15 April 2019

Nigeria: Leadership Election Mode Divides Senators-Elect

Abuja — The ninth Senate to be inaugurated in June may be rocked by crisis over the mode of election of principal officers of the upper legislative body, THISDAY has learnt.

Some All Progressives Congress (APC) senators-elect, who are canvassing for the adoption of open ballot system for the election of principal officers of the ninth Senate upon inauguration in June, at the weekend accused their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts of sinister moves towards using open secret ballot on the inauguration day.

However, some PDP senators-elect who spoke with THISDAY yesterday described the allegation by APC senators-elect as a figment of their imagination.

The eighth Senate had adopted secret ballot system during the election of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

This had led the federal government to file charges at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, against the two principal officers over what the government described as the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, after the submission of police report to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the Police.

Others also charged to court in a move directly targeted at docking Saraki and Ekweremadu over the manner they emerged Senate president and deputy respectively, were the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.

To ensure that the anointed candidates of APC emerges in the ninth Senate, some senators of the ruling party are insisting on open ballot system and have accused their colleagues in the PDP of plotting secret ballot system to hijack the leadership of the National Assembly.

A re-elected ranking senator and Chairman of South-east Senators' Forum, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), emphasised that the APC legislators' insinuation is baseless without any iota of truth.

According to him, the rules for the election of the principal officers of the ninth Senate are to be determined by the Clerk of the Senate and not any senator-elect.

"PDP senators are not electoral umpires. We do not determine the rules. Only the Clerk does so. So the allegation is baseless," he said.

Three other PDP senators, who corroborated Abaribe's position, said APC senators were chasing shadows over the issue.

A ranking PDP senator from the South-south, who will not want to be named, told THISDAY that it was quite unfortunate that the APC has not been able to manage its success at the last National Assembly poll.

He said at no particular time did PDP senators discuss the mode of electing officers of the ninth National Assembly.

"So, the allegation is a figment of the imagination of APC legislators-elect," he added.

The standard practice, he explained, is for the Clerk to determine the best way to go about the election of the presiding officers.

"The Clerk is at liberty to choose whether open or open secret ballot in electing the officers on inauguration day. Don't forget that at that point, none of the 109 members has been sworn-in and so are all senators-elect with the Clerk fully in charge," he explained.

Another PDP senator-elect from the South-west advised APC senators to put their house in order "and stop bothering PDP senators over mundane issues that are not worth dissipating energy on."

He wondered why APC senators are afraid of their shadows "more so when they have the majority in the ninth Assembly they should be ready for any mode of electing principal officers as enunciated by the Clerk."

He reminded his APC colleagues that international legislative best practices have now modified the election of parliamentary officers through open secret ballot.

"They should remember that open secret ballot was used to produce the leadership of the eight National Assembly. So, what is new or strange about using it in the ninth assembly? APC legislators are only crying wolf where there is none," he said.

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