Nigeria: Intrigues That May Sway Election of Principal Officers of 9th National Assembly

National assembly.

History is set to repeat itself in the coming election of principal officers to the 9th National Assembly scheduled to hold in June going by the way the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently handling the issue.

In 1999, when Nigeria returned to democratic rule and the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, expressed interest in late Chief Evans Enwerem, a former governor of Imo State, to be elected as Senate President, the lawmakers looked in the direction of one of their colleagues as their preferred choice, Senator Chuba Okadigbo.

Although, Obasanjo, known for his militarised approach to politics even in democratic matters, bulldozed his way and ensured that Enwerem, who represented Imo East Senatorial District, was elected after beating his chief rival, Senator Okadigbo, for the post on June 3 with 66 votes to his opponent's 43 votes. The lawmakers, however, fought back.

The senators, known for their usual 'legislative bond', which often transcends party affiliations, decided Enwerem would not sit on the hallowed chair for long. He was accused of corruption and a Senate committee was set up to investigate him. The allegations against Enwerem were that he falsified his name, and caused a controversy as to whether Enwerem's actual name was Evan or Evans.

The former governor couldn't survive the legislative onslaught, as he was impeached and subsequently replaced by Okadigbo, who was the senators' original choice. But Obasanjo would not fold his hands as he fought back. Okadigbo, just like his predecessor, was charged with corruption and impeached on August 2000.In the final analysis, Obasanjo ended up working with not less than five senate presidents from the Southeast zone where the senate president seat was zoned.

A founding member of APC, Prince Tony Momoh, who spoke to The Guardian on the development, urged his party to be tactical in the ongoing politicking surrounding the election of Senate President and the Speaker of House of Representatives, else history may repeat itself like it happened in 2015, which brought about the emergence of the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as against the party's preference in Senator Ahmed Lawan.

APC leadership has expressed interest and directed its lawmakers to support Lawan from Yobe State as Senate President and Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila from Southwest as Speaker. However, Senators Ali Ndume from Borno South and Danjuma Goje from Gombe Central are insisting on contesting the same position against the party's directives. A similar scenario is playing out in the House, where some lawmakers are bent on contesting the position against their party's directives.

Although, there are about two months away for the matter to be resolved one way or the other between the 'recalcitrant' lawmakers and their party, The Guardian, however, learnt that with the outcome of the meeting between the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Ndume, which appeared to have ended in a deadlock yesterday, both sides may resolve to 'deadly politics' to push their way if the need be.

A source from the party said the meeting between Osinbajo and Ndume was to appeal to the sensibility of the senator to see reason with the preference of the party in Lawan but the body language of the Borno lawmaker did not suggest his readiness to abide by the directives of APC. But further investigation reveals that the party's leadership itself is not read to blink or succumb to any form of blackmail or repeat of smart politicking, which brought about the emergence of Saraki in 2015.

"It is going to be politics for politics, lobbying for lobbying and worst still, it may degenerate to executive interest versus legislative desire, similar to what happened in 1999," a source said.But in interrogating Ndume and Goje's bold resolve to challenge the authority of their party despite the fact that APC controls majority of 65 to PDP 41, with Young People's Party's (YPP) single member and a few outstanding cases, a reliable member of APC has given reasons for APC's leadership and the presidency's manifest apprehension over the issue.

Investigations reveal that some aggrieved senators of the ruling party may team up with PDP to spring a surprise vote on the floor of both chambers, saying, "After all, what it takes to win the Senate President in this situation is a simple majority. With 41 PDP senators plus Goje and Ndume, all that is needed is just to get about 15 dissident senators, which may not be impossible with the way things are going. You never can know who among the APC lawmakers is in agreement with the opposition."

To corroborate the source's fear, Momoh said it is expected of the opposition PDP to take advantage of any loophole APC may provide in the situation, saying it would be naive of anybody, even PDP not to look for ways to capitalise on the face-off between APC and its lawmakers.

Some PDP's chieftains who were contacted for comments yesterday refused to speak on the condition that it was wrong to start disclosing their strategies on issues like this in the media. APC is also insisting that Goje and Ndume could not disrespect the directives of the platform that offers them opportunity to serve in the senate.

Although there had been insinuations that the lawmakers are determined not to allow weak characters to lead the National Assembly, Momoh said the party is also careful not to allow the leadership of the National Assembly slip into the hands of hawks, saying "that is the reason it has been shouting its preference in Lawan whom it considers as one of the longest serving senators, experienced and is also cool-headed."

But with the ongoing scenario, the game is still open to Lawan, Goje and Ndume for grabs while Femi Gbjabiamila may scale through considering the kind of support he is currently getting among his colleagues especially from the North.While speaking on the development, a former lawmaker who represented Epe Federal Constituency, Mr. Lanre Odubote, said it is imperative of the House to consider Ggbajabiamila for the position of Speaker following his experience as former Minority Leader, incumbent Majority Leader and a five-time lawmaker in the green chamber, which qualifies him as one of the longest serving members of the House.

Odubote also dismissed insinuations that Ggbajabiamila might end up being a stooge of the national leader, Bola Tinubu, peradventure he becomes the Speaker.He said, "It is only those that are naive that will think along that line. The politics of the National Assembly is completely different and much more complex."

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