•As presidency says Buhari will avoid mistakes of 2015
By Henry Umoru and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
With the conduct of February 23 National Assembly election and the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the battle of wits has shifted to the National Assembly.
Ahead of the inauguration of the 9th Senate, on June 10th 2019, there have been intrigues on the choice of who occupies the position of Senate President.
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Following the results released by INEC, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC has the highest number of both new and old senators, with a total number of sixty four Senators.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has a total number of forty- two Senators, the Young Progressive Party, YPP has one Senator, bringing that to a total of one hundred and seven Senators, with others yet to be declared.
The Senate is made up of 109 Senators and out of the present 8th Senate, 66 members are not returning to the Red Chamber. Some senators contested the gubernatorial election and lost, some did not get their party tickets, while some lost out in their senatorial districts. Of the present Senators, 43 have been re- elected, with the All Progressives Congress, APC, having 24, while PDP has 19.
In electing the presiding officers, section 50 (1a and b) of 1999 constitution as amended read: “There shall be: (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
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Also in determining who becomes the Presiding officers, the Senate Rule allows only a ranking senator to be selected for this purpose and according to the Standing Orders, “Nomination of Senators to serve as Presiding Officers and appointments of Principal Officers and other Officers of the Senate or on any Parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of Senators. In determining ranking, the following order shall apply- Senators returning based on number of times re- elected; Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives.”
According to the Standing Orders of the Senate, during the first sitting of a new Senate, pursuant to the Proclamation of the first sitting of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senators-elect shall assemble at the time and place so appointed and the business of the day would be to elect the two presiding officers, the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President.
Another determining factor for clinching the position of Senate President is that out of 109 Senators, the person will require fifty five votes. Interestingly, only two of the Senators have publicly indicated interest for the position, while two are still being speculated and not made public.
The present Senate leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North and the former Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South have told the world that they want the number three position and they have been reaching out to senators, stakeholders and leaders.
Lawan in particular has been crises crossing the country with many of his colleagues making consultations and meeting with Senators- elect.
For the position of Deputy Senate President, it was gathered that the APC has zeroed it down to South South and further micro zoned the position of Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate to Senator Francis Alimikhena, Edo North. Senator Alimikhena, a lawyer came into the Senate in 2015 and was elected at the beginning of 8th Senate as Deputy Chief Whip and since then, he has shown his experience, charisma, diligence, calmness, and team spirit having chaired many Adhoc committees.
When confronted this week, Senator Ahmad Lawan said that as part of his moves to actualize his aspiration for the position of Senate President, “We are reaching out to all our colleagues, regardless of their political persuasions. It is a senate that will consist of the APC, PDP, and YPP. Therefore we need everybody to support the genuine and laudable cause of making Nigeria better. I will ensure that our administration is able to deliver laudable projects for Nigerians and the best way to achieve this is for all of us to work together.
Also as part of the scheming for the position of Senate President, Saturday Vanguard gathered that some of the governors, elders, leaders and stakeholders have keyed into the Ahmad Lawan project and have taken the campaign to the door steps of the Senators- elect.
A source told Vanguard that the stakeholders have also planned to reach out to other contenders like former Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South, former governor of Gombe State and Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje and the former governor of Nasarawa State and Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Develoment, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa West.
Lawan has even been adopted as the candidate of the party, APC, but this did not go down well with Ndume as he has vowed to dare the APC and the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to ensure that he realized his ambition, describing the action of the party as unconstitutional, shocking and embarrassing
Ndume who addressed newsmen in Abuja last week, said that there was no consultation before the decision was taken, arguing that the APC National Chairman ought to have discussed with them, brainstorm with Senators from the North East as a sign of honour, adding that such endorsement, run contrary to provisions of section 50( 1a) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
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According to Ndume, the Party which ought to be democratic and a government that speaks about due process, should be seen to be doing the right thing, noting that it was surprising and shocking that the APC was doing things to the contrary. He said that the party was expected to have learnt her lessons from the 2015 experience.
The latest of Ndume this week was his vow to dare the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee, NWC and go ahead with the actualization of contesting for the position of Senate President.
As part of moves to contest for the Senate President position, Ndume who has even gone ahead to unfold his 9- Point agenda and blueprint for the 9th Senate when he finally becomes the Senate President, however promised to improve upon the performance of the 8th Senate by making the Office of the Senate President less attractive through reduction of unnecessary privileges attached to the office.
Ndume who promised to uphold the Independence of the Legislative arm of government, however hoped to “work harmoniously and inter-dependently with the Executive without undermining the principle of Separation of Power”.
Not deterred by the action of the party about the position, a week after he kicked against the position of the party, Ndume at the National Assembly, rolled out his legislative agenda for the position in Pamphlets distributed to journalists where he said that he would prioritize and ensure the passage of the Constituency Development Bill to make “Constituency projects more transparent, accountable, efficient and effective”. According to Ndume, as Senate President, he would uphold the party’s principles and policies, and that his Presidency will make laws and review existing ones to be in tandem with APC’s Next Level Agenda for Nigeria.
While the duo of Lawan and Ndume have stepped up campaigns, former governor of Gombe State and present Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje Gombe Central and former governor of Nasarawa State and present Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa West have not formally declared for the position, but their body languages have shown clearly that they are interested in the position.
Also as part of the scheming, the Lawan group had expressed fears of strong permutations by the opposition, PDP in the Upper Chamber to wrestle majority status with the ruling, APC.
The PDP Senators as alleged are planning to replay the 2015 Scenario, just as there are alleged moves by PDP to poach 13 APC returning and new Senators to forestall the emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan as the President of the 9th Senate.
It was gathered that the information leaked when two Senators approached to be arrow heads of the plans but felt uncomfortable alerted both the party hierarchy and the campaign team of Senator Ahmad Lawan on the urgent need to be aware of the development especially against the backdrop that campaigns were still underway.
Part of the plans as gathered is that PDP has designed a blueprint for their members to back a returning APC Senator from Gombe for the Senate Presidency with the support of the 13 APC Senators already penciled down, with alleged mouth-watering monetary rewards that would see them through the resultant party blacklist while in office as well as their lives in retirement.
It was further gathered that the two Senators said that they were doubtful of the success of the PDP plans this time because most APC senators have already made up their minds to support Senator Ahmad Lawan for the position of Senate President.
On why he refused the offer and his readiness to support Senator Ahmad Lawan, the ranking Senator said “at the moment, Lawan is the candidate to beat using well known international parliamentary best practices and parameters.
“All odds are in his favour in terms of experience in the administration of the legislature in this country. He has been in the National Assembly in the last 20 years. His achievements at the Committee level are unassailable. Remember the engine room of legislation is the Committee stage”.
The Senator- elect said, “they also discussed with us the revival of the “Like Minds Group” of 2015 and their various social media campaign of calumny, most especially their deliberate attempt to link a National Leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu to the emergence of Senator Ahmad.”
The source said that PDP falsely maintained at the meeting that Ahmad Lawan would turn to be a stooge of the APC national leader and that disinformation would turn the tide against his candidature
Buhari will avoid mistakes of 2015—Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari has distanced himself from the politics of electing National Assembly leadership in 2015 which largely contributed to the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps respectively. They were not the party favourites and the Presidency lost influence in the affairs of the National Assembly. The ruling party is now moving to correct the mistakes of 2015.
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Speaking recently in an interview on the declaration by President Buhari that he “can work with anybody”, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina said, “There is always a lesson to learn. What happened in this outgoing dispensation vis-à-vis the leadership of the National Assembly has opened everybody’s eyes and we have seen the need to have people who are responsible and people who are faithful and loyal to the party in place as leaders of the National Assembly.
“There is no point in the government going in one direction and the National Assembly going in another direction, particularly when the party has the majority. So, I’m sure lessons have been learned from the outgoing dispensation and the next leadership of the legislature will be of a different hue in different variety.”
Adesina said that “the leadership that will emerge for the ninth National Assembly will be responsible leadership and it will be one that will work harmoniously with the executive, while not being in bed with the executive and being a rubber stamp. We have all learned from what happened in the outgoing dispensation.”
While hosting some members of the APC leadership led by its national Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, governors of the party and the senators-elect to a dinner at the Presidential villa, Abuja President Buhari urged them to get it right this time by electing leadership that would work with the executive for a smooth passage of the budget.
He advised the APC Senators not to follow the footsteps of the leadership of the outgoing eighth senate.
He frowned at what he described as deliberate and persistent delay in passing the nation’s annual budget by the national assembly and challenged the in-coming 9th National Assembly to do things differently from the outgoing 8th senate to enable his administration achieve its target of transforming the nation.
According to the president, “this is my fifth and last time of standing for an election – for that reason I’ll like to leave something behind. And what I want to leave cannot be successfully done without your support. That is why I’m appealing for your support. What happened in the last senate is regrettable because I still feel it shouldn’t take seven months to pass a budget. You have a very, very serious job ahead of you.”
He promised to work and partner with the 9th National Assembly in promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the country.
Electronic voting on issues will make lawmakers accountable —Sen Adetumbi
Ahead of the inauguration of the 9th Senate, former Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior in the 7th Senate, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti North, has said that he would not subscribe to the application of voice votes on the floor of the Senate when substantive issues of public interest were being considered, just as he strongly advocated the use of electronic voting.
Speaking with newsmen at the on going orientation Programme for Senators- Elect and Members of the House of Representatives-elect of the yet to be inaugurated 9th National Assembly, the Senator- elect said that Senators should be able to vote so that their constituents would know where they stand on very sensitive issues that concern the country, rather than the voice vote where echoes of ‘Aye’ and ‘Nay’ would be heard at the hallowed chamber.
According to him, the incoming Senate should take the issue of voting on bills, motions, among others very seriously.
The Senator- elect said, “In a democracy, the parliament is part of the mix, there is no substitute for it because it is the only means by which the people through representation will take part in public discourse, in law making and advocacy.
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“I am a very strong advocate of electronic voting within the chamber so that the public must know what a legislator is doing, the kind of issues he is canvassing, how he is voting and whether his activities and decisions that he is taking on the floor are in tandem with what his electorate expect of him.
“The infrastructure is there, a lot of money was spent to put it in place and I want people to know how I am voting. I don’t want to be a part of a voice vote especially when it comes to substantive issues of public interest that the public want to know. I want the people to know that on this date, on this particular policy and on this particular legislation, this is how to vote. That is the beginning of accountability, that is the beginning for value for money. Once there is information, once there is communication and the performance of each legislator is put on record, not hidden within a voice vote that says ‘AYE’ or ‘NAY’, then the public will begin to recognize the value of public investment in sustaining the office of such legislator.
When asked to speak on Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s assertion that the major problem confronting the lawmakers was public negative perception, Senator Adetunmbi said, “I think the challenge is that of effective communication between the institution and the public. Once you don’t give room for speculations of what is going on, there will be less error of perception and I think the only way to deal with this perception challenge is open communication on a regular basis, engaging the public and providing necessary information to the public so that you can take speculation out of the window.
“Again, it is the question of information. The public is entitled to have information and it is the duty of the institution to give information to the public in areas that are of importance to the public. The new senate will have to be open to the people. There is no information that is sacred and cannot be shared because in the first instance it is a public institution and the understanding is that the parliament is the representative of the people and so, business between the parliament and the people should be open and transparent.”
On the difference between the 8th Senate and what to expect from the incoming Senate, Senator Adetunmbi said, “Every session of parliament should be peculiar to itself because it is a function of its composition and the quality of that composition. It is also a function of the leadership of that particular session. The 8th assembly was entitled to what it got because of the peculiarity of its composition, of its leadership and the circumstances that it found itself. But the next senate is going to be different because it is composed of different people.
“The configuration of leadership, the circumstances, the issues that will arise for which the next senate will have to put its voice to vote will also be different. So, I don’t believe in this comparison between apples and oranges, but to assess every senate on its merit or demerit based on the issues before it and the circumstances that it has found itself.”