9th Assembly and the fresh battles for leadership
By Abubakar Jimoh
Given the recent results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has 65 senatorial seats while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has so far produced 42 senators with one seat for Young Progressives Party (YPP). Consequently, the APC maintains its majority in the Senate.
Also, as declared by INEC, out of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives, APC won the majority seats with a total of 211 members, while PDP has a total of 111 members, so far.
Other parties that will be represented are All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – six, Action Democratic Congress (ADC) – three, Action Alliance (AA) – two and People’s Redemption Party (PRP) – two members. African Democratic Party (ADP), Allied People’s Movement (APM) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) won a seat, each.
Emerging struggles for leadership positions
After rigorous struggles by especially APC and the opposition party—PDP to constitute a majority in the both Chambers, there emerges another line of struggle for leadership positions in the legislature. As observed by the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the 9th Assembly may experience intrigue crisis from the raising conscious and potential struggles of the ruling party (APC) to control the leadership of the National Assembly.
“We understand as a global phenomenon, the aspiration of leading political party for leadership positions in the legislature, which featured in Nigeria’s political history in the 16 years prior to the emergence of APC as the leading party in the country,” he explained.
Although the constitution does not restrict any leadership position in the National Assembly to the party with majority, the tradition has been for a majority party to produce the leadership since it has the required numbers to do so.
Based on the existing zonal arrangement the position of Senate President is occupied by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki from Kwara State, which is North Central. The Senate President assumed the position after his predecessor, Senator David Mark also from the zone, Benue state.
While Saraki lost his re-election bid to Dr Yahaya Oloriegbe of the APC in the recent Senatorial election, the Senate President is clearly out of the game.
Apparently, North Central zone has a very slim change of producing another candidate for the Senate Presidency position in the 9th Assembly, as most of its experienced Senator have fallen victims of the massive turnover shaking the Assembly except for Senator Abdullahi Adamu representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District, given the outcome of the general elections.
Meanwhile, in the ruling party, there are couple of federal lawmakers, especially Senators who have been able to weather the storm in their senatorial districts and have consistently won re-election for a record three and more times, while constituting potential candidates for election into position of Senate President.
Among these is Senator Ahmad Lawan, who was elected Senator in 2007 after serving as a member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. He is currently the Leader of the Senate. At the beginning of the 8th Senate in June, 2015, the APC Yobe South Senator was the choice of the Presidency for the coveted Senate Presidency seat but was outsmarted, by Abubakar Bukola Saraki who emerged Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly. As Senate Leader, he has introduced debate on issues, motions and bills presented before the Senate.
Another potential candidate is Senator Ali Ndume of APC, representing Borno South in the Senate since 2011 having served as a two-time member of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011. At the inauguration of the 8th Senate on June 9, 2015, Ndume emerged as Senate Leader before he was removed in February, 2017. He is famous in his commitment to defend the President’s policies during plenary. Senator Ndume had in September 2018 dismissed Senator Saraki’s Presidential ambition describing it as a pipe dream and not a threat to President Buhari’s re-election bid. In March 2017, Senate suspended Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South, APC), for six months for raising a motion on the floor of the senate, to demand for an investigation into media reports alleging that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki imported a bullet proof range rover with fake documents; while Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west) forged Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria first degree certificate.
Senator Danjuma Goje is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation. He represents APC Gombe Central in the Senate since 2011 having served as a two-time governor of Gombe state from 2003 to 2011. Goje, whose house was recently raided by the Police during the preparation of the 2017 Appropriation Bill was in the same year accused of unguarded utterances and unparliamentary statements by the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatude Fashola.
Senator Kabiru Gaya is APC senator representing Kano South and has been in the Red Chambers since 2011. He was a former governor of Kano state during the Third Republic. In 2017, he accused Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) of failing to remit about N167billion to Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for more than 7 years. Senator Gaya has served at various Committees including Gas, Local and Foreign Debts, States & Local Government, and Upstream Petroleum Resources and Works.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu, a third time Senator representing Lagos Central on the platform of APC. She is the wife of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and is Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment. In the 7th Senate, she was the Chairman of the Senate committee on Women Affairs. She had sponsored a Bill for an Act to amend Police Act, to strengthen the institution for efficient delivery of its mandates. Senator Tinubu also sponsored an amendment to the National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency Act as part of the effort to reduce environmental degradation.
Senator Adamu Aliero has been a ranking APC Kebbi central Senator since 2011. He had earlier served as Kebbi state governor. He is known to had voted against Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill along other two other Senators—Emmanuel Bwacha and Rufai Ahmed leading to the failure of the scale through the second reading in 2016. In 2018, he had urged the Senate to look into the creation of cattle colony as a way of tackling herdsmen/farmers clashes in the country.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu has been in the Senate since 2011. The APC Senator from Nasarawa West Senatorial District is Chairman of Senate Committee on Agriculture. At the inception of the Fourth Republic, Adamu served as governor of Nasarawa state for two terms (1999 to 2007). He is a famous loyalist to President Muhammadu Buhari. He led 58 other Senators against amendment to section 25(1) of the Electoral Act which reordered sequence of elections earlier announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by fixing National Assembly election first, followed by Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election and Presidential election last. Senator Adamu’s open criticism against amendment to the Electoral Act led to his removal as Chairman of Northern Senators’ Forum in February 2018.
Senator Ajayi Boroffice has been in the Red Chamber since 2011 and he represents Ondo North senatorial district on the platform of APC. He was decorated as the Senator of The Year 2017 for the qualities of Bills he has presented in the 8th Senate, and the numerous projects and interventions facilitated to his senatorial district.
Senator Teslim Folarin is staging a come-back to the Senate having earlier served in the fifth and sixth senate from 2003 to 2011. He was the Senate Majority Leader during the sixth Senate from 2007 to 2011 when he represented Oyo Central on the platform of PDP. He had since defected to the APC under which platform he won the senatorial election. Senator Folarin was charged in the daylight murder of Lateef Salako, aka “Eleweomo”, the factional leader of the National Union of Road Transport workers in Ibadan, Oyo state. He was reportedly discharged due the intervention former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Senator Ibrahim Gobir is a third time Senator representing APC Sokoto East. He is Chairman of the Senate services committee. He has sponsored several Bills in the Senate including Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act CAP D5 LFN 2011 (Amendment) Bill 2015, Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurs (Est., etc) Bill 2015, and the National Development Bank of Nigeria (Est., etc) Bill 2015.
Senator Gaya reportedly indicated his interest in the Deputy Senate President seat, seven other ranking senators from the South-West are believed to be eyeing the position based on an assumption that the APC leadership would zone it to the geopolitical zone. The Senators-elect including Oluremi Tinubu and Ibikunle Amosun.
In a recent development, Sen. Tinubu was reportedly clamouring for leadership position at the 9th National Assembly because of her overwhelming experience at the Senate. Tinubu, who is the longest serving female lawmaker in the Senate, said that she had garnered enough experience and should therefore be considered for a leadership position in the Assembly.
Uncertainty continues to grip Senate Presidency ambition of the two loyalists—Sen. Ndume and Sen. Adamu, to President Buhari as the President through his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang said he would not interfere in the emergence of new leadership of the 9th National Assembly. According Enang, the President believes so much in the rule of law, hence he would allow each arm of government to perform its constitutional responsibility without interference.
Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Buba, representing Hong/Gombi Federal Constituency, Adamawa (North East), has expressed desire to vie for the position of Speaker of the House Representatives, Yakubu Dogara in the 9th Assembly. However, the Speakership may be zoned out of North East time as the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who has always be the preferred candidate of the APC National Leader, Sen. Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is presently being considered as the party’s favourite for the slot.
CISLAC warns that the legislature must not be thrown into endless crisis arising from disagreement over the elections and appointments into leadership positions as it did in the 8th National Assembly. Clamouring for leadership positions must not be taken as a priority in the 9th Assembly over the legislators’ fundamental assignments—lawmaking, oversight, representation and constituency outreach.
Potential radical moves by Oshiomhole
Given his radical approach to political issues, the Chairman of the ruling Party, Adam Oshiomhole may want to extend his control over Members of the Party in the selection of Members for appointive and elective positions in Assembly.
Oshiomhole, who escaped impeachment plot in October 2018, barely five months into his tenure, when 15 of the 21 APC governors collected signatures for his removal, has been waxing stronger following the recent victory of the ruling in the general elections.
He additionally displayed his commitment and loyalty to the party when he delivered his polling unit to the APC, while apposition party (PDP) failed to secure a single vote out of 775 in the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The National Chairman had attacked the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, and that of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, calling them “emperors.” Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Oshiomhole, reacted to comments made by both governors on the outcome of APC primaries, and specifically described Mr Okorocha as “an embarrassment” to the APC. The two governors had exoressed their dissatisfactions with Oshiomhole’s method of handling party primaries.
Oshiomhole accused both governors of imposition of candidates in their respective states. In his statement, he said: “If Governor Rochas chose to relocate to the (Presidential) Villa and use the ground of Villa to try to intimidate me to create a dynasty, I will – even on one leg but powered by the truth – uphold the best interest of APC members and indeed of APC people in Imo State.”
Explaining the situation in Ogun State, he accused Mr Amosun of imposition candidate as a consensus governor which went against the primary process. “He announced somebody as the consensus governor, he proceeded to announce another man as the deputy governor, he went on to proclaim (himself) as the next senator and he said the current serving Senator, Tejuoso, should step aside,” he explained.
The Chairman’s resistance to accept proposal by the two governors led to creation of Action Alliance (AA), a political party formed by Rochas Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu; and subsequent plea by 26 members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who claimed they won the party’s primaries for the Ogun State House of Assembly elections begging the national leadership of the party under the Chairmanship of Oshiomhole to publish their names and issue them relevant documents.
These contentious issues around primary, led to the arrest and detention of the Chairman by the Department of State Services (DSS) for interrogation which last for over nine hours, after some APC governors alleged that he received bribes during the party’s primary elections across the country. Although nothing was established against him, the APC chairman was asked to resign during interrogation by the DSS. But Oshiomhole resisted the pressure to resign, saying he would only do so if he loses the confidence of President Muhammadu Buhari. The APC chairman told the DSS that the president was in the loop of every action he took during the party’s primaries and would have objected if he had violated any law.
From the foregoing, there are indications that Oshiomhole may stretch his Chairmanship to further coordinate and gain control of appointive and elective positions in the Senate and House of Representatives. This may breed another crisis within the ruling party.
APC primaries, aggrieved members and NASS leadership imposition
There is a high tendency that the party’s members, whose candidature choices were denied during the primaries, especially those that secured their ways into either the Upper or the Lower Chamber like Governor Okorocha and Governor Amosun, may disagree with the imposition of leadership by Oshiomhole and other party’s leadership.
It would be recalled that in October 2018, seven APC governors met with President Buhari to register their dissatisfactions over disqualification of their preferred candidates during the party’s primaries, but he reportedly directed them to meet with Oshiomhole. The seven governors present at the meeting with Oshiomhole were Rochas Okorocha (Imo State), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Tanko Al-makura (Nasarawa), Abdul-aziz Yari (Zamfara) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun).
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu had in October 2018 blasted Oshiomhole, describing the primaries conducted by the ruling party as a charade. Also, APC in Ondo State had faulted the decision of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party to disqualify all aspirants loyal to the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from participating in the National Assembly Primaries of the party.
Speaker Dogara and 8th Assembly loyalists
Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara was reportedly making frantic moves to retain his seat when the 9th National Assembly will be inaugurated. Dogara’s moves, it was learnt, are coming despite the fact that he is now a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Dogara became speaker on June 9, 2015 under APC, defying the party’s decision for current House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila to be elected as speaker. Dogara scored 182 votes to Gbajabiamila’s 174 votes, while four votes were voided.
Some members reportedly joined him on his formal defection from APC to PDP. Other defectors include Ahmed Yerima and Edward Pwajok. While Pwajok represents Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency of Plateau in the House, Yerima represents Missau/Dambam Federal Constituency of Bauchi State.
Full cooperation with the proposed 9th Assembly leadership structure may be sabotaged by members who have enjoyed good working relations with former Speaker of the House.
Although in a recent statement, the Speaker was reportedly said he doesn’t care who emerges the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, and further downplayed permutations being made in the media on who occupies principal positions in the next House.
Old legislators as major opponents to rubber stamp process
Given the fact that leadership in the Assembly is about adequate experience and possessed capacity to contribute meaningfully and advance legislative process, old members would like to retain leadership position in both chambers. Also, some of the re-elected legislators will kick against rubber-stamp effort or dominance by the executive arm. Among these is senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye who decamped from ruling party to the opposition party. The Senator was in October 2018 wanted by the Kogi State Police Command for criminal conspiracy, attempted culpable homicide and unlawful possession of firearms.