10th Senate Presidency: Aspirants Move Battle to Opposition Senators’ Camp

10th Senate Presidency: The leadership and members of a strong coalition made up of the 43 opposition Senators-elect, are now the beautiful brides of the aspirants for the position of the Senate Presidency.

Ranking senators of the All Progressives Congress who are aspiring to lead the 10th Senate are now looking beyond the zoning arrangements being planned by the leadership of their party.

They are now focussing their attention on the 43 members of the opposition political parties who have vowed to vote as a team during the inauguration of the 10th Senate by June, this year.

Already, the Peoples Democratic Party, had formed a coalition with other opposition political parties, which had secured 12 seats in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly.

Other minority parties are, the Labour Party (LP), and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Young Progressive Party (YPP).

While the APC had so far won 59 seats, the PDP have 29, LP 6, NNPP 2, SDP 2, APGA 1, and YPPP 1.

No fewer than 11 APC senators-elect out of the 59 so far cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, have signified their interest in the number one position of the nation’s apex legislative institution.

They are Senators Sani Musa (North-Central); Jibrin Barau (North- West); Orji Kalu (South East); GodsWill Akpabio (South-South); Osita Izunaso (South-East); Peter Ndubueze (South-East); Abdul’Aziz Yari (North-West); Ahmad Lawan (North East); Ali Ndume (North-East); David Umahi (South-East) and Adams Oshiomhole (South-South).

Some leaders of the opposition parties coalition told THISDAY on condition of anonymity that their members would support a strong APC Senator-elect from the Southern part of the country as Senate President and a North Central Senator as the Deputy.

A Senator-elect from the North East geopolitical zone also confided in THISDAY at the weekend that their decision was based on equity, fairness, justice and peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.

According to him, only an insensitive leader will notice the obvious tension in the land and would choose to ignore it for selfish interest.

The Senator-elect, who is returning to the red chamber for the second term, said the mood of the nation is that a Christian from the southern part of the country should be the Senate President in the 10th National Assembly.

The North-East Senator-elect further told THISDAY on condition of anonymity that members of the minority caucus across political party lines have agreed to ensure good governance and would not allow the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to give any excuse for non performance.

He said, “We are not going to rock the boat by producing the presiding officers from the minority caucus. We would abide by the global legislative convention by supporting the best aspirant from the majority bloc.

“We have also agreed that the best aspirant from the South-East geopolitical zone with the best credential will be supported to become the Senate President.

“We have equally agreed that we would ensure the emergence of a North Central Senator with outstanding records of good performance, as the deputy Senate President.”

He said the coalition started meeting since penultimate week and would wrap up their deal as soon as the leadership of the party announced the zoning arrangements for the presiding officers positions in the 10th National Assembly.

A ranking opposition Senator currently representing Osun East, Francis Fadahunsi, corroborated the claims of the North-East Senator in a telephone interview with THISDAY.

Fadahunsi, a retired deputy comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said the PDP senators-elect were united in their resolve to contribute their quota to good governance in the incoming administration.

He said: “The meeting of the minority caucus has started and it is not to meant to frustrate the APC leadership move on zoning.

“We are prepared to support the best aspirant from the geopolitical zone where the presiding officers positions would be zoned to.”

Asked what would happen if the APC decided to look away from the South by zoning the positions to the North, Fadahunsi said, “when we get to the bridge, we shall cross it.”

He, however, said: “We expect the National Working Committee of the APC and the President-Elect to feel the mood of the nation before taking such a delicate decision.”

Another Senator-elect, who is a member of the PDP from the North-Central geo-political zone, who preferred anonymity, said the minority coalition might pitch its tenth with a Southern Christian aspirant in case the party takes the Senate Presidency position to the North.

According to him: “The APC narrowly won the presidential election because of the same faith ticket of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima. I don’t expect them to make another fundamental mistake this time around.

“We all know that the South-East is marginalised and the Christians are seriously agitating for inclusiveness.

“If the APC failed to reason with the current mood of the nation, we will help them to do the right thing on the day of inauguration. We will support a Christian Southern aspirant among the current APC contestants.”

While awaiting the zoning arrangements expected to be announced as soon as the President-elect returns to the country, the aspirants were not putting all their hopes on the APC zoning plans.

Checks by THISDAY revelaled that there could be a repeat of the Senator Bukola Saraki-led “coup” which was experienced in the Eighth Senate when he sought and got the backing of the opposition political parties to emerge as Senate President.

Aspirants across the various geopolitical zones have argued that South East region deserve the exalted position of the Senate President either as a form of rewarding them for the volume of votes they got for the party in the last presidential election, or to ensure ethnic and religious balancing of the polity.

Aspirants from the South are drawing the attention of the APC leadership to the cultural heterogeneity of the country especially ethnicity, and religion.

They argued that since the President-elect is of the same Islamic faith with the Vice-President elect, it would be proper to have a Christian from the “marginalised” zone in the South as the Senate President.

They noted that failure to recognise the nation’s diversity and act on it in the interest of equity,fairness and justice, could make it more or less difficult for people to trust and cooperate with one another.

A very disturbing phenomenon in the entire development is the desperation of some aspirants particularly from the North West to push their ways to the number three seat at all cost.

There are reports that two of the aspirants from the North West had opened campaign offices at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel in the heart of the nation’s capital and allegedly lavishing huge sums of foreign currencies on the Senators-elect.

One of them was even said to have budgeted N2.2bn for the accomodation of the Senators-elect who he planned would check in to the luxury suites as soon the National Assembly finalized arrangements for their orientation programmes.

Most disturbing, however, is the involvement of state governors in the race, some of whom had even endorsed some aspirants even before the party’s zoning plans.

The National Vice Chairman of the APC in the North West geopolitical zone, Salihu Mohammed Lukman had raised the alarm over an alleged plans by desperate aspirants for the presiding officers’ positions in the 10th National Assembly, to frustrate the incoming administration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Lukman, who stated this in a statement issued recently in Abuja further alleged that aspirants in their desperation, had reached out to members of the NWC of the APC to stop the proposed zoning arrangements that would produce the presiding officers of the two chambers.

He confirmed that some of the desperate aspirants had started buying gifts, and spending foreign currencies on both elected members of the 10th National Assembly and the leadership of the party to buy their way into office.

He expressed fear that the desperate aspirants might have their way if not immediately checked because they have no respect for national unity and the person of Asiwaju Tinubu and Senator Shettima.

Lukman said rather than rendering service when they get into office, the cash and carry presiding officers’ aspirants if they had their way, could work with the opposition to bring down the incoming administration.

He said, “Once aspirants win leadership positions through cash-and-carry methods, their loyalty to the government led by Asiwaju Tinubu and the APC will be weak.

“Such a person could even hold the government hostage in pursuance of their personal ambitions, which is known only to themselves.

“With all these worrisome developments, the passive and almost unresponsive calmness of members of the APC NWC led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu is highly disturbing.

“It is giving credence to the speculation that some of these cash-and-carry aspirants for leadership position in the 10th National Assembly may have bribed the NWC not to initiate actions to zone positions in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

“Otherwise, why is the NWC unable to convene meetings of organs of the party to invoke Article 13.4(vi) of the APC constitution, which directs the NWC to “propose electoral guidelines and regulations governing the conduct of elections to party offices at all levels, and procedure for selecting Party candidates for elective offices?”

“It is very disturbing and highly unacceptable that something as sensitive as electoral guidelines and regulations for electing leaders of the 10th National Assembly will be left to public speculations.

“This is a period when opposition political parties are practically taken over by combinations of religious bigots and political opportunists who will go to any length to manufacture lies aimed at manipulating gullible citizens to support them.

“We can’t allow the contest for leadership of the 10th National Assembly to continue unregulated. Everything must be done to mobilise all committed party leaders and members to call all APC elected representatives aspiring for positions in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly to order.

“Accordingly, the APC should take every step to sanction all those mobilising support for their so-called aspirations based on cash-and-carry method.

“We must appeal to both President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to promptly urge our National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the whole NWC to immediately restore constitutional order within the APC.

“The audacious impudence of our elected representatives aspiring for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly is only a reflection of the dysfunctionality of the organs of the party.

“This has been the cause of all the leadership challenges facing the party since the time of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

“So long as organs of the party are not meeting as provided in the constitution of the party, decisions required to regulate the conduct of party leaders and members, including the sensitive issue of zoning party leadership will be absent.

“Once that is the case, leaders and members can go to every extent to achieve their narrow objective of winning election into leadership positions even if that will undermine the peaceful co-existence of Nigeria and the electoral viability of the APC as a political party.

“Our Governors and all our party leaders must also be reminded about their abiding commitment to the unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.

“This was responsible for their support for the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as the candidate of our party for the 2023 elections.

“It can be said without any doubt that the support of our governors and leaders of the party go beyond the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as our Presidential candidate, which was responsible for why they all mobilised Nigerians to vote for him and emerge the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Now that he is elected, that support must also translate to cooperation, partnership, and collaboration to ensure that his government succeeds in renewing the hope of all Nigerians irrespective of our differences across ethnic and religious divides.

“Therefore, everything must be done to regulate the conducts of all aspiring candidates for leadership positions of the 10th National Assembly to comply with the constitutional obligation of promoting national unity and peaceful co-existence.

“All APC leaders and members should be called upon to intervene individually and collectively.

“They should kindly call all aspiring candidates for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly to strictly conduct themselves ethically with the highest respect for Nigerians and in compliance with the provisions of the constitutions of both the APC and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Both constitutions compel everyone to promote national unity and peaceful co-existence of the country.

“Promoting national unity under the Asiwaju Tinubu-led Federal Government to be inaugurated on May 29 would require that, at the minimum, the Senate President should be a Christian from either the South-East or South-South.

“In addition, any candidate who is mobilising support based on cash-and-carry methods will not be loyal to Asiwaju Tinubu-led government and therefore a potential risk to such a government.

“Everything must be done to ensure that the configuration of the Asiwaju Tinubu-led Federal Government command the support of all irrespective of our differences”

Nigerians are eagerly awaiting a positive response to their yearnings from the APC leadership as the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly draws close by the day.

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