APC to zone Senate President to North-East, Speaker to South-West

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By Brendan Umoren

The All Progressives Congress (APC) will zone the position of Senate President of the 9th National Assembly to the North-East, while that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives will be zoned to the South-West, according to a report.

A member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), who spoke with newsmen on Monday, said the party “will stick to the same zoning formula it adopted in 2015 before it was thwarted by some rebellious APC lawmakers who teamed up with their colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Originally, the APC had penciled Senator Ahmad Lawan, the current Senate Leader, who hails from the North-East for the position of Senate President while Femi Gbajabiamila from the South-West was positioned for the Speaker slot.

However, with the success of the coup, the APC’s zoning arrangement was truncated as Bukola Saraki from North-Central (Kwara) and Yakubu Dogara from the North-East (Bauchi) emerged as the Senate President and Speaker, respectively.

Ahead of the inauguration of the National Assembly in June, the leadership of the APC is currently meeting in Abuja to agree on a zoning formula for the six presiding and principal officers of the Senate.

The offices include two presiding officers namely Senate President and Deputy Senate President, while the four principal officers are Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Senate Chief Whip and Senate Deputy Whip.

Our source added that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the APC, is resolute in its resolve to ensure that the 2015 scenario does not repeat itself again.

“On the issue of the Senate President and the Speaker, President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the National Leader and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman are on the same page.

“From information we have, the same zoning formula adopted in 2015 will be maintained especially since President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are returned for another term”, he said.

Another credible source also said both President Buhari and Tinubu are favourably disposed to Lawan and Gbajabiamila’s emergence.

“All the three senators in Katsina, the president’s state are backing Lawan. Also, all the three senators in Lagos State are also backing him as well as other senators-elect from the South-West”, he said.

Lawan in an interaction with newsmen had said the ability of principal officers to carry everybody along had always been the secret of legislative chambers to delivering meaningfully on their mandate.

He said he was mindful of disagreement sometimes in the course of legislative activities due to party affiliation and other factors.

However, he said that everything should be done in the interest of the people, adding that, “we are senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, even though coming from different parts of Nigeria.

“When we legislate, we legislate for the entire country and therefore we need to remain united and focused.

“I was in a position for 16 years from 1999 to 2015 before I became part of the ruling party; I am glad, I thank God for that.

“But even as an opposition, we knew where we opposed the government and where we cooperated with them,” the legislator said.

According to him, every legislator works in the interest of the people not based on sentiments.

“For instance, will there be any legislator who will oppose any legislation that will enhance the performance of our armed forces or the police to provide security?

“No! Whether you are All Progressives Congress (APC) or Peoples Democratic Party or Young Progressive Party, we have the same people to serve.

“So, we will work to ensure that we achieve and attain that desired unity within the chamber. There will be equity and fairness in our affairs.

“I am sure that once we are able to unite around national interests we will contribute meaningfully to governance”.

On legislature, executive relationship, Lawan said while the separation of powers was designed to ensure checks and balances among the arms of government, the ultimate goal was to serve the people.

He emphasised that to achieve cordial relationship with the executive, the lawmakers ought to work in unison.

Lawan said that there was a need for continued consultation, coordination and partnership among the two arms of government for better result.

“I always say that the constitution provides for separation of powers and I always define separation of powers may be unorthodox but I believe in that.

“The separation of powers does not amount to the independence of government.

“It is the specialisation of the arms of government. The executive cannot function without the legislature and the legislature needs to work with the executive in a cordial manner.

“However, that does not take away that special function of oversight. It does not take away ensuring that what we do in the legislature is to support the executive.

“Who says we will never disagree with the executive; by constitutional design, we are meant to disagree, hold different perspectives from time to time on issues.

“But when we disagree, I always say, we should sit down and look at issues and take a decision that is in national interest, ” he said.

Lawan, who is senator-elect under the governing APC, promised to respect the wish of the party, should the position be zoned to a region other than the North-East.

He said, “I am a loyal party man. I will respect the decisions of my leaders and my party.”

Lawan, who represents Yobe North is vying for the position for the second time. In 2015, the APC endorsed him following zoning of the position of the President of the Senate to the North-East.

However, he did not make it as Bukola Saraki emerged President of the Senate though against his party’s wish.

Meanwhile, Oshiomhole has warned all 164 House of Representatives’ members elected on the platform of the ruling party against forming alliances or taking actions that might again deny the APC the benefits of its hard won victory at the polls.

Oshiomhole said the party had received the overwhelming support of Nigerians for President Muhammadu Buhari to empanel policies that would firm up the administration’s drive to improve the economy, security, and the fight against corruption, vowing that N1 billion bribe could not guarantee PDP another shot at any of the principal offices of the House of Representatives.

He said the party could ill-afford a repeat of what happened in 2015, insisting that the APC could, this time, not allow the contraption that allowed the opposition share power with the ruling party as it did in the 8th Assembly.

Addressing first timer-APC members in the House of Representatives at a lunch date with members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Oshiomhole said the party was working in consultation with party stakeholders towards ensuring a rancour-free emergence of principal officers in the National Assembly, pointing to an inclusive zoning arrangement.

With a total of 223 representatives elected on the APC platform, Oshiomhole said the party had overwhelming majority to not only decide the composition of leadership of the lower chamber but also to amend the constitution.

He said: “The first challenge is ensuring that this time around we ensure that we have a leadership of the National Assembly that shares the vision of the executive.

“Although we speak to separation of power but there is only one government and unless the various arms pursue the same agenda it is difficult for the executive to realise its purpose because legislative backing is often required for the executive actions.

“So, I will expect that you bear in mind that we are one family joined together as shown in our broom, with a share commitment to bail Nigeria out of the condition in which we found it in 2015.

“And that you have the numbers and we will use the number to ensure that we have a leadership that command the trust and the respect of all the members of the House of Representatives.

“There will be contestation, that is why we are in a democracy but after the contestation and debate we have to agree, and once you have agreed, you move forward.

“We have the numbers to produce the speaker and we will produce the speaker, who must be a member of the APC.

“We have the numbers to produce the deputy speaker and we will use the numbers to produce the deputy speaker, who must be a member of the APC.

“We have the number and we must use the numbers to elect a House Leader who must be a member of the APC.

“We have the numbers and we will use the numbers to produce a Chief Whip and a Deputy Whip who must be members of the APC.

“I think the only position that we are not interested in is the Minority Leader. Let it remain minor in the hands of the minors in the opposition.

“We will not share power in the House of Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by APC members.

“If the Nigeria people wanted them to be chairmen of committees they would have voted for them.

“So, all the chairmen of committees, except one that is statutorily reserved for the opposition, which is Public Account, they can have that.

“So, we would not do the kind of thing that happened the last time in which some APC members, as members of the leading party, became distant spectators in the management of committees, when PDP had majority of the strategic committees in the House, that will not happen in the next Assembly.”

Ahead of the formal inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, Senator-Elect Ifeanyi Ubah, elected on the platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP) has decamped to the APC.

Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, let the cat out of the bag, while President Muhammadu Buhari met with APC National Working Committee members, returning/newly elected senators at the Presidential Villa, on Monday.

Oshiomhole while making a remark, said the YPP senator-elect from Anambra South, has decided to pitch tent with the ruling party because he feels more comfortable with the winning team.

He said other issues pertaining to the defection will be perfected later.

The APC chairman, however, said APC stands a better ground to control the ninth Senate with 223 senators gotten out of 360.

He regretted the fact that despite being in the majority in the eighth Assembly, most of the high ranking senators were given committee chairmen not considered juicy.

Before journalists were excused from the meeting, Oshiomhole said no stone will be left unturned to elect a leadership which will be beneficial to the party and the country at large.

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