Will APC Survive The Discontent, Acrimony Over 10th N/Assembly Leadership?
A wave of discontent, acrimony, protests and anxiety has enveloped the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), sequel to its zoning of the 10th National Assembly positions ahead of inauguration billed for June this year. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the issues.
The party’s zoning formula has sparked outrage and discordant tunes among its members and left the polity twitching. It has equally led to intensified scramble by top contenders, who believe that there should be a review of the zoning arrangement.
Pundits said the party had shot itself in the foot by not consulting widely enough before coming up with a position on zoning of the Senate and House of Representatives offices of the incoming 10th Assembly.
The national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, has admitted that there was no adequate consultation before the decision on zoning was reached, and assured that the party would go back to the drawing board and review its decision, where necessary.
Some party leaders and aspirants have argued that the most worrisome part of it is that the National Working Committee (NWC) did not just zone offices to the various geopolitical regions, but specifically zeroed on preferred aspirants in those zones.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the APC had on Monday officially released its zoning of principal officers of the 10th National Assembly billed to be inaugurated in June.
The party’s national publicity secretary, Felix Morka, a lawyer, in a release made available to newsmen after its NWC meeting, stated that the party had picked a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio (South South) and Senator Barau Jibrin (North West) as preferred candidates for Senate president and deputy respectively.
It equally anointed the member representing Zaria constituency in the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas (North West) and Ben Kalu (South East) as preferred candidates for the Speaker and deputy of the Green Chamber.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the party had adopted the preferred candidates of the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who would be sworn in on May 29, to implement his manifesto, tagged, “Renewed Hope.”
Although the party had done its in-house zoning, senators and members of the House of Representatives have the prerogative to vote whoever they like.
But after the announcement of the zoning, aspirants for various positions and other stakeholders of the party have been challenging the decision, and in the process, turned its national secretariat into a ‘complaint commission.’
Critical stakeholders of the party, including Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, have rejected the zoning arrangement and called for a review.
The governor, in a statement, specifically wondered why a political zone would be favoured with two slots at the instance of others in the “permutation” carried out by the ruling party.
He stated, “It is an insidious permutation that the North East will be deprived in the face of the unsavoury generosity dispensed through two slots to a particular geo-political zone. It is self-repudiating for one to argue, therefore, that the Speaker of the House of Representatives cannot also emerge from the North East.”
Mounting agitations for re-zoning
It suffices to say that agitations to re-zone the position of Speaker of the 10th Assembly to the North East are gaining momentum. Like Akeredolu, many other stakeholders of the party are making a case for the North East to produce the position of Speaker.
Few days ago, some members-elect of the House of Representatives on the platforms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and the APC, converged on Abuja, where they resolved not to respect the APC’s decision on zoning but support the lawmaker representing Biu/Bayo/Shani constituency of Borno State, Muktar Aliyu Betara.
They also argued that the emergence of Kashim Shettima as vice president-elect from the North East does not stop Betara, who is the chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, from becoming the next Speaker given his track record of experience and performance as a fourth time member of the House.
A member-elect for Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwara federal constituency of Cross River State, Peter Akpanke of the PDP, who spoke on behalf of his South South colleagues after the meeting said, “All of us are not members of the APC, so whatever they decide cannot be binding on us. That is their party’s decision. If they can convince their members, that is good for them.
“But they don’t have the numbers, we the minority members are more. They need us to be able to produce a Speaker. By the way, will all members of the APC even support the party’s decision?”
The lawmakers-elect said Betara would stabilise the House, unite members and foster synergy with the Tinubu-led administration to deliver on the “Renewed Hope” agenda, in the interest of Nigerians.
While some have argued that they were not consulted before the decision on zoning was finalised, others have continued to question why the party allotted two principal offices to the North West while other zones, insisting that the decision be reversed.
Recall that on Wednesday, some aggrieved members of the House of Representatives led by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase, who is also in the race, stormed the APC headquarters in Abuja, where they met with the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu and asked him to review the decision.
Why NWC must review decision on zoning – Betara
Speaking to newsmen during the visit, said he was prevailed upon to step down for the current Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila and he supported him to emerge; hence he can’t be forced out of the current race.
He said, “Now, the party is taking the positions of deputy Senate president and Speaker of the House to the same zone. We have been in this Assembly for long and there has never been a time two presiding officers were zoned to one area. And in our discussion here, on our inauguration day, it is what happens in the Senate that will determine what is going to happen in the House. So, we need to sit down and look at it. Remember what happened in 2015. So as a party, we are pleading; we need to sit again with all of us and do more consultations.”
On Thursday, aggrieved contenders for Senate presidency also stormed the party’s headquarters in Abuja, where they expressed their displeasure and submitted a protest letter during a meeting with Adamu.
Former governors of Zamfara and Abia states, Senators Abdullaziz Yari and Orji Uzor Kalu, as well as Senator Sani Musa (Niger), were among others who were at the party’s secretariat to register their grievances.
The opposition factor
These issues are coming amidst the opposition’s threat to take over the speakership of the 10th National Assembly.
Recall that the opposition parties, comprising of the PDP, NNPP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), LP, and others have the majority in the House of Representatives with 180, while APC has 178. Two seats are pending – one in Akwa Ibom and another in Ondo states.
One of the members-elect for the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC)/Bwari federal constituency, Joshua Chinedu, had told Daily Trust that, “The APC does not have what it takes to determine who becomes the Speaker of the 10th National Assembly because they are in silent majority in the House of Representatives.
“The number of members from the minority has surpassed that of the APC, and the majority takes it. However, the APC can still take the position of Speaker but that can only be determined by all of us, not the party. Nigerians are yearning for change.”
Women can’t be schemed out – Onuoha
Amid the scheming by male aspirants, Miriam Onuoha, who has won reelection to represent Okigwe North Federal Constituency of Imo State and the only female aspirant for the position of speaker, said she is the best among equals.
Also, various groups had in the last few days voiced their support for Onuoha who defied the odds including the Labour Party Tsunami in the South East to emerge victorious.
They contended that President-elect Tinubu should ensure inclusivity in the composition of principal officers of the National Assembly by supporting the emergence of Onuoha as speaker or at worst, the deputy speaker.
In a recent interview, Onuoha said she had paid her dues. “I am not running to be compensated with the Leader of the House or be chief whip or deputy whip. I am running to be Speaker of the House of Representatives, worst case, deputy speaker, so that women will still have a voice on the presiding table, so, that opportunity gives us the platform or the leverage to sit on the decision-making table as leadership of the House of Representatives.
“I would also like to bring to your notice that the 100 women’s lobby groups and over 5,000 support groups have severally come on air to support my aspiration. What that means is that women will stop at nothing—we are making this as a demand that we have brought a lot to the table. Irrespective of our geopolitical leaning, we as women have collectively given over 55 per cent of votes in the last election. Mind you, the girl child who is also a youth is a woman. If you aggregate all of that, we deserve and demand a seat on the decision-making table, nothing less. That is why I am here. I will deploy all diplomacy and tact to ensure that this light we see will not dim on us,” she said.
APC awaits Tinubu’s return
Meanwhile, the APC is considering a review of its decision following the heavy bashing it has received from key stakeholders and aspirants.
Admitting on Thursday that the party did not carry out adequate consultations on the zoning arrangement, its national chairman, Adamu said the NWC would still consult with the president-elect, Bola Tinubu for changes, where necessary.
Tinubu had jetted to Europe on Wednesday, less than three weeks to his inauguration, to reduce pressure on him, according to his media aide, Tunde Rahma.
“The trip will reduce unnecessary pressure and distraction on the president-elect ahead of the May 29, inauguration.
“He will use the opportunity to fine-tune the transition plans and programmes and his policy options with some of his key aides without unnecessary pressure and distraction,” he said.
It is not yet clear how soon Tinubu would return, but our correspondent gathered that the APC national leadership has resolved to wait for his input when he returns before making any further decision or announcement on the matter.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that renewed agitations and horse-trading have, however, intensified as all aspirants have resumed campaigns, consultations and lobbying ahead of Tinubu’s return.