Politics

May 10, 2023

10th NASS leadership: Crisis hits APC over zoning of Senate president, Speaker

Adamu Abdullahi

Senator Abdullahi Adamu

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omezia Ajayi, John Alechenu, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Luminous Jannamike, LAGOS
The zoning crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, has taken a new turn with stakeholders singing discordant tunes as the various zones make fresh demands on the party hierarchy.

The APC National Working Committee, NWC, on Monday, zoned the Senate Presidency of the forthcoming 10th National Assembly to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West. The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.

Specifically, the party adopted the zoning template and candidates of its President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and settled for Senators Godswill Akpabio/ Barau Jubrin for Senate leadership; and Messrs Abass Tajudeen/Ben Kalu for House of Representatives leadership.

While some stakeholders are in support of the party’s move, others are against it and want a review.

NWC divided

But the NWC is now divided over the micro-zoning of the positions. It emerged, yesterday night that the zoning template was not unanimously adopted by all members of the NWC.

While many of the members did not exactly oppose Tinubu’s choice of geopolitical zones, they were said to have kicked against the micro-zoning of the leadership positions.

“It was indeed the thinking of some of us that anyone from the zones to which a particular office has been allocated can contest. We did not want a situation where positions would be given to individuals. This was why we also advised that there should be further consultations,” said an aggrieved member, who did not want his name mentioned for fear of possible repercussions.

He expressed concern that other aggressive contestants, particularly in the House of Representatives could team up to produce a formidable opposition to the adopted candidate, Tajudeen Abbas.

Why N-West deserves Senate President

Some APC stakeholders in the North-West are not happy with the speakership and deputy Senate presidency slots. According to them, the North-West gave Tinubu the highest number of votes at the two senators-elect from the zone – the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin representing Kano-North district, and former governor Abdulaziz Yari are vying for the seat.

Insisting on producing the Senate President, a North-West APC stakeholder said: “Tinubu, candidate of the APC in the 2023 presidential election, is now the president-elect courtesy of the magnanimity and loyalty of the North-West, which gave him the highest votes in the election followed by the South-West. Without the North-west, therefore, there would not be a Tinubu presidency.

“Denying the North-West the senate leadership will be akin to testing the loyalty of the region and its people, and ultimately, it would come with dire political consequences.”

18 N-Central Senators-elect kick

In like manner, Senators- elect from the North-Central zone kicked against the APC zoning template, saying it would not stand the test of time.

The Senators-elect from different political parties, who rejected the zoning arrangements for the 10th National Assembly leadership had written a letter of protest to the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC, calling on the party to, as a matter of urgency, jettison the arrangements they described as unacceptable.

According to them, only the North-Central geopolitical zone did not produce any presiding officer.

The letter by the lawmakers-elect entitled: “Resolution of the North Central Caucus of the 10th Senate on NASS Leadership Zoning, was signed by 18 Senators-elect.

The letter read in part: “We the North-Central Senators-elect Caucus met on Monday, May 8, 2023, and resolved as follows:
“That the North-Central as a geopolitical zone in Nigeria has paid its dues in the political stability of the country and shall continue to do so, but where we see the open denial of our rights and privileges, we will have no option than to voice out in the interest of the zone and its people we represent.

“It is pertinent to know that we are fully committed to supporting the incoming administration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Tinubu for a better Nigeria.

This can only happen if fairness, equity and justice are ensured. It is on record that the North-Central gave the APC 41 per cent of her votes to victory, hence we equally deserve it as others.

“Our caucus reviewed the proposed zoning structure released, and we are not pleased and comfortable with the allocation of the positions of the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 10th National Assembly to a particular geopolitical zone of the country (North-West), we hereby reject it.

“The convention has always been that the six geopolitical zones of the country will have one each of the six positions.

“Now that the South-West and North-East have produced the President-elect and Vice President-elect respectively, it is only fair and natural that the positions of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives should be shared among the other four geopolitical zones, that is the North-Central, South-South, South-East and North-West.

“Sequel to the above, we as a caucus are calling on the APC to immediately retract its earlier decision which schemes us out of the power-sharing formula of the country and cede the position of the Deputy Senate President to the North-Central Zone so as to ensure fairness, equity and justice for a smooth 10th Senate.”

Avoid sycophants, Kawu advises Tinubu

Meanwhile, the Senator-Elect from Kano South Senatorial District on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Suleiman Kawu, has warned Tinubu not to allow sycophants to deceive him into taking a wrong decision on the National Assembly leadership issue.

Kawu, who addressed newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, said the only way the 10th National Assembly lawmakers could face the challenges facing the country was to have the Constitution as their guide.

Kawu, who noted that majority of the lawmakers elect were already discussing working against the zoning arrangements announced by the APC, said: “We are in touch with 109 senators and I will assure you that we have a serious number to stop imposition in the Senate or in the House of Representatives.”

N-Central insists on Speakership slot

Also, a section of the North-Central zone is demanding the Speakership position. This demand was made known by the North Central Democratic Coalition, led by Dr. Ben Amodu, during a rally at the APC National Secretariat, yesterday.

He said: “Today, the North Central Democratic Coalition elected to use this occasion of a rally to impress on the NWC of the APC to activate all necessary mechanisms towards ensuring the speakership position for the 10th National Assembly is zoned to the North-Central region.

“Our region has been a consistent supporter of the APC, and we have contributed immensely to the success of the party in every election,” he said.

Stating that the North-Central region is a critical bloc in Nigerian politics, Amodu accused the APC of marginalizing the zone, warning that failure to meet their demand would have political consequences.

“In the event that the North-Central is not carried along, it might send a strong message to the region that might come with some political consequences, as the case may be,” he said.

Oyebanji, Ekiti Senators-elect back Akpabio

However, Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State has said that Ekiti has committed to a united and formidable 10th National Assembly as well the decision of the APC NWC on the zoning of Senate President position to the South-South.
The governor made the declaration in Abuja while hosting Senator Godswill Akpabio alongside some Senators-elect.

The meeting also had in attendance elected Senators from Ekiti- Opeyemi Bamidele, Yemi Adaramodu and Cyril Fasuyi.

Speaking with newsmen, Governor Oyebanji said the decision of the NWC on the leadership of the 10th National Assembly remains sacrosanct.

Oyebanji said: “In Ekiti State, we are committed to a united National Assembly and we are also committed to the decision of the NWC of the APC with respect to the zoning and you can attest to the fact that all the Senators are here with me just to have dinner with Akpabio.

“We are supporting his aspiration as directed by the national body of the party. We are in this together, we are not only supporting, we will identify with him publicly and that is what I have done.”

I’m prepared Akpabio

Also speaking, Senator Akpabio said: “I had the opportunity of being a lawyer for the past 36 years, I have also had the opportunity to serve in the executive, as a commissioner and I also had the opportunity to serve as a governor for eight years. I have been in the Senate before and I was a leader in the Senate and had the opportunity to serve as a Minister today I am a Senator-elect and a prospective Senate President by the grace of Almighty God and the decision of the National Working of our Party.

“I’m prepared and determined to support the incoming President, Tinubu to succeed. It is going to be a good moment for Nigeria despite the difficult terrain in terms of the economy and all that. We are going to do our best to bring out good policies that will enable Nigerians to have food on their tables and also create job opportunities to reduce banditry and insecurity in the country. We will unite the country, we are determined to do that,” he said.

South-East APC group hails party’s decision

In like manner, the South-East/Igbo APC Progressives Roundtable, SIAPRO, accepted the decision of the party leadership on the zoning template but sought deliberate measures to integrate the zone in the scheme of things in the APC and Nigeria.

In a letter to Tinubu, APC National Chairman, Senator Adamu and APC governor, governors-elect and national officers by Dr Uche Diala (director general), Mr Emmanuel Molokwu (national secretary), Mr Charles Okoye (national publicity secretary) the group, said: “We have seen the zoning arrangement for presiding officers and portfolios for the 10th National Assembly as prescribed by our great party, the APC. Even if we have any misgivings over that, as true party men and women, we accept it in total loyalty and respect for party supremacy. We know that the party will do what is right for the party and the nation in its wisdom.

“Without prevarication, South East/Igbo APC progressives are very concerned about how South East/Igbo APC progressive foot soldiers, who have given their all at the risk of their lives, properties and livelihoods would be treated going forward. We all know how we have been treated in the last eight years. Yet we endured and kept believing and fighting out of patriotism and conviction.

“We saw how the last Presidential Campaign Council was constituted. Yet we kept believing, giving even more, against all odds, for the love of the country and the APC, including contributing in no small way to the victory of our great party and Tinubu in the last election.

“We have been watching how certain lists have been flying around recently, and we have quietly observed the composition and make-up of those lists as far as South East/Igbo APC Progressives are concerned.

“We have also been reading how some of our fellow progressives essentially lump Igbos into the same basket of IPOB and Obidients without as much as showing sensitivity for South East/Igbo APC Progressives, who defied all odds, vilification and attacks from their kinsmen, yet kept believing and fighting for the good of Nigeria, the party and the progressive cause.

“We cannot pretend that we do not know or see what is going on and we cannot continue to keep quiet. “If we truly desire and mean it that we seek deeper integration of Igbo and the South-East into the APC and back into the mainstream of the Nigerian national and political life, then deliberate and sincere action needs to be taken to ensure that South-East/Igbo APC Progressives who have been in the trenches since 2015 are not left behind once again.”

Gbaja’s men go after members-elect for signatures

Amid the demands, lawmakers said to be loyal to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has commenced a lobbying drive to collect signatures from members-elect.

The development followed what an NWC member of the APC described as a ‘deliberate ambiguity’ in the press statement issued by the party.

The NWC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The whole scenario is totally different from what it used to be. We usually zone to areas or zones and possibly allow persons interested to vie for the positions zoned to them. But in this case, we were merely handed over what they said had been agreed upon without any input or deliberations from us (NWC).

“So, since that is what they want, we have equally given it back to them and the public to begin to look deeper into whatever ambiguity they can find because we were deliberate and very cautious in our correspondence because we are not babies.

“It is now left for stakeholders to seek whatever intervention, interpretation and clarifications at any level.”

Freshers from New Dawn Movement

At press time, a meeting of freshers under the aegis of the New Dawn opposed to Tajudeen Abbas was about to commence.
The meeting was billed to collate signatures but only about 23 of the new members out of over 200 had arrived but a few declined to append their signatures.

Wase, Ado-Doguwa, others meet

Meanwhile, following the letter by the party’s NWC, House of Representatives aspirants, Messrs Yusuf Gagdi, Sani Jaji, Idris Wase, Alhassan Ado-Doguwo, Aliyu Betara and Sada Soli held a strategic meeting, yesterday, in Abuja.
The aspirants insisted that they would not shift their grounds on the zoning of the National Assembly position.
One of the aspirants, who spoke after the meeting, said: “Yes, we are forward together.”

NASS members-elect ’ll determine who presides —PDP, LP

Meanwhile, reacting, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party, LP, yesterday, dismissed the APC zoning arrangements, describing it as an internal affair of the party.

In separate responses to the subject, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Debo Ologunagba, and his LP counterpart, Obiora Ifoh gave their perspectives.

APC’s zoning an internal affair—PDP

Ologunagba said: “I’m not a member of the other party, what they decide to do in this case is their business, we will do our own.”
Although he was non-committal as to the details of what plans the party has to thwart APC’s move to control both chambers, it was gathered that the party was trying to first put its house in order before making its stand on the issue public.

A party loyalist privy to the development, said: “Our party is just being tactical. The truth is that we need to get our acts together to avert a repeat of what happened during the last elections in some states where some of our leaders especially governors worked against the interest of the party.

“Some of the alliances formed by some of the G-5 governors with the ruling party are still active and may come into play and a lot of consultations are ongoing.”

It’s an exercise in futility —LP

On his part, the spokesman of the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh expressed confidence that members-elect, especially those elected on the platform of opposition parties would use their numerical strength to assert themselves to give Nigerians a leadership that will be truly representative.

Ifoh said: “The APC has made its pronouncement which is within its right when speaking to its members.

“Our members and members of other opposition parties, who together form the majority are not bound by the APC’s decision as such, they will vote for men and women with capacity.”