The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may face a major crisis in the election of the leadership of the ninth National Assembly as one of the aspirants for the office of the Senate President, Senator Ali Ndume, yesterday faulted the adoption of the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, by the party leadership.
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senate Caucus yesterday said every senator-elect is constitutionally empowered to aspire to be Senate President, when it is inaugurated in June.
Also, the main opposition party has described as “laughable and empty grandstanding,’’ President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole’s posturing, suggesting that the presiding offices and committee chairmanship of the National Assembly were exclusive rights of the APC.
Ndume (APC Borno South) told newsmen at his Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja that the disclosure by the APC national chairman, on Monday night, endorsing Lawan as president of the 9th Senate and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives was not only embarrassing but unconstitutional.
He said: “What took place at the presidential dinner in Aso Rock on Monday night, where Oshiomhole as party chairman, announced Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as president of the ninth Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively was very shocking to me and many of my colleagues.
“Oshiomhole in making the announcement or endorsement, did not even allow myself or senators Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), widely known to be in the race for the position to say anything.
“More disturbing was the fact that even Senator Lawan endorsed for the position, was not allowed to make any comment in form of acceptance speech or soliciting for support from other interested senators.”
According to him, such endorsement is at variance with provisions of Section 50 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The provision of the constitution states: “There shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that house from among themselves.’’
He emphasised that by provisions of the Constitution, neither Oshiomhole nor Buhari or any party leader, has the right to force on elected senators or members of the House of Representatives, their presiding officers.
Ndume added that the party that was expected to have learnt her lessons from the June 2015 experience is threading the similar path.
According to him, since 1999, there was no time leadership was imposed on any of the chambers of the National Assembly without repercussion.
He said: “If you look at the history of the National Assembly, such action, normally do not go down well with members. In 1999, Evans Enwerem was imposed, he did not last. After that Wabara was also imposed and he did not also last. The PDP that was then accused of impunity did not do what the APC did yesterday.
“In 2003, PDP showed wisdom by opening up the contest by just zoning the position to the North-central and that led to the contest between David Mark and George Akume. Because that process was democratic, David Mark lasted two terms peacefully. I don’t think what happened yesterday has improved on the process but rather, worsened it.
“For the sake of cohesion and stability among party members as regards aspirations for such positions, what was expected from the party leadership, was to just zone the positions and allow contenders within each of the zones to sort it out either through consensus or shadow election.
‘’The 109 elected senators and 360 House of Representatives members are the constitutional kingmakers as far as the emergence of presiding officers of both chambers are concerned and not national chairman of a ruling party or even the president.”
Ndume said he has a vision for the Senate because the Senate had drifted and is drifting to a position where it will not be able to serve its purpose.
“The Senate is supposed to be an institution of 109 senators to fashion out ways of stabilising the polity. It is not fair for somebody to appoint a leader for leaders. The leaders are supposed to appoint who should be their leader. The Senate president is supposed to be the President of the Senate not senators’ president. Now, we are again getting a senators’ president; but this country needs a senate president,’’ he added.
Ndume, a former Senate leader, however, said his loyalty to the party and in particular, Buhari, has not been affected by the unpopular decision of Oshiomhole.
He said: “I don’t even believe that President Buhari was in the know of what Oshiomhole did because he didn’t make any comment on leadership of the ninth Assembly at the dinner but only greeted us before the organizers of the programme hurriedly called for rendition of the National Anthem.
“We all left the place in shock and disbelief but my commitment and loyalty to the party remains.”
He further explained that he would consult with party elders from his home state, Borno, and his colleagues, who encouraged him to join the race on the next line of action, saying: “It is not over until the Almighty Allah makes final decision on who becomes President of the 9th Senate on the day of inauguration.’’
“I am now leaving this for God and for my people that elected me. I am going home (Borno State) right away to consult with the elders who encouraged me to vie for the position. So, I will engage in consultations before I take the final position. But, I want to say that the party has taken a position and I ultimately await the decision of the Almighty God and that of my colleagues.’’