25 March 2019

Nigeria: APC - We'll Enforce Party's Decision On National Assembly Leadership

Lagos and Abuja — As the jostle for leadership positions in the ninth National Assembly gathers momentum, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it will ensure that the party's decisions are respected by members in electing the principal officers.

The position of the ruling party is coming as the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, has said that his ambition to lead the ninth Senate is predicated on his vision to run a National Assembly that would sustain positive change for the good of Nigerians.

Unlike what happened during its assumption of power in 2015, APC said it would not allow the minority party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to interfere in choosing who emerges as the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu, who spoke with THISDAY at the weekend, assured Nigerians that the party would not allow a repeat of what led to the crisis within its caucus at the National Assembly at the onset of the out-going legislature.

He said that the party would apply the principle of party supremacy in handling the emergence of new leadership of the incoming National Assembly.

According to him, "We will enforce party discipline. And you have seen what we have done to our very important and mighty party men.

"So, you could see that APC is instilling party discipline, bringing cohesion and harmony into our system and we expect everyone who now subscribe to the world view of the APC, to abide by the decision of the party.

"So, the party is up and doing. We don't need to make noise about what we are doing, we have the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives to choose our leaders and we will choose our leaders."

On whether the national leadership of the party will enforce its decisions on the zoning of offices in the National Assembly, Onilu said: "That is what is expected and that is what we will do."

According to Onilu, there are various options before the party, including retaining the existing zoning arrangement.

THISDAY gathered that some stakeholders of the party are proposing that the Senate presidency goes to the North-east this time around instead of the North- central.

Those with this line of thought are also pushing for the South-west to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives, while the South-east and North-central zones are being tipped for Deputy Senate president and Deputy Speaker, respectively. There are yet other options being canvassed for the sharing of leadership positions in the incoming National Assembly.

It was also learnt that some party leaders, especially those from the South-east and South-south are lobbying that their zones be considered for the Senate presidency.

The South-east party leaders said that since the position eluded the zone in the eighth Senate because there was no senator elected on the party's platform in 2015, it would be wise now to compensate them.

One of the senators from the zone being tipped for the seat is Senator Benjamin Uwajimaogu, representing Imo North senatorial district who was re-elected at the last election.

The crisis that rocked the National Assembly caucus of the ruling party on assumption of power in 2015 was said to be largely due to delays and indecision in addressing the issue of power sharing arrangement among its various power blocs.

The party failed to properly manage the varied interests within it, hence it played into the hands of the opposition party, which exploited it to its advantage.

But the APC spokesman said the new leadership of the party is mindful of what is at stake and will do everything possible to thwart any move by the PDP to encroach on its interests.

Onilu explained why the ruling party should hold the aces: "You see, what you get in advanced democracies under the presidential system of government is that the winner takes all.

"Once you are in majority, you don't have any business with the minority party in deciding who to choose as your leaders. But because the PDP has the characteristics of a busy body, it has been seeking to get involved.

"As it happened in the past, they are still thinking that they will decide for us what the leadership will look like in the National Assembly. They are carrying the joke too far."

Onilu said that although a formal meeting was yet to be held to consider the zoning plan, the party is working quietly behind the scene to resolve the matter.

Lawan Vows to Obey Party Decision, Explains Ambition

Meanwhile, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, has said that his ambition to lead the ninth Senate is predicated on his vision to run a National Assembly that would sustain positive change for the good of Nigerians.

He said although he had declared his ambition, he would subject it to his party's decision on the leadership of the federal legislature.

Speaking to journalists yesterday in Lagos, Lawan noted that even though the senators belong to different political parties, they should always work for all Nigerians.

Lawan, who was accompanied by over 12 senators, also declared that he is an apostle of separation of powers who also believes in consultation, synergy and cooperation with the executive arm of government to achieve positive results for the country.

According to him, separation of powers must not be misconstrued as independent of different arms of government but specialisation of functions and interdependence of the various arms.

"That does not mean that we will not disagree. But when we disagree, we should not go to the village or market square to settle our differences. That is the way to go to enable Nigerians benefit from democracy," he said.

According to him, "I believe in progressive politics; I believe in ensuring that the ordinary people - the masses of Nigeria require every person's support for opportunities to actualise their potentials and dreams. I also believe that we should do everything possible to encourage and support entrepreneurship, and businesses to grow so that jobs will be created for our teeming population.

Lawan said by June this year, he would have spent 20 years in the National Assembly, as a member of the House of Representatives for eight years and a senator for 12 years, under All Peoples Party (APP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and APC.

According to him, 2015 was the first time he would be in the ruling party.

He said: "I am running for this office because I believe that the experience we have gathered over the years in the National Assembly will help us run or operate a National Assembly that will make and provide sustaining positive change through legislative interventions.

"Our slogan is a Senate and a National Assembly that works for Nigerians. We believe that we need to work in a united manner. We may be in different platforms but the people we serve are the same. We want wealth to go round and not concentrated in a few hands. You cannot have security - we cannot sleep with our two eyes closed when the wealth cannot go round. You cannot develop a country if the majority remains poor. You cannot develop Nigeria if ordinary Nigerians cannot go to public schools and actualise their potential in education. These are the things we must do together."

He said he would support the anti-corruption agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Senate leader, however, said that as a believer in party supremacy, the decision of his party is final, adding that if the ruling APC zones the Senate presidency to another zone, he would respect his party's decision.

Earlier in his speech, the Chairman of Ahmed Lawan for Senate Presidency Campaign Organisation, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC - Kebbi North), said Lawan and his team were in Lagos to share their progressive agenda for the 9th Senate with Nigerians.

Other senators-elect with Lawan include Teslim Folarin, Adeola Yayi, Oluremi Tinubu, Opeyemi Bamidele, Dayo Adeyeye, Basiru Ajibola, Olalere Oriolowo, Bayo Osinowo, Musa Sani, Sabi Abdullahi, Mandiya Bello and Gumel.

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