The All Progressives Congress on Thursday began negotiations with Senators contesting the Presidency of the Senate for the 10th National Assembly.
The National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, during a meeting with aggrieved Senate presidency aspirants in Abuja, said the party would study the protest letter submitted by the aspirants as part of fresh consultations.
Adamu said the party would study the letter with a view to making amends where necessary.
The lawmakers in attendance at the meeting included a former Zamfara Governor, Abdulaziz Yari; the senator-elect representing Imo West, Osita Izunaso; Sani Musa (Niger East), Umar Sadiq (Kwara North) and the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu.
The meeting took place 24 hours after angry contestants for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives stormed the national secretariat to query the decision by the ruling party and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
The development followed the rejection of the party’s adoption of a former Minority Senate leader and ex-Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, for the position of Senate president in the 10th National Assembly.
The APC National Working Committee had endorsed Akpabio from the South-South geopolitical zone as the President of the 10th Senate and Tajudeen Abass from the North-West as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The party also selected Senator Barau Jibrin from the North-West as the Deputy Senate president while Benjamin Kalu from the South-East was nominated as deputy speaker.
But the decision was greeted with protests and anger by other contestants, particularly North-Central lawmakers whose region was sidelined by the party leadership in the power-sharing deal.
The contestants demanded fresh zoning of the principal offices.
Also, the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu faulted the zoning arrangement adopted by the party leadership.
But responding to complaints during the meeting with aspirants, Adamu acknowledged their objection which he said would be considered by the NWC.
Speaking at the parley which had in attendance the National Deputy Chairman (North) Abubakar Kyari, National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore and others, Adamu said, “As Chairman of the APC and members of the National Working Committee, we take responsibility.
“As Chairman, I take responsibility for what has gone on air. I don’t have to share with you what not to share. I take absolute responsibility for that. And in that spirit, I welcome you to this office on behalf of my colleagues.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), we received members of the lower chamber who are also contesting for the position of the Speakers in the lower chamber and we had similar pronouncements – words of disagreement from them.
“Yes, there were no sufficient or adequate consultations with you who are contesting and it is a simple principle of democracy that you get views and opinions. But the circumstances that we found ourselves in after the elections frustrated our desire.’’
Adamu assures aspirants
As democrats, the ex-Nasarawa State governor said the party leadership would go back to the drawing board and review the decisions taken regarding the zoning.
He stated, “We will go back to the drawing board. We owe our party that duty to take a look at whether what was done could not be changed. What was done needs some changes or reviews. We will take a look at what necessary compelled us to do by the grace of God,’’ Adamu assured the aggrieved contestants.
The APC chairman urged the senators to “hold the fire until the last word is heard from us,” noting that the NWC members are the custodians of the party “but we are not acting alone.”
He noted that “the voice of the President-elect is an essential voice,” adding, “We must accommodate him, the best we can. I will not compromise on that.”
Adamu promised to address the issues raised by his visitors when the President-elect, Bola Tinubu returns to the country.
“We will go back to the drawing board and put our heads together again and see what we will get,” he appeased the senators.
Stressing the importance of Tinubu’s input, he noted, “I cannot preempt that. I will wait until we hold that meeting with Mr President-elect, the same team that we had the same meeting with. If we need to enlarge the committee, we will do so. We will be better informed through contributions that will be made.
“We will go through your memo, line by line, and ensure that we are able to capture the spirit of your presentation and see what will be the best way out of the situation we have.’’
Speaking further, the party leader pledged to deliver justice to everyone and harped on the need for unity in the APC ahead of the May 29 inauguration.
Adamu said, ‘’Whatever you heard is the art of human endeavour and we are not perfect as human beings. We can make mistakes. So, if we find in the course of further consultations, the mistakes that need to be looked at, we will look at them.
“The important thing is that the spirit of the party must be kept alive. We just came out of the election, the whole country looking towards us. We are just counting down to the inauguration on the 29th of this month. Our eyes must stay on the ball but in doing so we must make sure justice will be done. We will do our best as human beings to deliver justice to all and sundry.”
On the omission of the North-Central in the zoning of the National Assembly leadership, the APC chairman said he remained “tongue-tied talking about North-Central.”
Reacting to Yari’s demand for fair play, Adamu said, “Your argument is extremely plausible. I assure you, we will take a look at what has been given to the public. I don’t want to believe that voting is not an essential thing. The vote remains the essential thing in every democracy because a vote is the opinion of the populace.”
Speaking earlier, Yari said they came to present their letter of grievances to the party, insisting that they were unhappy with the attempt to prevent aspirants within a zone to contest against one another.
While conceding the supremacy of the party, he contended that the performance of each zone in the last elections should be considered in the allocation of offices, noting that this might impact the APC’s outing in the 2027 polls.
He touted the electoral support Tinubu had in the North, citing this as evidence that the region “owns the president-elect.’’
He said, “The President-elect got 63.4 per cent of the (votes from) northern extraction. Where he came from – the South, he got 36.6 per cent. Atiku Abubakar (of the Peoples Democratic Party) from northern Nigeria got 68.8 per cent of the total votes and he got from southern Nigeria, 33.2 per cent.
“So, now, if there is anyone who can say we own the APC; we own the President-elect in northern Nigeria. Without undermining any part of the country, they have given their best and we can understand their situation but justice needs to be done. We should not be blinded, the power of anyone is not absolute but only God is absolute.’’
“We should not look at these four years as 20 years and then, we are going into another election. We are going back to the next election, we should underline that we are elected and we are going to be looking for another election.
‘’So, whatever decision you are going to take, we are expecting you as a friend that works with the President to tell him not to go there. We don’t need rocket science to explain why you can defend what you are trying to do for the betterment of the APC, and for the betterment of the President.”
The ex-Zamfara State governor observed that the issues could be resolved through dialogue and negotiations.
Yari warned that the election of the National Assembly leaders might not favour the ruling party despite its majority in the federal parliament if the impasse was not properly managed.
He added, “We are expecting that you give us at least fair play. Now, if you look at the calculation of what we have in the Senate, it is not magic we are thinking of because if care is not taken if we play the way you presented to us, it is not acceptable. The opposition will do the nomination and they have their way, which is going to be another problem for us.
“So, Mr Chairman, we are not undermining what you are doing but we are doing this for the sake of this party to grow and we are doing the best interest of the party because of where we are talking today. If we from the North take another decision, it will not be good for all of us and it will become history and we don’t want that to happen.
“Only if we do justice, that will protect that from happening. But we should all pick our pen today and write it, which is 11th May. Anything from the contrary, Walahi, northern Nigeria will take another decision.”
In his remarks, Kalu urged the leadership to revisit the micro-zoning of the Senate Presidency.
He warned that though he had never disobeyed the party, however, the leadership should be ready for a shocker on the day of voting ‘’because the aggrieved aspirants will brazenly disobey the party.’’
He said there was nothing wrong in the party’s leadership zoning the positions to geopolitical zones but everything, he said, is fundamentally wrong in micro-zoning it and pencilling down names.
Kalu faults zoning
Kalu, a two-term governor of Abia State, also made a case for the region, saying that adopting some favoured aspirants was undemocratic.
He said it was wrong for anybody to fault his people in the South-East for not voting for the party during the presidential election for certain reasons.
The senator further argued that federal character and not votes should be a major consideration when sharing political and legislative offices in the country.
According to him, if the current micro-zoning arrangement is not reviewed, they would be forced to disobey the ruling party position ahead of the inauguration.
He said, “I appeal to you people to cede something reasonable and valuable to the South East. Four years is like four days when it comes to elections. I am not saying that what you people have done does not look very nice.
“But it is wrong to micro-zone to individuals and pencilling people’s names. It is undemocratic and against the constitutional right of all the aspirants. Section 51 of the Constitution did not approve that for the National Assembly.
“We are going to challenge and say no to it. I am a party man. I have never disobeyed this party. This is the first time we are going to say no to the directive of the party.
‘’We are going to say that we are not going to do this on the floor of the Senate. This is unacceptable to us. I will not want to do it and I will not want to disrespect the party. It is still early enough with about 18 to 19 days to resolve it. It will be better than the party returns to the drawing board, deliberate and call a consultative meeting.’’
Addressing the NWC members, Musa argued that when dealing with rewards for regions for votes and electoral victory, the North should not be overlooked because of its massive contributions.
The senator-elect for Niger East told the leadership of the party not to push its luck further, saying an internal democracy would have produced the needed consensus candidates it seeks.
He stated, “There are certain times we should not push our luck. The NWC had a meeting with Mr President-elect. I respect Mr President-elect. He is a tactical politician. He knows every inch of it. He will be able to listen to whatever an organ like APC will bring to him. Whatever anyone will tell him. He will want to aggregate his own views. We have been saying that the status quo cannot continue but if we do not allow internal democracy to prosper, how do we expect to change things? I am very sure you will go back and take a look, especially when we are talking about internal democracy because even the issue of the national assembly is an issue of internal democracy.
“Your statement was a blow to us and we felt like asking, are we really part of this country? Because when you talk about the North, we have always been at the receiving end. Our geographical settings have become like institutions. You cannot give positions to individuals. I would have expected my brothers from the Northwest to stand against this template and say let us toe the line we have been towing since 1999. This injustice needs to be corrected. We have five of six Govs and 11 of 19 senators. We will however make sure that no party takes our chance inside that chamber. It is going to be an APC affair
“I have seen a situation where one zone has the Secretary to the government of the Federation, the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Staff to the President, the President of the Senate and the roof didn’t come down but the little we (North Central) have, Deputy Senate President, is taken away. We will abide by the party, but the party has to put in mind that this is a voluntary thing. This injustice, we need to correct it. We have six geopolitical zones. The president is from the South-West, and we have a vice president for North-East. We have the office of Senate President, Deputy Senate President Speaker and Deputy Speaker. It is only fair to throw this out to the other four geopolitical zones.”
Aspirants insist on demands
In a related development, aspirants for the Speaker position who felt short-changed by the ruling party have asked the APC NWDC to act on their demand for a review.
The group of seven aggrieved contestants stated that it was ready to adopt one of its members to contest against the candidates adopted by the APC and the president-elect.
They include the current Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase; Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Muktar Betara; and Chairman of House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; and a former member of the House who is now member-elect, Sani Jaji.
Speaking to our correspondent on Thursday, on behalf of the aggrieved aspirants, the Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi (APC/Plateau), said the NWC should act on the demand by the lawmakers for a review of the zoning plan released by the APC.
When asked if the group expected a response from the APC and Tinubu within a specific time, Gagdi stated that the buck had been passed to the national leadership of the ruling party.
He said, “Be fair to me. We will not have an answer to this because we are not the NWC. It is not within my power to organise the NWC to meet. It is not within my power to tell them or organise the NWC members to meet. It is not within my power to tell them to meet the President-elect. It is not within my power to say people have brought complaints, ‘How do we resolve it?’
“It is now in the political yard of the NWC. So, they are in a better position to tell you. But our own is that we have complained to them, we have rejected what they have done and we are waiting to hear what they will say.”
When asked if there was any plan to pick a member of the G-7 to contest against the APC candidates, Gagdi stated, “Yes, there is.” He, however, said he did not know who it would be.
Meanwhile, Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi has urged the national leadership of the APC to resolve the crisis caused by the zoning plan of the ruling party.
Umahi, while speaking at the ongoing induction of members-elect of the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday, noted that only dialogue could resolve the issues.
The governor said, “Democracy is all about resolving all emerging controversies. The position of our party has given rise to some unavoidable controversies. There is no position the party would have taken that will not attract criticism or controversies.
“I think that the party and our leadership are very capable and full of wisdom to resolve whatever might be the differences. I am very sure they are working on it.”
While noting that the baseline to reset the country is patriotism, Umahi added, “But you cannot be asked to be patriotic if you are intentionally excluded.
‘’The country must be seen to be one and the leadership must sit down and take a conscious decision to do things differently. We have to talk to all the zones and ask them what they want. We must provoke discussion and dialogue.”
According to the governor, doing so will help the party to unravel whatever might be the problem of the regions.
“Our leadership and the three arms of the government must also be able to sit down and talk. We must make up our minds to put Nigeria first. It is on the basis – built on equity, fairness and justice – that everybody will look at this country as their own and begin to put Nigeria first, knowing that they are part of the project, Nigeria.”