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9th National Assembly:  PDP schemes for secret voting to gain control

By Yinka Ajayi

With the involvement of a dozen chieftains, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators-elect may have launched a two-pronged plan to wrestle the leadership of the National Assembly from the All Progressives Congress (APC) through the use of secret voting, setting the stage for an epic battle on the day of inauguration of the 9th session in June.

Although elections into the Senate presidency and the speakership of the House of Representatives are due early in June, APC sources said the two camps are preparing for the day, claiming that PDP “is already laying political landmines in the path of APC – the latter clinched majority of seats in the last elections – in order to have the legislative gavel by proxy.”

According to sources, while the opposition party cannot reinvent the wheel in terms of the colouration of the legislature during the 9th session of the National Assembly, it is allegedly trying to foist on the party with the majority, the Senate in particular, APC candidates that would do its bidding, using the Rule Book of National Assembly to achieve it.

In implementing the plan, some APC senators-elect, who double as foot soldiers for Senator Ahmad Lawan claimed that from their field experience and pronouncements of some PDP chieftains, members of the opposition, with a large war chest, allegedly made available by those being investigated by anti-corruption agencies, are ready to infiltrate National Assembly bureaucracy to perfect their plan.

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Sources claimed that the PDP chieftains may begin the implementation of the two-pronged plan by engaging the top echelon of the National Assembly bureaucracy and some APC senators-elect for their buy-in on the need to continue the use of the controversial 2015 Rule Book, especially its secret ballot provision, which paved the way for the emergence of the current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the directives of his then party, the APC.

“You know the former Clerk of the Senate allowed the controversial Rule to be used during the inauguration of the 8th Senate as he capitalised on the absence of APC senators in the red chamber and, to complicate the situation, Senator Bukola Saraki insisted on using the book after he was sworn-in as Senate president”, a ranking APC senator recalled.

“Remember that secret voting provision was smuggled into the Rule Book used for the 2015 elections despite our protest because secret voting is alien to parliamentary practices. When it comes to voting in parliaments worldwide, open voting is used”, a senator-elect said.

“What is now expected of the current Clerk of the National Assembly is not to use the controversial book for the inauguration of the 9th Session of the Senate come June this year.

“What happened in the 2015 inauguration will not repeat itself because we shall all be present during this year’s inauguration and we shall not allow the controversial Rule Book to be used. We will insist on open voting as practised in all parliaments in the world and the National Assembly bureaucracy has already been put on notice”.

It was gathered that senators-elect on the platform of the APC have agreed to insist that this time around, the 7th Senate session Rule Book, which is the approved version, should be used by the National Assembly bureaucracy in the unlikely situation of election of presiding officers as PDP will not be allowed to spring any political surprise.

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To buttress the stance of APC senators-elect on open voting, a source said one of his colleagues, an outspoken and respected returning senator-elect from Kano State, on a national television station life programme, had to tell a PDP chieftain that secret voting would not be allowed for the upcoming elections of presiding officers of the Senate under any circumstance and “that is a stand that will not be compromised”.

The senator-elect added,   “We underrated the capacity of PDP to go to any length to achieve its aims and objectives during the 2015 elections of presiding officers of the National Assembly while we were totally naïve about the crucial role of the bureaucracy in the scheme of things in the legislature, a situation that turned the table in favour of the opposition despite being in the minority”.

According to some APC senators-elect familiar with the scheming, the PDP has realised that unlike in 2015, its plan will not materialise this time and their financers know that “we are aware of their political manoeuvres and ready to expose sources of funds for their National Assembly intervention”.

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