With the issuance of the certificate of returns to the members-elect of the House of Representatives by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the race for the principal offices, particularly the speaker, has begun, ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly on June 13, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
THISDAY also gathered that the meeting between the President-elect, Bola Tinubu; his vice, Kashim Shettima; the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its National Assembly members-elect scheduled for Monday in Abuja, has a two-point agenda – zoning of the principal offices of the National Assembly and the March 18 elections.
Ranking members of the House believed to be interested in the position of the speaker include its current Spokesman, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia); Idris Wase (APC, Plateau); Muktar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno); Aminu Jaji (APC, Zamfara); and Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano). THISDAY, however, learnt that the ruling APC, which secured majority seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives at the February 25 polls, has not decided on the zoning of the presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly.
It was gathered that in line with the parliamentary tradition, rules, and convention, the political party with the most legislators is expected to form the majority caucus and produce the presiding officers. The party with the dominant members would also constitute the majority leadership. In contrast, the party with the second highest number of lawmakers in the chamber would produce the minority principal officers.
The principal officers, who are the leaders of the majority and minority caucuses, are constituted based on the membership configuration in the lower chamber. While the majority caucus is expected to produce the majority leader, the deputy majority leader, the chief whip, and the deputy whip, the minority caucus will produce the minority leader, the deputy minority leader, the minority whip, and the deputy minority whip.
Ranking members, who are returning for the second or more time, are automatically qualified to contest the principal office positions either from the majority or the minority caucus.
Out of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won 162 seats; while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won 102.The Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) won 34 and 18 seats, respectively, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) got four seats.On their part, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) won two seats each, while the Young Progressive Party (YPP) clinched one seat.
Following the issuance of certificates of return to the members–elect last Wednesday, the race for the two major presiding offices – Speaker and Deputy Speaker has begun among ranking lawmakers who are members of the APC. With the current Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and the President-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu coming from Lagos State, the current speaker will likely not retain his position in the 10th National Assembly.
THISDAY learnt from a close associate of Gbajabiamila that he would prefer to play any other prominent role in Tinubu’s administration to return to the House as an ordinary member.
Gbajabiamila was conspicuously absent at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja venue of the presentation of Certificates of Return, fuelling speculations that he might take a more prominent position in the incoming administration.
Though the APC has not zoned the officers, further investigations by THISDAY revealed that the South-east and North-west geopolitical zones are strongly being considered for the speaker position.However, only six of the 43 members-elect from the South-east geopolitical zone are serving in the current Assembly, including the current House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Bende Federal Constituency in Abia), and the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji (PDP, Nkanu-East/West).
However, those who make a case for the North-west on the speaker’s position argued that the Senate President should go to the South-east. They maintained that the speaker’s position is enough to compensate the North-west for producing the highest number of votes for the APC in the presidential and National Assembly elections, given that the outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, hails from the zone.
However, other members-elect from other zones, such as the North-central and North-east, are said to be interested in the position.Among the South-east lawmakers, Kalu (APC, Abia) is believed to be seriously mobilising his colleagues to emerge as the speaker, while Hon. Idris Wase (APC, Plateau) is also eyeing the top job from the North-central geopolitical zone.
Similarly, Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno) is contesting the position from the North-east geopolitical zone.From the North-west geopolitical zone, the duo of Hon. Aminu Jaji (APC, Zamfara) and Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) are both eyeing the seat.
Tinubu, Shettima, APC Leaders to Meet N’Assembly Members-elect Tomorrow over Zoning of Principal Offices Meanwhile, the meeting between Tinubu, Shettima, the leadership of the ruling APC, and the National Assembly members-elect scheduled for Monday at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja, will discuss the issue of zoning and the March 18 elections.
A ranking APC Senator who was also re-elected during February 25, 2023, National Assembly poll told THISDAY that the meeting was called to preview the March 18 elections and discuss the zoning of the leadership of the 10th National Assembly billed for inauguration in June.The South-south Senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the APC leadership believed it was high time the federal parliamentary election was reviewed to plan ahead of the next Saturday’s elections
According to him: “Monday’s meeting will not only review last month’s poll that produced majority APC Senators-elect for 10th National Assembly but will also ensure that all hands are on deck to ensure that coming Saturday’s elections are crisis-free with the ruling party consolidating and improving on its stronghold across the country”.
He added that the second item on the agenda of the meeting scheduled to start by 2 pm with APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu presiding, is the issue of the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, which is supposed to be handled by the party leadership as it presently has 57 Senate seats out of the 98 Senate seats declared so far.APC leaders, he further said, would use the forum to brief the elected parliamentarians on their line of thought over where the presiding officers of the two chambers of the 10th National Assembly will come from.
Sources at the weekend also told THISDAY that both the South-east and South-south are favoured to produce the Senate President of the 10th Assembly as the race hots up.On Friday, APC National Vice Chairman, North-west, Dr. Salihu Lukman, had called on the party’s leadership to zone the positions of the Senate President and the Speaker House of the Representatives to North-west, South-east or South-south.
THISDAY’s investigation revealed that the odds favoured the South-east and South-south to occupy the number three seat in the land.A source who preferred to remain anonymous told THISDAY that while the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Kalu, is eyeing the covered seat, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Osita Isunaso and the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi are also interested the position.The source said: “The South-east is favoured under the circumstances, and I know Orji Kalu is positioning for it, and he’s lobbying Asiwaju very well.
“Umahi wants it too, but I think what will count against him is that he’s a first-timer. But some people say that it doesn’t really matter, that it is not in their rule that a first timer cannot do it. After all, Godswill Akpabio was a first-timer when he became a principal officer.“I also know Akpabio too is pushing for it, but I don’t know how that will pan out. Akpabio argues that the position is not sacrosanct to the South-east, it is whoever can get the support.”
Other ranking APC Senators being tipped for the 10th Senate Presidency include former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume; former Governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje; Chairman of Senate Services Committee, Senator Sani Mohammed Musa and Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Jubrin Barau.
Sources claimed all the interested Senators are already reaching out to their colleagues, especially the new Senators-elect.One of the contenders for the coveted seat of the Senate President, Senator Barau, has already met formally with 70 senators-elect in Abuja.The aim of the hosting at Transcorp Hilton during the week was for the Senators-elect to form the needed bond ahead of the inauguration of the federal parliament in June.THISDAY learnt that Senator Barau organised the event to enable him to interact with his colleagues.However, a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC told THISDAY that the party may settle for a Christian Senator-elect as President of the Senate “to douse the tension generated by the same faith presidential ticket of our great party, the APC.” No fewer than 98 out of 109 senators were given certificates of return last Tuesday by the INEC at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.A total of seven political parties won senatorial seats, with APC topping the list with 50 seats.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won 29 seats; Labour Party won six; New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) two; Social Democratic Party (SDP) also two; the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Peoples Party (YPP) won one seat each.
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