16 April 2019

Nigeria: How Buhari May Sway Leadership of 9th National Assembly

The popular saying that 24 hours is a long time in politics, long enough to change or sway political narratives in whatever direction based on intrigues may likely play out in the current politicking ahead of the election of principal officers of the incoming 9th National Assembly scheduled for June.

In spite of the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) controls the majority in the coming 9th National Assembly, the possibility of what happened in 2015 when the leadership of the legislature emerged contrary to the wishes of the party looms large. But APC is doing everything in its power to prevent similar event come June 4. In 2015, the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara emerged against APC's preference for Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila.

Although Saraki is no longer returning to the red chamber while Dogara has been reelected, the duo, which are now members of major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are allegedly scheming to play a spoiler role for APC bearing the fact that they still have incumbency control in the National Assembly. The ruling party is not taking the development with levity like it did in 2015 and suffered the ultimate consequences.

While it appears that APC is gradually having a firm handle in the emergence of Lawan as senate president, the coast is not yet clear for Gbajabiamila. The Guardian learnt this would form part the major discussions President Muhammadu Buhari may likely have with APC House of Representatives lawmakers-elect at the Presidential Villa today.

To clarify the ambiguities in Gbajabiamila's speakership ambition, The Guardian learnt that President Buhari personally summoned the majority leader to the Villa on Sunday when he (Buhari) returned from Chad for discussions ahead of today's meeting with the lawmakers. The details of their meeting were not disclosed, but it, however, had to do with the politics surrounding the election of the speaker of the House.

The majority leader was said to be on his way for an empowerment programme designed to empower 210 members of his constituency in Lagos on Sunday, but he had to jettison the programme and detailed Mr. Desmond Elliot, the lawmaker representing Surulere I Constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly to stand in for him because of the summon to see Mr. President in Abuja.Prior to now, some lawmakers of APC from North Central have been clamouring for the speakership hinging it on the fact that Southwest cannot produce the vice president and have as many representatives in the Federal Executive Council and still has the speaker while their zone is left with nothing. But from a grapevine, President Buhari may not be in tune with such narrative hence his decision to meet with the lawmakers-elect today.

Other dynamics that may have changed in the last few days is the positions of APC governors to support Lawan and Gbajabiamila for senate president and speakership respectively. Making the confirmation yesterday, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima disclosed that former governors in the yet-to-be inaugurated 9th National Assembly have endorsed Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan and House of Representatives Leader for Senate President and House Speaker respectively. Shettima made the confirmation while fielding questions from reporters in N'Djamena, Chad, at the weekend.

Besides, the governor informed that the three senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect from Borno State have endorsed Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the exalted offices. He, therefore, dismissed the insinuation in some quarters that former governors in the National Assembly were against the election of Lawan and Gbajabiamila as leaders of the two chambers of the national assembly.

What initially created ambiguities for the speakership position was a technical error by the party when it came out to state clearly its support for Lawan but remained silent about its disposition on Gbajabiamila. This sent a wrong signal, which political pundits as well as other ambitious zones eyeing the post interpreted to be Buhari's lackadaisical attitude to Ggbajabiamila's speakership ambition. But no sooner had the president returned form the Chad conference than the narrative changed.

There is a strong indication that APC might zone the speakership to Southwest after today's meeting with the lawmakers, but it is not going to be an individual like it did when it specifically narrowed it down to the senate leader, which infuriated Senator Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje who are from the same North East zone with Lawan. The post of deputy speaker may go to North Central while the remaining four principal House offices would be shared among other four geo-political zones.

An inside source in APC, however, told The Guardian that the leadership of the party would not deliberate on the sharing formula of the remaining four principal offices, which are the House Leader, Deputy House Leader, House Whip and Deputy House Whip until after June 4. PDP's troubled house

ONE of the teething challenges the ruling party and even Gbajabiamila were expected to have was PDP lawmakers' strong alliance with some dissident APC lawmakers to launch a surprise. This was a serious narrative just after the February 23 National Assembly election until last week when a serious crack was noticed in the opposition party's camp.

Instead of PDP to capitalize on APC's crisis, there is infighting in the party over who takes over from Hon. Leo Ogor, the incumbent Minority Leader, who is allegedly ill but gradually recovering. Those who are contending for the position are incumbent Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Wilfred Onyeama, Ndudi Elumelu, Nicholas Ossai and others. The situation is causing ripples in the ranks of PDP lawmakers. The ruling party is also not taking for granted the alleged scheming by Dogara, who has been accused of sponsoring some APC lawmakers to contest the speakership position with the aim of using the strategy to distabilise the party to his personal benefit. All things being equal, the dynamics that trailed the politics of the incoming 9th National Assembly election just after the general election on February 23 appear to have changed. What shape it would take in the next few days ahead of the exercise remains a conjecture.

Nigeria

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