• Contenders intensify campaign as odds favour South-East for Senate President •North Central, South-South push
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Ahead of June 13, 2023 inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, campaigns for key presiding officers position have intensified.
The four key positions are the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy President of the Senate, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Already, about 106 of the 109 would-be senators have emerged. A fortnight ago, no fewer than 98 out of 109 senators were given certificates of return by the national commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
A total of seven political parties won senatorial seats, with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) topping the chart with 57 seats.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won 29 seats; Labour Party won seven; New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) won two; Social Democratic Party (SDP) has two, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Peoples Party (YPP) won one each.
Since the conclusion of the elections and the emergence of winners, the battle on who would emerge leaders of the 10th National Assembly as well as where the leaders would come from has intensified.
The battle, Saturday Sun has gathered, has shifted to the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, where Abdullahi Adamu holds sway as National Chairman.
The battle, this newspaper further gathered, is centred around the positions of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Why many members of the NWC favour the zoning of the various positions, others are pushing for the positions to be thrown open to ranking members of the party.
During the week, there were rumours that the positions had been zoned, but the National Chairman, Adamu dismissed it.
Adamu wondered why politicians would be engaging in wishful thinking instead of awaiting the official pronouncement from the party.
He said: “The report about the zoning arrangements for the 10th National Assembly is fake news. We have not done any zoning.
“I have said it times without number since Monday. I am still saying the same thing. No zoning has been established yet and agreed to.
“No zoning has been made public. Anybody who is saying anything, it is a rumour. It’s a wishful rumour.”
Some analysts and stakeholders have been speaking on the need to ensure balance, equity and fairness in the distribution of leadership positions in the National Assembly to give some sense of belonging to all regions and religions in the country.
Already, the South West has produced the President-elect, while the North East produced the Vice President-elect. President Buhari, who is counting days to the end of his tenure, is from North West. The current President of the Senate, Lawan, hails from North East. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, hails from South West. The South-South currently occupies the position of the Deputy President of the Senate, while North Central holds the position of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Similarly, in the new government, the President, Vice President and Chief Justice of Nigeria, will be all Muslims. If a Muslim Senate President emerges, all key positions in the administration of Tinubu will be headed by only Muslims. A competent source told Saturday Sun that the odds favour the South East to produce Lawan’s successor. He said though the battle appears to be between the current Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu and Godswill Akpabio, many members of NWC are backing the former, who is a former governor of Abia State.
The source said NWC members have yet to take a position because of the unavailability of the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is currently away in Europe.
A statement from the Office of the President-Elect said Tinubu would be visiting France and the United Kingdom to rest before proceeding to Saudi Arabia.
He said NWC members were expected to meet with Tinubu or secure his approval in the coming days before an official position will be taken by the leadership of the party. He said outside forces are mounting pressure on NWC members to throw the ticket open to ranking senators from the South-East and South-South. He said APC leaders from the North West are also pushing for the zoning of the position to their geopolitical zone, claiming that religion should not be a consideration.
He said: “There is serious lobbying going on. Arguments are being made and no position has been taken yet. But the odds favour the South East. Since 2015, when APC came to power, the geopolitical zone has not held any serious position in government. The highest position held by the region in the current administration is the Chief Whip of the Senate.
“Some people are ready to spend money and ensure that APC doesn’t zone it to the South-East. But those people are in the minority. Governors, senators and other party leaders want the position zoned to the South East.
“If it is thrown open, the party will be unable to manage the outcome and that’s dangerous for the incoming government. I believe the right thing will be done.”