Barely two weeks after the emergence of presiding officers of the Ninth National Assembly, the battle for principal officers’ seats has reached its peak with Senator Orji Kalu and Senator Abdullahi Adamu contesting for the coveted seat of Senate Leader.
Kalu represents Abia North Senatorial District in the South-East while Adamu represents Nasarawa West Senatorial District in the North-Central.
According to findings, the North-Central is insisting on having the seat while the South-East, which had alleged marginalisation in the zoning of the presiding officers’ seats, said the proper thing to do was to zone the Senate Leader’s seat to the region.
The principal offices currently in contention are Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip positions.
The two presiding offices of the Senate, namely Senate President and Deputy Senate President, were zoned by the party to the North-East and South-South respectively, an action that later culminated in the emergence of Ahmed Lawan and Ovie Omo-Agege as the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
“There were meetings this past week and some names were discussed in line with the zoning formula we are proposing. But an issue that became a bit contentious is the seat of the Senate Leader. The North-Central wants it and the South-East also wants it. But whatever happens, we should conclude and send the zoning formula and names to the leaders of the National Assembly next week,” a top-ranking member of the ruling party who is also a member of the National Working Committee told Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity on Friday.
APC Caucus in Senate meets over slots, candidates
Meanwhile, the APC Caucus in the Senate is said to have met and recommended candidates for the principal officers’ positions.
Findings revealed that the APC NWC would meet again over the lawmakers’ recommendations next week before communicating its final decision to the leadership of the Senate.
A ranking senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the Caucus came up with the recommendations to prevent a situation whereby the party would be seen as imposing candidates on the legislature.
He said it was agreed that the North-Central geopolitical zone should produce the Senate Leader while the South-East should get the Deputy Leader’s slot.
Other arrangements, according to him, are South-West (Chief Whip) and North West (Deputy Chief Whip).
The senator, who is from the South-West geopolitical zone, however confided in one of our correspondents that his colleagues in the region had agreed on the candidature of Senator Ajayi Boroffice for the position of Chief Whip.
He added that there was a strong indication that his colleagues in the North-Central might have picked Senator Abdullahi Adamu as Senate Leader but that there were concerns about his age and health status.
He said the APC Caucus in the South-East might have settled for the candidature of Orji Uzor Kalu as the Deputy Majority Leader while Senator Kabiru Gaya might pick the seat of Deputy Whip from the North-West geopolitical zone.
Another senator, who confirmed the development, explained that the Senate Caucus of the party had to come up with the zoning arrangement early so as to guide his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
He said, “Contrary to the belief of many Nigerians, it was the senators who actually met and agreed that Senator Ahmad Lawan should be picked as the President of the Senate.
“We made it clear among ourselves that the senators will pick their leaders. So, we met and agreed that Senator Ahmad Lawan would be the President of the 9th Senate. We then met with the leadership of the party and the presidency for their endorsements.
“That is why we are also doing everything we could to ensure that the leadership of the various caucus would also emerge directly from us. We are avoiding any form of imposition at all costs. Although, there are still contending issues but we would resolve them without rancour very soon.’
Efforts to get the official reaction of the Senate on the issue failed on Friday because the Red Chamber had yet to appoint a spokesperson.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lanre Issa-onilu, said the party had yet to reach a final decision on the principal officers’ positions, adding that it would be made known as soon as conclusion was reached.
“When we reach a decision on that, the public will know,” he said.
However, a member of the NWC confirmed that the lawmakers recommended and the respective zoning arrangements were the issues being discussed by the NWC.
He said a decision was imminent and the list would be sent to leadership of NASS.
The Peoples Democratic Party had named candidates for the Senate minority officers’ positions but had yet to release the list of its minority principal officers in the House of Representatives.
For the Senate, the PDP named its member representing Abia South Senatorial District, Enyinnaya Abaribe, as the minority leader and Emmanuel Bwacha from Taraba South as deputy minority leader.
The party also picked the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Phillip Aduda, as the minority whip, while Clifford Ordia, from Edo-Central was named as his deputy.
The APC on the other hand has yet to announce its majority principal officers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
A top ranking member of the party who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said, “As a party, we are taking into consideration a lot of factors and that is responsible for the slight delay.
“We have members who are making a strong case for us to consider those with clean bills of health from our anti-graft agencies.
“Those in this school of thought feel we will be sending the wrong signals by ignoring the fact that some of these people whose names are being put forward have pending cases before the EFCC and the ICPC. We have loyal party members who have clean records from all the zones and such people are being considered.”
Another member of the party’s National Working Committee who equally spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We have made substantial progress, what is left are the names to match the areas where we have zoned these offices to.
“The National Assembly is currently on vacation I can assure you that by the time they resume, we will have the names ready for them,”
When contacted, the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, simply said, “We are still consulting.”
Meanwhile, the delay in the appointment of principal officers by political parties was reported to be affecting the allocation of offices and seat numbers to the 9th National Assembly members before their resumption on July 2.
The Director of Information in the nation’s parliament, Rawlings Agada, said the process for the allocation of seats in the chamber had started but noted that it could only be completed on time with the appointment of principal officers.
“The appointment of principal officers has to be done before all these processes would be completed. The announcement has to be done before every other thing,” Agada added.
Reps jostle to lead juicy committees, PDP Reps insists on 60 slots
Members of the House of Representatives, Saturday PUNCH has gathered, are jostling for the chairmanship of standing committees of the chamber, particularly the juicy ones.
Those in the forefront of the struggle are former aspirants for the seat of the Speaker, who stepped down for the eventual winner, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila.
There were over 20 aspirants for the position of the speaker, all of whom stepped down for Gbajabiamila, being the candidate of the ruling party, except Mr Umaru Bago from Niger State.
Most of the aspirants, apart from stepping down for Gbajabiamila, joined his campaign team.
A speakership aspirant, who spoke to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday, disclosed that those who quit the race for the Speaker were now expecting what he called compensation from Gbajabiamila.
The lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had invested lots of resources in his speakership campaign before Gbajabiamila reached out to him to support his speakership candidacy.
When asked about his fate now that Gbajabiamila has become Speaker, the lawmaker, who was chairman of a committee in the last House, said though he was expecting an appointment to chair a better committee, he would refrain from presenting specific demands to Gbajabiamila.
He said, “People are lobbying actually. What we did was that, we said since we have stepped down for him (the Speaker) and we are ranking members, he should give us what he thinks is important. Personally, I don’t want to say ‘I want this’ when he may have something higher for me.”
Another former aspirant however advised Gbajabiamila to consider a sharing formula that would protect the interests of those who worked for him. According to the lawmaker, more members prefer committee appointments to principal offices.
…We’re waiting for Speaker on 60 slots — PDP Reps
In the face of the jostling, the PDP members in the House have said they are waiting for Gbajabiamila to fulfil his promise of giving them 60 slots in committee appointments.
There are 96 committees in the House, putting the number of chairmen and deputy chairmen at 192.
When our correspondent asked the outgoing Minority Leader, Mr Leo Ogor, if the PDP caucus had hope in Gbajabiamila to fulfil his campaign promise, he said, “Why not? Yes. We need to believe what he said. We will rely on him and his promise.”
Speaking on the appointment of minority principal officers, Ogor said PDP, which had announced occupants of the offices in the Senate, was still meeting on the appointments in the House. “It is coming. We are meeting. It will come soon,” he said.
An official in the office of the Speaker, who did not want to be named, however, said, “The process has not reached committee chairmanship yet, the lobbying and politicking is on principal offices. Remember that the APC has yet to name the officers for the Senate and the House. The principal officers will be appointed before chairmen of committees.”