Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
. CAA accuses party of violating constitution
. No compromise on competence, says Tinubu
Determined to get done with the issue of which zone should produce the senate president, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will friday meet senators elected on its platform behind closed doors to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on the candidate for the position of senate presidency in the incoming 8th National Assembly.
The move by the APC leadership is coming on the heels of an accusation by Credible Alternative Alliance (CAA) that the party is planning to ignore the provisions of the constitution regarding the election of principal officers of the National Assembly.
However, APC has said it plans to hold a two-day retreat for senators-elect in Abuja friday and saturday.
In a statement issued thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the retreat would be held at the Ibeto Hotel in Apo area of the city.
According to the APC, the two-day retreat is part of its effort to ensure that the legislators hit the ground running for the benefit of Nigerians.
It said there would be a closed door meeting between all senators-elect and party leaders at 8 p.m on the same day.
The three ranking senators who have indicated interest in the senate presidency are: Senator Hamed Lawan from the North-east (Bauchi), Senator George Akume from the North-central (Benue) and Senator Bukola Saraki also from the North-central (Kwara). They have been lobbying fellow senators across the divide.
Sources at the party’s national secretariat told THISDAY that the leadership of APC has strategically scheduled a retreat for the 59 senators-elect with all the key stakeholders of the party in attendance.
Mohammed, in the statement, urged the senators-elect to arrive at the venue where accommodation arrangement had been made for them, by 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, one of the newly registered opposition political parties led by Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the CAA, has accused APC of planning to make the constitution the first casualty of its victory.
In a statement issued by the CAA National Coordinator, Mr. Damian Ogbonna, yesterday in Abuja, the party said it had uncovered plans by the APC to make the Nigerian constitution the first casualty of its recent victory by jettisoning the principle of federal character in allocating some of its public offices.
CAA specifically alleged that Nigeria might soon witness a situation where the President of the Federal Republic, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice of the Federation; all in the key line of succession occupied by persons of similar persuasion or the same sections of the country, which the party believes is not healthy for a nation as divided as Nigeria.
It regretted that while Nigerians had hoped that the incoming government would concentrate more on healing the suspicion and divisiveness in the country, it is rather exacerbating such tendencies.
According to the group, “Unfortunately, it would seem that APC is headed to the opposite direction by deciding what sections and segments in the country will benefit from its victory and what sections and segments are mapped to be vanquished. This is a serious error that must not see the light of the day, for the sake of Nigeria and our collective future.
“Sections 7 – 9 of the Third Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution takes great pain to establish the Federal Character Commission and charged the commission to, amongst other mandates, ‘Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government’.
“It goes even further to state that it is the duty of the leadership of any public body to recognise and promote the principle of federal character in the ownership and management of the body.
“For a party that laboured and won on the mantra of change, it now appears that APC is well on its way to make the Nigerian Constitution the first casualty of its victory.”
It therefore called on APC to change course before it is too late, saying Nigeria belongs to all her citizens.
Commenting on the ongoing fuel scarcity, the group said that in a country that claims to be a free market economy, government continues to regulate the people out of the business of production, storage, marketing and distribution of refined petroleum products.
“This is the root cause of the perennial fuel scarcity in Nigeria. The practice of licensing just a few favoured elite to control the daily production or importation of such a crucial commodity is, to say the least, undemocratic and anti-people. The policy goes against the grain of a free market economy. It is a practice that lacks common sense.
“If APC is serious about its mantra of change, this is another area we expect quick action. We call upon the incoming government to accordingly liberalise this sector and free Nigerians to compete and excel in an open fuel refining and retailing sector. This is the only way to fix this problem once and for all times. The impact of such a change will be felt in just a matter of months,” it said.
But whatever zone the party eventually decides to zone the office of the senate president, a former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has noted that the party will not relent in its resolve to enthrone quality and efficient leadership in the incoming National Assembly.
Speaking on the controversies trailing the zoning of principal offices of the National Assembly, Tinubu said he would abide by the decision of the party on the issue, insisting however that the choice of who occupies any of the position would not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning.
Tinubu, who spoke to journalists shortly after meeting with the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, at the Defence House in Abuja yesterday, also said the party was not in anyway shying away from its promises to make sure that real changes were brought into the affairs of governance as soon as APC assumes office.
“You have heard from the party, you have heard from the leadership. I’m a disciplined party man and we will look at it critically,” he said.
According to the former governor, the nation is expecting APC to take a decisive leadership decision and to make one meritoriously, adding that merit would not be compromised.
“You have to be competent, you have to possess the kind of character, attributes to the leadership, we have to be pan-Nigerian and be a very solid character to lead the National Assembly and that is what we are talking about. It’s not zoning to compromise quality of leadership and competency of an individual.
“I am not to speak, not to go further on that, I believe we have a very determined party leadership. We have resolved to follow our leadership and the criteria set by that leadership including myself, that we would not use zoning to determine and compromise the credibility, the qualification of an individual.
“It must be all encompassing and that is the question, if you take zoning as discriminatory in some instances, you might compromise the quality of an individual.
“Let everybody aspire, just like we aspired, your cynicism, no matter what, as you predicted during our presidential primaries that we are going run into chaotic storm, we put those people to shame and we came out with the best, expect the best from us always,” he said.
Tinubu while responding to concerns about the economic situation and the challenge it might pose to the incoming Buhari administration, said the party could not shy away from its avowed stance and redeem its promises to put a smile on people’s faces.
“We campaigned on issues and we have listened carefully to some detailed research and the economic indices are not what is expected. Slow growth, huge indebtedness, huge deficit and so many factors while the social issues are still there to be addressed, that is a challenge to leadership.
“The party campaigned on issues and we are going to tackle issues very aggressively. One thing that must be clear is that change has occurred, then the positive change based upon the expectation of Nigeria will follow.
“Whatever the cynicism now, the government is yet to take over, preparing to take over and be ready to face the challenges to create that positive change, that is the expectation of Nigerians.
“It is clear, nobody has given you an indication of shying away from it, there would be a very serious dialogue; there would be a serious exposition and debate; a robust one for that matter for the Nigerian public to be involved to understand what this government means for the future of this country,” he added.
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