By Abdullateef Salau, Itodo D. Sule & Saawua Terzungwe
Ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly in June, underground jostling for leadership positions in the federal parliament has commenced.
INEC said certificates of return will be issued to the senators-elect on Tuesday while the House of Representatives members-elect will receive theirs Wednesday.
Daily Trust reports that the current 9th National Assembly was inaugurated in June 2019 and will come to an end in June 2023. In the same month, the 10th assembly will be inaugurated.
According to the results so far declared by INEC, the ruling APC retained the majority of both the Senate and House of Representatives seats, with 57 and 162 members respectively.
A week after the election, those eyeing the positions of the Senate president, deputy Senate president, House of Representatives speaker, deputy speaker, and other principal officers have begun their moves.
Though the APC lawmakers-elect scheming for the presiding officers’ posts are yet to declare their interests, sources told Daily Trust that they were already reaching out to their colleagues, seeking their support and the party leadership in zoning the positions to their geo-political zones.
Many, it was learnt, had sent out their foot soldiers, comprising high-profile lawmakers, to commence underground campaigns, and arrange a meeting with the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the constitution of the leadership of the national parliament.
Although Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila have won re-election, they are not likely to be considered for the plum jobs apparently to balance the power-sharing formula.
Both Tinubu and Gbajabiamila are from Lagos, while Lawan and Kashim Shettima, the vice president-elect, are from the North East.
Barau Jibrin (Kano), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) Sani Musa (Niger), and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) are among the potential frontrunners for the Senate presidency.
Jibrin, a ranking lawmaker, was first elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives, where he chaired the House Committee on Appropriations.
He switched to the Senate in 2015 to represent Kano North and has won re-elections since then. At different times, he chaired Senate committees, including Appropriations.
Jibrin enjoys the support of many of his colleagues, who often describe him as a soft-spoken lawmaker.
He is the only APC candidate to win a senatorial seat from Kano. The two others were won by NNPP.
Orji Uzor Kalu
Kalu is the Chief Whip of the Senate. His campaigners are banking on a balanced power-sharing formula, which they believe may push APC leadership to consider the South East believed in some quarters to be “marginalised zones”, and a Christian to win the confidence of the Christians after the outrage that followed the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
Sources close to Kalu said he had started reaching out to his colleagues and APC governors, whose states produced APC senators in the last elections.
A member of APC National Working Committee (NWC), who preferred not to be named, said arrangement is ongoing to meet with Tinubu to table to him reasons the next President of the Senate should emerge from the Southeast, amongst which include a balance of power and avoidance of a Muslim-Muslim leadership.
The source added that the majority of the party’s NWC was working on reaching an agreement with other members of the party leadership to zone the number three citizen to the South-east, as part of moves to pacify the People of the region, having missed out on the presidential contest in all the parties at a time the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction was high.
“During our party primaries, the Southeast didn’t get the support of the party to produce the presidential flag bearer. This didn’t go down well with South Easterners. Now, this is another opportunity to prove to Nigerians that we are a party for all,” the source said.
A close associate of Sani Musa said the senator, who chairs Committee on Senate Services, would declare his ambition if the party zone the position to the North Central geopolitical zone.
Musa had vied for the position of APC national chairman but was prevailed upon, along with other aspirants, to step down for a consensus candidate.
Asked if Senator Musa could emerge as the Senate President when the National Chairman of the Party is also from the North Central zone, the source said Adamu Abdullahi would not mind resigning his appointment to make that happen.
He said, “Senator Abdullahi Adamu, APC national chairman, is interested in the emergence of Sani Musa as the next Senate President and is willing to rally around other party stakeholders in his favour.”
On what would happen if the party failed to zone the office to the North Central zone, the source said, “Senator Musa would contest for the position of the Deputy Senate President.
“He (Sani Musa) is already talking to his colleagues and close associates about his ambition,” he added.
In the House of Representatives, it was gathered that potential candidates for speaker and deputy speaker had started constituting strategic teams to realise their ambitions.
Those most likely to declare interest after zoning the positions are Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau, Deputy Speaker), Muktar Aliyu Betara (Borno, House Committee Chairman on Appropriations), and Alhassan Ado Doguwa (Kano, House Majority Leader).
The Deputy Speaker, who represents Wase Federal Constituency of Plateau State, has been in the House since 2007.
A source close to Wase told our reporter that Wase will run for the position when it is zoned to the North Central.
Wase’s campaigners are of the view that the North Central geopolitical zone, where he hails from, has not produced House Speaker for a long time. They said it would be fair if the party considers the zone.
Muktar Aliyu Betara
Betara, who represents Biu/Bayo/Kwaya-Kusa/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno, was first elected into the House in 2007.
He is among the top contenders eyeing the Speakership position.
However, the fact that he hails from Borno State in the North East like the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, might be a stumbling block to his aspiration.
But those pushing for his candidacy argued that coming from the same region as the vice president-elect should not be an issue.
They said the current Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila emerged as Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives despite being from the South West zone as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Alhassan Ado Doguwa
Doguwa had, in 2021, said his biggest ambition was to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He won re-election for the 6th term during the just concluded National Assembly election to represent Doguwa Federal Constituency of Kano State.
The Majority Leader is currently having issues with the Kano police authorities over alleged complicity in the murder of three members of his constituency in the aftermath of the election.
The police in Kano arrested and charged Doguwa, alongside others, for criminal conspiracy, and culpable homicide. He was also charged with causing grievous hurt, mischief by fire, and inciting disturbance.
The lawmaker was allegedly involved in a violent confrontation between members of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that led to the killing of three people and the burning of a campaign office of the opposition party in the Tudun Wada Local Government Area of Kano.
His associates alleged that Doguwa’s case with the police was a plot to thwart his aspiration to become House Speaker.
N/Central stakeholders demand Speakership position
Meanwhile, the APC Stakeholders’ Forum, North Central zone, has asked the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and other critical stakeholders in the party to zone the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 10th Assembly to the region.
Addressing a press conference after their meeting in Abuja on Monday, the conveners, Rev. Dominic Alancha, Hajiya Farida Odangi Suleiman, and Mark Hanmation, said the zone deserved the position for fairness, equity, and justice.
Rev. Alancha said: “It will not be out of place if we as a region call on our great party the APC to consider and zone the position of the speaker of the 10th House of Representatives to the North Central given its outstanding performance in the just concluded 2023 general elections and for fairness and equity.
“The outstanding performance of the North Central region in the 2023 presidential election is a testament to the fact that the region remains the swing zone and any party that the zone flips to is primed to always win an election.
“It is on record that since 2015, 2019, and now 2023 elections, the North Central has been flipping APC for victory. Indeed, our region has remained faithful to the ideals of the APC for a good course.
“We ask that you (President-elect) remember the enormous sacrifices that party members had to endure for your victory in our region, the North Central. As a sagacious leader, we have no fears about your ability to fetch the best hands for further assignments.”