…Adamu Abdullahi, Kalu, Folarin, Doguwa, Ossai, others in race for majority leader
…South-West, South-East battle for Senate Leader
…APC may zone Chief Whip, Deputy Senate Leader to South-East
…PDP Caucus meets
By Clifford Ndujihe, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omeiza Ajayi
AFTER the emergence of Senate President, Deputy Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and deputy speaker, the focus has shifted to the 16 principal offices where a rat race of sorts has ensued among lawmakers eyeing the slots.
President Muhammadu Buhari will meet the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Assembly caucus and party leaders to discuss the issue and take a decision.
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The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, House of Representatives caucus was meeting on the issue at press time.
APC may zone majority leader to South-West, deputy to South-East
Barring any last minute change of plans, the ruling APC is set to zone the Senate Leadership to the South-West, even as a contender from the South-East was said to have emerged too.
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By the APC arrangement, the party is said to be considering the South-East for the position of Chief Whip and Deputy Senate Leader.
Party insiders told Vanguard Wednesday night that a former Senate Leader and third time Senator, Teslim Folarin representing Oyo Central is being considered for another shot at the same job while former Governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu representing Abia North is being considered for either deputy senate leader or chief whip.
South-West, South-East battle for Senate Leader
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were still various permutations on the zoning of the remaining slots in the ruling party. APC leaders are said to be ‘’careful not to make mistakes, but many of us prefer Teslim (Folarin) because he has been in that same office before and this is his third time in the Senate having been there from 2003-2011″, said a party source.
He however said the ultimate decision lies with President Muhammadu Buhari who is the leader of the party.
“I know for a fact that the president will have a ‘chat’ with some party leaders including the new National Assembly leadership tonight (Wednesday). So, anything can come up from there, but the South-East is most likely to get Chief Whip and maybe, North-Central, deputy chief whip. But, like I said, these are just proposals. The president has the final say on this issue,” the source added.
The available slots
Of the 16 slots, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, will fill eight majority positions while the opposition parties, mainly the PDP will produce the balance. Also, both chambers of the National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives will produce eight positions each
The eight positions in each House are Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip, Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.
The slots will be filled by the parties’ caucuses in consultation with the leadership of the parties.
The question of zoning and ensuring balance in the sharing of offices are expected to play crucial roles in the filling of the offices.
Those eyeing the Senate positions include Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa, North Central); Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia, South-East); Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu, South-East); Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia, South-East); and Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North-West).
In the House of Representatives, the likes of Ado Doguwa from Kano State; Mohammed Bago (Niger); Nkeiru Onyejeocha (Abia); Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi); John Dyegh (Benue); and Ossai Nicholas Ossai among others are considered as front runners.
Currently, former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is being fingered for the Senate majority leader. Another senator in the pecking order is Orji Uzor Kalu, who dropped his deputy senate presidency aspiration in line with the directives of the APC leadership.
Before the inauguration on Tuesday, the APC endorsed Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) for Senate Presidency, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) for deputy Senate presidency, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos) for the House of Representatives speakership, and Idris Wase (Plateau) for deputy speaker, and they were so elected.
The permutations and strategies of the ruling APC in the build up to the elections of the presiding officers of Senate and the House of Representatives worked very well.
While the emergence of these personalities has been applauded by many Nigerians, it has also received knocks from many quarters for not reflecting the federal character and geographical spread as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. The big hole is traced in the ceding the speakership position to the southwest which has already tucked in the office of the Vice President.
The prognosis of power allocations now show that the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari hails from Katsina State (North-West); Vice President Yemi Osinbajo- Ogun State (South-West); Senate President is from Yobe State (North-East); Deputy Senate President is from Edo State (South-South); House Speaker is from Lagos State (South-West) and Deputy Speaker is from Plateau State (North-Central). The South-East, the sixth geo-political zone is yet to get any legislative slot.
APC candidates for remaining principal offices
The remaining principal offices are not contestable. They are squarely party affairs. It is the political parties that decide who gets what.
The events of 2015 threw up the present Speaker, Gbajabiamila, as the majority leader immediately after he lost to the immediate past Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Should the situation repeat itself, Mohammed Bago, who contested with Gbajabiamila is likely to assume the position. But the questions to ask about this are: Is he interested in the job? Would the party support him to occupy the position as was the case in 2015? The answers are not presently handy as the Spokesman of his campaign organization, Hon. Victor Ogene, told Vanguard last night that there was no information on the subject matter yet. “Don’t have any information”, he replied simply to a text message sent to him.
Ossai for Minority Leader
Similarly, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai from Delta State is also tipped for minority leader. Many of his colleagues believe that the lawmaker has the tact and the finesse to project and defend the aspirations of the majority opposition party in the House. He told Vanguard that although his party, the PDP Caucus was going to meet on the matter last night, he was waiting to be installed as the minority leader of the Ninth House.
“I think the party caucus is meeting today (Wednesday) and I have already circulated my profile. We are already on the way. Let’s know what the caucus will say. My mindset is focused. I don’t see any other interest any person wants it make. I think their interest should be geared installing me as the minority leader. I believe in it and I am focused on it”, Ossai said.
Ado Doguwa is the man
Outside Bago, the lot appears to have fallen on Ado Doguwa from Kano State. Many of his colleagues said that he is the man for the job. Doguwa has since positioned himself for the office. In fact, he sacrificed his speakership ambition for Gbajabiamila. Doguwa is a fifth timer to the House. He has been in the House since 2007. Apart from that, he was first elected as member in 1992 in the botched third republic. He also aspired for speakership in 2015 but later withdrew as directed by the APC. He is a loyal party man and was the Chairman of the North-West caucus in the out-gone Eighth House. Many believe that he is most qualified for the House leadership job.
In an interview, he told Vanguard that he has all it takes to lead the Ninth House.
“The party said the South-West should produce the speaker. The deputy speaker was zoned to North-Central. So, on that note, we didn’t have any other option than to support the candidates. Now, that we have won, it is only natural to reward loyalty and good work. I am the only person now vying for that (Majority Leadership) position. Any other person is a joker.
“I have all it takes, and all that is required of a leader to qualify as far as parliamentary politics is concerned. I think I am the person to beat as far as the North-West is concerned in the House of Representatives. One, I am the most ranking. I am now in my fifth term. I have been in the Green Chambers for 29 years. I first started in 1992, during the SDP and NRC transition, the June 12 crisis, even though the dispensation was short-lived by a coup. But since then, I have been in the House till now, though I lost election only once in between. So, as I speak to you, I am the highest ranking member of the House of Reps from the North western part of the country and by extension even from the northern part of the country as a whole. So, this gives me not only the desired experience, not only the intellectual acumen or the necessary exposure, but also what you may call institutional memory. I think I have an edge because by parliamentary conventions, ranking is always an important parameter to determine who becomes what and when.’’