Today, June 11, 2019, the ninth session of the National Assembly would be inaugurated. With the proclamation issued last week by President Muhammadu Buhari, winding down the 8th session on the midnight of June 8, all is set now for the inauguration of the ninth session, with a new leadership and new members. On June 9, 2015, when the eighth assembly was inaugurated, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which was fresh to power then and faced with its internal intrigues, lost the battle for the leadership to Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, against the party’s choices of Senator Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila. Those elections made the relationship between the executive, led by Buhari and the Saraki-led National Assembly, rocky from the start to the finish on June 6 this year. The 2019 elections are over. The day has arrived for the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, with all the attendant politics.
Again, APC has presented Lawan and Gbajabiamila as its candidates for the two posts – Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
We believe that APC would not run into the same storm it ran into with Saraki and Dogara in 2015.
But we are worried that APC appears to be preparing for another storm in the form and way it has carried on with the zoning of positions in the affairs of the party and the nation.
As the National Assembly reconvenes today, if the candidacy of Lawan and Gbajabiamila goes through, the North-East and the South-West would have taken the major positions at the National Assembly. If Lawan fails, his only challenger is Ali Ndume, also from the North-East.
We note that since 1999 when democracy returned to the country, with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) occupying major executive and legislative positions at the centre, power has often been shared, bearing in mind the six zonal structure of the country. By the PDP formula, the key positions first considered in the sharing formula were the president, vice president, Senate president, House speaker, national chairman of the ruling party and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Except in 2011, when the now Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal (North-West) emerged Speaker of the House by defeating the party’s preferred candidate for the post, Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola (South-West), that sharing formula was maintained throughout the 16 years of PDP.
The election of Tambuwal, then a former deputy whip, caused a lot of bad blood between him and PDP, leading to his defection to APC in the run-up to the 2015 elections. The loss of the speakership position, with the South-West edged out of the top six, was also the beginning of the problems of PDP, particularly in the South-West, which eventually became the deciding zone in the sacking of PDP from the Presidency in 2015.
We are however worried that since APC came to power in 2015, it has not stuck to the zoning arrangements to accommodate all the zones of the country.
The weeping boy of the APC arrangement has been the South-East geo-political zone where the party believes it has little or no followership. The South-East is the only zone since 2015 that has not been accommodated by APC in its top positions, either at the executive or legislative level. The immediate past deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, is of PDP and was a beneficiary of the deal by PDP members, which brought in Saraki as Senate president.
As at today when the 9th National Assembly is being inaugurated, the South-East is perhaps the only zone that is not sure of what it would get in the collective arrangement.
While the North-West has the Presidency, the South-West has the vice president; the North-East is sure of the Senate president and the North-Central is almost sure of the deputy speakership position, with the Gbajabiamila/Ahmed Wase arrangement. With the party chairman coming from the South-South, the question for APC leadership today is: Whither the South-East?
In 2015, when the immediate former Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, lost the ticket of the Anambra Central Senatorial District, there was the argument that the South-East lost the position to become the Senate president, having not had a representation in the Senate.
But today, the South-East has representation in the Senate from APC platform. With the court ruling on Friday that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should give a certificate of return to former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, the South-East today has two Senators with a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North).
Thus, we believe that the argument that the South-East did not have an APC representation in 2015 cannot suffice now. In the House of Representatives, the South-East also has representations.
We believe that APC should think seriously deep on the issue of zoning of offices to accommodate all regions. We acknowledge that the South-East and its people have not been a fertile ground for APC, but we believe that even in the last election in March, APC made a stronger showing in the zone than it did in 2015.
We believe that for the sake of the few who have carried the flag of the party, even at the risk of their name and image, APC should consider the zone in the leadership of the National Assembly. Anything short of that would only lead to more stonewalling of the party in the region.
This is instructive because in 2023, President Buhari would not be running for another term. The party might need to do better in the South-East by then. It is our belief that leaders of the party would do the needful by carrying all segments of the country along.
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