Triumph of spoilers?

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The emergence of Senator Ali Ndume and other principal officers in the Senate unsettles APC leaders, writes Obute James

Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South) on Thursday June 25, emerged Senate Majority Leader, while Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allalah (Kebbi South) and Senator Francis Alimikhena from Edo State also emerged as Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Whip respectively. However, their emergence as principal officers had unsettled some All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders who felt the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, should have announced the names of Senators submitted to his office by the party.

Similarly, the APC letters nominating some members as principal officers in the House of Representatives also led to commotion in the House last Thursday when the Speaker, Yakubu Dogora, made attempt to allow zonal caucuses to elect the principal officers.
The North-East Senators caucus Penultimate Wednesday June 24, 2015 met and elected Senator Ndume as Senate Leader. Ndume got 10 votes against Senator Ahmed Lawan who got 2 votes.

The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, who made the announcement based on the letter written to him from the Zonal Senators Caucuses, announced Ndume as Senate Majority Leader, Senator Na’Allalah , as Deputy Senate Leader and Senator Francis Alimikhena as Deputy Whip.
The Zonal Senators Caucuses met on Wednesday and elected the four Principal officers. They also forwarded their letter containing the names of the Senators for the various principal offices to the Senate President.

Senator Olusola Adeyeye from South West was also elected as Senate Majority Whip. However, Senate President could not announce his name on the floor on Thursday because South West Caucus was yet to officially notify him.
The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, 55 had served as a lecturer. He won election into the House of Representatives in 2003. He was the House Minority Leader between 2007 and 2011. He won the Borno South Senatorial Election in 2011. He was also appointed Chairman, Senate Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the position he held till June 6, 2015 when the 7th National Assembly came to an end.

Ndume is well known for his useful contributions in the chamber. His achievements in respect of constituency projects are also visible. He reportedly donated money, food stuff and other items to address the challenges of his people who were displaced by Boko Haram insurgency. His home town, Gwoza was one of the local government areas earlier captured by Boko Haram insurgents. He also re-settled and re-established some of them with the provision of hundreds of cars for commercial purposes. Several others who were displaced were also re-engaged in other useful businesses by Ndume.

While adopting its 2015 Standing Rule and declaring all amendments therein as valid, the Senate penultimate Wednesday ruled that a letter from the APC national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, nominating candidates for the positions ran contrary to its rule and could not be read by the President of the Senate, let alone being adopted.

The decisions followed a motion by Senator Gbenga Ashafa  (APC, Lagos) to compel Saraki to recognise and read Oyegun’s letter nominating Senator Ahmed Lawan for the position of Senate Majority Leader; George Akume for Deputy Majority Leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Whip.

Citing rule 28(1) of the Standing Order, Ashafa argued that Oyegun’s letter was proper because, according to  him, principal officers should be nominated by the party with the Majority.
Ashafa said: “most of the media houses carried a letter that was written by the Chairman of our great party, the APC, and we were expecting that that letter which has been received in your office will be read in order to see to the resolution of the party leadership tussle”.
“I believe that that letter should have been read to the hearing of all senators here present. Perhaps that will be the solution to the leadership tussle in the Senate”.

This argument prompted Senator Na’alla to make contrary submissions on the matter, urging the chamber to ignore Ashafa’s position.
Na’alla stated that the rule of the Senate had no provision that principal officers be nominated by a political party and that what was allowed by the Senate Rule was for the Principal Officers to emerge from the party that had majority in the Senate and not that the party should nominate them.
Similarly, at the press briefing, on Wednesday June 24, the APC North Central Caucus, Aliyu Patigi, flanked by 16 other legislators from the zone, said they viewed with dismay the region’s exclusion from the principal positions in the eighth Assembly, as directed by the party.

The APC had sent to the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, names of members it nominated as principal officers.
In its letter, the party nominated Femi Gbajabiamila as its choice for House Leader, Mohammed Monguno as Chief Whip; Alhassan Doguro as Deputy Leader; and Pally Iriase as Deputy Whip.
But Mr. Dogara has made it clear he will not abide by the party’s directive in view of the House standing order.
“We view with utter disbelief and amazement the purported letter published in the news media stating that the party’s position was taken after due consultation, when in actual fact we were never consulted as caucus,” said Mr. Patigi.

“We are also amazed by the directive of the party to the leadership of the House ‘to take necessary action’ on the purported choice made by the Party, which we see as a clear usurpation of the powers of Zonal Caucuses and their members as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Standing Rules of the House of Representatives.
“We therefore strongly reject the purported selection by the Party which we see as being in conflict with the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic.
“The caucus believes strongly that there should be fairness and equity in the selection of other Principal positions of the House of Representatives following the emergence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. We believe it will be inconsiderate of the Party to consider both the North East and South West zones after both zones have produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

“We have resolved to pursue this injustice with all civil and legitimate channels,” Mr. Patigi stated the caucus’ position.
Also speaking at the briefing, Mohammed Zakari, from Kwara state, said APC has about 50 members in the House who are from the North Central, arguing that it was unacceptable for the party to overlook a zone with such large number of legislators.

Others members who attended the briefing included Abubakar Dahiru, Nasarawa State; Razak Atunwa, Kwara State; Ahmed Idris, Plateau State; Umar Jibril, Kogi State; Mark Gbillah, Benue State; and Mahmud Mohammed, Niger State.
Others included Ajanah Kabir, Aliyu Ahman, Adedoyin Princess, Musa Onwana, Okolo Benjamin, Mohammed Bago, Olayonu Tope.

In a similar development, two members of the House of Representatives from Imo State elected on the platform of APC, Chike Okafor and Chukwukere Ikechuchu also expressed concern with the choices made by the party in respect of the principal offices which left them out.

At a media briefing, they stated that zoning a principal position to the South East would help strengthen the party in the zone.
In statement signed by APC National Secretary, Mala Mai Buni, the party said it will take action against the emergence of principal officer.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari was silent on the recent emergence of principal officers in the National Assembly.
The Senate was adjourned till July 21, 2015.
A source who spoke to this medium on condition of anonymity said undue interference of the party on legislators is not too good for the democracy

 

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