The All Progressives Congress (APC) has put its foot down regarding the position of Senate President of the ninth National Assembly, maintaining that the choice of Senator Ahmed Lawan was already a forgone conclusion.
The party, through its National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, explained on Wednesday that the party had not only decided to zone the National Assembly leadership positions but had also gone ahead to identify individuals in each zone to hold each of the positions.
Issa-Onilu said while the party recognised the right of individual senators like former Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, to run for the Senate Presidency, such right had been signed off to the party who exercised it in the interest of those who voted for it.
“We know that before we arrived at an individual we must have considered what zone he came from. So, the party, in its own judgment, believes we will not only zone, but that we will go as far as identifying from a particular zone who is suited to hold the position,” he said.
He said, contrary to reports that the decision was that of the national chairman and NWC, the choice of Lawan was actually arrived at after extensive consultations with leaders of the party nationwide, including President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors, and other leaders of the party.
The APC spokesman emphasised that the party would be putting forward a single consensus candidate for the Senate Presidency and expected all its 66 senators to endorse him, adding that anybody with contrary view and superior number was at liberty to contest the position.
He added: “It is not the party that will determine whether there will be election or not. That is not what I said. What I said is that by the time we adopt one person, standing in for a clear majority on the floor, and anybody who says he objects to it, such person will have to come out and object to it with his candidates and supporters.
“So, in any case, we have only one person being put forward, what do you have? You have a consensus.
“So, even though there is going to be an election for mere official reckoning, you don’t get to see a situation where two APC senators will stand as candidates for the same position.
“That will only happen when the party has not done its homework. That will be at the expense of the majority that we have.”
He said the party, having settled for the zone of the Senate President, would soon come out with zones of the rest of the National Assembly leadership positions.
He maintained that the party would not allow the power-sharing that derailed its agenda in 2015, pointing out that the position of APC on the coming National Assembly leadership was in accord with presidential democracy where the winner takes all.
“And, that is the practice that you will find in the proper presidential system. And it has nothing to do with the principle of separation of power.
“But people continue to mix the two. There is a ruling party. The ruling party includes the executive and members of the National Assembly.
“That is what constitutes the ruling party. Our members in the National Assembly are there to fulfil their promises to Nigerians. And that is why we campaigned to Nigerians on progressive policies.
“So, when you now talk of separation of powers, it means that the executive cannot make laws, only the National Assembly can do that. And the National Assembly cannot interpret the laws. It is only the judiciary that can do so. And neither of the two can execute the laws. It is only the executive that executes. That is separation of powers.
“Whether you are in the executive, legislature, or judiciary they are all working to fulfil the letter and spirit of the manifestos upon which they were voted for by Nigerians,” he said.
Orji Kalu Vows To Run For Deputy Senate President Despite APC’s Decision
Meanwhile, Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State and senator-elect of Abia North Senatorial District, has expressed opposition to the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to zone the position of Senate Chief Whip to the South-East.
The ex-governor said the position of Deputy Senate President should be zoned to the South-East, and threatened to violate the APC’s zoning arrangement by contesting the position of Senate President if the party insisted on its present zoning arrangement.
He explained that leaving out the South-East from the most favoured legislative positions was an act of injustice to the zone.
Kalu stated this on Wednesday when he spoke with aviation journalists at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, on his arrival from Abuja.
Kalu, however, remarked that he was a loyal party member who would adhere to the zoning arrangement of the party, but noted that for justice to prevail, the South East must be given the position of Deputy Senate President.
The APC had, earlier in the week, zoned the Senate President position to North-East, Deputy Senate President to the North-West, and Chief Whip to the South-East – a zoning arrangement which, Kalu insisted, was unfair to the South-East.
He said: “Well, I am a very loyal party member. The party has zoned it (Senate President) to the North-East and I am bound to respect the party’s will, and the second position is what we are not going to allow for the party.
“As far as I am concerned, in the South-East, I am going to run openly on the floor of the House for the Senate President. I am not going to listen to the party, neither will I listen to anybody.
“Nobody who is going to be the Deputy Senate President is more loyal than I am to the party. I have suffered for the party, and I want the party to respect the will of every other person, and I am committed to democracy.
“We are going to be seeing votes on the floor of the house because section 50 of the constitution made it very clear that the members of the National Assembly will elect their leaderships, and I am going to use that section of the constitution to vie for the position.
“I learnt they ceded the Deputy Senate President to the North-West, but it is not right to do anything like that. We are going to contest this vehemently on the floor of the House.
“I have the backing of my colleagues. I am going to be withdrawing from the Senate Presidency to run for Deputy Senate President because the party is supreme.”
He, however, described Adams Oshiomhole, the Chairman of APC, as a good friend, stressing that the party would not cede the Deputy Senate Presidency to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it happened in the eighth National Assembly under Sen. Bukola Saraki.
He also explained that President Muhammadu Buhari, as a canvasser of justice, would not support any illegality against the South-East.
“I know our Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a listening chairman and President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of justice. So, if justice must prevail, you’ll bring the Senate President from the North-East and Deputy to the South-East.
“The Chairman is from the South-South, the President is from the North-West, the Vice President is from the South-West, the President of Senate will come from the North-East – whether it’s Lawal or Ndume – these people will decide that on the floor of the House. So, for me, Nigeria is a tripod: Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa,” he said.
On the plan by Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, member-elect of the House of Representatives from the South-East, to vie for the Speakership of the House of Representatives, Kalu said it was her constitutional right to do so.
“It is her constitutional right to vie for that position. Nobody should stop her. It’s her constitutional right,” he said.
Igbos Have Themselves To Blame For Voting Atiku— APC
However, the ruling APC said it does not deserve any blame for not zoning the position of Senate President or Deputy Senate President to the South-East.
Rather it said the South-East should blame itself for queuing behind Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP in the just concluded general elections.
The party was reacting to the outburst of Orji Uzor Kalu, who said that unless the APC makes him the Deputy Senate President of the 9th Senate, he will fight to become the Senate President.
Yekini Nabena, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, in a chat with Daily Independent said while nobody is stopping Kalu from contesting for the position of Senate President, the reality is that he cannot win since the zoning arrangement didn’t favour him.
According to him, rather than getting angry with APC leadership, Kalu should blame his people in the South-East for putting all their eggs in one basket by rejecting President Muhammadu Buhari and casting over 90 percent of their votes for Atiku.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. He can contest for the position of Senate President. But the issue is, can he win? Nobody is stopping him from contesting. Igbo people always play themselves out. So, Kalu cannot blame APC.
“He should blame his own people from the South-East. He should blame them because they don’t know how to play politics. They play politics like a one-way thing. They all voted for Atiku in the presidential election. So, now that Atiku lost, who will help people like Orji Kalu? 99.9 percent of them followed Atiku.
“So, what is Kalu crying for? He should go back to his people and educate them on how politics is played especially at the national level. They should play 50-50. If this one didn’t work, the other can work.
“So, Orji Uzor Kalu must go back to his people and educate them because he himself is not worthy to be Senate President or Deputy Senate President. So, if he wants to contest, he can do so. Nobody is stopping him. But I know that he cannot win”, he said.
Certificate: Okorocha Is On His Own, Backs Amaechi On AAC Support
APC has distanced itself from Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha over his battle to reclaim his certificate of return from INEC as senator-elect to represent Imo West, noting that the governor is serving suspension from the party.
The party had kept mum since Okorocha’s tango with INEC that claimed that the governor obtained his victory at the polls by duress, and denied him a certificate of return as a result.
Issa-Onilu, APC Spokesman, said Okorocha is on his own having been suspended by the party.
He said that until the suspension is vacated the APC will have nothing to do with the governor.
“On the refusal of INEC to issue certificate of return to governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who was announced winner of the Imo West Senatorial ticket, this party cannot take any action. Don’t forget that he is on suspension and as far as this party is concerned, that situation remains because there is no way we can say that somebody is on suspension and still go ahead to intervene in his case”, he said.
The APC also threw its weight behind Chibuike Amaechi, Minister of Transport, over his adoption of candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in Rivers State, and dismissed suggestion that the action was anti-party.
Onilu said: “I will emphatically say no, it is not anti-party, because if you liken it to the situation in Imo and or Ogun states, it will be wrong. In Rivers State, APC does not have any candidate and as a party, Rivers State is very important to us. The state has been in the hands of pillagers for too long.
“If we have the opportunity of working with a party willing to abide by our principles, then it is within our right to work with such a party to ensure we free the people of Rivers State from the locust. In this case, he has not abandoned a particular candidate that belongs to the APC for a candidate of another party. They are entirely different issues and in that case, there is no anti-party. Whatever Amaechi has done is completely normal and acceptable to this party as far as working with other party is concerned.”