Follwoing the swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, May 29 for a second term in office, the race for the leadership of the National Assembly has intensified, as the federal lawmakers prepare for the proclamation of the 9th Assembly and their inauguration, as well as choosing their leaders thereafter.
Politics and intrigues regarding the emergence of the President of the 9th Senate recorded a new twist yesterday as the Presidency openly indicated interest in approaching the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Solomon Ita Enang, a former senator himself, who represented the Presidency at the open declaration of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North) for Lawan, was full of thanks to the lawmaker, saying: “I thank you for the support, you are welcome.”
Ita-Enang, in a warm embrace with Nwaoboshi, declared: “It was equally learnt that a former president of the Senate had before yesterday asked some PDP lawmakers still loyal to him to support Lawan’s aspiration.
“Another PDP lawmaker known to have openly supported Lawan is the former interior minister, Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South), who at a strategic meeting in Abuja, disclosed that he was working for Lawan.
“During his own declaration for Lawan at the National Assembly, yesterday, Nwaoboshi, who just got his election to the Senate re-validated by the Appeal Court, announced that the PDP had no candidate for the Senate Presidency and its leadership would not direct its elected senators to vote for any particular candidate for the position of the 9th Senate President.
According to him, the best the PDP leadership would do is to give the elected members of the incoming senate the direction to follow, but not to necessarily impose a candidate on them.
He said: “The PDP has not taken a decision, as a political party, as far as the presiding officers of the 9th Senate is concerned. Our party has not also told us the candidate we should vote for.
“I know the PDP leaders will not say this is the candidate they want; they would only give us a guideline. I also have a right, as the representative of my people, to determine what is good for the Anioma people.
“I am a loyal PDP man. I have not left the PDP and it is not part of my agenda to do. However, regarding the leadership of the 9th Senate, I know my people would be happy with my choice of Lawan. My people know what they benefitted from the support I gave the incumbent Senate President.
“I can make a choice on my people’s behalf, because I have lived among them over the years.”
Nwaoboshi dismissed insinuations that his challenger at the Appeal Court, Ned Nwoko, would present the Certificate of Return issued to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be inaugurated as senator on June 11, saying: “Once the election has been declared and the Certificate of Return issued to the winner, it is only the highest court in the land that can order the withdrawal of the certificate.
“I have my Certificate of Return; nobody has withdrawn it. What was issued to Nwoko was a piece of paper and not a Certificate of Return. I was the one that contested the election, having defeated him in the primaries.”
For the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one of the aspirants, Olajide Olatubosun, has explained that his bid was in line with the rule of law, faulting the notion that he was in the race to play the spoil role for Femi Gbajabiamila, the preferred choice of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said: “As a member of the House that is duly elected by my people, Section 50, sub- section (1 b) says the members shall elect from among themselves. So, constitutionally, I have that right to contest. For me, democracy gives you the opportunity to make choices from where you can take your decisions, so, the more the merrier.
“On whether I will spoil the chances of the Southwest, it is absolutely not so. It is left for my colleagues in the House to decide whom they want to vote for. It won’t spike the chances of my zone at all.”
Olatubosun, representing Atisbo/Saki East/Saki West Federal Constituency of Oyo State on the APC platform, said he has not faced any form of harassment or intimidation from anybody for defying the party’s position on its preferred choice, noting: “Nobody can harass me or intimidate me. On what basis? Is it that I am not qualified to run? Even if the APC has a preferred choice, that doesn’t exclude other members from contesting.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Youth Council (NYC) has thrown its weight behind the aspirations of a newly-elected member of the House, Emeka Nwajiuba, of the Accord Party (AP), representing Ehimembano-Ihette-Uboma and Obowo Federal Constituency of Imo State.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, NYC’s National President, Mallam Yahaya Salisu, described the lawmaker as a detribalised and patriotic Nigerian, who is ready to work with Buhari’s vision to take Nigeria to the next level.
He stated: “The need to get it right this time around, for the smooth running of the affairs of government, as we go into yet another term of four years mandate given to Buhari and the 9th National Assembly by the Nigerian people, is what informed this our support.”
Salisu argued that it would be fair and just to allow the Southeast geopolitical zone, where Nwajiuba hails from, to produce the Speaker of the House, adding: “The Northwest has produced the President. The Southwest has produced the Vice President. For equity, justice and fair representation, the Southeast should be given the Speaker of the House and in that zone, Nwajiuba deserves to be in the position, due to his vast experience and educational qualification as a PhD holder.”
Meanwhile, the camp of Gbajabiamila, who is the frontrunner for the Speakership race, is not leaving anything to chances, as it has continued to reach out to clerics, traditional leaders and the 36 states governors, irrespective of party affiliation.
A member of the campaign team, who pleaded anonymity, however, expressed optimism that Gbajabiamila would surely triumph, saying: “We have the numbers. We are sure of winning, but we don’t want to take chances, like in 2015, when we were laid-back.
“You can see things yourself, as we are going round the country to talk to those that matter to swing the votes in our direction.”
Among those angling for the speakership of the House are Nkeiruka Onyejiocha, Mohammed Umar Bago and John Dyegh.