NASS leadership tussle unsettles APC
• Ruling party divided as zones scramble for Senate president, Reps speakership, others
• South East still favourite for number 3 office
By Wilfred Eya
There were strong indications, yesterday, that the tussle for the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly has unsettled the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was learnt that the ruling party has been divided by various interest groups lobbying for principal officers in the Senate and House of Representatives.
A highly placed member of the ruling party told Daily Sun that apart from the South West, there has been intense horse trading never seen in the last eight years within the party from candidates and supporters from the other five geo-political zones for the plum jobs in the National Assembly.
It was learnt that the party is split among three lobby groups: the first, insisting on zoning key positions to reflect regional and religious balance, the second demanding that merit determines who leads both chambers of the National Assembly, and the third insisting that only lawmakers with record of strong commitment to the progress and development of the party be considered.
In the Senate, the party is torn in its support for the aspiration of Chief Whip and former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; former minority leader and Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio; Ebonyi Governor, Dave Umahi who is a first time senator, and Osita Izunaso who is staging a return to the senate. It was learnt that these candidates are campaigning on the need to cede the position to the South East or South South for regional and religious balance. The candidates from the South East claim that being the third tripod that the nation sits, allowing them occupy the Senate presidency would ensure balance of power among major political blocs in the country.
Those in this camp said unlike in 2015 when the geopolitical zone did not produce any APC senator, in the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the South East produced six senators-elect on the platform of the ruling APC. They also canvass the need for a Christian Senate president as the president and vice president, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shetima are Muslims. But there are also candidates from the north like senators Jibrin Barau, Sani Musa, Abdulaziz Yari and Ahmad Lawan, incumbent senate president and Ali Ndume who are also in the race lobbying on the strength of their experience and character. It was learnt that candidates from the North Central were angling for the leadership based on the claim that the zone had only held the short end of the stick since 1999 when democracy was reintroduced in the country.
Also, some chieftains of the party, in a statement yesterday in Abuja by the Coordinator and Secretary of APC Integrity Group, Malam Dawu Mohammed and Chisom Nwakanma, asked the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) and other stakeholders of the party to prioritise merit in the choice of the10th National Assembly’s principal officers. They said picking the senator representing Niger East, Mohammed Sani Musa, as deputy senate president and other senators with impeccable character to fill other offices would give the necessary stimulus for the executive to provide Nigerians with quality leadership.
“Whereas the South West has produced the President-elect, the North East produced the Vice President-elect while President Buhari who is counting days to the end of his tenure is from North West and the incumbent Senate president hails from North East. Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, hails from Tinubu’s South West. The South South currently occupies the position of the Deputy Senate president while North Central holds the position of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives,” the said.
In the House of Reps, notable aspirants for the speakership position include Benjamin Kalu, Tajudeen Abbas, Aliyu Betaba, Yusuf Soli, Sani Jaji and Ahmed Wase.
“It has been a very busy period for the APC, the pressure from candidates and lobby groups has been intense, particularly in the last three weeks for principal officers of both senate and national assembly. This has led to divisions within the leadership of the party, chieftains, critical stockholders and supporters of the incoming president. But dialogue and negotiations are held everyday and we hope that in the next few days things will be sorted out,” the source said.