Since the emergence of the principal officers of the 10th National Assembly, comprising the Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Senate Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip as well as their House of Representatives counterparts, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has not been speaking with one voice.
Aggrieved members, particularly those who lost out in the game and their supporters, have been nursing their wounds and waiting for an ample opportunity to fight back.
Although there have been peace moves to reconcile all the aggrieved parties and ensure that the party is united, that seems not to have succeeded, as some are still holding pent up anger against the party.
This, analysts warn, could degenerate into a serious future crisis, if not properly and carefully handled.
Soon after winning the presidential elections and also winning the highest number of seats in the National Assembly elections, the APC as a party, went to work and started hatching the plans to ensure that the presiding and principal officers of both the legislative chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives, were the party’s choices.
Firstly, it was the election of the presiding officers of the National Assembly, comprising the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The party hierarchy led by the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had already zoned and even micro-zoned the four positions to Godswill Akpabio from the South-South as Senate President and Barau Jibrin from the North West as Deputy Senate President, as well as Tajudeen Abbas from the North West as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Benjamin Kalu from the South East as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
This zoning and micro-zoning adopted by the party did not go down well with some members of the APC and they challenged it, especially in the Senate where Senator Abdulaziz Yari challenged the anointed candidate.
The politics that preceded the election was so intense that many felt that Akpabio, the APC’s anointed candidate, was going to lose to Yari, following the alleged groundswell of support that Yari was getting, not only from the APC senators, but from other senators in the opposition parties.
The election was held on the floor of the senate and as the party wished, Akpabio emerged to the consternation of those on Yari’s camp, but to the admiration of Akpabio’s supporters, as well as those who believe in party supremacy.
At the Green Chambers, the situation was also not different. The party’s choice candidate, Abbas was equally challenged by the outgoing deputy speaker, Ahmed Wase, and Sani Jaji, but he eventually defeated them resoundingly and emerged as the new Speaker, again bringing to fruition the party’s choice.
Even though some members of the party were not happy with the outcome, they had to sheathe their swords for peace to reign in the party.
However, soon after the emergence of the presiding officers, another round of politicking involving high wired horse-trading, alignments and realignments, began. Politicians began to make clandestine moves, reaching out to those that matter just to ensure that they or their candidates emerged as principal officers.
At the resumption of plenary by both houses on Tuesday, after the Sallah break, the list of principal officers was announced.
However, the announcement of the principal officers by Akpabio and Abbas drew the ire of the APC’s leadership as the National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, quickly dissociated the party from that, saying, “The National Working Committee (NWC) was not aware of the emergence of the principal officers of the 10th National Assembly.”
For the majority caucus in the Senate, Akpabio had announced Opeyemi Bamidele from Ekiti State as Senate Leader, Dave Umahi from Ebonyi State as Deputy Senate Leader, Ali Ndume from Borno State as Chief Whip, and Lola Ashiru from Kwara State as Deputy Chief Whip.
Also for the minority caucus, the Senate President had equally announced Simon Davou from Plateau North (PDP) as Minority Leader, Oyewunmi Olarere from Osun West (PDP) as Deputy Minority Leader, Darlington Nwokeocha from Abia Central –(LP) as Minority Whip, Rufai Hanga from Kano Central (NNPP) as Deputy Minority Whip.
It is instructive to note that the Senate Minority Caucus is made up of the PDP with 36 senators; LP with eight senators; Social Democratic Party (SDP) with two senators; New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) with two senators; Young Progressives Party (YPP) with one senator; and All Progressives Grand Alliance with one senator.
In a related development, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas also announced Julius Ihonvbere, representing Owan East/Owan West Federal Constituency of Edo as the majority leader; Abdullahi Ibrahim Halims representing Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro of Kogi as deputy majority leader; Bello Kumo (APC – Gombe) as Chief Whip, and Adewunmi Onanuga (APC – Ogun) as Deputy Chief Whip.
The duo of Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), the preferred candidate of the ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, and Ali Madaki (NNPP, Kano) emerged as Minority Leader and Deputy Minority Leader respectively, while Ali Isa of PDP and George Ebizimawo of LP equally emerged Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip respectively.
But, speaking during a meeting with the APC governors at the APC’s national secretariat in Abuja, Adamu had dismissed the exercise as rumour, saying, “I am just hearing a rumour now from the online media that there have been some announcements in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“The national headquarters of the party, the NWC, has not given any such information about the choice of offices. And until we formally resolve and communicate with them in writing, which is the norm and practice, it is not our intention to break away from traditions. So, whatever announcement, either by the President of the Senate, Deputy Senate President, Speaker or Deputy Speaker in that regard is not from this secretariat.”
But, the Imo State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodinma, said Akpabio and Abass have the backing of the party’s governors on the choice of principal officers.
Uzodinma, who spoke shortly after a meeting between the governors and the NWC at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said the chairman was misrepresented. He said: The APC chairman never said they were on their own. The National Assembly leadership belongs to our great party. They are members of our party and they enjoy our support.”
However, Akpabio has also said that the process that gave birth to the emergence of the principal officers in the senate was without rancour and that it was the members who chose and made recommendations, while he announced their choices as the senate president.
His position was also corroborated by Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), who emerged as Senate Leader. According to him, it was a collective decision by all the seven political parties, and not that anybody dictated. The Speaker equally maintained that all the members of the APC in the House of Representatives endorsed the selection of the principal officers from the ruling party.
While the argument continues back and forth between Adamu and the National Assembly leadership, Nigerians have continued to analyse the issues from different angles.
There are those who said that what Akpabio did was to tactically avoid further confrontation between the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and former governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike, who have been waging cold political war against each other since after the PDP’s presidential primaries, by jettisoning their preferred candidates and picking a neutral person.
Recall that while Atiku was pushing for the former governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, as the Senate Minority Leader, the G5 former governors led by Wike were working against that and routing for a different candidate.
There are others who see what happened as a subtle way of announcing to Nigerians by the national assembly leadership that nobody would be allowed to dictate for them from outside.
According to a senator, who preferred anonymity, “The person that emerged as the minority leader was never in the picture; names like Jarigbe Agom, Aminu Tambuwal, Adamu Aliero and all that were not there eventually. The man was chosen because he is neutral; he is not part of any group that is desperate to emerge as the senate minority leader.
“He was chosen because of his neutrality in the matter. We will not allow Atiku or Wike or anybody else to dictate to us. And you will recall that many PDP members even opposed the emergence of Tambuwal as the senate minority leader.”
Yet, there are those who believe that the emergence of Bamidele and Ndume, was a kind of reward from Akpabio for their roles in his own emergence as senate president. To them, it was a case of one good turn deserves another.
However, lending his voice to the development, a legal practitioner and public affairs analyst, Ikechukwu Onodi expressed concern that politicians are dissipating energy on frivolities and personal interest rather than what will benefit the poor masses.
He noted that having concluded the selection of presiding and principal officers, one would expect the lawmakers to hit the ground running, but he lamented that the battle would now be shifted to chairmanship of committees and membership of committees.
“People will be desperate and they will be jostling for where they can be. One of the most popular committees is the committee on appropriation, and maybe, the Committee on Ports Authority, for reasons best known to lawmakers. This is where we are now, and we hope that the national assembly will begin to focus on the major issues of the day.
“Some of the issues that they need to worry about are already emerging. On Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC), said there were challenges that needed to be addressed. One of those challenges is a review of the 2022 Electoral Act, Electoral Offences Commission Bill, which has been in abeyance. It needs to be passed because the INEC chair said that the INEC was overburdened.
“Conducting elections and prosecuting electoral offenders will be too much work for the electoral umpire but if there is an electoral offences commission as recommended by the Uwais Commission, INEC will not be overburdened.
“There are other important state matters that they should also focus on, rather than opportunities in terms of appointment into committees and positions, whether principal or procedural.
“To work is to start, and we are hoping as we have always said that this will not be a rubber stamp assembly but one committed to making law for the good of Nigerians,” he said.
Also speaking on the recent development, a former National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy, AD, Rev. Okechukwu Obioha said the major concern of Nigerians was electoral reform.
He alleged that the process that threw up the executive arm of government at the Federal level was not in the spirit of the democracy fought for by Nigerians.
Obioha stressed that the disagreement between the National Assembly leadership and the National Working Committee of the APC should not bother the citizens.
He said what should be of utmost and immediate importance is electoral reform.
Obioha, who was a member of NADECO, had this to say: “if the members of the National Assembly have the guts, what we expect from them now is not any form of infighting but to go on and strengthen democracy.
“The Electoral Electoral Act was not applied in the conduct of the 2023 general elections; so, they should look into perfecting the Electoral Act, there are several lapses and ambiguities. They should be able to work on that.
“The next election people may not come out; those who attempt to come out, it will be war-like; every opponent will be well prepared, it will be the survival of the fittest.
“There is a high level of disenchantment in the country; Nigeria is wobbling in all ramifications.
“There is a rape of Nigeria democracy that we fought for as NADECO members; I won’t comment further over National Assembly or whatever until the litigations are over.
“But, if I must say something, the National Assembly, though in abeyance now, should look into the Electoral Act; litigations should be over before swearing in; if it is not done, we are making a mess of the entire thing. Talking about 180 days, when the person is already there enjoying the spoils of office makes no sense, with all the paraphernalia of office, and you are in court, it is not democracy.
“The National Assembly should look into our Electoral Act and make sure litigation finishes before swearing in; that should be the first thing they should correct.
“But all their eyes will be on appropriation, what they will gain; Niegrians have lost faith in the system- all the three tiers of government. The judiciary, especially, should brace up and restore their image, because they have a battered image. They are giving judgements that are full of inconsistencies.”