• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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10th NASS: Contenders in last minute lobby

‘Minority parties plotting to snatch leadership of the National Assembly’

History will be made today, Tuesday, June 13, 2023 as the 10th National Assembly is proclaimed.

BusinessDay gathered that lobbying is at its peak despite the reported preference already shown by the ruling party over who becomes what in the yet-to-be inaugurated 10th bicameral legislature.

Before now, the jostle for principal officers had nearly bred crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Earlier in the race, President Bola Tinubu had anointed four lawmakers-elect for the leadership of the bicameral legislature.

His choice did not go down with some of those interested in the race, who have also insisted on going on to contest against the preferred candidates.

Some Nigerians have advised that the President and his party, though have the right to prefer some over others, should not impose leadership on the National Assembly.

They reasoned that if they succeeded in influencing the outcome of the election at the National Assembly, it could worsen the low confidence level of government and possibly makes many Nigerians to “switch off.”

Speaking with BusinessDay in Lagos, Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said: “They should not impose leaders on the National Assembly. They should allow the members to choose who leads them. Is it right for the President and the party to have a choice? Absolutely yes. They can lobby other members to see if it is possible, but to be seen to impose leadership will be against the grains of democracy.”

Read also: The National Assembly’s threat to pension reform

The APC had settled for former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio as president of the Senate, and Senator Barau Jubrin, Kano North Senatorial District (North West) as deputy Senate president.

The party also named Tajudeen Abbass, from Kaduna State (North West) as Speaker of the House and Benjamin Kalu from Abia State (South East) as deputy Speaker.

The APC leaders said the decision was to avoid a repeat of the 2015 arrangement where the process was hijacked by some other members and those endorsed by the party could not emerge as presiding officers of the National Assembly.

As of today, other aspirants such as Abdulaziz Yari, (Zamfara West); Osita Izunaso (Imo West) and Orji Kalu (Abia North) have insisted that they would not step down for the party’s consensus candidate.

Some other APC lawmakers under the aegis of G6 coalition fiercely opposed the zoning arrangement, describing it as an unconstitutional imposition of leadership of the 10th Assembly by forces outside the National Assembly.

Some have even asked the party’s leadership to be prepared for a repeat of the 2015 episode.

Some key APC leaders across the country have also voiced their concerns about the shape the NASS leadership issue was taking.

But Akpabio and Jubril Barau said they have more than 70 percent of thesenators-elect backing them and are confident that they would emerge on victorious today despite opposition by some of their colleagues.

Ali Ndume, a senator, representing Borno South, who is leading the campaign for Akpabio said President Tinubu told him that Akpabio was his preferred candidate for the president of the 10th Senate, and that the President would not change his stand on his choice.

Although he admitted strong competition from the camp of the former governor of Zamfara State, Yari, Ndume said that 75 out of the 109 members of the Senate had already queued behind the ambition of Akpabio.

“As of today, I am telling you we have 75 senators. All advantages are on our side. We have the support of the party, we have the support of the president, and most importantly we have the support of most of the senators. These senators signed up to endorse our programme.

“Let’s say that some people will jump over at the last minute, that can happen, but I am very confident. I don’t want to be overconfident because people can change their mind, but we have a better candidate.
“We have two candidates that are in front now, that is Yari and Akpabio and our candidate has all the advantages over the other candidate, politically and intellectually, we have an added advantage,” he said.

Similarly, also speaking with journalists a few days ago ahead of today’s inauguration, Yari said he was the best person to lead the Senate. He said that his focus, if elected, would be to ensure that Nigerians’ aspiration for good governance was achieved.

Yari assured of ensuring a firm, transparent and purposeful National Assembly ready to partner with the executive to deliver a secured, united and prosperous Nigeria.

“It is important to state, with the permission of my bosses, that I possess the requisite experience, competence, capacity and national acceptance to lead the Senate at this point in time.

“As you all know, I have over the years built strong connections among the various peoples of Nigeria across the 36 states and the FCT, and I understand the nuances of our nation.

“We will build on such ties, connections and experience to heal our nation, foster strong synergies and unity in our country.

“I want to assure you that the National Assembly which we seek to lead will be stable, proactive, listen to and pursue the genuine aspiration and yearnings of Nigerians,’’ Yari said.

According to him, “It is for these reasons that I put myself forward with the support of the majority of my colleagues and bosses to lead the 10th Senate.

“As fellow stakeholders in this democratic project, I seek your support as always in this noble mission, whose primary objectives are stability, unity, economic development and wellbeing of all Nigerians.”

For now, it is not clear, who among the contestants that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) lawmakers-elect in the two legislative houses would be supporting.

A Political Analyst Tope Ogun said the current tussle over the positions was part of the process in a democracy, adding that he expects reconciliation between the contenders before they go into the election.

“What is happening is not unusual to me, it is part of politics, and politics here is about interest. So, don’t be surprised with what you are seeing from those guys,” Ogun said.

Since the return to democracy and advent of the current Fourth Republic in 1999, the ruling party and the incumbent president have always had a say in who emerge leaders in the National Assembly.

While some believe such was good to allow the President choose who to work with, some others say that such interference only makes the legislature a rubber stamp in the hand of the Executive; which is dangerous in a democracy.