10th NASS: Tinubu, APC Leaders Meet To Decide On Zoning
In an apparent bid to address issue of zoning of principal officers of the incoming 10th National Assembly once and for all, president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, yesterday met with national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sen Abdullahi Adamu, and other party leaders.
It was gathered that at the meeting which was held at the Defence House in Abuja where the president-elect had gone for inspection preparatory to resume work ahead of the May 29 inauguration, issues of zoning for the National Assembly leadership positions were addressed.
Also at the meeting were Senate President Ahmad Lawan; deputy Senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, and Speaker, Kaduna State House of Assembly, Hon Yusuf Zailani.
APC NWC members at the meeting include deputy national chairman (North), Senator Abubakar Kyari; deputy national chairman (South), Emma Eneukwu; national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore and former secretary of the APC presidential campaign council, James Faleke.
At the end of the meeting, those in attendance left the Defence House without disclosing details of the closed door parley to journalists.
When pushed to speak on the outcome of the meeting, the APC national chairman, Adamu, said it was a routine exercise, just as he declined to speak about issues discussed at the meeting.
Asked whether the meeting addressed the zoning of the 10th National Assembly, Adamu said, “Nigerians should be patient with the party. We should wait. What is good for the country is what is good for us as a party. We are only celebrating the victory of our party now.”
A source close to the meeting however told our correspondent that while the zoning arrangement for principal officers of the 10th National Assembly was discussed at meeting at Defence House, the meeting is billed to continue yesterday night to arrive at a conclusion on the matter
Tinubu who is expected to officially move to Defence House after he was declared winner of the presidential polls, was at the place and along with the APC leaders to inspect the level of renovation in the official residence of Nigeria’s president-elect.
Barely 24 after arriving in the country, Tinubu’s house had become a Mecca for federal lawmakers who besiege his Asokoro residence to lobby for Senate president, Speaker of the House and other key principal offices of the 10th Assembly.
On Tuesday, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Jibrin Barau, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Senator Emma Bwacha, Senator Tokunbo Abiru were at the residence of the president-elect.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Senate chief whip, Orji Uzo Kalu and Senator Osita Izunaso, visited Tinubu and presented their certificate of return as Senators-elect to him.
They however insisted that it was a welcome visit to Tinubu who returned to the country after a month’s vacation in Paris, France.
Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule, and former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, were also at Tinubu’s residence to welcome him yesterday.
The discussions during the visits had always bordered on the mode of zoning of principal offices of the 10th National Assembly.
The presence of Akpabio and other senators in Tinubu’s residence on Tuesday, which coincided with the arrival of the APC national chairman and national secretary, as well as other NWC members, had been misconstrued to mean that the president-elect and the APC leaders were already holding meetings with aspirants for the National Assembly leadership positions.
The intense lobby by the lawmakers for key positions and some desperate politicians who have been angling for the scrapping of zoning of the National Assembly positions necessitated the meeting yesterday.
It was gathered that Tinubu on arrival, told the APC chiefs to consider a Christian from the South South geopolitical zone to be Senate president, while Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North West.
Tinubu, according to the source, met the senators individually and told them what he had discussed with the party hierarchy.
The source who did not want his name in print said, “It was at that stage that Jibrin, who is contesting the Senate president position, came out from the meeting to discuss with the duo of Senators Bamidele and Adeola.
“Jibrin was told by his colleagues to take things easy as they could help him to prevail on Asiwaju Tinubu.
“Jibrin, who had arrived Tinubu’s residence as early as 9am, had the opportunity of meeting with the president-elect for a second time where he offered to be deputy Senate president.”
The source added that Senator Opeyemi Bamidele was endorsed by his colleagues in attendance to be Senate leader, while Senator Adeola was tipped to be chairman, Senate committee on Appropriation and Abiru as chairman, Senate committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions.
It was further learnt that Tinubu asked the senators to meet with Senate President Lawan who would champion the Akpabio/Barau Senate presidency campaign.
The source said, “Tinubu had earlier put a call across to Lawan to see him on the matter and it was reliably gathered that the Senate president told the president-elect that it would be difficult to market Akpabio who allegedly denigrated the 8th Senate by forcing his way to be the minority leader as a first timer, and also accused the NASS members of receiving huge amounts of money from NDDC to approve the commission’s budget.
“Lawan was also said to have reminded Tinubu that Akpabio was allegedly instrumental to the imprisonment of a serving member of the 9th Senate, Senator Bassey Akpan.”
Not satisfied with the response from the Senate president, the Senators, according to the source, headed straight to Lawan’s residence in the dead of the night to convince him to change his mind, a move he said did not succeed.
Our source continued: “It was at that stage that all of them except Barau headed straight to the house of the Kaduna State governor-elect, Uba Sani, who also told them that the North had agreed that the position of the Speaker would go to the North West, while the North Central would have the deputy Senate president as a measure to check any rebellion.
“Sen Uba Sani told his guests that there was no way the position of the deputy Senate president would go to the North West which has already been asked to produce the Speaker.”
The source who is a returning Senator from the South West expressed fears that the desperate moves by the Senators might jeopradise the APC zoning arrangement on the floor of the Senate on the day of inauguration, as there could be a possibility of a second nomination.
Another new Senator-elect from the North West who also corroborated the hint form our source said, “Since it is the Senators-elect that would vote, it is necessary for the leadership of the APC to take full charge of the zoning arrangement and prevent any desperate aspirant from scuttling the process.”
Meanwhile, the chairman House committee on Appropriations, Betara, held a meeting with the president-elect behind closed doors on Tuesday.
Although, details of the meeting were not made public, it was gathered that it was not unconnected to Betara’s ambition to become speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.
Betara who represents Biu/Bayo/Shani/Kwaya Kusar federal constituency of Borno State is vigorously campaigning to clinch the coveted seat and member-elect are throwing their weight behind the lawmaker.
In a video made available by his campaign media office yesterday morning, the president-elect was seen personally holding Betara’s hand as he led him into the inner room for discussions.
Also seen in the video alongside Betara were Senate President Lawan, former; former Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, and a host of other loyalists of the president-elect.
Southwest Senators Deny Pushing For Akpabio
Meanwhile, Senators-elect from the South West geopolitical zone have dismissed claims that they were pushing for former Niger Delta minister, Senator Akpabio, to become Senate president, saying it is false.
According to a senator-elect who pleaded not to be named, the ambition of Akpabio was being driven by three Senators from the South West.
The source said, “They told the president-elect Tuesday night that all of us from the South West are supporting Akpabio for Senate president, but the president-elect discovered it was not true on Wednesday morning.
“As South Westerners, we have a good relationship with all Nigerians and these three Senators cannot speak for us. They are not our leaders and cannot take South West senators for granted. Our leader is a former governor who is also a Senator.
“For us, we have resolved to do the right thing for the country since it’s the only way Asiwaju can succeed as president. We have chosen to support fairness and justice as this country is built on tripod- Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
“What an Igbo man can do for the country and Asiwaju cannot be compared to what an Annan man, not even Ibibio, can do for Nigeria and Asiwaju. If you exclude Igbo in the three positions in the country, you may be pushing your luck too far.
“We are happy that the president-elect did not listen to them because he is not petty. He likes fairness and he wants to do the right thing. The twelve Senators from the South West already have a preferred candidate. We have eleven Senators and one ranking Senator who has endorsed Senator Orji Uzor Kalu for Senate president and Senator Sani Musa for deputy Senate president.
“The Northern and Southern Senators believe in the leadership of these two Senators and there is no going back. The good news is that Asiwaju has strong character and will stand firm on his personal convictions.”
Adding his voice, another Senator-elect dismissed the position of three of his colleagues, noting that they were only prosecuting the job they were paid to do.
“Those three are just pursuing their personal interests. So it’s basically about their interest not for Tinubu’s success or unity of Nigeria. Is the opinion of three Senators greater than the opinion of 12 Senators? We have endorsed Senator Kalu and Senator Musa as our preferred presiding officers and we shall deliver them on June 13,” he said.
House Caucus Presents Zoning Template
Meanwhile, a House of Representatives caucus, Nationalists Forum, said it will soon submit its zoning template for the 10th National Assembly to president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The caucus consisting of over 260 members, both new and old, said this after a meeting where it adopted a zoning formula for principal offices, including Speakership.
In a statement signed by its convener, Chief Philip Agbese, the member-elect representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo, the lawmakers said their template is in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
The group, which is made up of members drawn from different political parties, said they are out to galvanise the nation amid tribal, political, ethnic, and religious sentiments.
Agbese said after their inaugural meeting, the Tuesday meeting in Abuja was for critical stakeholders with members who agreed on sharing the offices to reflect geographical spread of the country.
He added that they will seek an audience with the president-elect to submit their template to him.
Describing Tinubu as a thorough democrat, Agbese said the president-elect will adopt the formula in the interest of the country.
He added that what the nation needs at this crucial time is healing and not further division.
The member-elect, however, assured Nigerians that the best set of leaders will emerge to lead the House of Representatives.
Ex-Lawmakers Caution Against Zoning Along Executive Lines
Meanwhile, a group of former National Assembly members have cautioned against zoning legislative positions along the line toed to producing heads of the executive arm of government.
Rising from a one-day sensitisation parley with some State Assembly members-elect in Jos, Plateau State, the ex-legislators therefore called on the leadership of various political parties, president and governors-elect not to interfere with the election of National Assembly principal officers.
According to a communiqué signed by Hon Golu Timothy, former chief whip of the Plateau State House of Assembly and a member of the 8th House of Representatives, the former legislators, including Senators, House of Representatives and State Assembly principal officers, as well as other resource persons who spoke at the event noted that executive offices are different from legislative positions, hence must exist on their respective merits whether the occupants come from the same zone.
Stating that such does not add value to democratic principles neither does it promotes separation of powers, checks and balances, they underscored the need to allow Members-elect to exercise their franchise without any interference.
The ex-lawmakers maintained that allowing for a natural course of leadership brings better harmony and understanding, mutual respect and less politicisation.
They agreed that having a legislative officer from the same zone with any executive officer should not be an issue because they have different roles and responsibilities to perform and will be assessed based on their respective constitutionally assigned duties.
According to Golu, the ex- lawmakers said the practice where the executive seeks to impose leadership of the legislature across the nation has caused more harm for the legislature than good because it has often caused instability and most times, inefficiency of the leadership where it survives.
The lawmakers said such practices should no longer be encouraged in this 21st century, especially in Nigeria where the election of legislators has been unprecedentedly multiparty-base.
Golu stated: “Look at how the election of legislators went across the country in the just concluded 2023 general elections. People were voted not according to party but the personalities involved. If party considerations are less a factor in the just concluded general elections, why must our political parties and their leaderships be zoned Legislative offices? Such will not bring any expected result but a crisis of confidence.
“It is no longer fashionable for the Executive to interfere with the leadership decisions of the legislatures at any level.
“Legislators have come of age in the country and must be allowed to do their things.
“Where we have people elected and you want to decide for them their leadership is in itself undemocratic. The experiences of the legislature are quite different from those of the executive.
“President and Governors- Elect should refrain from deciding for the legislator who becomes their Speakers. Most times those imposed don’t last and where they do, they don’t perform because of distractions and anxiety or fear of survival or incompetence.
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“We must not continue in this way. Political parties must stay away from causing legislative instability in our legislatures under the guise of deciding their leadership. This has not augured well for our democracy.
“Where legislative leadership emerged through popular decisions of the lawmakers, productivity, mutual respect, understanding and cohesion are visibly the results,” he stated.