Ahead of the resumption of the 10 National Assembly, opposition political parties are gearing up for a fight to ensure credible people emerge as presiding and principal officers.
Some lawmakers both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have already declared their interest in the positions of Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Those who have declared for the office of the Senate President are Orji Uzor Kalu, Barau Bibrin, Godswill Akpabio, Adams Oshiomhole, Abdul-Aziz Yari, Dave Umahi and Sani Musa who will not mind dropping to the position of the deputy Senate president.
In the House of Representatives, those who have declared interest to be speaker are former Speaker of Plateau House of Assembly, Yusuf Gagdi; incumbent Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Ahmed Wase, Tunji Olawuyi, Aliyu Betara and Benjamin Kalu.
But acknowledging the fact that their individual political parties did not make the majority, opposition political parties are now scheming to ensure that they are not left out in the composition of the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
“We don’t have the numbers because the politics of the National Assembly is different,” the national publicity secretary of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Major Agbo, said, insisting that they will work with other political parties that share its ideology.
We will monitor to see the right thing is done – LP
Also speaking, the Labour Party said that since it did not constitute the majority in the National Assembly, the party will monitor the development to ensure that the right thing is done.
Responding to our question, the national chairman of the Labour Party, Barr Julius Abure, said the party will watch what other political parties will do before taking a stand.
“Today, I can announce to you that we have eight senators and 34 House of Representatives seats. As of today, we do not control the majority but we will watch and see what other parties will do before we take a stand,” Abure said, adding that the party’s lawmakers will not be infiltrated.
“They have the capacity to resist infiltration. We will build on the successes recorded by the party and we will monitor what other parties will be doing at the National Assembly before we take a stand,” Abure added.
Meanwhile, the plot by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to mobilise its numbers and other minority parties for relevance ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, especially in the House of Representatives, appears to have suffered a major setback.
Two leading figures in the PDP, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, yesterday, threw their weight behind the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase.
Equally, former Governor Segun Osoba also described the deputy speaker as his beloved son whose zone, the north central, deserved the position of speaker.
The trio gave their support to Wase as he embarked on a three-leg trip from Abuja to Lagos-Port Harcourt-Abuja yesterday.
These developments came on the heels of alliance talks between the PDP House of Representatives members and an aspirant for the speakership, Aliyu Betara, on one hand, and the PDP and other minority parties on the other.
Sensing that his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) might zone the position of speaker outside his region, the north east, Betara was said to have opened talks with leading lights of the PDP to add their numbers to his handful of supporters ahead of the contest.
But unknown to Betara, influential leaders of the PDP, especially returning members of the House, had an alternative plan to join forces with other parties to outsmart the APC which, expectedly, might go into the contest divided.
The number of the opposition parties put together is more than APC’s 162. PDP has 102 seats; Labour Party (LP) 34 seats, New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) 18 seats, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) four seats, while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) have two seats each.
And without recourse to the outcome of the April 15 supplementary poll across some states, the opposition parties have a total of 163 seats. A total of 33 constituencies across the country are to take part in the supplementary poll.
Ibori, while receiving the deputy speaker, said he had made up his mind to direct his supporters who are members of the House, to support and vote for Wase.
“I’m with you; I have done my checks on you and I’m convinced you are well prepared for the job and I am happy you are here even though I had sent words to you through our Rep members that they should go with you. I wish you all the best.
“Don’t hesitate to come to me anytime you are in need of whatever thing that will enhance this project. I will help you speak to all my friends, as many as I have. Many are waiting to put the right things properly to make Nigeria the envy of Africa and the world. You are good to go, you are in that mood,” the former Delta governor told Wase and his team.
Osoba, who said the north central deserves the speaker slot, described Wase as his “experienced and beloved son.”
“This is your home; you are an experienced and beloved son of mine. North Central has been very crucial in APC electoral victories. North Central deserves to be a speaker even by performance. Awo said: ‘we must reward performance’ and allocation was based on performance in those days.
“So, in the case of North Central, that should be done, rest assured. It will be zoned to north central and then we go into the next stage. Wase, you are my beloved son, I repeat”.
On his part, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, affirmed that Rivers State will support any candidate unanimously presented by the national leadership of the APC for the position of the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.
While welcoming Wase and his delegation to Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike reiterated his resolve to collaborate with the government at the centre.
He, however, insisted that those to be nominated as principal officers of the 10th House of Representatives must be individuals with requisite experience to chair the affairs of the legislature.
“I have no apologies to make to anyone; I have said it several times that I will support your party at the national level. You are an experienced person, our people will support you. You will stabilise the House and we need you. We will give necessary support and ensure your victory; count on us.”
“The way we are now, the truth must be told that we are going to support the leadership of your party at the national level. I am not going to support anybody that is coming from anywhere.
“You (Wase) are an experienced person. What we require now is experience as far as the legislature is concerned. Experience will stabilise the house. So you don’t require a green horn.”
The governor said the PDP won 11 of the 13 federal constituencies in the state, and lawmakers-elect will back whoever the national leadership of the ruling APC presents as their sole candidate for the exalted office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He reiterated that he remains grateful to the APC governors and other leaders of the party for zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the South, saying that by the decision, the APC leaders have demonstrated their firm belief in the inclusivity of every section of Nigeria in the scheme of things.
Wike said: “I thank your party for coming out openly to say power has to rotate. Everybody now knows that whoever finishes for eight years, goes to another area and that will be inclusiveness, it will bring unity. That is what will stabilise this country.”
The governor maintained that the decision of the APC to zone the presidency to the South is in sync with the fundamental objectives of the PDP G-5 governors for equity, fairness and justice.
In his remarks, Wase, told Wike that he was in Port Harcourt with his delegation that cut across various political parties, to solicit his support ahead of the election of the Speaker of the 10th House.
He said, “Your excellency, we just finished the national and presidential election, we are about to go into the National Assembly politics and that is why are here to seek for your support, to seek for your prayers and blessing, by the grace of God so that we can have a unified country, stabilised system.”
The deputy speaker commended the governor for his stance on power shift to the South, saying that by that action, the governor has distinguished himself as a man of character and firm believer in the unity of the country.
We’ll Consult before taking a position on National Assembly leadership tussle – PDP
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, however, said the party leadership will consult all its stakeholders before taking a position on how to engage in the tussle for leadership of the National Assembly.
He told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the lobby for leadership positions in the National Assembly is normal, adding that it is naturally expected that the ruling party will produce the majority leadership while the opposition party will produce the minority leadership in the chambers.
“People are free to lobby. But like I said, we will not reveal our strategy,” he said.
’North Central, South West Senators Will Be The Decider’
Meanwhile, the Amalgamation of the APC Northern Forum has urged the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to consider the North Central geopolitical zone for the position of the deputy Senate president of the 10th National Assembly.
The forum declared that senators from the North Central and the South West will determine who emerges the Senate President of the 10th assembly.
The pressure group said since the Senate and Deputy Senate President positions must be shared between the North and the South, the North Central stood a better chance to produce a presiding officer of the red chamber.
The coordinator of the coalition, Alhaji Habibu Salau, made the appeal in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja yesterday.
He said: “If the leadership of the APC decides to zone the position to the South, the deputy Senate President should automatically go to the North Central.
“In fairness, the North Central deserves to produce the next Senate President or Deputy because of the impressive performance of the APC in the zone in the last election going by the numbers of APC senators produced from different geopolitical zones.
“Aside from party politics, it is obvious that the South West and North Central senators-elect would determine the next presiding officers of the red chamber of the National Assembly. The APC national working committee should therefore consider all these factors before embarking on the zoning arrangements for the next leadership of the 10th Senate.”