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April 3, 2023

10th NASS Leadership: Power blocs strategise, await Tinubu’s return

ECOWAS

*17 men, one woman jostle for Senate President, Reps speaker,
*Abiodun, Zulum, Adeleke, Aliero back deputy speaker for speakership

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru & Levinus Nwabughiogu

THE jostling for the Senate Presidency and Speakership of the House of Representatives assumed a new gear, weekend, as power blocs in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, worked on their strategies to get the posts while awaiting the return of President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, from vacation.

Mid-last month, the APC hierarchy met with APC National Assembly members-elect in Abuja where Vice President-Elect Senator Kashim Shettima represented Tinubu.

The issue of zoning of offices reportedly came up at the meeting and Tinubu, party stalwarts said, asked APC loyalists to focus on the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls and discuss sharing of offices after the polls.

Speaking about the meeting, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa said: “This is a family affair meeting and it went very well. The National Chairman and the Vice President-Elect welcomed all elected National Assembly members and we appreciated the thoughts they have given us that we should all go back to our various states to make sure that come March 18, we are able to present our governorship candidates to the people so that on that day they will emerge victorious.

“It is a family affair. This is not the right time to talk about zoning. All we need now is to consolidate our victory. We have won the presidential and we should be able to take at least a minimum of 30 states.

“After the governorship election, we are going to gather again and by then we’ll take stock of what we have achieved and then the zoning system that the party wants to adopt will be given to us. The party agrees that all members will agree with what the party decides.”

The delay in announcing the zoning slots for the Senate President, Speaker and other presiding and principal offices for the incoming 10th National Assembly has widened the circle of aspirants for the positions

As it is, nine senators-elect are eyeing the Senate Presidency and the same number of members-elect, are seeking to become the Speaker.

Although two governorship, 11 senatorial, 35 House of Representatives and 98 House of Assembly elections will be concluded on April 15, the APC has won the majority of the posts at all levels, so far.

Currently, 30 senators were re-elected and among 98 seats declared so far, the APC has 57 senators; the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has 29; the Labour Party has six ; the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP has two; Social Democratic Party, SDP, has two, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Young Progressives Party, YPP have one Senator each.

In the House of Representatives the APC has 162 members-elect, the PDP has 102 seats; Labour Party 34 seats; NNPP 18 seats; APGA four seats while the Social Democratic Party SDP) and African Democratic Congress ( ADC) have two seats each.

Although the President-elect said he had no anointed candidates for the positions, and urged stakeholders to ensure justice, equity and balance in their choice of NASS leaders, party insiders told Vanguard that Tinubu has a crucial role in the process.

“As President-elect who will be sworn-in on May 29 as president we cannot talk about zoning of offices and who gets what without Asiwaju’s input. Now, a lot of people who are not qualified to hold leadership positions in the National Assembly are lobbying for the posts. We know those who worked for Asiwaju in the presidential election and delivered him. We have made our choice. We are waiting for Tinubu to return, we will present our choice to him,” a party leader from one of the Southern states said.

Tinubu to return soon — sources

On March 22, after a very exhaustive campaign and election season, Tinubu travelled abroad to rest and plan his transition programme ahead of the May 29, 2023 inauguration. The President-elect would rest in Paris and London, preparatory to going to Saudi Arabia for Umrah (Lesser Hajj) and the Ramadan fasting that began on March23.

With the fasting ending on April 23, it is not certain if the President-Elect would return immediately. One of his spokesmen said last night he was not sure when Tinubu would return. “I don’t know. I am not too sure,” he said.
Another aide said the former Lagos State governor deserved adequate rest after the hectic campaigns and might not be in a hurry to return.

High-wire horse-trading, strategising

While awaiting Tinubu’s return, senators have intensified efforts lobbying, and cajoling, lawmakers, members of the APC, and other stakeholders across the country for the top leadership slots in both chambers of the National Assembly.

In the Senate, the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President are the presiding officers that would warrant all the senators to vote. The other principal officers are prerogatives of the parties. The positions are Majority leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Whip from the ruling party while the opposition would produce the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader; Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.

According to the tradition of the National Assembly, lawmakers serving two or more terms are elected Presiding officers and in the Senate, the lawmaker will need at least 55 votes to win the election.

Those interested in the positions especially among the ranking senators are already reaching out to others for support.

Senate president aspirants

Currently, those eyeing the 10th Senate presidency include, serving Senate President, Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North); Senator Sani Musa (APC, Niger East); Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North); Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North); Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa Ibom North-West); Deputy Senate leader, Senator Abdul Ningi (APC, Bauchi Central); and Senator Abdul- Aziz Yari (APC, Zamfara);

Also, there are insinuations that Governor David Umahi (APC, Ebonyi South) and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North), who would be first-time legislators are interested in becoming senate president. For Umahi and Oshiomhole to succeed the ranking rule must be jettisoned.

Battle for speakership

At the last count, no fewer than nine lawmakers have joined the race for the speakership Those in play are Aliyu Betara (APC, Biu/Kwaya Federal Constituency, Borno State); Aminu Sani Jaji (APC, Kaura Namoda/Birnin Magaji Federal Constituency, Zamfara); current Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase (Wase federal constituency, Plateau); current Spokesman of the House, Ben Kalu (Bende Federal Constituency, Abia); Ado Doguwa (Doguwa/Tundu Wada Federal constituency Kano); Yusuf Gagdi (Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency, Plateau State); Princess Mariam Onuoha (Okigwe North/ Onuimo/Isiala Mbano Federal Constituency); Makki Abubakar Yalleman (Madori/Kaugama Federal Constituency, Jigawa State); and Abdulraheem Olawuyi (Ekiti, Isin, Irepodun); and Oke-ero Federal Constituency, Kwara).

Abiodun, Zulum, Adeleke, Aliero back Wase

Meanwhile, the aspiration of Ahmed Wase for the speakership of the Green Chamber received a boost, weekend, as Governors Babagana Zulum and Dapo Abiodun of Borno and Ogun states attested to his experience and loyalty. “Both governors spoke separately when Wase led a team of 14 federal lawmakers including freshers to their respective residences in Abuja.“While Zulum told Wase: “No one can take away your experience, competence and loyalty”, the Ogun governor acknowledged that Wase had “demonstrated party loyalty, commitment and humility as great qualities to lead the House of Representatives.

““As the APC governors spoke, former Governor of Kebbi State, now re-elected as senator, Adamu Aliero and Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State backed Wase’s aspiration. “Zulum, who received Wase said: “We are not in doubt about your capabilities, capacity and competence; no one can even take away your experience, loyalty and commitment to our party, but let’s cross the first hurdle, which is zoning the position to the North-Central and then we know what to do. Let’s pray hard so that we can fix that aspect of the race because I know the conversation is already on among us- I mean the governors. We will meet again on Wednesday to continue the conversation and Allah will answer prayers.

““On his part, Governor Abiodun said he was aware of Wase’s “high level of loyalty”, noting that the deputy speaker had played very key roles alongside the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to bring about political stability.“He said: “Your high level of loyalty and quality service to Nigeria in your capacity as deputy speaker to Femi Gbajabiamila has been key in stabilising the polity; you have demonstrated over the years that you are a true party man, a very consistent personality and a true democrat and progressive having grown from the defunct AC, ACN till today; you never disappointed the progressive family in any manner.

Without prejudice to zoning, you stand out as a personality who deserves to be speaker to continue to contribute your quota to national development.”“Meanwhile, Senator Aliero and Governor Adeleke assured Wase of their support after a brief close-door meeting at the former Kebbi governor’s Maitama, Abuja residence on Friday night.

“Aliero, who addressed a handful of Wase’s colleagues after a closed-door meeting said: “There is no reason for any of you to be worried; we just finished the ‘larger’ meeting. Myself, a close friend, and neighbour as well as the governor of Osun state just met with the deputy speaker and gave our assurances to support him for the position of speaker.”