Another round of crisis is brewing in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the micro-zoning arrangement adopted for National Assembly (NASS) principal offices by the party’s leadership.
Opponents of the zoning formula said it was an invitation to anarchy and vowed to resist it in the interest of equity, justice and fairness to all Nigerians, who overwhelmingly voted for the party at the just-concluded general elections.
Micro-zoning is the hand-picking of individuals by the party leadership to occupy certain positions on behalf of a geo-political zone.
APC stakeholders, who kicked against the arrangement yesterday, canvassed the zoning of specific NASS offices to a particular region and allowing the race opened to all interested parties to pursue their aspirations.
Among the party stakeholders, who kicked against the plan yesterday were zonal and state youth leaders of the party and some NASS members, who are vying for some of the contentious offices.
Apparently worried by the unfolding scenario, the Senate leader and the party’s anointed candidate for the Senate presidency, Senator Ahmed Lawan, warned that the APC’s choice of the 9th NASS leadership would determine its survival.
Also, a frontline aspirant for the speakership of the House of Representatives, Hon. Umaru Mohammed Bago, kicked against zoning the position to the Southwest zone, which produced incumbent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Hon. Bago, who represents Chanchaga federal constituency of Niger State in the Lower House, argued that the North Central zone should produce the next speaker of the House of Representatives in the incoming NASS because it has not occupied the office since 1999 when Nigeria returned to full-blown democracy.
The most frontal attack on micro-zoning came yesterday from APC zonal and youth leaders from the six geopolitical zones and 31 states of the federation, who met in Abuja to appraise recent developments in the party.
In a communiqué they issued at the end of the meeting, the APC youths asked the party leadership to release the last minutes of their meeting which ratified the endorsement of certain lawmakers vying for the principal offices of the National Assembly.
The youths demanded that all the country’s six geo-political zones must be carried along in the zoning of Senate presidency and speakership of the House of Representatives to avoid chaos.
APC’s North Central leader, Comrade Terver
Aginde, who read the communiqué, called for an immediate National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party to ensure that all positions in the National Assembly are properly zoned to accommodate all the zones for equity and fairness.
Aginde declared that no zone is less important than the other, adding that zonal stakeholders should be allowed to own and drive the process.
Asking who benefits from the micro-zoning of the National Assembly positions, the youth leader said: “Whilst we agree with the initiative to determine National Assembly leadership within defined parameters of zoning and ranking to ensure stability and discipline within the ranks of the party, we must do so without undermining the independence of the legislature.
“We consider the micro-zoning as a recipe for chaos mindful of the experience of 2015. It is anomalous to have made a pronouncement on the position of the Senate presidency and speakership of the House of Representatives to the exclusion of other positions and other zones,” he said.
Aginde said that “it is pertinent for members of our great party to note that the purported National Working Committee (NWC) decision is suspect. Not even the respected and revered National Caucus of the APC comprising of major stakeholders such as President Muhammadu Buhari, APC governors, party stalwarts and Board of Trustees (BoT) members addressed the issue.
“We are curious to ask for instance how the decision was arrived at, who moved the motion for micro-zoning, who seconded the motion, who voted for it and who was against it. We dare ask who is benefiting from this arrangement, an Individual or the party? Party members will be glad to see the minutes of the meeting where the decision was taken,” he said.
Aginde lamented that lack of consultation was responsible for the rancour in the rank and file of the APC, adding that “all these are the result of the absence of consultation and lack of input from party stakeholders. We know for sure the rules governing the APC as far as decision-making is concerned. Consistent with the provisions of Article 13, Sections 13.3 and 13.4 of the APC Constitution (2014 as amended), we know for a fact that every major decision of the party must be ratified by NEC.
“It is worthy of mention that even Mr. President’s candidacy for party primary in the 2019 election which was rightly zoned to the North West by the party had to be subjected to ratification by NEC.
“We know that every organ of the party has been constitutionally created and assigned specific roles, yet the zonal and state organs have been rendered inactive,” Aginde said.
The APC youth leaders therefore called for unity and reconciliation at all levels of the party, and the immediate reversal of all purported suspension of members in the name of the party to ensure that all positions in National Assembly are immediately zoned to accommodate the six geo-political zones for equity and fairness.
They appealed to President Buhari to consult the youth organs of the party in his next cabinet appointments.
Party’s Choice Will Determine Its Survival – Lawan
Commenting on the choice of leaders in the 9th National Assembly, Senator Lawan said that the exercise would determine the survival of the APC in the 2023 general elections.
Lawan said that the 2023 general elections would be a litmus test for the APC, especially if the party fails to get quality leaders in the legislative arms of government to support Buhari to deliver on his promises.
While receiving three youth groups including All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF) led by Ife Adebayo, the Senate leader said that if they take away Buhari, APC would be in trouble.
He said: “That is why we need a Senate and a National Assembly that will work with President Buhari to work for Nigerians.
“2023 will be a testing period for the APC because the party is at present evolving around Buhari. Take away the president, APC is in trouble,” Lawan said as he called for a formidable team in the National Assembly.
Flanked by 13 senators-elect at his campaign council office in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, Lawan said that those who would remain in APC after the tenure of President Buhari must make it solid for it to survive beyond 2023.
“We have to make our party solid. This will be a superlative performance and we will help him to perform so well,” Lawan said of his plans as the next Senate president.
“I often say it. If rubber stamp law-making means to approve executive demands on things that will be for the good of Nigerians, so be it. The separation of powers is not to fight but to ensure that the president delivered on his promises.”
“For PDP and YPP, we will ensure that they work with us. We want to continue with that because we believe in the unity of the country. Separation of powers does not mean we should be independent of others. We have to work together. When we started this campaign, we said APC is our platform and we will ensure our party deliver and the government is also successful.
“As a campaign organisation, we will talk to all senators-elect and ensure that they understand what we are doing and who we are so that at the end of the tenure of President Buhari, we should be in the right part of history,” Lawan said.
I Will Accommodate All Interests, Says Hon. Bago
To Hon Bago, a strong contender for the speaker of the incoming House of Representatives, among his priority is the accommodation of all interests as the head of the Green Chamber.
He, however, remarked that when it comes to parliamentary matters, party affiliation counts less in the pursuit of national goals and election of its leaders.
Bago said that he is vying for the office of speaker of the 9th Assembly because the North Central zone deserves to occupy the seat. He argued that the region has not held the position since the return of democracy in 1999, a situation Bago stated, smacks of marginalisation of the people of the zone.
The lawmaker posited that it was a fallacy for anybody to think that members of the parliament are biased to party affiliation in the Lower Chambers.
He said: “It’s going to be a fallacy for anybody to think the parliament has political party affiliation. Once you are in the chambers, the party doesn’t matter – individual, community, constituency interests, geographical, geopolitical interests play. So, for anybody to think it’s a winner takes all, it will never happen. It’s a dream.”
The third-time member of the House of Representatives, who visited the corporate headquarters of LEADERSHIP Group Limited in Abuja yesterday, added that “when you have an opposition that has 150 members, they are a necessary evil. Whether you like it or not, you must consult them. They are our colleagues. We are already talking.”
Hon. Bago, who described himself as a core Buharist, said that he had been with the president form the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which fused with other parties to form the APC.
The lawmaker said that he had written letters to President Buhari and the APC leadership to intimate them of his aspiration for the speakership of the Lower House.
On zoning and endorsement of certain aspirants, he said: “This issue of getting anointed people to man certain positions is a 2013 arrangement. There is no need for people to pretend. The desperation for the speakership and Senate presidency is for what? Why must it be that person? These are questions Nigerians should be asking. Why do you want to anoint a person if he’s popular?
“Do you want to have a speaker that will not even last a month? No! We are not ready for these kinds of issues. The party should think wisely, look at things critically and come up with results from an informed position that will make sure that the policies of our government are supported by laws,” Bago said.
Asked what model of leadership he would introduce, the lawmaker said that his administration would ensure that the independence of the legislature is entrenched and ensure that ambiguous lines in the Nigerian constitution are really amended, adding that “the architecture of Nigeria must have to be looked into and addressed accordingly. Our parliament must be fashioned toward civilization.”
He said that the crisis that trailed the emergence of Hon. Yakubu Dogara as speaker and the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was not well managed by the APC. “And that is why we are waking people up to the fact that the North Central is being muzzled out of the way.”
Bago said that he would reach out to the opposition PDP to garner the number to be the speaker. “They are our colleagues and we are already talking,” he disclosed.
He argued that since 1999, the North Central had not produced the speaker of the House or even a deputy, adding that all other zones had produced speakers and or deputy speakers.
“We have done so well for the victory of this party (APC) and we are only asking for fairness in the political equation of this country. Since 1999, nobody has been given the opportunity in the House of Representatives from the North Central to either be a speaker or deputy speaker.
“However, if you talk about equity, fairness and the constitution which all of us will use on the day of swearing in to take the oath, I think we must also imbibe the provision of the constitution.
“The constitution is clear and the APC constitution is also very clear that every federating unit must be catered for in any federal arrangement. And the party constitution also corroborated this.”
He held that it was necessary for the party to recognise the youths for such positions in line with the Not Too Young to Run Act, adding that if given the mandate, his regime would ensure the enactment of laws that would enable the APC to achieve its manifesto and good governance in different sectors.
Noting that he had taken the necessary steps, Bago said: “I have written letters to the party and President Muhammadu Buhari who is the leader of our party, as a loyal party man. And you need to understand that I am a core Buharist.
“I started with Buhari in 2003. I came to the House of Representatives in 2011 under the platform of the CPC. Since then, I have been in this party. The merger met me in 2015 and till date, I am in APC. I have done what is supposed to be done to notify them of my intention,” he said.
APC Insists On Gbajabiamila, Zones Deputy Speaker Slot To North Central
At last, APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has said that the party has formally endorsed Gbajiabiamila as the speaker of the 9th Assembly and zoned the deputy speaker position to the North Central region.
Oshiomhole said the position was reached after an intensive deliberation with the APC’s House of Representatives members-elect at a dinner with President Buhari at the Banquet Hall of Aso Villa last night.
He said that the deputy speaker position had been zoned to the North Central zone, adding that the incoming Assembly would not be an appendage of the Executive arm of government.
Oshiomhole also restated the determination of the party to not repeat the mistakes it made in 2015 in the election of the National Assembly leadership.
The APC chairman described the present leadership of the National Assembly as hostile, saying that they created tension in the system, delayed budget needlessly, and created all obstacles to frustrate the government.
He contended “In African family, we sit down in a closed-door to address issues, the good news is that there is a role for everyone. Neither Mr. President nor the party expects the National Assembly to be rubber stamps, we don’t have rubbers…But we will not fight in Wuse Market.
“We have asked our people not to share what belongs to us with other party members. I don’t have apologies against forces of retrogression.
Oshiomhole insisted that APC lawmakers would head all the necessary committees in the National Assembly, pointing out that they cannot allow the opposition PDP lawmakers to head critical committees.
He noted that both the re-elected and new members of the APC are entitled to heading committees
He said: “In life, mistakes are permitted but it becomes a problem if the mistake is repeated twice. We are determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2015 in 2019, we have learnt our lesson.
“Of the 223 APC elected members, about 67 were re-elected, the rest are new members
“In other climes, you don’t go into coalition when you are in the majority; you do so when you don’t have the numbers. We have the numbers, out of 306, Nigerians elected 223 APC members because they don’t want Mr. President to face the trauma of 2015.
NASS To Be Guided By Own Rules – Presidency
But the senior special assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, has said that the two houses will be guided by their standing orders in the choice of their leaders.
Enang who denied a report in a national newspaper (not LEADERSHIP) that he told members of the 9th National Assembly to use 2011 rule book for voting, said that as a liaison officer, his words should be warm.
“A substantial part of the body of the story accords with the submissions I made during the orientation programme but the headline is at variance with the story and against my submissions.
“As a liaison officer, as for every person relating with the legislature and legislators, our words and interventions should be solving, temperate, conciliatory, warm, inviting and deferring to the distinguished senators and Honourable members.
“I therefore, would not use words of the nature referenced, more so , as the legislators-elect of both majority and minority parties on the floor of each chamber have closed ranks across party lines, resolved to act in the best of parliamentary tradition as one house narrowing party divide, in the interest of the nation, all towards the expected end,” he said.