Zamfara Verdict May Tighten Senate Leadership Contest

                                

With Friday’s judgement of the Supreme Court nullifying the elections of all the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State in the last general election, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) now has an additional 10 National Assembly members-elect from the state. This can potentially alter calculations in the jostle for the leadership of the ninth National Assembly.

However, the Senate Leader, seeking the position of the Senate President in the incoming ninth Senate said yesterday that the ruling by the Supreme Court, which granted victory to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) would not affect his chances of emerging the Senate President in June.

He told journalists in Abuja stated that whereas the development amounts to a setback for the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), his camp was not worried because it has reached out to all Senators across party divides.

Lawan said that the ruling APC was still capable of producing the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of representatives despite the loss in Zamfara.

He also stated that as a contestant for the post of Senate President, he has been telling his story to all Senators across the geopolitical zones and across party lines, adding that the lawmakers are receptive to his messages and are willing to give him a chance.

“The Supreme Court judgement on Zamfara State was a setback to the ruling party because the APC lost three senators and seven or eight in the House of Representatives. This leaves us with a new set of numbers of representation in the 9th Assembly.
“The APC had 65 senators before judgement, now the APC has 62. PDP now has 44 because it had 41 before Friday’s judgement while the Young Progressive Party has one. As it is now, there are two cases that are yet to be determined in Imo State.

“The case of that of the outgoing Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha and that of Senator Ben Uwajumogu which we are anticipating will be won by the APC. If we have these two, we will have 64 from the APC which makes us to be in the majority.
“But, for me, the issue is not the distribution or the majority. What is important is our ability to come together to work for the interest of Nigerians in every part of the country.

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We have the responsibility to work for the betterment of Nigerians because, if there is a crisis, there wouldn’t be a distinction between an APC member or the PDP. The crisis will affect all of us”, he stated.
The senate leader also denied reports which indicated that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world.

In a related development, an Owerri High Court has issued an order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing the Certificate of Return for the Imo West senatorial election until the determination of a suit before it. The order followed a motion by the PDP candidate, James Onyereri, seeking an interlocutory injunction restraining INEC from declaring the Imo State governor and candidate of APC, Rochas Okorocha, winner of the senatorial election.

The 10 new additions to PDP federal legislators-elect include three senators and seven members of the House of Representatives, which brings the total number of PDP Senators to 44, as against 62 by the APC. The Young Peoples Party (YPP) has one senator, and two senatorial results are yet to be declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the House, PDP now has 130 members-elect, and APC has 203, while the remaining 27 seats are shared by YPP, African Democratic Party (ADP), and African Democratic Movement (ADM), among other smaller parties.
The sacked Zamfara APC federal legislators-elect, who had earlier been issued Certificates of Return for their senatorial seats by INEC, include Tijjani Yahaya (Zamfara North), Aliyu Bilbis (Zamfara Central), and out-going governor of the state and immediate past Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West).

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For the House of Representatives, those affected include Muhammad Ibrahim (Birnin-Mogaji Kaura-Namoda/Birnin Magaji federal constituency), Husaini Moriki (Shinkafi/Zurmi federal constituency), Rikiji Garba (Gusau/Tsafe federal constituency), Zubairu Bungudu (Bungudu/Maru federal constituency), Sharu Anka (Anka/Talata Mafara federal constituency), Muhammad Rini (Bakura/Maradun federal constituency), and Bukkuyum Jibo (Gummi/Bukkuyum federal constituency).

The PDP senatorial candidates, now senators-elect replacing the sacked APC lawmakers, are Ya’u Sahabi (Zamfara North), Mohammed Hassan (Zamfara Central), and Lawani Hassan (Zamfara West) for the senate.

The seven PDP candidates, who are now House of Representatives members-elect are Umar Dan-Galadima (Kaura-Namoda/Birnin Magaji federal constituency), Bello Hassan Shinkafi (Shinkafi/Zurmi federal constituency), Kabiru Amadu (Gusau/Tsafe federal constituency) Shehu Ahmed (Bungudu/Maru federal constituency), Kabiru Yahaya (Anka/Talata Mafara federal constituency), Ahmed Bakura (Bakura/Maradun federal constituency) and Sulaiman Gum (Gummi/Bukkuyum federal constituency).

Obviously, the increase in the number of PDP legislators is likely to affect, though not very significantly, current permutations on the selection of the ninth National Assembly leadership. APC still has a clear majority in the two chambers – 62 in the Senate as against 44 by PDP, and 203 in the House as against 130 by PDP. It will be an uphill task for the PDP to upstage APC in the elections for the leadership of the federal legislature. But the increase in the number of PDP legislators seems certain to affect cross-party negotiations, which are always a key factor in the outcome of legislative events like this.

Moreover, the contenders from the APC in both chambers have intensified consultation within and outside their party in the campaign for the coveted offices. Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who are the adopted candidates of the APC for both the Senate President and House Speaker, have continued to meet with the legislators-elect across party lines.

Last week, Gbajabiamila, accompanied by 130 members-elect of the House, stormed Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, and Abia states to seek the support of the South-east geopolitical zone. At the end of the visits, Speakers of the Houses of Assembly in the zone endorsed Gbajabiamila’s candidature and advised their federal legislators-elect to support his bid.

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Gbajabiamila also visited some South-south states, particularly Rivers, and yesterday he was in Delta, where he met with the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, to seek his support and by extension, that of House members-elect from the state.

On his part, Lawan has involved the 22 APC governors to help talk to the senators-elect from their states to support his candidature. Already, he has visited the governors of Kano, Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara in this regard and is scheduled to visit more states after the Ramadan next week.

Former Senate Leader and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ali Ndume, and Senator Danjuma Goje are two other ranking senators believed to be eyeing the ninth Senate Presidency, although Goje is yet to make public his intention.

THISDAY gathered that the PDP Senate Caucus might have decided to work as a team, with their 44 senators-elect likely to align with some APC senators-elect on certain conditions. Sources, however, said the PDP senators-elect were yet to make up their minds on who to support among the gladiators.

Meanwhile, in Imo State, the decision by the state High Court sitting in Owerri ordering INEC not to issue a Certificate of Return in respect of Imo West senatorial district election, was informed by a submission of N.A Nwachukwu, SAN, and Mrs C. C Ohakwe, solicitors to Onyereri, the plaintiff and PDP candidate in the senatorial election. Onyereri had deposed to a 20-paragraph affidavit in an ex parte motion and a written address filed before the court on May 22.

Ruling on the motion, Justice E.Z. Njemanze, who gave the order on May 23, directed INEC not to issue the Certificate of Return for Imo West senatorial election pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed with the ex parte application. Njemanze adjourned the case till June 5 for hearing of the motion on notice.

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