Nigeria: APC, PDP Set to Clash Over National Assembly Leadership

Nigerian Senate.
27 March 2019

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are set to clash over the leadership positions in the coming 9th National Assembly, Daily Trust reports.

The two parties parties, which constitute majority and minority in the two chambers of the National Assembly, have vowed to field candidates for the positions of Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker.

APC got 65 Senate seats, while PDP got 43, with the Young Progressives Party (YPP) getting one after the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.

In the House of Reps, the APC so far has 211 seats out of 360, while the PDP has 111. Other political parties have 14. The remaining seats are yet to be decided.

Although the constitution does not restrict the four positions to the party with majority of lawmakers, the tradition has been that such a political party would tactically form the leadership using its numbers.

The clash for the leadership positions would be as a result of PDP's stand to field candidates for the four positions when the 9th Assembly will be inaugurated in June.

This is even as some APC senators-elect warned that the PDP may get both the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President seats as a result of the recommendation of Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan to become the next Number 3 Citizen.

APC National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had during the party's National Working Committee (NWC) meeting with newly elected members of the House of Reps on Monday said the ruling party would not cede its leadership positions to the opposition.

He said the party would also ensure that all critical committees, except public accounts which was constitutionally ceded to the opposition, were chaired by APC members in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

Also, at a dinner between President Muhammadu Buhari and APC senators-elect, Oshiomhole was reported to have announced Lawan as the party's choice for Senate President.

The PDP in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the four presiding officers' positions in the National Assembly were not exclusively meant for any political party but a constitutional right of every elected lawmaker in both chambers.

The party cautioned Buhari and the APC to respect the independence of the legislature and "end their imposition plot and sowing of seeds of discord among the lawmakers," saying such was against national interest.

"President Buhari and Oshiomhole should wake up to the fact that the National Assembly belongs to no political party but to all Nigerians, who exercise their control through their elected representatives.

"The PDP, therefore, does not only have a constitutional say in the process of the emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, but will, as a matter of constitutional right, field candidates into presiding offices of both chambers, if need be."

Daily Trust reports that there is disquiet among some APC senators-elect over the recommendation of Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan by the APC as the next Senate President.

Leading the opposition against the decision, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), who is a contender for the seat, said they were not consulted before the decision was taken.

Ndume, a former Senate Leader, told journalists in Abuja yesterday that the right thing was not done as majority of the APC senators were "shocked" and not happy with the decision.

He said the APC leadership decision did not reflect the true position of what President Buhari wants, saying he had consulted both President Buhari and APC national leader Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu who gave him the go ahead to contest for the Senate President's position.

"What took place at the presidential dinner in Aso Rock where Oshiomhole as party chairman announced Sen Ahmad Lawan as Senate President was very shocking to me and many of my colleagues.

"Oshiomhole in making the announcement or endorsement did not even allow me or Senators Danjuma Goje and Abdullahi Adamu, widely known to be in the race for the position, to say anything.

"More disturbing was the fact that even Sen Lawan, endorsed for the position, was not allowed to make any comment in form of acceptance speech or soliciting for support from other interested senators.

"I expected that since all of us have indicated interest to contest, they should have called the four of us and tell us that we're all qualified but that they preferred so and so person. That wasn't done. Or they should have asked us to go and agree among ourselves and produce one person, but that wasn't done.

"But I want to say I'm not desperate at all and I remain committed to the ideals and principles of President Muhammadu Buhari. I will stick to him, and I don't have a godfather. I'm a party loyalist, and I won't change. I've been standing for what is right and I'll continue to do that.

"What Adams Oshiomhole did... because it was him that threw it to us that Ahmad Lawan should be the Senate President. I don't believe that's the true position of Mr President," he said.

Asked if he and his like-minds were planning to take an action, he said: "We're not planning anything yet. Most of us are in a state of shock. I'm going back home to consult with my people and tell them this is the party's decision. I'll also consult with my colleagues that I've spoken to.‎"

Also, a senator-elect said the recommendation of Lawan for the Senate Presidency has compounded and heated up the tension among them.

The senator, who spoke anonymously, said: "It was an attempt to appoint Lawan as the Senate President, against the 1999 Constitution and our rule book, that says senators should elect their leaders.

"This act is undemocratic and can only be done under a military rule. When we thought APC would entrench democracy, this is being done by the party. It's unfortunate.

"This move is a clear indication that APC and the powers-that-be do not recognise the separation of power among the three arms of government," he said.

He said the recommendation was an attempt to convert the National Assembly to an arm of the executive.

"The situation this time around will be worse than that of 2015 because with the insistence of Ndume, and other APC contenders, PDP will clinch the leadership of the parliament.

"At the end of the day, all the four contenders may go to the floor and PDP will now corner the Senate president and deputy Senate president since they have 43 votes."

Daily Trust recalls that the APC had in 2015 adopted Lawan and current House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge as Senate President and Speaker respectively. However, Sen Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara defied that to emerge.

As a result of that, there has been frosty relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive since June 9, 2015.

'Ndume's comments act of anti-party'

Meanwhile, a group, Advocates for Good Governance, has described Ndume's comments as uncomplimentary and an act of anti-party activities.

"This statement credited to Sen Ndume further affirmed his dire opposition against harmonious relationship between the Executive and Legislative arms of government as well as party supremacy," the group said in a statement signed by its convener Bode Gbadebo.

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