Tinubu, APC leaders meet lawmakers-elect over National Assembly leadership

 Ruling party moves to avert repeat of Saraki-Dogara ‘coup’

…begins consultation to zone Senate presidency, Speaker, SGF, others

The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress has invited the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima; senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect on its platform to a crucial meeting.

The closed door meeting, which is scheduled to hold at the State House in Abuja on Monday, has got political stakeholders pondering what it is all about.

Though the agenda for the meeting was not stated, a source at the APC secretariat told our correspondent that it had to do with early consultation and strategic plans concerning the issue of zoning of the Senate presidency, Speaker for the House of Representatives and other principal offices in the National Assembly.

“We have a feeling that this was a frantic effort to avoid a repeat of the coup that brought in Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House in 2015, respectively,” the source stated.

The source explained that the “ghost of the civilian coup” executed by Saraki and Dogara in 2015 was still haunting the ruling party.

According to him, the situation could have been averted if both politicians had considered party supremacy ahead of their selfish interests.

The invitation to the meeting, which was signed by APC National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, was also published on the party’s official Twitter handle around 10.08pm on Friday.

While requesting the guests to come along with the Certificates of Return issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission after they were declared winners, the statement also urged them to arrive early enough to participate in a screening before the event slated for 2.00pm would commence.

The invitation read, “This is to inform all Senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that they are invited to a parley with the party’s national leadership.

“The meeting, which will be attended by the President-elect and Vice President-elect, will be held at the State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. Senators/House of Representatives-elect must come to the meeting with their Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Certificates of Return and must come alone.

“The meeting is strictly on invitation. Date: Monday, 13th of March, 2023. Time: 2pm prompt. Venue: State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. All invited guests are expected to arrive early to allow for screening and be seated before 12noon.”

Confirming the agenda of the meeting, a member of the APC NWC, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “The meeting is going to deal with the issue of who leads the next National Assembly. You know we cannot stand aloof and allow everyone to continue spending money in wooing their colleagues for their ambitions.

“We are also trying to prevent power brokers and external forces from hijacking the next National Assembly. The President-elect will not stand by like the current President and allow power seekers and enemies to hijack the National Assembly. It is not in the interest of the President-elect and not in the interest of the ruling party as well.

“Yes, the President is aware of the meeting, but he is not attending. We took the meeting to the Villa in order to limit the number of attendees and prevent those not invited and also our enemies from coming.”

Power sharing formula

The invitation to the meeting is coming on the heels of calls by concerned members of the party, including the National Vice Chairman (North-West) and member of NWC, Mallam Salihu Lukman, who insisted that there was a need to lock down the sensitive positions of the Senate president Speaker after the posts of President and Vice-President had been zoned to the South-West and North-East regions, respectively.

Lukman warned that no candidate from the two regions should be considered for both positions and that the APC should not give consideration to narratives by opportunities in the party.

The Kaduna politician, who earlier called for reformation of the party, appealed that only candidates from the North-West, South-East and the South-South should be considered for the principal positions.

He said, “Some specific recommendations may be necessary at this point. The offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to be locked. Given that the President and Vice-President are from the South-West and the North-East, respectively, nobody from either of these two regions should aspire for any of these offices. Opportunists may argue that in the last four years, the South-West also produced the Vice-President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“We must correct this kind of lopsided reality as a strategic approach to dousing ethnic and religious tension in the country. With a national chairman from the North-Central and hopefully a Christian, the North-Central too should also be excluded from aspiring for either the position of Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Accordingly, the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West, South-East or the South-South. With a Muslim President and a Muslim Vice-President, it is only logical to zone the Senate President, who is the number three ranking leader of government, to either the South-East or the South-South, who will be a Christian.

“Logically, the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West. This will have the advantage of acknowledging that the North-West gave Asiwaju the highest votes of 2,950,393, representing 33.6 per cent of the votes he won. All other positions in government can be assigned by taking a bearing from that.”

Lukman added that while it might be important to also consider the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation as part of the positions to be zoned, Tinubu must not undermine his government by appointing a politician with zero experience in managing public service institutions to serve as the SGF.

According to him, the office of the SGF is the brain box of any government system, warning that if a wrong person is appointed into such a sensitive position, the delivery capacity of the government will be weak.

‘S’East deserves positions’

Another member of the APC NWC and National Vice Chairman, South-East, Dr Ijeomah Arodiogbu, has drummed support for the party to consider zoning the Senate presidency or the speakership of the House of Representatives to the region.

The appeal was in reaction to the agenda of Monday’s meeting.

Although Arodiogbu admitted that he had no inkling of the agenda of the meeting, he expressed confidence that it would be about consultation on principal officers of the lawmakers to avert a repeat of the controversial manner in which Saraki and Dogara emerged as leaders of the respective chambers of the National Assembly.

urged the leadership of the APC to look beyond the poor performance of the party in the South-East region when considering offices for fairness and inclusive governance.

Arodiogbu said, “Monday’s meeting could be all about zoning of the offices at the National Assembly. We don’t have the agenda of the meeting yet. But I believe it is a consultation meeting. We have to meet as a family to decide on the way forward for the party and the incoming administration. But the agenda has not been discussed with us.

“The South-East should be accorded its due recognition despite our not-too-wonderful outing and contribution at the presidential and National Assembly elections. But that should be quite understandable, considering the fact that the entire nation embraced the (Peter) Obi candidacy and the South-East especially was very direct about it. Also, the role played by religion and ethnicity in Nigerian politics cannot be ruled out. This is why we believe that the South-East should be strongly considered for any of these positions.

“Luckily, our party retained the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So decisions should be made on what position goes where. And that could be part of what will happen at Monday’s meeting even though the agenda has not been revealed.”

Barau hosts senators-elect

One of the contenders for the Senate presidency and Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Jibrin Barau, has hosted over 70 senators-elect.

The meeting was said to have been held after the presentation of certificates of return to the lawmakers on Tuesday.

An aide of the lawmaker said Barau organised the event to enable him to interact with his colleagues.

“It was to enable him to interact and familiarise himself with his colleagues and nothing more,” the aide said.

After taking over on May 29, Tinubu will in the second week of June transmit a proclamation letter to the National Assembly to terminate the 9th assembly for the 10th to take off and give room for the emergence of new presiding officers.

At least, 98 out of 109 senators were given certificates of return by INEC at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

A total of seven political parties won seats in the Senate with the APC coming tops with 57 seats.

The Peoples Democratic Party won 29 seats; the Labour Party won six; New Nigerian Peoples Party won two and the Social Democratic Party also won two seats. The All Progressives Grand Alliance and Young Peoples Party won one seat each.

For the House of Representatives, the APC had 162 seats; PDP won 102; Labour Party, 34; NNPP, 18; while the SDP, YPP, APGA and ADC had two, one, four and 20 seats, respectively.

Over 70 senators-elect attended Barau’s event in Abuja to form bonds and friendship among themselves ahead of the inauguration of the legislature.

A third-timer at the Senate and fourth-timer in the National Assembly, Barau served at the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003 and is the only APC candidate that won a senatorial seat in Kano State.

A source at the meeting told journalists that the attendance was not limited to APC senators-elect only as members of other political parties were also present.

Abiola hypes Kalu

Meanwhile, one of the sons of the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Kolajo Abiola, has said the senator representing the Abia North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Orji Kalu, is eminently qualified to be the next Senate President.

Kalu, who is currently the Chief Whip of the Senate, won his re-election in the February 25 National Assembly election and served as the governor of Abia State for two terms between 1999 and 2007.

Abiola said following the victory of Tinubu and Shettima in the presidential poll, it was only fair for the position of Senate President to come to the South-East.

“Zoning the Senate President to the South-East is the right thing to do,” he stated.

In a statement he made available to journalists on Friday, Abiola said, “With the 10th National Assembly beginning to take formation, the conversation surrounding the next Senate President is beginning to intensify.

“Our vibrant compatriots from the five States of the South-East region of Nigeria are clearly in a state of despondency, feeling short-changed. This is noticeable during the recent electioneering and thereafter.

“Furthermore, the major reaction to the emergence of the winner of the 2023 presidential election is a very clear message from our brothers and sisters of the eastern extraction in particular.

“Unsurprisingly, the acrimony and bad blood generated by reasons of perceived marginalisation need serious attention. It is thus imperative that the issue of Nigeria’s political dilemma be moved to the front burner given the significance of the issue at stake.”

Issues for NASS

Meanwhile, a House of Representatives member-elect representing the Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, Fred Agbedi, has said devolution of power and resource control will be among issues that will be given priority in legislative business by the 10th National Assembly.

Agbedi, who stated this on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Friday, said the issues and others that border on the restructuring of Nigeria were concerns that the President-elect had advocated as governor of Lagos State.

The legislator, who is returning to the green chamber for the fourth time after receiving his certificate of return following his victory at the February 25 National Assembly election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, argued that devolution of power and resource ownership would “solve a lot of problems.”

He said, “But one thing that I can tell you is that the issues of devolution of power and resource control are going to take the centre stage in the 10th National Assembly.

“The reason being that the President-elect is a man who has also canvassed those aspects of restructuring of this country when he was the governor of Lagos State, and even had altercations with the government at the centre when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President.

“Now, if he (Tinubu) is sworn in as president, I know the issues of devolution of power and resource control will take the centre stage and that is going to solve a lot of problems.

“Once those issues are dealt with properly, it will reduce all these issues of insecurity and economic crises that we are having. That is going to be a major plank that all parties will look at.”

Agbedi pointed out that a restructured Nigeria would discourage the current practice of the federating states depending on the Federal Government for resources to run their affairs and administer their jurisdictions.

He hinted that minority lawmakers would go to the 10th National Assembly armed with the issues of devolution of power and resource control to present for deliberation as they were the panacea for the insecurity and economic challenges facing the country.

“For us as minority parties, we are going to the 10th National Assembly with devolution of power and resource control. That will solve other issues,” he added


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