10th National Assembly: Averting rancorous legislature through inclusive leadership

On May 8 the National Working Committee of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) came up with a list of its preferred candidates for the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The anointed candidates are Sen. Goodwill Akpabio from Akwa-Ibom and Sen. Barau Jubril from Kano for the post of Senate President and Deputy Senate President

In the House of Reps, the party picked Rep. Tajudeen Abbas from Kaduna State and Rep. Benjamin Kalu from Abia for Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

The move for consensus candidates for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly has raised dust among many lawmakers with the members-elect joining the fray.

The result is alignments and re-alignments as ambitions swell among ranking APC national lawmakers and the civil society organisations canvass a leadership that will emerge through a democratic process, not one imposed on the nation by any interest group or party.

Many have faulted the move by APC. Some critics say it is against the principle of natural justice for the South East to be edged in race for Senate President while others say it would be insensitive for the North West to produce both the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Reps, leaving out the North Central in the leadership equation.

Since the APC defied dissenting voices and announced the list of ‘chosen ones’, some lawmakers have upped their agitation for a more liberal and democratic process to be used in determining those who will pilot the affairs of the legislature in the next four years.

Among them are the aggrieved aspirants from the Senate including Abdullaziz Yari (Zamfara), Orji Kalu (Abia), Sani Musa (Niger) and Osita Izunaso (Imo).

At the lower chamber, some of the aspirants for Speaker have formed a pressure group known as G-7 and recently took their protest to the APC National Secretariat to warn the party of the consequences posed by imposing a leadership on the Green Chamber.

The aspirants are: Rep Ahmed Wase, the Deputy Speaker, Rep Aliyu Betara, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Yusuf Gagdi, Chairman, Navy, Rep. Miriam Onuoha (Imo), Sada Soli (Katsina) and Sani Jaji (Zamfara).

The arrangement has also received reactions from party heavyweights.

“It is trite to aver that it stands logic on the head that one geo-political zone, North-west, in this regard, will be favoured with two presiding officers positions out of four while North-central suffers the consequences for its innocence and shrewd loyalty by having none’, Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor said in a recent statement.

Akeredolu is also the chairman of Southern Governors Forum, a political pressure group.

Further indication that it would be a rancourous National Assembly should APC go ahead with its zoning plan emerged recently from Senators-elect across the North-Central geopolitical zone cutting across different political parties.

In an open letter to APC National Chairman, Adamu Abdullahi, they rejected the arrangement which they say did not recognise the region’s contribution to the current political dispensation.

“The North Central as a geopolitical zone in Nigeria has paid its dues in the political stability of the country and shall continue to do so.

“But, where we see an open denial of our rights and privileges, we will have no option than to voice out in the interest of the zone and its people we represent”, they said.

“If the issue of zoning has been done democratically the APC would have carried other contenders along” said Abubakar Chika, a lawmaker in the 8th Assembly speaking about zoning,

He said the legislature is an independent body therefore should be allowed to elect its own leaders.

“I have been speaking about the injustice we have been having within the APC and it is not because I have an interest in Aliyu Betara but because I am speaking as a former legislature who don’t want to see that arm of government being bastardised.

“You can see that in terms of sharing the seat of legislature how APC exclude the North Central”, he said.

Worried by the looming crisis and need have a united Legislature that will have a good working relationship with the Executive, Vice President-elect, Sen. Kashim Shettima on May 12 held a meeting with a group of lawmakers named “Joint Task”.

He told the group that: “given the very circumstances that we found ourselves, the stability of the nation is much more important than all other considerations.

He noted that a rancorous National Assembly would not augur well for the executive.

Going down memory lane Shettima alleged that: “When former President Olusegu Obasanjo lost grip of the National Assembly, his first tenure of was a failure, again, President Muhammadu Buhari could do little in his first tenure because of rancorous relationship between the executive and the legislature.

“What was accomplished in the last four years was because of the harmonious relationship between the executive and legislature.

“When former President Goodluck Jonathan lost grip of the National Assembly when Aminu Tambuwal emerged as the Speaker, that rancorous relationship culminate into his defeat in 2015 general election”, he further alleged.

A member of the 8th House of Representatives from Anambra, Rep. Emeka Anohu called on the 10th Assembly’s members-elect to prioritse the interest of the nation as they align with interest groups in the run-up to the election of the Speaker.

Anohu said the office of the Speaker should occupied by a patriot, adding that such a person should be trustworthy, confident, firm, fair, just and must be generally accepted by his colleagues.

APC has moved to douse the tension generated by its action and assured that it would not be an acrimonious National Assembly as witnessed in 2015.

The National Vice-Chairman (Southwest) of the party, Mr Duerimini Isaacs Kekemeke, said the party leadership would bring all aggrieved members together to pacify them.

Kekemeke spoke at a lecture organised in honour of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti to mark his 97th birthday where he represented President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

He urged all angry members to suppress their ambition and work with the leadership of the party as family.

While APC tries to put its house in order observers of developments in the nation’s political scene urge the party to expedite action on the matter before it is too late.

They argue that an inclusive and democratically elected leadership would give all lawmakers a sense of belonging and create a harmonious atmosphere which is crucial for the effective discharge of their responsibilities to Nigerians.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria

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