Leadership tussle in the 9th National Assembly: Issues & Matters Arising!

April 1, 2019

The tussle for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly is intense. The scramble by individuals as ensconced in the agitation of geo-political zones is palpable. While the indices for how the top seats should be allotted, especially zoning and ranking, have been a subject of immense permutation, the sub-plots have been quite intriguing.

Besides the current lobbying, it was gathered that the evolving powerplay preceded the elections. Allegations of how powerful stakeholders within the ruling APC, masterminded the loss of those who they felt would undermine their influence over how the leadership of the National Assembly would be, gained traction. So far, the ruling APC has 64 senators-elect, while the main opposition PDP has 41 as the nation awaits the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly on June 9 this year.

INEC has declared 106 senators-elect so far. Three senate seats are yet to be concluded from Plateau, Kogi and Imo states. With a high turnover of lawmakers in the offing, it is reported that 64 serving senators and 151 members of the House of Representatives will not be in the 9th National Assembly. This is about the same numbers that did not return to the National Assembly after the 2015 elections. Still, 45 senators and 209 House of Representatives members are returning to the legislative chambers according to the results of the elections released so far by INEC.

However, with the elections won and lost, immense lobbying has remained the order of the day. High ranking senators and House of Representatives members of the North east and South west have been mobilising for a position just as some senators from the South East and South South have sounded a warning against such projections.

Contenders for the office of Senate President are Ahmad Lawan (Yobe), Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa). From the South East, former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.

Among the South West senators angling for Deputy Senate President seat are Professor Ajayi Boroffice ( Ondo State), Oluremi Tinubu ( Lagos State) and former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin (Oyo State). Ibikunle Amosun was also a contender until the APC suspended him from the party recently.

From the South South, Ovie Omo-Agege from Delta State is also angling for the seat. He is one of the only two returning senators from the South South zone, the other being Deputy Chief Whip Francis Alimekhena from Edo State.

For Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos), Mohammed Tahir Monguno (Borno), Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Babangida Ibrahim (Katsina) are among the early contenders.

Also, Garba Datti Muhammad, a ranking member is in the contest for the office of Deputy Speaker. Similarly, Aminu Suleiman from Kano State is gunning for speaker. Hon Babangida Ibrahim from Katsina State in the North-west for the position of speaker even as Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila also from Kano State has indicated interest to go for Deputy Speaker.

Another member, Abubakar Lado Suleja from Niger State has reportedly joined the race for Deputy Speaker. The likes of Abdulrazak Namdas and Muhammed Tahir Monguno are trying to position themselves in such a way that should the position of the speaker be zoned to the North-East, they will throw in their hats on the ring. Pundits however projected, the Speakership position is likely to be zoned considering where the next Senate President emerges from.

While the schemings fuel uncertainty within the ranks of the ruling party, many pundits believe that a major undoing of the APC was its inability to promptly and strategically address the tussle for the leadership of the 8th National Assembly.

The party, smarting from its 2015 victory had dilly-dallied over the zoning of positions in the National Assembly. With members of the New PDP feeling left out in the sharing of offices and the President reportedly open to working with whomever emerged as leaders of the National Assembly, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, exploited the narrow majority the APC enjoyed in both Chambers.

At this point the party’s decision to throw up Senators Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North) and George Akume (APC, Benue Northwest) in 2015 for the Senate President and its Deputy respectively; as well as electing Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker, was scuttled as it had created a gulf within the party.

While the party raged over the outcome, the debate over whether lawmakers were independent enough to choose their leaders became a topical issue. The APC lost the National Assembly to the opposition, PDP who in turn used the platform as its tool for opposing the ruling party. Attempts by the party leadership to remedy the situation through threats and peace-offerings did not yield much.

As the debate over whether the turbulent relationship between the executive and the legislature was health for the country lingers, it nonetheless didn’t change the impact which culminated in late passage, defacing or padding of the budget, refusal to approve some key appointments like the EFCC chairman.

But what happened in 2015 was almost like a deja vu of sorts. The scenario seemed to be a script from the handbook of the opposition in the aftermath of the 2011 general election. It would be recalled that PDP as ruling party under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan was plunged into same dilemma of having to deal with stiff opposition within the federal legislature, even though it was only in the lower chamber.

Although PDP zoned the speakership to the South West, the choice of Hon Mulikat Akande was resisted not just by the zone but by the members. Although the party insisted on Akande, Hon Aminu Tambuwal in connivance with Hon Emeka Ihedioha, both members of the PDP, forged an alliance with the opposition parties to emerge Speaker and deputy respectively.

They hurriedly made entreaties to the party and we are pardoned. But the seed of discord and eventual ground for defection had been sown. Just like in 2015, the 2011 scenario served as a launch pad for defections which weakened the ruling parties respectively.

If reports coming out of the tussle is anything to go by, and if the party decides, we will all be surprised that what happened in 2015 will also happen. So, no party should tell the legislature what to do, and they should please allow them to make careful choice of who becomes the Speaker, Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly independently.