LAGOS – Prior to now, many had thought President Muhammadu Buhari will be more decisive on the issue of the selection of the leadership of the ninth National Assembly. It was widely believed that the President’s aloofness led to the coup de tat which happened in June 2015 when Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, in connivance with lawmakers elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) moved against the party’s directives to be elected Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Already, the APC has settled for the duo of Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) and Femi Gbajabiamila (Surulere 1) as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, in the 9th National Assembly. However, the positions are being challenged by some lawmakers who described the party’s position as imposition and an attempt to meddle in the leadership selection process of the national assembly.
In the senate, Ali Ndume (Borno South) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central) have indicated interest to contest for the exalted position, though Goje is yet to formally declare his ambition despite mounting pressures from his loyalists.
However, speaking in a chat with Daily Independent yesterday, Ita Enang, Senior Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters (Senate) said President Buhari will not intervene in the matter as he has devolved powers to the party.
According to Enang, there is no cause for alarm over the leadership positions in the ninth Assembly as the APC is handling the situation well while majority of the lawmakers have promised to abide by the position of the party.
“ The President is the leader of the party and the party is handling the situation. The president does not have to speak on every matter. He devolves power which he has done in this case”.
“He does not give the power to the party because the power belongs to the party, he is just the leader of the party. So, the party of which he is the leader chaired by the national chairman are handling the situation and they are on top of it. The members themselves; both senators and Reps members are very serious stakeholders at the highest level. So, we are relating with them and they have given assurance that they will respect the party’s position” he said.
The President’s silence on the controversy surrounding the leadership positions in the Senate and House of Representatives is giving the lawmakers-elect, a huge sorry of worry. Some of the lawmakers-elect who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said given the bitter experiences of 2015, they had expected the President to have met all the contenders and speak with them on the need to respect the position of the party.
While it was gathered that Goje had said he will wait for the directives from President Buhari before making his decision whether to back out of the race or proceed, Ndume on his part said nobody has asked him to withdraw from the race.
Speaking while addressing newsmen in Lagos two days ago, Ndume stated that there was no time the APC officially asked him not to run for the position, adding that he consulted widely with a lot of party leaders in the APC and none has asked him to withdraw for anyone.
He said even the National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, said the party leaders only recommended Senator Ahmad Lawan as their preferred choice and were not trying to impose him on the senators.
“I don’t expect the president to take sides with anybody. The president has never interfered in the electoral process. The party has only recommended Lawan. If the party decides wrongly, I will not follow the party. Nobody has said to me ‘don’t do it’. I have not heard otherwise”.
“I consulted widely before I made my intention public. I consulted President Muhammadu Buhari; the National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and other leaders of our party and they gave me their blessings. I am in Lagos in continuation of that consultation”.
“I am encouraged by the feedback. I wrote a letter to the party to inform them of my intention. So far, nobody has told me to suspend my aspiration because they know that doing so will amount to denial of my constitutional rights” he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, one of the senators-elect from the South-West said from the way things are going, the mistakes made by the party in 2015 which led to the coup plot that produced Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara may repeat itself again.
“ I am beginning to get worried by the way things are going. Honestly, I think the leadership of the party and Mr. President are not giving this issue the attention it deserves”.
“We expected that this issue will be one of the major things the President will address upon his arrival to the country. But since Mr. President arrived on Sunday, he is yet to meet with the gladiators”.
“ I read the report by Ndume that since he informed APC leaders, including Mr. President and Asiwaju Tinubu, nobody has told him to withdraw from the race. That is not good enough. Also, Goje said he is waiting for directive from Mr. President and right now, I don’t think that directive has been given”.
“ I think based on his experience in the last four years in the hands of the leadership of the National Assembly, the President should be more decisive and meet with the gladiators. Nothing should be left to chance”.
His position was also shared by another lawmaker from the North- West who said the plot by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators to cause an upset like they did in 2015 “is real”.
“ I believe it is time for the leadership of the APC, including Mr. President to talk with the other contestants both in the Senate and House of Representatives. He is very much respected and I believe the likes of Ndume and Goje will listen to him”.
“ On our part, we understand some APC lawmakers are conniving with some rebels to go against the party’s wish. That is why we are insisting on open voting where every lawmaker will queue behind the candidate of his choice. On that day, the whole world will see you and see who you voted for”.
If that happens, many of the members will comply because they will not want to be seen as traitors. I think the PDP knows the implication of this and that is why they are insisting on secret ballot. That cannot stand” he said.
However, another ranking senator from the North- East said he believes the President is working underground on the issues and it will be resolved even before the end of May.
“ It is wrong for them to say the President is not working to resolve the issue just because we haven’t seen his pictures with Goje or Ndume or the media was not invited . What if he has talked with them on phone? I believe negotiations are ongoing and the President is very much interested because he needs a National Assembly leadership that will be on the same page with him in delivering his Next Level agenda”.