,” the source told reporters.
The source said the party was wary of the “ghost of the civilian coup” executed by Saraki and Dogara in 2015, which, according to him, was still haunting the ruling party. He said the situation could have been averted if both politicians had considered party supremacy ahead of their selfish interests.
Naija News understands the invitation to the meeting was earlier confirmed on the official Twitter page of the APC on Saturday evening.
Another copy of the meeting invitation signed by APC National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, which journalists obtained, requested the guests to come along with the Certificates of Return issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after they were declared winners in the February 25th presidential and national assembly elections.
The invitation read, “This is to inform all Senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that they are invited to a parley with the party’s national leadership.
“The meeting, which the President-elect and Vice President-elect will attend, will be held at the State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. Senators/House of Representatives-elect must come to the meeting with their Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Certificates of Return and must come alone.
“The meeting is strictly on invitation. Date: Monday, 13th of March, 2023. Time: 2 pm prompt. Venue: State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. All guests are expected to arrive early to allow for screening and be seated before 12 noon.”
Confirming the agenda of the meeting, a member of the APC NWC, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “The conference is going to deal with the issue of who leads the next National Assembly. You know we cannot stand aloof and allow everyone to continue spending money in wooing their colleagues for their ambitions.
“We are also trying to prevent power brokers and external forces from hijacking the next National Assembly. The President-elect will not stand by like the current President and allow power seekers and enemies to hijack the National Assembly. It is not in the interest of the President-elect and not in the interest of the ruling party as well.
“Yes, the President is aware of the meeting but is not attending. We took the meeting to the Villa to limit the number of attendees and prevent those not invited and also our enemies from coming.”
Divisive Motions On The NASS Leadership
Naija News understands that lawmakers-elect and APC stakeholders have different opinions concerning the zoning of the national assembly leadership positions.
There are heels of calls by concerned members of the party, including the National Vice Chairman (North-West) and member of NWC, Mallam Salihu Lukman, that there was a need to lock down the sensitive positions of the Senate president and Speaker after the posts of President and Vice-President had been zoned to the South-West and North-East regions, respectively.
Lukman opined that no candidate from the two regions should be considered for both positions and that the APC should not consider narratives by opportunities in the party. The Kaduna politician, who earlier called for the party’s reformation, appealed that only North-West, South-East and South-South candidates should be considered for the principal positions.
“Some specific recommendations may be necessary at this point. The offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to be locked. Given that the President and Vice-President are from the South-West and the North-East, respectively, nobody from either of these two regions should aspire for any of these offices. Opportunists may argue that the South-West also produced the Vice-President and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the last four years.
“We must correct this kind of lopsided reality as a strategic approach to dousing ethnic and religious tension in the country. With a national chairman from the North-Central and hopefully a Christian, the North-Central too should also be excluded from aspiring for either the position of Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Accordingly, the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West, South-East or the South-South. With a Muslim President and a Muslim Vice-President, it is only logical to zone the Senate President, who is the number three ranking leader of the government, to either the South-East or the South-South, who will be a Christian,” Lukman told newsmen.
He stressed that logically, the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West.
This according to him, will have the advantage of acknowledging that the North-West gave Tinubu the highest votes of 2,950,393, representing 33.6 per cent of the votes he won.
“All other positions in government can be assigned by taking a bearing from that,” Lukman suggested. He added that while it might be important to also consider the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation as part of the positions to be zoned, Tinubu must not undermine his government by appointing a politician with zero experience in managing public service institutions to serve as the SGF.
According to him, the office of the SGF is the brain box of any government system, warning that if a wrong person is appointed to such a sensitive position, the delivery capacity of the government will be weak.
Consider South-East Despite Their Support For Peter Obi
Speaking on the agenda of the meeting, another member of the APC NWC and National Vice Chairman, South-East, Dr Ijeomah Arodiogbu, asked the ruling party to be considerate of the South-East in its position allocation and should look beyond the fact that the region voted massively for Peter Obi of the Labour Party during the presidential election.
Arodiogbu appealed to the party to consider zoning the Senate presidency or the speakership of the House of Representatives to the South-East. Although Arodiogbu admitted that he had no inkling of the agenda of the meeting, he expressed confidence that it would be about the consultation with principal officers of the lawmakers to avert a repeat of the controversial manner in which Saraki and Dogara emerged as leaders of the respective chambers of the National Assembly.
Arodiogbu said: “Monday’s meeting could be all about zoning of the offices at the National Assembly. We don’t have the agenda of the meeting yet. But I believe it is a consultation meeting. We have to meet as a family to decide on the way forward for the party and the incoming administration. But the agenda has not been discussed with us.
“The South-East should be accorded its due recognition despite our not-too-wonderful outing and contribution at the presidential and National Assembly elections. But that should be quite understandable, considering the fact that the entire nation embraced the (Peter) Obi candidacy and the South-East especially was very direct about it. Also, the role played by religion and ethnicity in Nigerian politics cannot be ruled out. This is why we believe that the South-East should be strongly considered for any of these positions.
“Luckily, our party retained the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So decisions should be made on what position goes where. And that could be part of what will happen at Monday’s meeting even though the agenda has not been revealed.”
Senate Presidency Contender Building Friendship With Colleagues
In a bid to build relations with fellow lawmakers, one of the contenders for the Senate presidency and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Jibrin Barau, reportedly held a meeting with over 70 senators-elect after the lawmakers had received their Certificate of Return from INEC.
An aide of the lawmaker who spoke to reporters earlier explained that Barau organised the event to enable him to interact with his colleagues.
“It was to enable him to interact and familiarise himself with his colleagues and nothing more,” the aide told The PUNCH.
Naija News reports that at least 98 out of 109 senators-elect had received their certificates of return from INEC at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. Recall that seven political parties won seats in the Senate, with the APC coming tops with 57 seats.
However, no fewer than 70 senators-elect reportedly attended Barau’s event in Abuja during the week to form bonds and friendships among themselves ahead of the inauguration of the legislature.
A source at the meeting told journalists that the attendance was not limited to APC senators-elect only, as members of other political parties were also present.
It is worthy of note that after his swearing-in, expected to happen on May 29, Tinubu is bound to within June transmit a proclamation letter to the National Assembly to terminate the 9th assembly for the 10th to take off and give room for the emergence of new presiding officers.
However, a third-timer at the Senate and fourth-timer in the National Assembly, Barau served at the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003 and is the only APC candidate that won a senatorial seat in Kano State.
Kalu Is Qualified For Senate Presidency
Making his position known regarding the National Assembly leadership, one of the sons of the winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Kolajo Abiola, opined that the senator representing the Abia North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Orji Uzor Kalu, is eminently qualified to be the next Senate President.
Recall that Kalu is the incumbent Chief Whip of the Senate. Naija News reports that the Abia State politician was re-elected in the February 25 National Assembly election.
Kalu served as the governor of Abia State for two terms between 1999 and 2007. In a statement made available to newsmen, Abiola said following the victory of Tinubu and Shettima in the presidential poll, it was only fair for the position of Senate President to come to the South-East.
“Zoning the Senate President to the South-East is the right thing to do,” he stated.
Abiola added: “With the 10th National Assembly beginning to take formation, the conversation surrounding the next Senate President is beginning to intensify.
“Our vibrant compatriots from the five States of the South-East region of Nigeria are clearly in a state of despondency, feeling short-changed. This is noticeable during the recent electioneering and thereafter.
“Furthermore, the major reaction to the emergence of the winner of the 2023 presidential election is a very clear message from our brothers and sisters of the eastern extraction in particular.
“Unsurprisingly, the acrimony and bad blood generated by reasons of perceived marginalisation need serious attention. It is thus imperative that the issue of Nigeria’s political dilemma be moved to the front burner given the significance of the issue at stake.”