Some All Progressives Congress senators-elect on Thursday cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the party against sitting on the fence on the issue of the principal officers of the National Assembly.
The APC has a majority of 65 senators in the ninth Senate compared to 37 Peoples Democratic Party’s members.
In the House of Representatives poll, the APC won 211 seats, while the PDP clinched 111 seats.
Although the APC leaders have yet to produce a zoning formula, it was gathered that senators-elect, who are interested in the Senate presidency and other positions have started lobbying their colleagues.
But the APC senators-elect, who spoke to one our correspondents shortly after collecting their certificates of return, said the Presidency and the APC leaders should latest by next week come out with their position on zoning.
The incoming lawmakers specifically cautioned President Buhari and the APC leadership against working at cross-purposes to avoid another tussle that would alter the party’s zoning formula.
One of the senators-elect, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Many of the ranking senators have started mobilising support for their ambition and there could be a crisis if the process is not well managed.
“I will want the leadership of our party to come up with the zoning formula latest by next week, since we are through with the elections. By so doing, they would have succeeded in giving a direction for everybody to follow.”
On his part, a senator-elect from Ekiti State, Adedayo Adeyeye, stressed the need for the national leadership of the party to provide the required direction for the ninth Senate.
Similarly, another senator–elect from Ekiti State, Bamidele Opeyemi (APC Ekiti Central), noted that the leadership configuration of the ninth Senate should be designed in a way that would avoid friction.
Opeyemi said, “The leadership configuration in the ninth Senate or whatever process that will be used by the Presidency and party leadership must be well managed to avoid any backlash.
“The calibre and character of personalities elected for the 9th Senate are very solid and promising for the country but leadership is key, the very reason the leadership of the ruling party must manage it well.
“Once this is done, the party and in particular, the National Assembly and the Presidency, will be on the same page on development-driven bills sponsorship, policy formulations and approvals.”
The 8th Senate spokesperson, who also got re-elected from Niger State, Sabi Abdullahi, allayed the fears of Nigerians on possible leadership crisis in the ninth Senate as against the situation in the outgoing Senate.
He told journalists at the event that the required lessons to be learnt from the leadership squabbles of the 8th Senate had been learnt, hence there would not be a repeat of the ugly past.
Abdullahi said, “I was a key player in the leadership configuration of the 8th Senate and the attendant crises that followed , as one of the 43 returnees now, the lessons learnt will be used to prevent the mistakes of the past from happening.
Gaya indicates interest in Deputy Senate presidency
Meanwhile, the APC senators-elect gave the advice just as their counterpart from Kano South Senatorial District, Senator Kabiru Gaya, indicated his interest in the Deputy Senate President seat.
Already, seven ranking senators from the South-West are believed to be eyeing the position based on an assumption that the APC leadership would zone it to the geopolitical zone.
The senators-elect including Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central) and Ibikunle Amosun are said to be interested in the position.
Gaya introduced a new twist on Thursday when he told journalists at the International Conference Centre, Abuja after collecting his certificate of return that he was also interested in the Deputy Senate President seat.
He said his aspiration was driven by mass appeal for it from his colleagues and his burning desire to serve in the leadership of the ninth Senate having returned for the fourth time.
He said, “As regards the leadership composition of the ninth Senate, the majority of my colleagues are mounting pressure on me to run for the position of the Deputy Senate President. I want to use this opportunity to announce that I’m running for the position being one of the most ranking senators in the ninth Senate.”
He nevertheless said that the actualisation of his dream would be determined by the APC leadership and the President.
The ambition of Gaya may not be unconnected with the pressure being mounted by the South-East and the South-South to produce the next Senate President.
Already, a ranking senator, Benjamin Uwajumogu, an APC member from Imo North), has been re-elected from the zone.
In the South-South, Francis Senator Alimikhena, (Edo North) and his counterpart for the Delta Central, Ovie Omo-Agege, were also re-elected.
There are reports that senators Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), Ali Ndume (APC Borno South) and Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central) may contest the Senate Presidency.
Ranking APC S’South, N’East senators await zoning formula
There are indications that ranking APC senators in the South-South, who have been re-elected, are waiting for the zoning formula of the party.
The APC will control the ninth Senate with its victory in 65 senatorial districts compared to the 37 won by the PDP.
The ruling party has yet to meet and determine the zoning formula for the Senate presidency and other posts in the National Assembly, but a source said the head of the upper chamber of the federal legislature could come from the South-South or the North-East.
Two of the ranking senators, Francis Alimikhena, (Edo North) and his counterpart for the Delta Central, Ovie Omo-Agege, said the decision of the APC leaders on zoning would determine their ambition on the senate presidency.
I will abide by party’s directive –Alimikhena
Alimikhena, who was re-elected on February 23, told The PUNCH that he would wait for the party leadership position on the zoning formula for positions in the National Assembly.
He said as a party man, he would exercise caution on his ambition in the Senate. Speaking through his Personal Assistant, Benjamin Atu, the senator said any action taken by him now could be interpreted as a betrayal of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
He said, “Senator Alimikhena is a party man. He is the one representing Oshiomhole, his brother, who is the national chairman of the party, in the Senate. He believes in the party.
“It becomes a very careful decision for him on the issue of Senate President or Deputy Senate President. Any action he takes now may be interpreted as a betrayal of his brother, Oshiomhole. In order to play safe, he has to wait for the party’s directive. Whatsoever that is zoned to the South-South will be okay by him.
“On the issue of the Senate presidency, he doesn’t know the direction of the party. If it is finally zoned to the South-South, he is ready to grab it, but he himself cannot just go ahead in desperation. Whatever the direction of the party, that is the direction of Senator Alimikhena. He cannot start aspiring for a position that is not available to his zone.
“For now, the leadership of the party has not taken a decision on the issue of the Senate presidency. As it is now, the party has not taken a decision of whether the South-South will have the Senate President or Deputy Senate President. That is the position.”
I’m as qualified as other ranking senators – Omo-Agege
Also, Omo-Agege said that he was qualified to become the Senate President. He, however, said that he would wait for the decision of the leaders of the APC.
He stated, “I have not told anybody that I am interested in running for the Senate presidency, but having said that, I am just as qualified as any other ranking senator of the ninth Senate. So, when the time comes, depending on the decision made by the caucus of the party – Mr President and other relevant stakeholders – and depending on where it is zoned to, we will consult with others and comply with the rules.”
Omo-Agege, in an interview with one of our correspondents clarified a statement credited to him that President Buhari would pick the next Senate.
He said, “I never said Mr President (Buhari) will pick the next Senate President. That language wasn’t mine. I don’t know where it came from. My position is that Mr President is the leader of the APC. He was our candidate and when we went into the election, we ran on the APC agenda and he was the head of that campaign to push forward that agenda.
“That agenda is contrast to Atiku’s (Abubakar) agenda. It was taken to the Nigerian electorate and they made a choice and they (Nigerians) chose our agenda. It’s not only Mr President that believes in that agenda. All of us that were elected on the party’s platform are also part of that agenda.”
Omo-Agege said that the APC expected a loyal and constructive opposition in the Senate, which would come from rival parties, not 65 APC senators.
He said, “It should come from the PDP. That is their job. It’s not our job (in the APC) to assist them or join them in becoming opposition to the APC-led government.”
On the Senate presidency, Omo-Agege said, “It is the party’s caucus that will meet with Mr President and recommend people for the leadership positions (in the National Assembly). Mr President is the head of that caucus. We will no longer allow renegades to govern the National Assembly. When they did the last time, you saw what happened.
“For almost three or four years of Buhari’s first tenure, the Dr Bukola Saraki renegade regime made sure all plans and policies of the government were shot down. We are hell-bent on making sure there is no repeat, and the only way to do that is to make sure no one that is remotely connected to the Saraki renegade agenda is allowed into the leadership of the Senate.”
According to him, the APC caucus will assess ranking senators and recommend some of them as principal officers of the National Assembly.
Why we have not met on zoning–APC
Meanwhile, the APC has explained why it has not met to discuss the zoning formula for the principal officers of the National Assembly.
The party also dispelled insinuations that President Buhari would singlehandedly pick the principal officers without recourse to the party.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the National Working Committee of the party would have to meet and deliberate on the matter before a direction could be taken.
He, however, said there were other issues at hand that required urgent attention and could form the basis for the NWC meeting other than the zoning formula.
He said, “Anybody can begin to speculate for whatever reason but the procedure is that the National Working Committee would have to meet first before any other step could be taken.
“The NWC has not fixed a time but our meeting could come up at anytime and it won’t have to be because of zoning arrangement. There are many issues that could prompt the meeting.
“We just finished some elections so we would have to review them. We also have supplementary elections coming up in some states on March 23.
“It is a matter we have to talk about at some level but I don’t think that will form the main reason and no date has been fixed.”