The National Chairman of the All-Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, yesterday, said in spite of whatever position or measures the party might have taken on the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, the final decision would be taken on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Adamu, who said this, when he met with 42 senators-elect led by Senator Godswill Akpabio as part of consultations on the controversial zoning arrangement released last Monday by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, said the process of electing the leadership of the legislature was democratic and as such, people were entitled to their opinions and aspirations.
He, however, advised the senators-elect and those aspiring to the various leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly not to be late to the National Assembly on the day of inauguration, if they must avoid a repeat of the 2015 experience.
In 2015, the APC had endorsed Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker, but Senator Bukola Saraki would not back down as he defied the party and courted members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate.
Thus, on the day of inauguration, Saraki and his loyalists were seated in the red chamber before 10am, when the inauguration was expected to start, but Lawan and his group were absent. They had gone for a meeting at the International Conference Centre (ICC) and Saraki was elected in their absence.
The leadership of the APC had last Monday officially endorsed a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, (from Akwa Ibom State in South-south) for Senate President, and Tajudeen Abbas (from Kaduna State in North-west) for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The zoning arrangement has however created acrimony within the party with aggrieved lawmakers describing the zoning as unconstitutional and undemocratic and above all, a disregard to them as they were not consulted.
However, the 42 lawmakers-elect Senators arrived at the party secretariat in Abuja around 12:55 pm in two coaster buses for a meeting with the NWC. The meeting that started about 1:10p.m ended at about 2:30 p.m.
Some of the those at the meeting were Olamilekan Adeola, Ibrahim Geidam, Opeyemi Bamidele, Ali Ndume, Jibrin Barau, Gbenga Daniel, Salihu Mustapha, Mohammed Monguno, Senator Tokunbo Abiru; Deputy Governor Rivers State and Senator-elect, Rivers West, Danibo Ipalibo, Darlington Nwokocha, Asuquo Ekpeyong, Salihu Mustapha, and Rufai Hanga, among others.
Adamu, while speaking, said the leadership of the party made it clear that there was need for further and better consultation.
“From what you just said, there is ample evidence that there has been consultation and we will not relent to ensure that if it were possible for all senators-elect to agree. Whatever we do, whatsoever signature we collect, the final decision will be on the floor of the Senate and also the House.
“All these efforts are very good and important but we are in a democracy and people are bound to have opinions and we have no right to stop them. I’m happy that we are heeding the advice and directives we gave to make consultations and it is good that is going on and I’m happy that it has been very fruitful. We wait till on the 13th of June on the floor of the house.
“I want us to have a rancour-free election on the floor, because even if everybody says it is Akpabio or Y or X, the rules of the game say there must be election. Those who are in the Senate are aware of the rules. On the day of the proclamation by the president and the clerk makes the proclamation. So, I do hope and pray that we will carry the day and be victorious. But let me warn, don’t be late. I hope I am communicating. Don’t be late. Once bitten twice shy.”
While speaking, Akpabio said they were at the party secretariat to show solidarity and appreciation for the endorsement after wide consultation with stakeholders in Nigeria.
He stressed that the South-south part of the country last had a Senate President in 1979, which was about 44 years ago, when Joe Wayas, was elected on the platform of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), while the the South-east has held the position since 1999 for about eight years and also producing the Deputy Senate President for 12 years.
The former Minister of Niger Delta added that the North Central produced Senator David Mark for 12 years, and Saraki and Senator Ibrahim Mantu.
“Since the president is from the South and the Vice is from the North, it is right that the Senate President is coming from the South. Of course, the South-west is out, left with the South-south hoping that their brothers from the East will support them.
“The wise men from the National Working Committee graciously zoned it to the South-south. And as a party man, who served six years in the executive, eight years as governor, served as the Minority Leader of the Senate and Minister to lead the 10th senate,” he said.
Akpabio stressed that the 10th Senate was going to be totally different from all other senates, considering the fact that it was made of eight political parties, and added that his team intended to visit the chairmen of other political parties that made up the tenth senate.
On his part, Barau assured the party that they would abide by the manifestos and programmes of the APC, because according to him, “We want to assure you that we shall continue to be loyal and stand for everything this party stands for knowing that it is for the good of Nigerians. We shall by every means draw the attention of our colleagues who are yet to identify with this endorsement. This administration that will be sworn in in two weeks by the grace of God will bring unprecedented development to this country.”
Bamidele said there was nothing the APC was doing that the other minority party would not do, adding that there was nothing illegal that the ruling party was doing.
“There is no better place to appeal that you speak to the twelve remaining members of this party who are yet to join the decision of the party. That’s through you sir, while not taking away from them the right to contest but stop divisive statements or anything that can further heighten tension in this country,” he said.
Adedayo Akinwale and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja