The zoning template recently released by the ruling APC for the leadership of the National Assembly has continued to raise dust even as aggrieved aspirants and some CSOs allege undue executive interference in the affairs of the legislature.
The APC last Monday listed its preferred candidates for the presiding officers’ positions in the 10th Senate and House of Representatives, due for inauguration in June.
The list comprised names of lawmakers reportedly endorsed by the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Senators Godswill Akpabio from the South-South (Akwa-Ibom) and Barau Jibrin from the North West (Kano) were picked for Senate president and deputy respectively.
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In the House of Representatives, the party endorsed Tajudeen Abass from the North West (Kaduna) as the speaker and Benjamin Kalu from the South East (Abia) as deputy.
Although the zoning arrangement is merely advisory; not binding on lawmakers, analysts said the move amounts to imposition of candidates on the parliament which is an independent arm of government.
Candidate imposition is an act in which some influential and powerful political party leaders hand-pick their favourites as candidates without considering the progress and well-being of others.
Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, sitting presidents, in collaboration with their political parties, have often endorsed their cronies in the parliament to emerge as Senate president and House speaker to ensure a favourable working relationship between the two arms of government.
The president often deploys his incumbency power to ensure his preferred candidates emerge, and has in most cases succeeded.
This practice has repeatedly been condemned as undemocratic by analysts who have raised great concern over the independence of the National Assembly.
Aggrieved aspirants protest imposition, threaten revolt
Aggrieved aspirants for the 10th parliament’s leadership have intensified their push against the zoning template.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase; House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi; Sada Soli and other speakership aspirants insisted that the house must be allowed to decide its leadership without any interference.
Coming under the aegis of G-7, they all spoke at the official declaration of Muktar Betara Aliyu for the speakership in Abuja.
Doguwa said, “One message I have to put across is that the parliament, in this case, the House of Representatives, is one special institution that must be allowed to work out its own business itself. The business of our leadership should solely be our business.”
Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase said it is the concern of every lawmaker to ensure the independence of the parliament is maintained.
“We will work as a team; we will not allow this parliament to be disgraced; we will not allow this parliament to be hijacked; we will not allow this parliament to be made a lame duck,” he said.
One of the aspirants, Soda Soli, said they were all out for the “survival of the institution of the National Assembly.”
“We are here for the sanctity of the independence of the parliament. We are here because we want to demonstrate the inclusivity of the parliament. Once a parliament is not inclusive, the country will cry; the people will castigate the parliament”, he said.
It’s undemocratic – Kalu, Yari
Senate presidency aspirants, Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, as well as Senator Sani Musa, also protested the zoning template at APC headquarters, describing the party’s move as undemocratic.
Kalu, who is the Chief Whip of the Senate, threatened to revolt against the party’s decision on the floor of the Senate during the inauguration if the current zoning arrangement stands.
Kalu, after a meeting with APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, on Thursday, said the template adopted by the party to name preferred lawmakers for presiding officers’ positions is unconstitutional, undemocratic, and could spell doom for APC. He said, “What you have done (zoning formula) does not look very nice. It is undemocratic; it is unconstitutional to put people’s names. We are going to challenge it.
“We are going to say no. I am a party man and we have never disobeyed this party, but this is the first time we are going to say no on the floor of the Senate. The party should go back to the drawing board and rezone, not by name, but by zones.”
On his part, Yari urged the party to review the decision and right the wrongs ahead of the 2027 general elections.
The North Central senators-elect, in an open letter to Abdullahi Adamu, rejected the exclusion of the zone from the current zoning template despite its contributions to the party’s success during the presidential poll.
“We as a caucus are calling on the All Progressives Congress (APC) to immediately retract its earlier decision which schemes us out of the power-sharing formula of the country and cede the position of the Deputy Senate President to the North Central Zone to ensure fairness, equity, and justice for a smooth 10th Senate,” lawmakers-elect from the zone wrote.
We’ll resist imposition – NNPP’s Kawu
Senator-elect from Kano South Senatorial District on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Suleiman Kawu, assured that his colleagues would resist any imposition of candidates on the lawmakers.
He noted that the National Assembly, as an independent arm of government, should be free from the control of the executive.
“It is an insult for the APC to dictate to me where I will go in choosing the presiding officers,” the lawmaker-elect told reporters at the National Assembly.
He said the majority of the lawmakers-elect were already discussing working against the zoning arrangements announced by the APC.
He urged Tinubu who, he said, fought with lawmakers to stop Jonathan from installing leadership in the House of Representatives, not to allow sycophants to dictate to him.
It’s an attempt to pocket legislature – CSOs
Some civil society groups have urged the members-elect for the 10th National Assembly to assert their legislative independence to avoid a rubber-stamp parliament.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the Executive Director, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said the move by the president-elect and the APC to impose leadership on the lawmakers was an attempt to pocket the legislature.
Rafsanjani, in an interview with Daily Trust, said this undemocratic practice of candidate imposition has several implications if allowed to stand.
“Some of the people endorsed by the party for leadership have corruption allegations against them; having them as presiding officers in the legislature will neutralise anti-graft fights and will further erode the public image of the parliament.
“What the president-elect and the APC have done is to completely pocket the legislature and make them not only a rubber-stamp parliament but also an extension of the presidency,” he added.
He, however, said though CISLAC supported equitable zoning of National Assembly leadership seats, it condemned the imposition of individuals on the lawmakers.
Also, the Director of Centre for Legislative Engagement, Yiaga Africa, Dr Sam Oguche, said the National Assembly as an independent institution should be allowed to decide its affairs without interference.
“We have party supremacy and legislative independence. Now, elections have been concluded and upon inauguration, members become independent; the legislature is independent. By our constitutional framework, the legislators are to elect their leaders, not the party. There is nothing in the constitution that stops a legislator from a minority party from even becoming the president of the Senate; it is the choice of the legislators, not the party.
He urged the lawmakers-elect to assert their independence and do what is right.
Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness has also urged the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the APC to stop meddling in the leadership matters of the 10th National Assembly.
The leader of the group, Dr. Nwambu Gabriel, condemned the move by the APC and other vested interests to impose leaders on members of the 10th National Assembly.
“We are saying that interference in the process of electing the speaker, deputy speaker, the Senate president, or the deputy Senate president would amount to usurping the powers that were ab initio meant for the National Assembly.
“An imposition of power will degenerate Nigeria to dictatorial tendencies; it is going to lead to tyranny and oppression and bring to mockery the principles of separation of power,” he said.