President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has made a strong case for the support of opposition parties for the success of the 10th National Assembly.
Speaking with State House Journalists after attending the Sallah homage at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday, Lawan however expressed confident that the All Progressive Congress (APC), members and senators-elect will respect whatever the party decides on who occupies the office of 10th Senate President
Lawan noted that the APC with a total of 57 Senators will require 73 to get bills, resolutions and motions passed on the floor of the Senate,
“I don’t see anything wrong in the opposition talking to us, or we’re talking to the opposition to ensure that we’re on the same page, because we need opposition to ensure that we get most of our constitutional amendments when the time is right, because we can’t have the 73 in the Senate.
“So you need 73 senators at least for you to have any constitutional amendment. So you would need opposition. That’s why it is very, very critical, it is very essential that you work with opposition right from the beginning. Don’t ever think the opposition should be pushed away.
“I only believe in the very bipartisan chamber because it is more productive. It is more stable, it’s calm, and it gives you the kind of outcome that you will never get with a very rancourous chamber. And I’ve seen it, we have done it,” he said.
Lawan while dismissing a repeat of the 2015 experience where opposition parties took over the National Assembly leadership, assured that “opposition are not planning to usurp powers because it is presumptuous that the APC will not be a united party, APC is a United party and the opposition party will simply work with the APC majority.
According to him, “There is no way an opposition will decide who should be the senate president who should be the speaker, it is our party and other leaders that will decide which zone or whoever, and the rest of us in the party will key in and of course the opposition would have no option but to support.
“We will respect whatever our leaders eventually come up with and we are praying that we are able to deal with it as decisively as possible, and then keep ourselves united and work together with other parties.
“We have been able to work together with other parties in the ninth assembly in a very bipartisan way, smoothly and seamlessly. And I believe that we can repeat that. And it is very, very essential that we have a very United National Assembly. And I’m very confident that we will do that. As the battles for who occupies the office of the 10th Senate President hots up however, outgoing Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, has been adjudged as best candidate for the position.
David Umahi, who has been Governor of Ebonyi State for the past eight years, will be expected battle for the coveted position with former Governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) with the majority of about Senators in the Upper Legislative Chambers is yet to make a definite statement on whether it will zone the position to any particular section of the county or allow open contest.
The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Uchenna Orji noted that Umahi’s experience as Speaker of the State House of Assembly for 8 years and Legislator for 12 years, placed him above other contenders for the office of the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly.
Umahi, who recently won his election to represent Ebonyi South Senatorial Constituency, is counting on his strong cooperation and working relationship with the Legislative Arm of the Ebonyi State government, amongst others
According to him, “Umahi has indebt knowledge of the workings of the Legislature as well as Intergovernmental relations.
“As Deputy Governor, he stoopped to conquer and was cracking the hardest carnel of his boss in fervent humility and profound loyalty
“As State Party Chairman, he built the biggest Party office ever built by any democratic government in Africa and as Governor, he made Ebonyi State a reference point in innovative development in Nigeria
“Put sentiments apart and give him a chance as Senate President, you will agree and appreciate that Umahi is a Ranking Leader in capacity, experience, passion for service delivery and he is a rare leadership gem in Africa.”
Orji dismissed the use of Ranking in the Senate, a system which recognizes the length of years a candidate spent at the Upper Legislative Chambers, as a factor that determines who occupy the position.
“They speak of Ranking as if it is a condition precedent for being a Senate President.
“This sentiment has shrinked the thought of legal minds and suppressed the pre- eminence and considerations of the rule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on who qualifies to be elected as Senate President of Nigeria’s Senate.
“Under the constitution, the eligibility for being a Senate President is clear. By Section 50 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) every member of the Senate who has taken oath of membership is eligible to be voted for as Senate President.
“Ranking is not given any any iota of pre-eminence. It is expected that in electing a Senate President, emphasis should be on nation building, capability and character to lead the Senate to achieve the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
“The Senate members are known to be distinguished representatives of the people who must emphasize the virtue of mental and moral character (not ranking) as a yardstick for who is to be elected President of the Senate.
“Order 3 of the Senate Senate Standing Orders 2015 as Amended has three categories of people that can be elected as President of the Senate of Nigeria. A first timer is clearly empowered by Order 3 to contest for Senate Presidency alongside ranking members and those who came from the Federal House of Representatives.
“Essentially what determines the pendulum is the mindset of the Party in Majority, in this case the APC, the interest of the majority of the Distinguished Senators and the prominence of power play between the ranking Senators and the first timers.
“Mind you, the first timers are greater in number under the 10th Senate. No rule says that Ranking members will determine who is elected as President of the Senate. All the inaugurated Senators have equal voting rights. The Ranking Senators have no extra- influence or right of first refusal in who becomes the Senate President.
He declared that Nigerians want a Senate Presidency that will be vibrant, that will balance the national Political equilibrium and Geopolitical tripod, adding that “the South East deserves the fullest consideration in this regard. In Zoning considerations, South East is one of the three major parts of the tripod.
“In the history of Nigeria’s independence, leadership of this Nation has always stood on the tripod of East, West and North. This is fair and equitable.
“In settling for South East, the Party in power and the Distinguished Senators who are electing the Senate President should look at pedigree not Ranking; they should look at those who have served with proven records of probity and accountability.
“They should make performance and leadershp experience count and not the number of tenures spent by a ranking Senator.”