NASS leadership: Fresh crisis hits APC

•As govs, N-PDP camps flex muscles over Senate Presidency, Speaker •President has not endorsed any candidate—Ndume camp

The unfolding intrigues and gerrymandering in the race for the Senate Presidency and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which appear to have deepened, are already raising fears of fresh crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Indications to this came to the fore at the weekend following the emergence of some new power caucuses ahead of the inauguration of the ninth Assembly.

Whereas the APC has endorsed Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan as president of the incoming Senate and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as the speaker of that Assembly, interest groups within the incoming Assembly have continued to challenge the decision.

The North-Central is battling to snatch the Speakership position from the South-West, with claims that the zone should not be left empty since the South-West has produced the vice-president.

But one of the most enduring political camps, the camp of governors elected into the incoming Senate, emerged on the stage last week, with intent to make their voice heard in the race for the next Senate President.

Sources said that the camp of 16 governors who would be sworn in as members in the next Assembly not only has an agenda but also “believes that one of their own should emerge either as Senate President or Deputy Senate President in the incoming Assembly.”

One of the former governors, who is now a senator-elect from the North-West, was even said to have mooted the idea of upturning the apple cart by taking a shot at the Senate Presidency, but it was learnt that his colleagues have prevailed on him to settle for another position.

Indications, however, emerged that the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, would join the race for the Senate Presidency of the 9th Assembly this week.

Sources said that the senator from Gombe and a former governor of the state had taken his time to consult with the stakeholders before launching his bid.

In recent weeks, some support groups had been campaigning for Goje to join the race for Senate Presidency of the ninth Assembly.

A source said that the lawmaker has been busy with the procedures for the passage of the 2019 Budget and that as the chairman of the Joint Appropriations Committees, he had to devote much time to that assignment.

“Now that everything about the budget is coming to a close, and he has completed consultations, he will now launch his bid,” a source stated.

However, it was learnt that besides the emerging intrigues by the camp of governors elected into the Senate, the camp of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party (N-PDP) lawmakers-elect is also threatening to up the ante.

As stated by a source, the camp of the governors is being persuaded to examine the argument that the N-PDP camp of the ruling party would have nothing to hold on to if it is not considered for National Assembly positions.

Whether the two camps have agreed to work together in the build-up to the inauguration of the new chambers is not clear yet, but it was learnt that members of the two camps are working on their strategies.

A source said that the failure of the APC’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to embark on consultations with the different caucuses has left the camps with no other option than to exert their influence.

“The manner in which the party’s chairman went about announcing the anointed candidates so far is creating enemies for those anointed. Rather than allow the caucuses take the decision, or call meetings of the caucuses to explain the decision, the chairman is behaving as if he is the only one that matters in the party. The class of former governors felt very offended, to say the least,” a source stated.

It was, however, gathered at the weekend that the Senate Leader, is not resting on his oars in a bid to clinch the top position this time.

“While the party is barking orders at his members, the camp of Senator Lawan is being conciliatory. He is reaching out to many of us, including the serving governors and the former governors who are coming to the Senate. He is also talking to PDP lawmakers, whose number can be deployed by his opponents,” the source stated, adding that Senator Lawan “is the only candidate to have had one on one with almost every elected senator of the ninth Assembly.

“He is on course, despite the intrigues and power play all around,” one of Lawan’s allies said.


Buhari didn’t endorse Lawan —Ndume camp

Meanwhile, the camp of one of Lawan’s challengers, Senator Ali Ndume, is said to have insisted that the endorsements already announced by the APC did not have the imprimatur of President Muhammadu Buhari.

A source close to the camp of the Borno senator referred the Sunday Tribune to a statement by the concerned elders of Borno State on Wednesday, adding that the senator’s camp has already clarified the go-ahead he received from the president.

The Borno elders and stakeholders had, in a statement last week, clarified that Ndume told them he received the backing of President Buhari to seek the Senate presidency in December 2018, adding that they believed the Borno South Senator.


Intense battle for speakership post

Similarly, the battle for the post of speaker of the House of Representatives has been no less intense, as investigations by Sunday Tribune confirmed that the North-Central is not relenting its push for the top position.

Sources said that Speaker Yakubu Dogara holds the ace in the House as he is in firm grip of members of the PDP as well as a number of APC lawmakers in the current Assembly.

“If Dogara decides to deploy his support for any of the contenders in the House, that would be it. He appears to have taken a decision not to go for the job again, but the fact remains that PDP members, both old and new are looking up to the Speaker,” a source told Sunday Tribune.

It was gathered that besides the agitation for geopolitical balance of power, one of the underlining issues in the House is that of religious balance.

With Dogara as Speaker, the religious balance was maintained in the outgoing administration, as he as the number four citizen is a Christian, while the number two citizen of the country is also a Christian.

There is the feeling that the religious balance should be delicately maintained in the 9th Assembly, a source said, adding that “in any case, whatever happens in the Senate on inauguration day would have telling effects on what would pan out in the House of Representatives.”

Lawmakers from the South-West are, however, not seeking to upset the apple cart for the APC, as investigations have revealed, with some of the lawmakers spoken to maintaining that the governors and the leaders of the party appear to have the yam and the knife.

“We are just watching because nothing is clear for now. There is no zoning arrangement and nobody knows whether we are having the Deputy Senate President of the incoming assembly or not. We are waiting on the party and the leaders,” a lawmaker from the zone said.