Beyond the tussle over leadership positions of the Ninth Assembly by lawmakers-elects is a fight over the 2023 presidency, SUNDAY ABORISADE reports
The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, courted the wrath of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, this week when he accused the duo of padding the national budgets since 2015.
Tinubu levelled the allegation in a statement issued by his media office in reaction to reports in the media space that he was supporting certain candidates for presiding officers’ positions in the Ninth National Assembly to further boost his 2023 presidential ambition.
Saraki and Dogara did not take Tinubu’s attacks on the National Assembly lightly as the two presiding officiers did not only deny his allegation of budget padding but also claimed that the former Lagos State governor was actually interested in the ninth assembly leadership to pave the way for his ambition to become president after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
The Senate President statement read, “Tinubu should leave Dr. Saraki out of his schemes and manipulations towards 2023. It is obvious his arbitrary and tactless interference in the process for the emergence of the leadership of the Ninth Assembly is already falling through.
“The frustration from this experience might have been responsible for these needless and baseless outbursts. Our only advice for him is that if he is interested in the stability of the National Assembly, he should allow the members to elect their leaders in consultations with the party leadership.
“He should stop treating the legislators like hapless pupils receiving orders from a cane-wielding headmaster. A situation where he, Tinubu, is dictating to elected legislators and ordering them to either comply with his directives or get out of the party will not augur well for the legislature in the next dispensation.
“History should have thought him that only a leadership that truly enjoys the support of members can help the President and his administration to achieve their objectives.
“It is a good development that the candidates for the various positions are already reaching out to their colleagues and forging alliances. We can see that after he realised that he has misfired, he is trying to retrace his step and in his usual devious manner, he is looking for scapegoats.
“We advise him to leave Dr. Saraki out of his manipulations and ‘jockeying and maneuvering for influence and power.”
Dogara’s statement also read in part, “The aspirants to the Senate Presidency and Speakership he (Tinubu) is sponsoring are majority leaders in the Eight Assembly who also took part in the budget process that he made the chief basis of his crude attack.
“This proves beyond doubt the hypocrisy of Asiwaju’s stated reasons for supporting his candidates. He should find better reasons other than the lies being peddled about the budget and obstructing government business.
“Asiwaju shouldn’t take better informed Nigerians for fools. Otherwise, when he sought to take control of the Eight Senate and House of Representatives in 2015, was it because of any budget (that) Saraki and Dogara had delayed or pet projects they had inserted into any budget before 2015?
“Asiwaju must come clean on this matter. He should let Nigerians know why he wants to install the Senate President, the Speaker and leadership of the Ninth Assembly. He may yet win the support of some of them if he comes clean on this matter.”
The outbursts of Saraki and Dogara appeared to be a confirmation in some quarters that the southern and northern elements in the APC are up in the game to install their preferred National Assembly leadership as a way of consolidating their chances for the 2023 presidency.
An associate of Senator Ali Ndume who is the spokesperson for the Borno Elders Forum, Alhaji Yakubu Umar, said that “some dark forces were seriously working on a plot to hijack the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly for their selfish political gains that could be highly counterproductive to the policies of the Buhari Presidency in the second term.”
He wondered why President Buhari, who had earlier supported the ambition of Ndume to be senate president, would suddenly allow Tinubu and Oshiomhole to pick another candidate as the party’s choice.
Umar added that the idea of anointing a candidate was unjustifiable in view of the fact that the APC national chairman failed to deliver Edo State on all grounds, while the opposition gained more grounds in his home state.
The Borno leader, who is believed to be speaking the minds of the northern elements in the party, said, “Tinubu has had more than his fair share of reward from President Buhari’s administration, he has had more than his contribution to the party.
“He single-handedly brought Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole into this government. The Director-General of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler and a host of other MDA heads and state governors are equally his nominees.
“President Buhari cannot afford to look the other way or donate the seats of the senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives to Tinubu again, while other actors that even worked harder or polled greater result for his success at the last presidential election are sacrificed on the altar of ‘party position,’ the President is deemed to be a head.
“It is even against the spirit or principle of check and balance to amass instrument of power in any administration in one person’s hand, just as it is an aberration in the security parlance of a nation for a head of a government to tolerate such a practice. History will rather account for it as weakness too.
“At this juncture, President Buhari as the leader of the party should at least guarantee a level playing ground for all contestants from the North-East for the 9th Senate presidency.
“The process should be devoid of manipulation or altering of the Senate Rules to favour some contestants or using security apparatus to harass others.”
An Abuja-based lawyer, Abdul Yakubu, told our correspondent that the race for the 2023 presidency had actually started and that the Tinubu/Oshiomhole camp was actually in keen competition with those he called “Presidency boys.”
Yakubu argued that Tinubu, who was said to have relinquished his vice-presidential slot to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in 2015 to avoid a Muslim-Muslim ticket, would want to consolidate his political gains by taking a shot at the presidency in 2023.
He said, “It is no longer a hidden fact that Tinubu will contest the 2023 elections and the Oshiomhole factor cannot be ruled out in the entire game plan.
“The problem, however, is that the cabal in the Presidency are not comfortable with that plan because they felt that Tinubu would be too powerful as a president. Hence they would prefer a younger, less ambitious person like Osinbajo or Babatunde Fashola.
But the Chairman, Forum of First Time Members of the House of Representatives on the Platform of the All Progressives Congress, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, disagreed with those who claimed that Tinubu was nursing the ambition of 2023 presidency by supporting Lawan and Gbajabiamila for senate presidency and Speaker of the House respectively.
Tunji-Ojo argued that Tinubu believed that the most qualified person should be allowed to hold a particular position at any given point in time, hence his support for the two party candidates.
He said, “Gbajabiamila has been in the House for the better part of 16 years; and 12 years out of the 16 year, he has been a principal officer. He was the minority whip, minority leader and is the current majority leader. He has the leadership experience.
“No doubt, all the contestants are qualified, but even in the animal kingdom where all animals are equal; some are still more equal than the others. Gbajabiamila is much more qualified by the virtue of his experience at leadership positions and his interpersonal relationship with all members of the House.
“For us as a forum, we are happy that the party took a right position. We are happy that the party has given us candidates that would be a bridge between the executive and the legislative arms and not a wall.”
The newly elected senator from Kebbi North, Yahaya Abdullahi, said he believed the party and not any individual took the decision to zone the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly.
He said, “My position is that since President Muhammadu Buhari was present when the national chairman of the party made the announcement, it is the decision of the party.
“The APC is a very big party and I don’t think it will be proper to say that an individual was behind the choice of the incoming presiding officers of the Ninth National Assembly. The party has organs and hierarchy which is bigger than a single person or a group of people.”
But the Arewa Youth Forum in a statement issued in Kaduna on Sunday alleged that Tinubu was turning himself into a dictator by trying to pocket the party’s structure.
They also accused the former governor of Lagos State of trying to impose his stooges on the members of the National Assembly, a move they described as “anti-democratic” and against the political interest of the North as a whole.
The group’s statement was jointly signed by its National President, Gambo Ibrahim-Gujungu, and the National Director, Public Affairs, Bello Abdulhamid.
The statement read, “To any right thinking and close observer of the polity, this unfolding development showcases Bola Tinubu as anti-North and is selfishly paving the way to have total control of the APC and its tidings, as well as influence the decision of the party chairman, all as a build-up to the 2023 elections.
“The AYF has received with surprise, the recent position of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, dictating who will emerge as the Senate President as well as the Speaker, House of Representatives for the 9th Assembly.
“We are also amazed by the statement credited to the party chieftain, where he was quoted to posit that party officials not comfortable with the choice and dictates of the party as orchestrated by him and some party officials are free to leave the APC.
“So much so that we consider this statement as unbecoming of the national leader, also, we believe that these dictatorial tendencies are undemocratic, unethical, not in line with international best practices, politically incorrect and in bad taste.
“An elder who is supposed to toe the path of amicable resolution and embrace the spirit of reconciliation, particularly amongst the contestants, is openly found to be overbearing and divisive by all intents.”
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