President Muhammadu Buhari has mobilised the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors behind the party’s candidates for Senate president and House Speaker.
He has asked the governors to work for the emergence of Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker in the Ninth National Assembly.
The governors are expected to meet with the National Assembly members-elect to smoothen the way for Lawan’s and Gbajabiamila’s election at the inauguration of the Senate and the House in June. They are to push for unity and consensus in the emergence of Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
In line with the President ‘s directive, APC governors in the Southwest will tomorrow meet with the House of Representatives members-elect in Abuja.
According to investigation by our correspondent, the President and the APC opted for zonal consultations to ensure a rancour-free inauguration and to block the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from hijacking Assembly the leadership.
It was also learnt that the six geopolitical zones may use the opportunity to agree on the candidates for the offices allotted to them in the APC power sharing formula.
Under the formula, the Northeast is to produce the Senate President; Deputy Senate President (Southsouth); Senate Leader (Northcentral); Chief Whip (Southeast/ Southwest) and Deputy Chief Whip (Southwest / Southeast).
Besides the Speaker, the party is yet to release the details of zoning in the House because of challenges in some zones.
A top source said: “The President and the APC leaders are not taking things for granted. All APC governors have been advised to take charge and unite National Assembly members-elect at the zonal level.
“We want senators-elect and House members-elect to come for the inauguration of the National Assembly ready to work for the interest of the party.
“Apart from resolving issues surrounding principal offices zoned to the six geopolitical zones, our Senators and members of the House would be in a position to assist the President in ensuring the election of Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
“The essence of the consultations by the governors is to keep APC intact, ensure party supremacy and checkmate the opposition PDP which is desperate to infiltrate the ranks of the new Senators and House members.
“If we are able to overcome challenges at the zonal level on principal officers, we will be more focused for the battle for the Senate President and the Speaker.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “Out of the six zones, we have a major challenge in the Northwest, especially Kano where we have heavyweights (returnee House members) seeking juicy principal offices in the Lower Chamber.
“With the President coming from Katsina, our leaders in Kano State want to have all the offices zoned to the Northwest. This is why consensus is necessary at zonal level.”
On tomorrow’s Southwest governors, meeting with House members-elect in Abuja, another source added: “We want to speak with one voice unlike the situation in 2015 when Southwest lawmakers betrayed Gbajabiamila. The meeting, which will take place in Ekiti Governor’s Lodge will set the template for amicable sharing of offices likely to be zoned to the Southwest.”
At the weekend in Abuja, APC National Vice Chairman in the Northcentral Ahmed Suleiman Wambai explained why the President and the party settled for Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the Assembly leadership.
Justifying the party’s position, Wambai identified past experience, excellence and loyalty as ingredients that qualified Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the exalted offices.
Wambai said the President and other party leaders showed interests in the duo because of their loyalty and vast experience.
The party, he said, supported the two to move the country forward.
He said: “We have not given Ahmed Lawan the position of Senate President because he is from Northeast or Gbajabiamila Speaker because he is from Southwest but based on the performance of the party, their contribution and loyalty.
“There was a time Mr. President sent budget to the National Assembly and that proposal was kept there for about seven months. This Gbabiamila and Lawan were the ones fighting and because of that, they received a lot of frustration, traumatisation and intimidation from the present leadership of the National Assembly.
“So, do you think the party and Mr. President should not reward those people? No. We said that despite the fact that the Northwest has the President, the Southwest has the vice president, the Senate President is zoned to the Northeast, Mr. President felt we should reward Femi Gbajabiamila based on the compelling loyalty and his experience.
“Mr. President prefers these people because of their past experiences. We are not saying that there is nobody in the Northcentral that is qualified. No. But the issue is that there are certain considerations. We fought for the zone to get deputy speaker in the House of Representatives and also Senate Majority Leader in the Senate.”
On whether the ruling APC put religion balancing into consideration, bearing in mind that both candidates are Muslims, he said: “You do not understand the political dynamism of our country. Do you think if we concentrate on religion this country will move forward? We go for excellence sometime, we go for those people who can key into the project of change and deliver.
“What do you mean by sensitivity? Between the APC and PDP which party is more sensitive?
“We should no longer say discriminate against anybody who has something to offer. The moment a nation starts thinking about where someone comes from or the religion he or she practices such a nation is doomed.”
Told that some Representatives of his members from Northcentral are scheming to take the position of speaker, Wambai said the Southwest should be allowed to produce the Speaker.
He said: “I share the assertion that things should be given to any region based on their contribution and acceptance of mantra.
“But in politics, you may not get what you sometimes think is yours because of certain pecuniary reason and expediency. But as far as I am concerned, the consideration should be given based on merit. Having produced the Senate President for the past 12 years, the Northcentral should allow other zones to produce the Speaker since we are not the only zone.
“Recall that in 2015, the post of Speaker and Senate President were zoned to the Southwest and the Northeast respectively. Ahmad Lawan from the Northeast and Femi Gbajabiamila from the Southwest were favoured but there was internal coup which truncated the process.”