Following the outcome of last Saturday’s supplementary elections, swelling the number of the elected members of opposition parties in the 10th House of Representatives to 182, one vote more than the statutory benchmark 181 votes required to elect a speaker, the opposition caucus has resolved to clinch the coveted position.
The opposition parties won seats than the ruling All Progressives Congress in the February 25, 2023 elections for the House of Representatives. More than 30 seats were however not decided until the supplementary polls held on April 15, 2023.
Since the introduction of the presidential system of government in 1979, no ruling party in Nigeria has failed to win a majority in the two chambers of the National Assembly. Should the numbers claimed by the opposition be confirmed, it would be a first.
The Independent National Electoral Commission is yet to publish a comprehensive list of members-elect for the National Assembly. The commission has not published an updated list from the one it released before the April 15 supplementary polls.
The list had the APC winning 162 seats while the seven opposition parties had won 163 seats. The lack an updated list has however not stopped the opposition parties from claiming the majority in the House of Representatives.
And according to Civichive, which has been publishing election results as declared by INEC, the APC has won 175 seats in the House of Representatives while the PDP has won 118 seats. The Labour Party has 35 seats with the NNPP winning 19 seats. APGA has five seats, while SDP and ADC have two seats each. YPP has a single seat with 3 seats still pending.
The lawmakers from the seven political parties that won election into the 10th House of Representatives after an emergency meeting in Abuja stated that it was primed to contest the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10th National Assembly.
Speaking with journalists on the position of the Caucus, a member-elect from Anambra, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, stated that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria permits every elected member with the statutory right to gun for any leadership position, subject to the standing orders of the House.
“Besides the issue of ranking, every member is entitled to run for the office of Speaker, regardless of political party affiliation.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) or any political party for that matter, reserves the right to regale itself with talks about micro-zoning leadership positions in the National Assembly. But the overriding question remains, are such fanciful engagements binding on the generality of members-elect? The answer today, tomorrow and until our current constitution is altered to reflect that desire is a big No.
“Issues surrounding this all-important question is easily resolved, in the case of the House of Representatives, by Section 50(1)(b), to wit:” There shall be a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“While zoning is permitted, as an intra-party solution to the sharing of political offices, seeking to enforce such on the generality of members would be tantamount to affronting Section 50 of the Nigerian constitution.
“Besides, political parties must not always use the National Assembly as guinea pigs for their zoning fancies. Why didn’t these governors summon the same courage, which they currently seek to flaunt, during the presidential primaries, by micro-zoning the presidency to a particular zone? If it was okay to say that the presidential ticket should go to the South, then I think they ought to follow through with that same template, and propose, for instance, that the Speakership should go to the North.”
The question of unity has however dogged the opposition parties particular with feelers that Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike may no longer be committed to the opposition People’s Democratic Party and has hinted at supporting the ruling APC in the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, spokesman of the New Rivers Vision Campaign Council, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, said the interest of the state comes first in the choice of the leadership of the National Assembly.
Referring particularly to the senate, Nwuke said: “It is too early to start asking who the Rivers caucus in the Senate will vote for as Senate President. They are yet to be inaugurated.
“You know that Governor Nyeson Ezenwo Wike has said it several times that he will support a leadership of the National Assembly that has the interest of Rivers State at heart.
“So, when the time comes, the Rivers State caucus will not for a Senate President who will not protect the interest of our state.”
The contest for the senate presidency however appears to be heading towards a smoother process as a good numbers of senators-elect under the ruling APC have committed themselves to following the party’s directive on the zoning of the seat of senate president in the 10th National Assembly and also support whichever senator the party throws its weight behind.
Senator–elect, Dr. Idiat Adebule (APC), who won the Lagos West senatorial seat is in the front roll of those backing the party in whatever it decides. She said, ‘’I am a product of the party. If you check my antecedent, I have always toed the position the party takes on an issue. I will always abide by the position the party takes and the party is yet to take a position on the leadership of the Senate.
Similarly, the Senator-elect representing Benue North Senatorial district, Senator Titus Zam (APC) said “I will vote as the party leadership will direct. I have no personal opinion on this.”
The senators representing, Ebonyi Central Senatorial zone, Engr Ken Eze (APC) and his Ebonyi North counterpart, Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi (APC) have however expressed different views describing Governor David Umahi, who is the senator-elect of Ebonyi South Senatorial zone, as the most competent and qualified person for Senate President.
The duo who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend said that they will vote for Umahi should the national leadership of the party zone the position to the South East region.
Governor Umahi had last month declared his intention to contest the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly and faulted the senate rule which gives preference to ranking members of the National Assembly to emerge contest for senate president.
On his stand for the zoning of the senate presidency of the 10th National Assembly, the Senator- elect who will be representing Borno Central at the upper chamber of the legislative body, Hon. Kaka Shehu- Lawan of the APC said he will abide by whatever decision the Vice President-elect, the state governor and the party leadership take on zoning.
Hon. Shehu was the immediate Attorney General and commissioner of Justice in Borno State before he resigned to contest the senate.
Another senator- elect who will be representing Borno North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Hon . Mohammed Tahir Monguno, also of the APC could not be reached for his position as he was said to have travelled to Saudi Arabia alongside Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the senator representing Southern Borno senatorial district who was re-elected for the fourth time .
Sen. Ndume, a ranking senator of the APC is said to be one of the contenders of the senate presidency from the North-East zone.
Although former Governor Godswill Akpabio, who ruled Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015, as the second civilian governor at the return of democracy in 1999, under the platform of the PDP before ditching the then ruling party to pitch his tent with the APC on August 8, 2018, is one of the front runners in the race for the Red Chamber’s top seat, his fellow senators-elect in the state are yet to commit to the senate’s leadership politics, LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt.
Akpabio, won the race to return to the senate overwhelmingly across the 10 local government areas of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom Northwest), except Ini LGA, setting the stage for the battle to clinch the apex senate position.
Other senators elected from the state include the out-going Speaker of the 7th State Assembly, Mr. Aniekan Bassey, of the PDP from Uyo Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom Northeast) and Dr. Ekong Sampson, a former commissioner, also of the PDP, elected to represent Eket Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom South).
Speaking on the matter in Uyo, the state capital, Sampson said his major pre- occupation, is how to succeed as a senator for the people, and not to entangle himself in the politics of senate leadership, adding that he would consult widely on the zone and whom he would support for the senate presidency.
He said: “We don’t need to be discussing now who is going to be the next senate president and the zone. What I want to be discussing now is how I can succeed as a senator; how I can make my people proud.
“When we get to Abuja, we will choose who is going to be our senate president. For me, I will consult my governor, I will consult widely with my people who sent me to Abuja before I make my choice as to whom and the zone I will support for senate presidency.”
Although efforts to get Bassey’s position on the matter proved abortive as he was said to have traveled to Abuja, and could not respond to calls, his media aide, Mr. Darlington Udobong, said his boss was yet to commit to the politics of senate leadership.
The senator-elect for Plateau Central Senatorial District under the platform of the APC , Hon. Diket Plang, in his reaction said they are waiting for directive from the party to see where they will zone the position of the senate president.
According to him, they are products of a political party but however said he believes that the senate president seat should be given to the zone that has no representatives in central government, because the North East has the vice president, South West has the president and these two zones should not have the senate president zoned to them.
“We still have the position of deputy senate president, speaker and deputy speaker of house of representatives. So it depend on how the arrangement will take place. We have to look at other variables. But I want to believe that my party, the ruling party will think well and will be very inclusive in the arrangement”.
The senator-elect for Delta North senatorial district, Hon Ned Nwoko of the PDP has also differed to the party make the decisions.
Nwoko, former member, federal House of Reps said the party should zone the positions first, maintaining that he would not jump the gun.
While saying he would abide by the decisions of the party after its ratification of the zone, he said that will decide the candidate to vote for from the zone ratified by the party.
According to him, those nursing the ambitions from different zones are qualified but cannot decide for themselves but the party which will decide the zone to produce which and what positions to be contested for.
“Once the part decides the zones the principal officers will come from, then that will enable me to decide the zones to support during the election. For now let us wait for the parties to choose the zones” Nwoko stated.
APC Untroubled, Senators To Follow Party’s Lead On Senate Presidency – Lawan
Senate President Ahmed Lawan has said there was no need for concern regarding the leadership of the 10th Senate.
He disclosed this on Friday to State House correspondent at the Presidential Villa .
Lawan expressed confidence that senators would adhere to the All Progressive Congress (APC) decision and present a united front.
He dismissed the possibility of the opposition party overruling the ruling party’s plan for the Senate presidency.
Lawan emphasised that APC senators would work together with colleagues from other parties in a bipartisan manner to select the house leadership.
He affirmed that the APC was not in trouble, and he was confident that the APC members and senators-elect would respect whatever decision the party and its leaders would make.
Lawan stressed the importance of a united National Assembly, citing the successful bipartisan approach taken in the ninth assembly.
He also noted that opposition parties were necessary for the passing of constitutional amendments, as at least 73 senators were required for the process.
He believed that working with the opposition party from the beginning was critical for a more productive, stable, and calmer chamber, leading to better outcomes.
He said “the party is not in trouble. This is today’s Sallah, and by the grace of God, and most of those people who have travelled for either Umrrah or one reason or the other will be back in the country, including our president-elect, and I’m sure that our leaders will, come together and decide how the leadership of the 10th National Assembly will emerge.
“I’m very confident that the APC members and senators-elect will respect whatever our party and our leaders will eventually come up with, we are praying that we are able to deal with it as decisively as possible, and then keep ourselves united and work together with other parties.
“We have been able to work together with other parties in the ninth assembly in a very bipartisan way, smoothly and seamlessly.
“And I believe that we can repeat that. And it is very, very essential that we have a very United National Assembly. And I’m very confident that we will do that.
“I don’t think opposition parties are planning to usurp because it is presumptuous that the APC will not be a united party, APC is a United party and the opposition party will simply work with the APC majority for us to have stability.
“Because there is no way an opposition will decide who should be the senate president who should be the speaker, it is our party and other leaders that will decide which zone or whoever, and the rest of us in the party will key in and of course the opposition would have no option but to support.
“I don’t see anything wrong in the opposition talking to us, or we’re talking to the opposition to ensure that we’re on the same page, because we need opposition to ensure that we get most of our constitutional amendments when the time is right, passed. because we can’t have the 73 in the Senate.
“So you need 73 senators at least for you to have any constitutional amendment. So you would need opposition. That’s why it is very, very critical, it is very essential that you work with opposition right from the beginning. Don’t ever think the opposition should be pushed away.
“I know believe in that, I only believe in the very bipartisan chamber because it is more productive. It is more stable, it’s calm, and it gives you the kind of outcome that you will never get with a very rancourous chamber. And I’ve seen it, we have done it,” he said .