By Rotimi Akinwumi Snr Correspondent, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership may have decided to take the easy way out of the challenges of the zoning arrangement to be adopted in sharing the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly.Part of the critical decisions that may have been taken by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) is to cede the Senate Presidency to the North, while the South will take the leadership of the House of Representatives.
The zoning formula, which was arrived at after three days of brainstorming by the party’s NWC, is said to have suggested that the Senate President should come from the North Central geopolitical zone, while his Deputy should come from the North East.
In the House of Representatives, the Speaker is said to have been ceded to the South West, while the Deputy is zoned to the South South.
A source within the party who disclosed this to Sunday Independent, said other leaders of the Senate, like the Deputy Senate Leader, Senate Whip and Deputy Senate Whip, have been allocated to the South, with the exception of the Senate Leader, which is said to have been allocated to North West. Information made available to Sunday Independent also disclosed that a name has already been affixed to the position of Senate Leader. The same is said to be replicated in the House of Representatives, where the NWC is said to have suggested that the position of House Leader, Deputy House Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip should come from the North. The proposal by the APC chiefs is, however, not sacrosanct as their suggestions and proposals are yet to be submitted to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) for final approval. This is expected to be done by Tuesday.
However, the said NWC proposal is novel as such straightjacket division of the two chambers has never been witnessed in the National Assembly at any time, since the inception of the Fourth Republic. The leadership of either chamber has always been shared between the North and South; in a situation when the Senate President is from the North, the Deputy has always been from the South and vice versa. The same has always applied in the House of Representatives too.
This novel approach, observers say, may be the beginning of the party’s crises in managing its success at the 2015 general elections.
With the proposal yet to be tabled before the party’s NEC, some Senators as well as members of the House of Representatives, who have been eyeing any of the exalted seats, but now tacitly eliminated from the race, are said to be kicking against it.
According to a dependable source, by the arrangements allegedly adopted by the party leadership (if adopted by the NEC), Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos is set to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives, while Pally Iriase from Edo State, who is the only ranking member of the House of Representatives from the South South on the platform of the APC, will automatically pick the position of the Deputy Speaker. The issue of the Senate President is hazy, as the seat in accordance with the said zoning formula, will see Bukola Saraki slugging it out with George Akume. Both men are ranking Senators and former governors of Kwara and Benue states respectively.
Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State will be the only option for the Deputy Senate President seat in terms of seniority of ranking should the North East be given the slot as proposed. In the House of Representatives, the clamour to allow free choice and no zoning has reached the crescendo as a number of the legislators are qualified for the top job should it be thrown open. Aside from Gbajabiamila, who is primed for the position of the Speaker being from the South West and a fourth time parliamentarian, others who are also fourth time members are Aliyu Betara from Borno, Kabir Marafa Achida from Sokoto and Jagaba Adams Jagaba from Kaduna. In the last two weeks, the number of aspirants to the seat of the Speaker has risen from two to eight, with aspirants like incumbent APC caucus leader in the House, Gbajabiamila being unarguably the leading contestant, while others include incumbent Chairman, House Committee on House Services, Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State;
Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Abdul Mumin Jubril from Kano State; Pally Iriase Edo State, Ajibola Famurewa from Osun State, Prof. Mojeed Alabi from Osun State, Mohammed Monguno from Borno State and Jagaba Adams Jagaba from Kaduna. Among the lot, notwithstanding the unfavourable zoning arrangement, AbdulMumin Jubril has been the most vociferous among the aspirants and would, this week, be embarking on a consultative meeting with fresh lawmakers from all the six geopolitical zones to swell his ambition.
In the Senate, the alleged reservation of the office of the Senate Leader for Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, is set to ignite fire in the chamber, as there are other six senators from the North West, who are his senior in the Chamber in order of ranking.
The Senate and House of Representatives Rules are very explicit on how leadership of both chambers should be allotted based on ranking. The North West geo-political zone produced 20 Senators for the party in the March 28 senatorial election. Out of the 20 Senators, eight are ranking, as some have been elected to the chamber at least twice, and others are coming from the House of Representatives, where they are also considered ranking members of the chamber. New set of Senators are coming in from Jigawa, Kaduna and a sprinkling of new members from Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kano and Zamfara states. Five states of the North West – Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara – returned only six ranking Senators out of possible 15. They are Senators Kabiru Gaya (Kano) Adamu Aliero (Kebbi, and former FCT minister) Abu Ibrahim (Katsina), Ahmed Ru’fai Sani (Zamfara), Kabir Marafa (Zamfara) and Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto).
Senators-elect, Bala Ibn Na’Allah and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano State governor) completes the list of ranking senators from the zone, having been elected into the House of Representatives at different times. But, the ranking rule, which gives preference to Senators who have been elected more than once into the chamber, means that top contenders for the Senate Leader position are Senators Sani, Marafa, Gaya and Adamu Aliero.
How the APC leadership will foist Kwakwanso on the Senate as Senate Leader ahead of his ‘seniors’ is yet to be clear.
Sources close to Gbajabiamila disclosed to Sunday Independent that the Lagos State-born parliamentarian is not leaving any stone unturned as he is said to be reaching out to his colleagues, even those in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who have just lost power at the Presidency and the National Assembly.
The possibility of his having a free ride to the position would only be checkmated by Jagaba from Kaduna State, who is said to have raised eyebrow against the zoning of the Speakership to South West irrespective of the fact that the Senate President is said to be zoned to the North Central.
Jagaba, sources said, is set to unleash a serious campaign for the office of the Speaker and he is said to be planning to give the APC leadership a shocker by snatching the position from Gbajabiamila on the day of the inauguration of the Eighth Assembly, just like Aminu Waziri Tambuwal did in 2011 when Mulikat Akande Adeola was chosen by the PDP leaders for the top job against the wishes of the returning members of the parliament, especially in the PDP, who connived with members of opposition to upturn the wish of their party leaders.
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