National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on Thursday, admitted that the leadership of the ruling party did not consult sufficiently before arriving at its position on zoning and choice of nominees for the headship of the 10th National Assembly. Adamu accepted responsibility for all that the zoning arrangement had caused in the party, and promised that the party would reconsider its position.
But some aggrieved aspirants to the National Assembly’s principal positions, yesterday, stormed the national secretariat of APC in Abuja, with a warning to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that the opposition parties might have their way as regards the legislative offices if the proposed zoning arrangement was not reviewed.
The aspirants, who met with members of the APC NWC, led by Adamu, included former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari; Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu; and Senator Sani Musa.
Yari said the North would take a decision if the zoning agreement was not reviewed.
Similarly, Musa said the injustice inherent in the zoning plan must be corrected, while Kalu vowed that they would challenge the proposed zoning.
However, Adamu pleaded with the aggrieved senators to hold their fire, saying the APC leadership would revisit the zoning formula.
Meanwhile, the APC leadership set aside the purported suspension of Senator Barnabas Gemade, Professor Terhemba Shija, and five others by the Benue State Executive Committee of the party.
The leadership of the ruling party had on Monday endorsed former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, 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.
In response to the controversial endorsement, some aspirants to the office of Speaker and several members-elect on Wednesday warned the NWC and other party stakeholders to prepare for a repeat of the 2015 scenario should the party allow the zoning formula to stand.
Senators and House of Representatives members had in 2015 defied the ruling party’s choices and elected their own independent candidates for principal positions in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
However, responding to the complaints by aspirants to the principal positions of the 10th National Assembly, Adamu said the APC leadership had accepted responsibility for everything that happened. He admitted that the lawmakers were not adequately consulted.
The APC national chairman appealed to the senators to suspend all actions and allow the leadership of the party to revisit the issue.
Adamu told the aggrieved senators, “Yes, we had no adequate consultations with you, who are contesting and it is a primary feature of democracy that you consult with people. But the circumstances we found ourselves in after the elections frustrated our desires for consultations and the much we did gave birth to what was given to the public.
“We must, as democrats, open up and so when the NWC sat, we were clear that we had received, with respect, the outcome of the meetings with party leaders comprising leadership of the Senate, Representatives, and the party.
“We will go back to the drawing board. We owe our party and ourselves that duty. We will take a look at it. Hold the fire until the last word is heard from us. We are the custodians of the party, but we are not acting alone.
“The voice of the president-elect is an essential voice and we must accommodate him the best way we can. I will not compromise on that. He is out of the country now but when he comes back, we will have a meeting with him. The same team that we had at the first meeting with him.
“If he wishes to enlarge the team, it is fine. We are not immune from mistakes. As humans, we can make mistakes. So, if we find out from our consultations that there are mistakes, we will not be ashamed to correct them.”
Adamu said he was somewhat tongue-tied on the issue of North-central, but he assured the zone that the leadership of the party would take examine their complaints.
He stated, “I am a bit tongue-tied because I am from the North-central and so, I will be talking about myself. Your arguments are plausible and I can assure you that we will take a look at them. I don’t want to agree that votes are not essential in this because votes are the voices of the people.
“We won’t behave like the proverbial ostrich. Our ears are to the ground and our eyes are open. We are listening to what our leaders and Nigerians are saying and we will definitely take another look at this.”
Yari said they were at the party secretariat to express their dissatisfaction with the zoning template, because what they expected from the party was fair play.
The former governor said, “We are here to present our letter of grievances to you and also tell this honourable house as leaders that we are not satisfied with the arrangement and what we are expecting from you people is to give us fair play.
“So, Mr. Chairman, we have been in this game and we understand it very well; it is about the dialogue. We are looking at the election we won in 2023 and the next election is 2027 and it depends on how we play the part.
“Mr. Chairman, we know each and every success come from God. Mr Chairman, we from this axis, we strongly believe that we have done our best, despite the whole challenges. Everyone has done his best, but we are number one.
“One other thing about people from the North, they believed Buhari was a messiah, that was why they came blindly and picked us without any condition or in regard to anything. But despite the fact that many things have happened along the line; they maintain the relationship, they maintain the love and they have not given excuses in 2019; they came out and elected him again.
“The president-elect got 63.4 per cent votes of the northern extraction. Where he came from, the south, he got 36.6 per cent. Atiku Abubakar from Northern Nigeria got 68.8 per cent of the total votes and he got from southern Nigeria, 33.2 per cent.”
Yari pointed out that if the pattern of voting by each region at the last general election was to be considered, the northern region could easily say they own the president-elect
He added, “We should not be blinded,” as no one had absolute power, “but only God is absolute. We should not look at this four years as 20 years and then we are going into another election. We are going back to the next election.”
Yari noted further that Adamu should be able to look the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the face and tell him the truth for the betterment of the party and the country.
According to him, “We are expecting that you give us at least a fair play. Now if you look at the calculation of what we have in the Senate, it is not a magic, if care is not taken, if we play the way you presented to us, the opposition can have their way. The margin between us and the opposition isn’t much.
“So, Mr. Chairman, we are not undermining what you are doing, but we are doing this for the sake of this party, to grow and we are doing it for the best interest of the party.
“If we from the North take another decision, it will not be good to all of us and it will become history, which we don’t want to happen. And only if we do justice that we will prevent that from happening. But we should all pick our pen today and write it down, which is 11th May, anything from the contrary, walahi, the Northern Nigeria will take another decision.”
Musa said the party should have consulted them before coming up with a zoning formula, saying, since the president-elect and the vice president-elect are Muslims, they thought that at least the third person should be a Christian.
Musa stated, “I am very sure you will go back and take a look, especially, when we are talking about internal democracy, because even the issue of the National Assembly is an issue of internal democracy. As leader of the North-central, we had a caucus meeting before the decision was taken and after it was taken.
“The caucus agreed that I should make my declaration known to Nigerians. We looked at the secularity of the country and our caucus now said we should go for the deputy senate president. Your statement was a blow to us and we felt, are we really part of this country? Because when you are even talking about the North, we have always been at the receiving end.”
The lawmaker representing Niger East in the Senate said he had expected the North-west to stand against this template and advised the party to toe the line the country had always followed since 1999.
Musa said, “This injustice needs to be corrected. We have five of six governors and 11 of 19 senators. We will, however, make sure that no party takes our chance inside that chamber. It is going to be an APC affair.
“I have seen a situation, where one zone has the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Staff to the President, the President of the Senate and the roof didn’t come down. But the little we (North-central) have, Deputy Senate President, is taken away. We will abide by the party, but the party has to put in mind that this is a voluntary thing.
“Membership of a party is voluntary but my principles and our principles are not voluntary. It is what we are built of and we can stand by that. These injustices, we need to correct it. We have six geopolitical zones.
“The president is from South-west, we have vice president from North-east. We have the office of Senate President, Deputy Senate President Speaker and Deputy Speaker. It is only fair to throw this out to the other four geopolitical zones.”
Kalu, who represents Abia North in the Senate, appealed to the party to cede the position to the South-east.
He said, “Vote is not a measurement. We had a hurricane in our zone. We need one another and not the level of votes cast. Those who did not vote for the party today can vote for the party tomorrow if they are properly aligned. After all, we have made progress. Before we used to be one or two senators but it is no longer so.
“This thing did not only happen in the South-east. Many people from areas where the presidential candidate came from voted along certain lines. I appeal to you people that you must cede something very reasonable to the South-east.”
Kalu stressed that the zoning formula released by the party was undemocratic, and that it was unconstitutional to announce people’s names. Kalu said, “I am not saying what you people have done does not look very nice, but it is wrong micro zoning to individuals, pencilling people’s names. It is undemocratic and against the constitutional rights of all the aspirants.
“Section 51 of the constitution did not approve that for the National Assembly. So, we are going to challenge it. We are going to say no to it. I am a party man, I am a believer of the party and I have never disobeyed this party. This is the first time we are going to say no to the directive of the party. We are going to say that we are not going to do this on the floor of the Senate.
“This is not acceptable to us. I will not want to do it and I will not want to disrespect the party. It is still early enough, about 18 to 19 days to resolve it. It will be better that the party returns to the drawing board, deliberate and call a consultative meeting.”