National Assembly leadership: APC peace moves flop
The All Progressives Congress on Saturday failed to resolve the crisis in the party over the election of the eighth National Assembly leadership.
Some APC lawmakers-elect, at a meeting with the leaders of the party on Saturday, opposed the election of the House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, as the party’s sole candidate for the speakership of the lower chamber.
For the Senate, it was expected that the APC’s senate presidential candidate would also emerge through an election, but as of 6pm on Saturday, two hours after the poll was scheduled to take place, no explanation came from the party’s leadership.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the election was scheduled to hold at 4pm at the International Conference Centre, but it was rescheduled when supporters of Senator Bukola Saraki, one of the aspirants, requested that it should be shifted to 6pm.
However, at 6pm, the same group requested that the poll be moved to 8pm, a move which was said to have angered Senator Ahmed Lawan’s supporters, who were eager for the election.
But, eventually when the meeting started at about 10pm, the pro-Saraki Senator-elect boycotted it.
The APC leadership had initially scheduled separate meetings with senators-elect and their counterparts for the House for Thursday.
The meetings were, however, shifted to Saturday (yesterday) because of the Senate valedictory session which was held on Thursday.
The PUNCH had reported on Thursday that the meetings were aimed at picking candidates for the senate presidency and the speakership of the House as part of efforts to resolve the crisis over the party’s candidates for the positions.
The eighth National Assembly will convene on Tuesday
The APC has 213 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives. The meeting of its leadership with the members-elect started at 10am.
Those who signed the attendance register at the meeting were 183, while the total number of votes cast was 161.
Gbajabiamila emerged victorious by polling 154 votes to defeat his opponent, Yakubu Dogara, who got three votes.
Four votes were declared invalid by the returning officer, the APC National Vice -Chairman, North-East, Babachir Lawan .
But signs that the exercise would not be peaceful emerged when Dogara and 18 of his supporters walked out of the venue when it became apparent that the party was going ahead with the election despite their protest against it.
Dogara’s supporters had before the commencement of the day’s business distributed slips quoting the comments of President Muhammadu Buhari in which he promised to work with whoever emerged because he had no preferred candidate.
As they stepped into the hall and settled down for business, the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, explained the need for the party to approach Tuesday’s election of the National Assembly leaders as a united house.
His explanation, which was designed to educate members about the party’s reason for getting involved, did not go down well with Dogara’s supporters who shouted, “no”, “no” intermittently.
The party’s national chairman, in consultation with members of the party’s National Working Committee present, asked all the contenders to sign an undertaking that they would abide by the decision reached after the meeting.
It was at this point that Dogara and his group walked out of the hall.
SUNDAY PUNCH later learnt that some members of the Dogara group returned and tried to get the party leadership to concede the position of Deputy Speaker to their group, a proposal the party leadership said came too late.
A party leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “At this point, it was too late because the group had through its earlier action exposed the party to ridicule in front of television cameras and reporters. We told them in no uncertain terms that they had crossed the Rubicon as such they should come and test their popularity and you saw the outcome.”
However, a member of the Dogara group, Abdulmumuni Jibrin, who spoke to journalists after they staged a walk-out, said the party leadership failed to see reason with their argument that the election of speaker was the business of members of the House not the party.
He said, “The election of the House Speaker is not an exclusivity of the APC, but include all members from all political parties.
“Initially, the chairman agreed to halt the process but one hour later the National Vice-Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu came up and said the process must go on whether we liked it or not.
“Our position is that we are not a party to what they did and we maintain that the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives cannot be conducted outside the chamber of the House and we are ready to participate in that process on Tuesday, June 9, 2015.”
After the group left, the party called for nominations Alhassan Ado Dogura representing Dogura Kiru Constituency of Kano State nominated Gbajabiamila. The nomination was seconded by Shuibu Philip from Edo State.
After Gbajabiamila was announced as the winner as the APC’s sole candidate for the position, the national chairman urged the minority leader to reach out to those who did not vote for him.
Odigie-Oyegun told the legislators, “Today, I am proud to be your national chairman. You have demonstrated maturity and you have told the world that you are capable of choosing those to lead you in a transparent manner.”
To Gbajabiamila, he said, “As you leave here, I urge you to reach out to those who did not vote for you just like our President did after our presidential primaries.”
He assured the members that the party would build upon the foundation of transparency in the conduct of its business and that it would consult with party members in the legislature in its decision-making process.
The party chairman reminded them of the task ahead and urged them to be prepared to support the party as it works hard to rebuild the nation whose institutions have been badly damaged by 16 years of misrule.
In his acceptance speech, Gbajabiamila expressed gratitude to his colleagues for the confidence reposed in him. He promised to run an all-inclusive administration when he eventually assumes office.
He said, “We have the numbers but the mandate I seek is one that involves all of my colleagues in the House of Representatives. I will be the Speaker for the whole House.”
Mohammed Mungono was elected as the party’s sole candidate for the position of Deputy Speaker as he ran unopposed.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, who spoke to reporters before voting began for the party’s speakership candidate, explained the party’s position.
He said, “We are asking every member to sign an undertaking that whoever emerges they will support. I am absolutely sure that yes there may be passion but at the end we will come to an agreement in the interest of the party and the nation.”
He, however, declined to comment on the protest of the pro-Dogara group after the election. “I have nothing to tell you,” he said.
While the party’s leaders were expecting the senators-elect, those supporting Saraki were attending a retreat at the Jabi area of Abuja.
The pro-Saraki group, The Like Minds Senators, ended the retreat on Saturday with a pledge to further strengthen the ability of their members to pursue a people-oriented Eighth Senate.
The group, in a statement signed by a senator-elect, Dino Melaye, explained that the essence of the exercise was to position its members to hit the ground running upon the inauguration of the Senate on Tuesday.
Meeting with Senators
Attempts by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress to forge a common front ahead of Tuesday’s election of Senate President failed on Saturday.
Supporters of Senator Bukola Saraki declined all entrities to attend a meeting organised by the National Working Committee of the party to select a consensus candidate.
Saraki’s supporters under the aegis of Like Mind Senators boycotted the primaries citing irreconcilable differences with the NWC over the method of voting.
His supporters had requested that the secret ballot system be adopted for the election, a request they said the NWC turned down.
The party’s NWC however said the open ballot system would be adopted for the process, a situation which was not agreeable to the Like Minds Senators.
Saraki, who later spoke to journalists, said, “As result of the inability of the APC leadership to guarantee the Senators of like minds the rights of secret ballot system, we are not participating at the election and this we made clear to the national chairman of our party.
“Whatever they do in the name of consensus, for the senate presidency election, we are not part of it.
“Members of my group are still meeting to come out with further action. But for now, we are not part of the consensus arrangement.”
Members of the Like Minds were still holding a meeting as at the time of going to press at 12 midnight.
However, supporters of Senator Ahmed Lawan who converged at the International Conference Centre, venue of the elections with the active support of the NWC went ahead with the process.
When the National Secretary of the Party, Mala Buni, who was the presiding officer called for nominations, Senator Barnabas Gemade nominated Senator Ahmed Lawan his nomination was seconded by Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
Voting was still going on as of 12midnight.