By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakpore & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA— AFTER over two months of posturing and horse-trading, the adopted candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, emerged leaders of the Ninth National Assembly.
The party successfully averted a repeat of what happened in 2015 when its adopted candidates lost to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and immediate past House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
This time, immediate past Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North, who was also the party’s adopted candidate in 2015 emerged victorious.
Yesterday, he polled 79 votes to defeat former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South to emerge as President of the Ninth Senate. Ndume polled 28 votes.
Also, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the APC’s speakership candidate in 2015, won this time. He polled 283 votes to beat Mr. Mohammed Bago, who got 76 votes. For the post of the deputy speaker, Mr. Idris Wase emerged unopposed.
Similarly, Senator Ovie Omo- Agege, APC, Delta Central, scored 68 votes to defeat the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to emerge as the Deputy Senate President.
Ekweremadu polled 37 votes while one Senator elect abstained, one vote was invalid.
Ekweremadu’s belated entry into the DSP race caused initial ripples. Sources said the PDP’s hope of reaping from the divisions in the APC where it expected the APC to produce three contenders for the deputy senate presidency (Francis Alimikhena, Ovie Omo-Agege and Gaya went up in smoke as only Omo-Agege was nominated after the APC hierarchy got the other contenders to step down.
The victory of the APC adopted candidates was in spite of the nocturnal meetings held by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors and senators where they resolved to deliver block votes to Ndume and Mr. Mohammed Bago, who ran against Gbajabiamila.
The Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Mohammed Sani Omolori, began the process by calling for nomination of candidates at 10.31am.
Thereafter, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North nominated Ahmad Lawan for the position of Senate President.
Senator Abdullahi was seconded by Adeola Solomon Olamilekan, APC, Lagos West.
The CNA then asked if there were further nominations and Senator Ali Ndume was nominated by Ishaku Abbo, PDP, Adamawa North and seconded by Barinada Npigi, PDP, Rivers South East.
After the nominations, Lawan and Ndume addressed the Senators- elect on their plans for the Ninth Senate.
At 10.54am, the open secret balloting election commenced.
Announcing the result, the Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Mohammed Sani Omolori who declared Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan as the winner of the keenly contested election with 79 votes against 28 votes garnered by Ali Ndume, said that 107 Senators-elect voted.
On the election of Lawan, Omolori said: “Today, June 11, 2019, 107 Senators-elect voted. I am happy to report that 107 Senators-elect cast their votes. This is the result: Senator Ahmad Lawan 79 votes; Senator Ali Ndume 28 votes.”
“With this announcement, Senator Ahmad Lawan haven scored the highest votes is hereby elected and returns as the Senate President.”
After the declaration of the result, Senator Lawan took the oath of allegiance and office as he assumed the office of the 9th Senate President.
Sequel to this, Senator Ndume was accompanied to Senator Lawan and they exchanged pleasantries.
I’ll be fair to all — Lawan
In his acceptance speech after his inauguration and his colleagues, the newly elected Senate President, Ahmad Lawan promised that in the course of carrying out his assignment, he would be fair to everyone irrespective of party, political, and religious affiliation.
Lawan, who noted that the Senate under his leadership would do justice to all, to ensure that it performed its role for the benefit of Nigerians, said, “elections are over. It shows that we voted for a united senate and it is clear that the outcome is bipartisan.
“All parties including the Peoples Democratic Party and Young Progressives Party voted for me and with this outcome the Ninth Senate is ready to take off as a united senate.
“Today means so many things. It is the commencement of another decade of our democracy and we will work to ensure best global parliamentary practice among other things.”
Lawan, who promised to ensure a secure and a prosperous future for all Nigerians, however assured that he would run a Senate that would be responsive to the needs of the masses whose mandate he said, they held in the Senate.
The new Senate President called for the support of his colleagues to ensure a robust Senate, adding that, “we will not settle for anything less than the best. We will dream big, aim high and take good initiatives.”
According to him, the agenda of the Ninth Senate would include improved Information Communication Technology (ICT), just as he said that they would work in collaboration with the Executive, to tackle cattle rustling, kidnapping and other crimes bedeviling the nation, “we will work with the executive for sustained pursuit of national ethical renewal.”
Lawan, who noted that the Senate would address youth unemployment, high rate of suicide, depression, corruption, insecurity among others, said the upper chamber would work towards finding lasting solution to the disturbing educational challenges in the country, adding that it was embarrassing to have about 14 million out of school children.
The Senate President, who allayed fears that the Senate under him would be subservient to the executive, said, “the Senate will be independent while working with the executive. We will choose unity of purpose instead of conflict.”
Lawan who promised that he would ensure that Senate’s relationship with stakeholders including civil society organisations and the media were strengthened, said, “we must drive a transformative Senate dedicated to serving the people with confidence, courage and patriotism.
“In doing so, we are convinced that our past was only a story told while our future can yet be written in gold.”
Omo-Agege, Ekweremadu face-off
Prior to the election of the Deputy Senate President, Omo- Agege was nominated by Senator Ahmed Baba Kaita, Katsina and was seconded by Sabi Abdullahi, Niger.
Ekweremadu, on his part was nominated by Chukwuka Utazi, Enugu and seconded by Rose Oko, Cross River.
After the sorting of the 105 votes cast during the exercise, Omo-Agege emerged with 68 votes against 37 votes for Ekweremadu while one vote was voided and one senator abstained.
Omo-Agege was the sole candidate of APC following the decision of other APC aspirants to step down.
To the amazement of other APC Senators-elect, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was nominated to vie for the office of the Deputy Senate President which he had occupied since 2003.
After the conclusion of the election into the two offices, all the Senators-elect including PDP, YPP, APC and party stalwarts took turn to congratulate Senate President Lawan and his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege.
Why some PDP senators voted Omo-Agege
Meanwhile, one of the lawmakers who spoke on the condition of anonymity observed that some PDP Senators-elect gave Omo-Agege sympathy votes in demonstration of their disgust for the former Deputy Senate President’s “overstay in the office.”
Reacting to his defeat, Senator Ekweremadu who congratulated both the new Senate President and his deputy, said that he has made a point by contesting.
Ekweremadu, who appreciated his colleagues, constituents, and Nigerians for their support, took to his social media handle after the inauguration of the Ninth Senate, saying: “I congratulate the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan and my successor as Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege on their elections.
“I specially appreciate my colleagues, who supported me as I vied for the office again to preserve the hallowedness and honour of the Senate and uphold equity as a priceless ingredient for building a Nigeria of our dreams.
“I have made my point and my colleagues have made their choice. It is now for us all to join hands across all divides to work for the success of the Ninth Senate and National Assembly as well as the peace and prosperity of our nation.
“I am deeply indebted in gratitude to the good people of Enugu West and well-meaning Nigerians, whose support and prayers have seen me this far. They can rest, assured that I will continue to give them quality representation.”
I’ll work with Lawan — Ndume
Also, in his response, Senator Ali Ndume said he will work with the newly elected Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.
Speaking immediately after the election which he lost yesterday, Ndume who explained that he will work with Lawan in the interest of the country, described Lawan as a well experienced lawmaker, who was four years ahead of him, adding that he happily contested the election which he believes was in tandem with democracy.
He was optimistic that the ruling APC would not see his action as a rebellion but in deepening democracy, asserting that what he did made the election of Senate President credible, adding, “Ahmad Lawan is my brother who is well experienced having been here four years ahead of me. I will give him all the necessary support.
“I insisted on contesting against him in order to deepen democracy.
“I hope the party would agree with me that what I did was in the interest of democracy and I do know that power belongs to God. It’s God’s will that my colleague becomes the President. I will do all I can with others for him to succeed because his success is our success.”
Said Ndume: “Democracy without election is not democracy. That is why it is very important to stand for and defend the constitution. Section 50 (1) provides that the Senators shall elect the senate president and his deputy from among themselves and that was what happened. When they did that election, I got 28 or thereabout, that is democracy in action, no matter the imperfection.
“I insisted on secret balloting because in democracy, election must be seen to be free and fair and this election was conducted freely and fairly through the open secret balloting which gives credibility to the process. If I had agreed with the anointment of Ahmad Lawan as the Senate President, in line with the directive of the party, there won’t have been election and it would have dented the image of the party and the government. That is why I don’t see myself as a loser. I have won and I think the party should commend me.”
It won’t be business as usual — Gbajabiamila
In his acceptance speech, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said it was time to move on.
According to him,’’there is more to unite us than to divide us; there is much work to be done. We must remain one nation in freedom and unity.’’
Gbajabiamila pledged to carry out reforms in the House, stressing that it would not be business as usual.
“We’ll be shaking the table just a little. The House must be reformed before the nation is reformed,” he said.
To this end, he appointed former Speaker of Zamfara State House of Assembly, Sanusi Rikiji, as his Chief of Staff.
Fear over voting system
Prior to the announcement of results yesterday, there was palpable tension and fear when senators- elect commenced voting due to the fact that the move to use the open ballot system as canvassed by the Senator Lawan- led group, which did not sail through.
The senators-elect used the open secret ballot system.
There was a rowdy session in the hallowed chamber as the Clerk of National Assembly disclosed that he did not get any court order to change the Rules or stop the Senate from using the 2015 Standing Orders as Amended.
According to him, if there was any court order, there was no reason he will not respect it.
At exactly 10am, Omolori told the senators-elect that the Standing Order which says Secret ballot system would be used for the election of the presiding officers.
Immediately after the announcement, the hallowed Chamber was thrown into confusion, following shouts from Barau Jibrin, and others who were against the decision.
Omolori had to call them to order, telling them that no motion shall be moved or taken as the business of the day was inauguration and election of presiding officers.
Present at the inauguration of the 9th Senate were the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole; Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF and governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; immediate past governor of Zamfara State, Abdul Aziz Yari; the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari and other APC governors.
Former Senate Presidents, Joseph Wayas and Adolphus Wabara were also at the Chamber. Wayas came in at 9.54am.
There was very tight security in and around the National Assembly. The gates were manned by armed members of the Department of State Services, DSS, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, the Police, just as the only entrance to the venue was the gate of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and that of the Presidential Villa.
The security agents were everywhere in the National Assembly and those at the entrance of the Chamber are well over twenty.
Senator Ali Ndume was one of the first senators-elect to arrive the premises.
Ndume, who was dressed in his usual white Babaringa, arrived at 7.20 am and went straight to the Mosque under the chamber to pray.
Okorocha denied entry
Also, the immediate past governor of Imo State and senator-elect for Imo West, Rochas Okorocha, arrived, and went straight to the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Mohammed Sani Omolori.
Okorocha, who arrived the Senate lobby at 7.40am, did not participate in the inauguration process as he had to leave the premises before the commencement of the event.
Also the former governor of Kano State, Senator Kabiru Gaya, APC, South, arrived the Lobby at 7.45am.
In a related development, wives, friends, husbands, associates, and relations of senators-elect were also there to celebrate with the senators- elect.
At 8.45am, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Yobe North entered the Chamber. He was accompanied by his supporters, including Barau Jibrin, Yahaya Abdullahi, among others.
Buhari lauds lawmakers
Reacting to the elections last night, President Muhammadu Buhari lauded the transparent manner it was conducted and congratulated the newly elected presiding officers of the Ninth National Assembly.
President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, also saluted all the legislators and their political parties for their display of patriotism and non-partisanship before and during the election.
.President Buhari described the emergence of the new leaders of the legislative branch of government as “a new dawn, different from duplicity and perfidy of the immediate past.”
He charged the winners to use their exalted positions for the higher interest of the country, her people, and the growth of democracy.
“The Executive does not desire a rubber stamp Legislature. While separation of powers is essential, collaboration among all arms of government should be the name of the game. Opposition need not be virulent.
“Stepping into the Next Level, the legislature has a big role to play for the goals of the administration to be achieved. This is for the ultimate good of the nation,’’ the President said.
He urged contestants who lost out to be gallant in defeat, and join hands with the victors who should exhibit magnanimity and eschew vindictiveness.
He said: “At the end of the day, we, the people, who elected our representatives at the national level, are the winners.”
In his reaction, former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, who described the outcome of the election as an indication that the senators-elect voted their choice, however, called on them to hit the ground running.
Senator Wabara, who noted that Nigerians were expecting their contribution to the growth of the economy, said: “The voting was democratic and keenly contested because nobody came unopposed.
Also reacting, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano) who described the outcome of the election as good for democracy, said that with Lawan’s leadership, he was optimistic that the 9th Senate would be rancour- free.
Also reacting, Senator Matthew Urhoghide PDP, Edo South, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the election.