The Race For The Senate/Reps Leaders Get Hotter, As Tinubu Reads Riot Act To APC Lawmakers, ‘Support Lawan, Gbajabiamila Or Leave APC’

The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Bola Tinubu, has said that party discipline would be upheld in addressing the leadership tussle of the 9th National Assembly. And he has gone further by reading the riot act to aggrieved lawmakers, to either support Lawan, and Gbajabiamila, or leave APC. Mr Tinubu said this while speaking with journalists in Lagos on Friday after a prayer programme organised by Islamic and Christian clerics to mark his 67th birthday.

“Party discipline is key, we must be disciplined in the party. We were a little careless in 2015. We created the opportunity for serpent to get into our party and that did not allow Nigeria to make the desired progress. You have seen the result of it and we are not going to allow that to happen again. We are going to respect our party and we are going to apply the whip. It is either you stay with us and follow us or you leave. You have the freedom to choose, but the freedom does not give you as a minority to go and collaborate and protrude our mandate given to you to another party, who was our opposition and who is still our opposition. We would not take that this time, no matter who you think you are. That is how it is built. Why do you want to deviate from what has been structured? We look at our reward system equally, zone by zone,” he said.

The APC leadership through its Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, recently declared support for Yobe senator, Ahmed Lawan to become the next Senate President. Lagos lawmaker and Mr Tinubu’s protege, Femi Gbajabiamila, was also endorsed to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The move, however was condemned by other APC lawmakers including Borno senator, Ali Ndume, who seeks to be the Senate president. Mr Ndume has vowed to continue with his ambition, saying he enjoys the support of many of the elected APC senators. A Gombe senator, Danjuma Goje, is also in the race to be Senate President.

According to former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, his grievance is that the endorsement of Ahmed Lawan for the position of Senate President is unconstitutiona. Ndume, in his address to journalists in Abuja, also said that the choice of Lawan was an unpopular decision, unilaterally taken by Oshiomhole. “It was Adams Oshiomhole that said that Ahmad Lawan should be our next Senate President. I don’t believe that that is truly the position of Mr President. Before I went into this contest, I consulted with Mr President and he gave me the go-ahead. I consulted with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and he also gave me the go-ahead immediately after the primaries.”

Ndume, expressed shock over the action of the party, but said he would further consult leaders of the party in the North-East and his supportive colleagues, before taking a final position on the issue.

He said, “I am surprised that the decision was taken, and we were not given the chance to ask questions or make comments. The President was called upon to make his remarks and after that we sang the National Anthem. Even the chosen candidate was not given the chance to thank us or to say something about it. Those of us that are interested in contesting the position were not even consulted. I left the venue in shock.

“…If this is God’s decision, it will last, if it is not, God will take His own decision. I have a vision for the Senate, because the Senate has drifted and is drifting to a position where it will not be able to serve its purpose.”

But the APC faulted Ndume for opposing Oshiomhole’s position on the Senate presidency. Isa-Onilu APC spokesperson, said Ndume had no choice but to abide by the party’s decision on the matter if indeed he was a true APC member. He said the decision to endorse Lawan was not that of Oshiomhole alone but that of the party, including Buhari, the party’s National Working Committee, state governors and other respected party leaders. He reminded the senator of the supremacy of the party.

The APC which has a clear majority of over 60 senators out of the 109 Senate seats, is expected to produce the Senate president, but as it happened in 2015, a different candidate other than that endorsed by the party leadership may emerge the winner of the topmost legislative position. In 2015, both Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila were endorsed for but Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged the Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.

Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party and its senators have warned their APC colleagues to desist from their scheming of producing the next Senate President and House of Reps Speaker.

The PDP senators, in a statement in Abuja by the Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, and Senator Dino Melaye, asked their APC colleagues to leave the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, out of their schemes to produce the ninth Senate President. They further said its elected senators and members of the House of Representatives, were constitutionally eligible to lead both chambers of the National Assembly.

There have been reports of scheming’s made by the APC, that outgoing Senator Saraki and the PDP senators planned to influence the emergence of the Senate President in the ninth National Assembly. And subsequently Oshiomhole, at a meeting last week, said the party must have its way in the National Assembly leadership.

The PDP senators, in their response in a statement, warned that the PDP lawmakers would not allow any outsider to determine the next Senate President.

The statement read, “Let it be known that no matter the mischief being sponsored by these spineless people, Dr Saraki knows that it is the duty of all senators in the ninth Senate to elect their Senate President and other leaders. Nobody from outside the Senate has such powers. It is also the right of every senator to aspire to that position as stated by the constitution. He has benefited from this practice of senators within the chambers exercising the right. He is conscious of this fact and will not be a party to any plan to seize or interfere with the process of evolving the leadership of the ninth Senate. We, therefore, urge the APC gladiators and their handlers to leave Saraki out of their schemes and manipulations. They should go and concentrate on how to convince the senators-elect and ensure that the election of the next Senate President takes place in a conducive atmosphere with a view to strengthening the institution and making it perform its constitutional roles, without any hindrance,” the PDP caucus stated.

The PDP noted that positions of the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker, were not exclusively meant for any political party, but constitutional rights of every elected lawmaker in both chambers. It therefore, described as laughable, the move by the leadership of the APC and Buhari to impose leaders on both chambers.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, stated the position of the party in a statement in Abuja.

He said, “It is laughable and amounts to empty grandstanding and self-delusion for President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to pose as if the presiding offices and committee chairmanship in the National Assembly are exclusive rights of the APC. President Buhari and Oshiomhole should wake up to the fact that the National Assembly belongs to no political party but to all Nigerians, who exercise their control through their elected representatives. For emphasis, Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is clear in providing that ‘There shall be:- (a) a president and a deputy president of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.’

Section 92 (1) makes the same provision for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of State House of Assembly.

The spokesman for the PDP insisted that the former ruling party had a role to play in the election of who would lead the two chambers.

He said, “The PDP, therefore, does not only have a constitutional say in the process of the emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, but will, as a matter of constitutional right, field candidates into presiding offices of both chambers, if need be.

“The PDP wishes to remind President Buhari and Oshiomhole that the APC had in the past benefited from the provisions of section 50, with the defection of then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from the PDP to the APC, in October 2014, without relinquishing the speakership of the House to the PDP; a development that was applauded by President Buhari, as then opposition leader as well as the APC, through its then National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed. In fact, the former Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, echoed the constitutional provision that ‘the constitution requires only that the speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.’”

The APC, swiftly reacted to the PDP, saying that senators elected on the platform of the opposition party had no say on the decision of who became the Senate President. It also said it was also an aberration for opposition senators to take part in the election that would produce the Senate President and others.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Lanre Isa-Onilu, said this in an interview with Punch Newspaper. He said in the presidential system of government, there was no need for election of principal officers to be held on the floor of the National Assembly. He said, “The PDP leaders and their senators-elect are ignorant. If they are not ignorant, they will know that they don’t have a say on who becomes the President of the Senate. The positions that belong to the party with the majority, belong to the party with the majority. The positions that belong to the party with the minority also belong to the party with the minority. That is what is being practised in the proper presidential system of government that we adopted in this country. So, it is not for the PDP senators to come and vote for who becomes the Senate President. If that has been happening before, it is an aberration. This position belongs to the APC. We have won majority and once you win the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, you determine those who are going to occupy those positions that belong to the party with majority.

“That is what is obtainable in the United States. You don’t even see them come to the floor to come and vote for the Senate President. Once they determine who will occupy those positions that belong to the party with majority, they will just come to the floor and announce.”

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