There were indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may be heading for a fresh crisis over the key positions at the coming 10th National Assembly. The party is still in control with the highest number of elected members both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
During President Buhari’s eight year tenure, the head of the Senate had been a northerner – Bukola Saraki, North Central in the Eight Assembly, and Ahmed Lawn, from North East in the Ninth Assembly; while the Speaker of the House of Reps went to Southwest.
Now that the Southerner has eventually emerged the president-elect and the North the vice president-elect, the clamour is for the South, preferably, South East and the South South, to produce the Senate president, while the Speaker of the House of Reps is expected to go North.
Though the party has not decided any zoning arrangements in sharing the National Assembly positions, there are now divergent views, as to where the key positions should go.
While some of the National Assembly members are of the position that the key posts be automatically conceded to the South East or South South’, there were others, especially from Northern members, say that the posts be left open for who ever has interest.
This division within the party, it was learned could lead to serious crisis as all the interested candidates from the two blocks are not relenting but determined to fight it out in their favours.
With the latest developments, there appears to be more Northerners wanting the key offices at the National Assembly, despite the argument that zoning should take a centre stage in selecting those who will occupy the posts.
At present, those jostling for the Senate President positions have risen to eight, namely Orji Uzor Kalu, Abia (SE), Barau Jibrin, Kano (NW), Sanni Musa, Niger (NC), Ali Ndume Borno (NE) Dave Umahi Eboyi (SE), Abdulaziz Yari, Zamfara (NW ) Goodswill Akpabio, (SS) and Osita Izunaso, Imo (SE).
Those who want to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives are now nine. Three from North Central
are Ahmed Idris Wase, Plateau; Yusuf Gadji, also from Plateau;’ and Abdulraheem, Kwara.
Others from North West are Sada Soli, Jibia, (Katsina), Tajudeen Abbas Kaduna, Abubakar Makki Yellema, Jigawa, and Aminu Sanni Jaji, Zamfara. There is also Muktar Aliyu Betare from North East and Olaide Akinremi from Oyo.
With the rules at the National Assembly all the contenders are qualified because they are all ranking members, who are also holding prominent positions as chairmen of various committees.
What is also a major concern is the religious aspect as those in favour of the South wants Christians to occupy the positions in both chambers especially, that of the Senate President, to favour the South East or the South South. In the two geopolitical zones, all the interested candidates for the Senate President are Christians, while those from the North are Muslims, and with the president-elect and vice as Muslims, Christians reject the idea of having the Senate president as Muslims.
While some argued that there was nothing wrong if the positions in the Senate and House of Representatives, are occupied by Muslims, quoting what happened when David Mark, a Christian was the Senate President and Ike Ekweremadu also a Christian was his Deputy and Patricia Ette also a Christian, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Since some of the members have come out to make their intentions known, the most vocal of them is Senator Ali Ndume, who openly said he is qualified to be the Senate President.
Though his open declaration was not strange, as he has been nursing the ambition for long, he was even in the race with Lawan from the same North East in 2019, his allegation that some of his colleagues in the race have resorted to using money to buy the positions is now a very serious concern to Nigerians.
He said some of them are determined to reduce the contest to cash-and- carry, for the highest bidder, which he argued would not give room for competence in performance.
With the current arguments, especially from the North, the North West is strongly interested, claiming that it has the highest elected members in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is why Barau from the North West, is saying that the contest for who leads the 10th Senate should be based on competence and experience.
His counterpart, Ndume from the North East, is on the same page with him.
It was gathered that some of the Northern aspirants for the Senate President position are so desperate and they are now going about soliciting the support of Emirs, leaders of all the political parties and some governors to back them. One of them is Wuse who was said to have met some Emirs and governors from the South West, North Central and the North East.
It was said that the current Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, is already gaining the support of the Osun State governor Ademola Adeleke, that of Ogun, Dapo Abiodun, Zulum of Borno and Aliero
With the debate on where the positions in the National Assembly should go, the odd is still in favour of the South East and South South with Kalu and Akpabio in the lead for the Senate President.
One of those in the APC who favoured the South East, specifically, is the former Commissioner of Information in Kogi State, Tom Ohikere. According to him, the South East should be considered for the Senate President in the interest of fairness and stability and unity in the APC, arguing that anything to the contrary could divide the party.
According to Ohikere, “no ethno – religious or geo-political region has a monopoly of any political party and that permutations and political outcomes are usually the results of strategic negotiations and concessions.”
He said “the political scene is ever dynamic and constantly changing and success for a political party involves the ability to carry all factions along amicably.”
“The Southeast have an indignation towards the APC government over alleged marginalization. Politics is a dynamic game and the balance of yesterday cannot stand the realities of today. That is the push and pull of today.
Ohikere added “the South East APC have proven their worth in the general election against palpable odds, even clinching some senatorial seats in the southeast and S/ south states, such as Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, Edo and Cross Rivers state.”
According to political analysts, the only zone in the country that can be a stumbling block for the South East or South South in clinching the number three position is the North West, which claimed that it should be compensated for its performance in the just concluded general elections as the Zone with the highest numbers of legislators in the National Assembly.
Also the North Central is strongly agitating for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
But some believed that if the APC is not careful there could be a gang-up from all the opposition political parties headed by the PDP to turn the table against the APC in the National Assembly, especially, in the Senate where the South is itching to produce the Senate President.
It was said that if the opposition decides to pull the rug off APC’s feet, the party could be in problem as the opposition, with some aggrieved members of the APC from the South, may defeat the APC to produce both positions, as was the case in 2015.
Meanwhile APC is now awaiting the arrival of Tinubu, the President elect, to determine where the pendulum would swing at the end of the day.
However, the incoming president is being warned to be very careful as not to be dragged into undue controversies over the National Assembly matters.
He was reminded of the quagmire the APC found itself in 2015 when the leadership of the National Assembly was hijacked by a group within the party headed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the situation betrayed the original plan.
What was regarded as a coup then, produced Senator Bukola Saraki from the North Central as the Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Though Buhari did not take kindly to that arrangement, he went along with them without showing open displeasure, but sort of avoided them, except during ceremonies and official functions.
This cold relationship with the National Assembly affected both the legislature and the executive and made most of the bills in the eight Assembly to suffer in the hands of President Buhari and vice versa.
But things were different in the 9th Assembly which has up till June this year to wind up. To some extent, the 9th National Assembly headed by both Lawan and Gbajabiamila is being regarded as a mere rubber stamp of the executive.
Although the debate is still going on as to where these key positions at the legislative arm of government would go, a newly elected member of the upper chamber, Barrister Sarafadeen Ali, who is going to represent Oyo South Senatorial District, in Oyo State, told Business Hallmark that no decision has been made as to where any position would go, in the coming National Assembly.
He said that if any decision would be taken’ “we all have to await the collective decisions of the leaders in the party, which would involve the out going President Buhari and the President-elect, Tinubu.
Also Senator Opeyemi Bamidele representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, who just got re- elected into the 10th Senate, said that presiding officers of the National Assembly should not be based on zoning alone but competence and experience.
Bamidele argued that some people are introducing religion, saying that ethnicity and religious sentiments should not be allowed to go into play in electing those that would lead at the National