Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, notes that there are already dissenting voices within the APC as the party seeks to ‘impose’ Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate president in the incoming ninth National Assembly. She counsels that if compromises are not made, what happened in 2015 could be repeated in 2019.
The thumb prints on the ballot sheets used for the 2019 elections into the National Assembly have barely dried and already, the race for who becomes the next Senate president has evolved into a full blown battle.
The APC, relishing in its victory, has clearly marked its territory; warning the PDP that the post of the number three man and other leadership slots in the incoming ninth Assembly are for the ruling party alone.
According to the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the only position the APC isn’t interested in, is that of minority leader.
And to that effect, the ruling party has singled out Senator Ahmed Lawan as its choice for the Senate presidency.
Lawan, a loyal party man, was also the party’s choice in 2015 before Senator Bukola Saraki played a fast one and took the position. This time, however, the APC is adamant that history will not repeat itself!
However, with recent events, it does seem that it may just be déjà vu all over again, except things are done differently.
Already, there are dissenting voices within the APC as various senators-elect are reportedly said to be against what they refer to as ‘imposition’ of National Assembly leaders by the party’s hierarchy – and by that, they are referring to Bola Tinubu in particular and President Muhammadu Buhari by extension.
While some have registered their displeasure in a more coded manner, others have been quite outspoken.
Senator Ali Ndume, who has made no secret of his desire to be Senate president, was visibly vexed when Adams Oshiomhole bluntly informed lawmakers-elect that Lawan was the APC’s man for the Senate presidency and Femi Gbajabiamila was its choice for House speaker.
Ndume went as far as reminding Oshiomhole of the stipulation of a section of the constitution which reads: “There shall be a president and deputy president of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that house from among themselves.”
He asserted that going by that, neither the APC national chairman nor the president had any right to ‘force’ a Senate president or speaker on lawmakers-elect.
Ndume said: “What took place at the presidential dinner in Aso Rock on Monday night where Oshiomhole, as party chairman, announced Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as president of the ninth Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively was very shocking to me and many of my colleagues.
“Oshiomhole, in making the announcement or endorsement, did not even allow myself or Senators Danjuma Goje and Abdullahi Adamu, widely known to be in the race for the position, to say anything.
“More disturbing was the fact that even Senator Ahmed Lawan endorsed for the position, was not allowed to make any comment in form of acceptance speech or soliciting for support from other interested senators.”
While Ndume has been registering his displeasure, another senator-elect who wants to become deputy Senate president has also been speaking out.
Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia state, has been singing the praises of the APC since he defected from the PDP. The ex governor’s sycophancy finally paid off, as he won his election into the Senate.
However, Kalu is not content at settling for a committee chairmanship or some other position…he wants to be deputy Senate president and he has vowed to even stand for election as Senate president if the APC doesn’t grant his request.
At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Kalu reportedly stated: “I’m a very loyal party man. The party has zoned the Senate presidency to the north-east and I want to respect the party’s will; but the second position is what we are not going to allow to leave the south-east.
“So, as far as I’m concerned, in the south-east, I’m going to run openly on the floor of the House for the position of deputy Senate president.
“I am not going to listen to the party; neither will I listen to anybody. Nobody that wants to be the deputy Senate president is more loyal than I am to the party.”
He added: “I have the capacity for lobbying. I am well known in East, West and North. I will run for the Senate president if justice is not done to say, ‘south-east, bring the deputy Senate president.”
Then there was this: “I can assure you that there are over 56 senators in my kitty now for either the Senate president or the deputy Senate president that have already signed to what I believe in.”
Whether Kalu is bluffing or not is yet to be seen; however, what is clear is that cracks have already began to appear on the walls of the APC…just as they did four years before.
Just like 2011, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was instrumental to the APC’s electoral success in 2015. However, he is not exactly a man well liked in the party; regardless of the picture APC loyalists may like to paint.
Among some lawmakers-elect, Tinubu is seen as somewhat of an emperor who wants to take over governance at all levels by imposing his stooges in office.
They note that just as Tinubu was responsible for the emergence of Yemi Osinbajo as vice president, he wants to take over the ninth National Assembly by putting his men – Lawan and Gbajabiamila – in the top leadership positions.
And they have sent out warnings that they won’t take this lightly…
One such senator-elect who didn’t want his name in print reportedly stated: “If they have their way, it means Tinubu has extended his hold to the parliament. Already, he has the vice president and the national chairman. What else is left for others?
“People are just keeping quiet because of their respect for Buhari who believes that it’s payback time for Tinubu. It’s shouldn’t be so at all because other people contributed and they should be rewarded, accordingly.”
The cracks are showing…
On its part, the PDP, though the minority in the incoming Assembly is speaking out as well.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said the incoming parliament will not sit back and allow anyone impose presiding officers. Abaribe has insisted that only elected senators, who are duly certified, would vote when the time comes.
He said: “You don’t choose for us or determine for us who becomes what in the Senate. The reason why you have our type of democracy is so that one arm can be a check on another arm, otherwise, we might as well all go home and now let the Executive be everything, including making laws for us.”
Before this, however, there were reports that PDP senators had met at the Abuja home of Senate President Bukola Saraki, to plan how they would influence the outcome of the Senate presidency election for the ninth Assembly.
They are said to be planning to employ the same methods used in 2019 to thwart the APC’s plans to make Lawan Senate president.
According to reports, if they can’t get their person in the position via their influence with APC senators who are aligned with them, they would try to ensure that the next Senate president is someone who will be amenable to them in the next dispensation.
It should be pointed out that Saraki’s staunch ally, Senator Dino Melaye, came out to deny the report. He said the visit was just to encourage Saraki, who lost his Senate seat in the 2019 National Assembly elections.
However, there is no smoke without fire.
It is also worth noting, a report in The Guardian on the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium which took place on Thursday, March 28. The president failed to show up at the event.
The publication pointed out that the development led to murmurs as some attendees recalled how the president’s failure to attend a forum convened by the APC leader on June 9, 2015 led to a leadership imbroglio at the National Assembly.
That was how Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as principal leaders of the eight National Assembly!
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The APC needs to be careful, lessons not learned will most certainly be repeated. While they are reveling in their victory, they must not get too cocky. They need to realize that the party is the ‘sum of the whole’, and is not just about the wishes of a small group of persons – or any one man.
Tinubu is an asset and wields considerable influence within the party, yes, but that doesn’t mean he cannot be undermined. Afterall, wasn’t he still a major asset in 2015 when Saraki managed to emerge as Senate president?
It would do them well to listen to the grievances from various quarters and try to strike much-needed compromise before it is too late. And they should never underestimate the opposition!
If not, it could be déjà vu all over again!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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