All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders yesterday moved to prevent the “hijack” of the new National Assembly leadership. They met with would-be lawmakers.
President Muhammadu Buhari dined with serving APC senators and senators-elect at the New Banquet Hall of the State House.
The meeting came on the heels of a similar parley between APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and House of Representatives members-elect at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
At the President’s meeting with the lawmakers were APC leaders, including Lagos, Plateau, Kogi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi, Zamfara and Osun governors.
Oshiomhole and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, were also present.
Although, details of the meeting were unknown, it is believed to be connected with zoning and selection of the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly.
Unlike in 2015 when the leadership was hijacked by senators, against the wish of the APC leadership, the ruling party is determined to ensure that its wishes prevail now.
The dinner, which started around 8pm, was still in progress at the time of filing this report.
Senators Ahmed Lawan, Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje have indicated interest in Senate President.
Also yesterday, Oshiomhole ruled out the possibility of the ruling party sharing legislative powers with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Giving an insight into what to expect from the Ninth National Assembly, the party chair insisted that the mistakes of 2015 would not recur.
The leadership of the National Assembly was constituted on June 8, 2015 against the directive of the party. Those listed for principal offices were meeting at the State House when the lawmakers elected Dr. Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP Deputy Senate President.
Addressing the Representatives-elect, Oshiomhole said the APC was not prepared to share principal offices and headship of critical committees with the PDP, except for positions reserved for minority members.
Oshiomhole told the lawmakers that Nigerians have reposed confidence in the APC, giving it overwhelming majority in the House and will use the numerical strength to its advantage.
According to him, Nigerians have punished 15 out of the 16 senators who defected the APC by not re-electing them.
He urged the members to collaborate with the government on the implementation of the party’s programmes.
He said: “The first is the challenge of ensuring that this time around we ensure that we have a leadership of the National Assembly that shares the vision of the executive. Although we speak to separation of power, but there is only one government and unless the various arms pursue the same agenda, it is difficult for the executive to realise its purpose because legislative backing is often required for the executive actions.
“So, I will expect that you bear in mind that we are one family joined together as shown in our broom, with a share commitment to bail Nigeria out of the condition in which we found it in 2015.
“And that you have the numbers and we will use those numbers to ensure that we have a leadership that commands the trust and the respect of all the members of the House of Representatives.
“There will be contestation; that is why we are in democracy, but after the contestation and debate, we have to agree, and once you have agreed, you move forward.
“We have the numbers to produce the Speaker and we will produce the Speaker who must be a member of the APC. We have the numbers to produce the Deputy Speaker and we will use the numbers to produce the Deputy Speaker, who must be a member of the APC. We have the number and we must use the number to elect a House Leader who must be a member of APC.
“We have the numbers and we will use the numbers to produce a Chief Whip and a Deputy Whip who must be members of the APC. I think the only position that we are not interested in is the Minority Leader. Let it remain minor in the hands of the minors in the opposition.
“We will not share power in the House of the Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by APC members. If the Nigeria people wanted them to be chairmen of committees they would have voted for them.
“So, all the chairmen of committees, except the one that is statutorily reserved for opposition, which is Public Account, they can have that. So, we would not do the kind of thing that happened the last time in which some APC members as members of the leading party became distance spectators in the management of committees, when PDP had majority of the strategic committees in the House, that will not happen in the next Assembly.
“We are aware that they believe they can use the divide and rule by sponsoring many people within our ranks to contest for which of the position so that they then become the king maker and in return the person will offer them some chairmanship seats.
“Honourable members and comrades, I’m sure you are not going to do business with them. We will see them as partners in progress but in democracy, the rule is, and it is a universal rule, majority must have their way but minorities must be allowed to have their say.
“So, the PDP and other minority can have their say, but working together APC must have its way in legislative agenda, in the leadership of the National Assembly and the leadership of the committees in the National Assembly. I thought we should make this thing clear so that those who may not understand what is happening don’t fall into the trap.”
Calling on the would-be lawmakers not to allow anybody to divide them, Oshiomhole said his leadership will consult with President Muhammadu Buhari and all the leaders of the APC.
“We will work out a sensible zoning formula that seeks to carry everybody along and give people chances to demonstrate their capacities and their capabilities. We are working on that,” he said, adding:
“Somebody told me the opposition party people are already doing something, raising money to bribe people and I said, ‘no, we are anti-corruption, we cannot be corrupted’.
“If they bring N1 billion to each member, a PDP person will not be Speaker, a PDP person will not be Deputy Speaker, a PDP person will not be Whip, a PDP person will not be Leader and a PDP person will not take any of the committees that are meant for the ruling party. We are determined to achieve that and be rest assured that the party will stand by you.”
Congratulating the in-coming lawmakers on the electoral victory, the party chairman said: “We are proud that Nigerians in your various constituencies have reposed confidence in the APC.
“I was looking at the number this morning and I realised that at the level of the House of Representatives, the Nigerian people gave the APC a resounding vote of confidence.
“Before the election, we had about 190 members. The Nigerian people elected and re-elected 223 members of the House of Representatives on the platform of the APC. This has given us overwhelming majority, almost two-third that we need even if we want to amend the constitution.
“I like to, on your behalf, thank the Nigerian people for reposing confidence in our party. I would like to say that by the same token, the Nigerian people has reposed less confidence in the major opposition who went into the election with more members and returned with 111 members.
“It is easy the first time to ask people to give you the benefit of the doubt. But when you have occupied an office for four years, and the people choose to favour your party to the extent to which they have favoured the APC, it is a thing of joy. We are grateful to the Nigerian people for giving us the number we need to carry through our legislative agenda.”
Alluding to party supremacy, Oshiomhole said: “For us to be able to enjoy our numerical strength in the House of Representatives, we must recognise that we were elected on a party platform.
“Over the last couple of weeks, I have been invited by INEC to forward names rising from court decisions to the effect that APC has won in a certain constituency even when there is dispute about who is the candidate.
“I am sure that when you went to vote, you did not see the portrait of any candidate, but the logo of the APC, which is the broom. Something unique about the broom is that when you pick a stick of broom, you can easily break it. But when it is together, as it is in our logo, it will be difficult to break.
“The essence of that broom is to remind us that when you are together, we share ideas together, make decisions on the basis of inclusion and we carry everybody along, we encourage debate, contestations and agree that at the end of the day, agreement reached are binding on all, then we will be as strong as the broom in our logo.
“We have called this meeting to remind us that we have a huge task ahead of us. Nigerians have voted the way they did and they expect new vigour and have injected new blood into the House of Representatives and I am sure that you have all come determined to make a difference in the way the National Assembly is run.
“As people who are active, you are very familiar with the issues that bogged down the National Assembly between 2015 and 2019, arising from a unique concussion and I pray that this time around, we have all learnt a lesson from our immediate past and allow the positive lessons of our immediate past to shape our future.
“You have been elected at a very challenging time to provide legislative backing for APC agenda and manifesto. Our President, who has been reelected, reminded us that the three critical issues on which we canvassed for votes in 2015 are still valid even now in 2019.
“The President is doing everything possible to turn the economy around and to ensure that we work and create job led growth and not jobless growth where we celebrate abstract statistics that does not reflect the quality of life of the Nigerian people.
“We must work hard to rebuild the economy, strengthen the private sector, create job, make the business environment friendly, and expand the capacity of our current investors.
“If Nigerians consume what we produce, our economy will grow in double digits and that growth will reflect on the quality of lives of our people. What has been missing has been leadership and that President Buhari has brought.
“We need to sustain and deepen these policies and I sure that some aspects of it will require legislative intervention. We will need to reinvent the manufacturing sector. If we have sensible and sustainable industrial policy in place with appropriate legislative backing to give people the confidence of policy stability, even to cloth half of our population will generate more than ten million jobs in the textile sector alone.
“There is no reason while Michelin should not return to Nigeria, especially if we have sensible industrial and trade policy that discourages the importation of these items which we were producing before. All these need a collaborative National Assembly.
“We need to pursue sensible monetary policies and should not price the funds out of the reach of the ordinary person. There must be coherence in all our policies so that we can witness sustainable growth and get our young people busy.
“President Buhari has a rare opportunity to now think of what legacies to leave behind for Nigerians. He has spoken about corruption and we all know that it is one factor that has destroyed the country.
“What we owe the Nigerian people is to create an environment for people to work and earn a living and for investors to have decent results for their investment and this also requires legislative action.”