Tope Omogbolagun, Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis and Dirisu Yakubu
•Selecting Bamidele, Ndume, Umahi as NASS leaders, a rumour, Adamu declares
•Senators, Reps support Senate President, Speaker, say NWC aware of selection
The National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on Tuesday, expressed anger over the new leadership of the National Assembly announced by the Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas.
Adamu said the party was not officially informed about the sharing of the offices, describing the report of the emergence of principal officers as a rumour.
The party chair spoke at a crucial meeting of the National Working Committee and APC governors at the party secretariat in Abuja hours after the Senate President named Ekiti Central lawmaker, Opeyemi Bamidele, as the 10th Senate Majority Leader.
Akpabio also announced Senator Dave Umahi ( Ebonyi South) as Deputy Majority Leader; Ali Ndume (Borno South) as Chief Whip, and Lola Ashiru (Kwara South) as the Deputy Whip.
He also named Plateau North lawmaker, Mwadkwon Davou as Minority Leader while Osun West lawmaker, Kamorudeen Olarere (PDP Osun West) emerged as the Deputy Minority Leader.
Also, Darlington Nwokeocha, (LP Abia Central) was named Minority Whip while Rufai Hanga (NNPP Kano Central) was the Deputy Minority Whip.
Regardless of the ruling party’s position, several lawmakers are backing the National Assembly leaders’ decision and they have also endorsed the new principal officers.
It’s rumour – Adamu
Speaking on the development in the federal parliament, Adamu said, “I have just heard a rumour now from the online media that there have been some announcements in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“The national headquarters of the party of the NWC has not given any such information or communicated about the choice of offices. Until we formally resolve and communicate with them in writing which is the norm and practice, it is not our intention to break away from traditions.
“So whatever announcement is done either the President of the Senate, Deputy Senate President, Speaker or Deputy Speaker, is not from this secretariat.
“We are going to formally inform you that we are going to have a caucus. For quite a time, there has been no caucus in place. The caucus has been reconstituted according to the constitution of APC. And we will be discussing that with you as governors, you know your states more than we know it. Even if we come from the same state, the leadership is in you as governors.”
Continuing, the APC chairman disclosed that the party would make an official announcement when the decision on the sharing formula of the principal offices had been determined.
The former two-term governor of Nasarawa State also used the opportunity to update the APC governors on the audit of the party’s account in the last year, which the NWC hoped to submit in seven days at the meeting of the National Executive Committee.
He said, “You will get an update of the national election in the national assembly sharing of powers particularly the leadership of the chambers, the election of the principal officers of the Senate by the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives have been determined and announced and their responsibilities.
“The remaining offices are to be determined by the two chambers is yet to be done. I had a courtesy call on Saturday from the President of the Senate and his deputy.
“Along with the caucus, the National Advisory Council will give you the list that has been prepared and make sure that every state is represented. And we will give you the knowledge of it and advice. You will also be given the benefits of all the detailed accounts from April 2022 to April 2023.
‘’The PCC account has been audited and it has been submitted to the INEC by the party. We will hear your advice and then see how we can ensure that we comply with the provisions of the constitution of the party.”
Our correspondent reports that there was an alteration in the proceedings before the emergence of the principal officers.
Previously, the party would write the Senate President who will in turn read the names of the appointed officers on the floor of the chamber.
However, this tradition was not followed as the lawmakers were said to have agreed on the consensus candidates nominated for the positions in consultations with the political parties.
So, the Senate President simply read out the names of the selected lawmakers.
Akpabio defends selection
Akpabio said, “The All Progressives Congress caucus of the Senate after consultations has emerged with their leadership which will be the fulcrum of commencing other businesses of the chamber.
“I’m happy to announce that by consensus the Senate Leader is Senator Opeyemi Bamidele will be the Majority Leader. Sen. Mohammed Ndume (APC-Borno) will be the Chief Whip of the 10th Senate; Sen. David Umahi (APC-Ebonyi), by your consent will act as the Deputy Leader and Sen. Lola Ashiru (APC-Kwara) will be the Deputy Chief Whip.”
The Senate President explained that the emergence of the minority leaders was a democratic process.
According to him, 38 out of the lawmakers gave their signature and supported the emergence of the opposition caucus leaders, noting that it was more democratic to have other opposition parties elect their leaders, rather than making it solely a PDP affair.
He said, “On the other hand, concerning the minority parties, again it wasn’t entirely a party affair. Because it wasn’t a typical situation where you have one opposition party but rather six political parties involved.
“Fifty of our colleagues were involved so rather than it being a decision to be taken at the secretariat of political parties, it was more of a decision taken by members who were elected on the platform of the six minority parties, and 38 of them by their signature decided as to who their leaders will be and of course this was also communicated to their respective political parties and as democrats, all the presiding officers did was to follow suit because more than a single majority had decided.
“It is a ‘no victor no vanquish situation.’ We are happy eventually a leadership has emerged for the 10th senate”
Meanwhile, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), a loyalist of the ex-Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has been named the House of Reps Minority Leader while Ali Madaki of the New Nigeria Peoples Party was named as the Deputy Minority Leader.
The Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas, announced Julius Ihonvbere, the lawmaker representing Owan East/Owan West of Edo as the Majority Leader and Abdullahi Halims representing Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro of Kogi as the Deputy Majority Leader.
Abbas announced Bello Kumo representing Akko federal constituency of Gombe as the Chief Whip and Adewunmi Onanuga representing Ikenne/Sagamu/Remo North federal constituency in Ogun, as the Deputy Chief Whip.
Ali Isa of the PDP was named the Minority Whip, while George Ebizimawo of the Labour Party was announced as deputy minority whip.
Abbas said all the members of the APC in the house endorsed the selection of the principal officers from the governing party.
Reacting to the APC’s chairman’s allegation, the Senate Majority leader, Bamidele noted that the APC was aware of the emergence of the Senate principal officers.
According to him, those who emerged as leaders visited the APC chairman at his Keffi hometown during the Sallah holidays.
Bamidele stated, “By the grace of God, we will be able to make a difference that will be positive and that will be worth the effort of all of you that worked with us in ensuring that the two presiding officers emerged in a manner that was not rancorous, in a manner that was not only democratic but transparent.
“But of course, the emergence of the remaining principal officers of the 10th Senate was not an issue that was meant to be decided on the floor but rather it was an issue which on the one hand as related to the APC needed to be decided among the critical stakeholders of the party.
“If you see the picture of those who visited the APC chairman, you will discover that those who were in the picture who visited, are those whose names came out on the list. So, there is no way the party can claim not to be aware of the emergence of the leadership of the majority leadership.”
Bamidele added that the same set of people visited President Tinubu during the Sallah festivities in Lagos to consult and present themselves to him.
“Before we went to the APC chairman, we went to see the President in Lagos and also consulted with him. The new leadership has emerged for the 10th senate and all I can assure you on behalf of myself and my dear colleagues is that we see it as an assignment. It is an assignment that we take very seriously,” he noted.
The Senate leader noted that the next step was to hit the ground running concerning committee formation, ministerial list and executive communication
Bamidele said, “For us, the next task is to ensure we hit the ground running so that from tomorrow we are able to take steps that will show that we have a clear understanding of what is to be done, the first task ahead of us is to constitute special committees of the 10th Senate. Our rules make provision for six special committees.
“Before long, during July we will have all the committees special and standing committees properly constituted so that every senator can get busy based on their professional background and can properly fit into the sector where they can add value.”
“We are ready to receive correspondence from the executive through a committee of the whole of the house commence with the confirmation hearing of the service chiefs and some other appointees who had been named by the President,” he added.
The lawmaker representing Nasarawa West, Senator Ahmed Wadada told our correspondent that although he had questions about how the names of the leaders were arrived at, he did not have a problem with the outcome.
He noted that it was put to vote and 38 lawmakers voted in support of it.
He said, “I was not interested in the principal offices nor will I be interested today. If I was offered, I wouldn’t have been interested. What I want is fairness and balance. What should have been ideally done was to balance.’’
“Of course, it was the decision of the majority of the lawmakers. If it wasn’t, trouble would have brewed on the floor but as you can see everything went smoothly.”
Senator Victor Umeh ( LP, Anambra Central) also noted that he expected some different names on the list but since it was the decision of the majority, it was accepted.
He further noted that the 10th Senate didn’t want to experience any form of crisis because they have the intention to work harmoniously for the country.
Umeh said, “Nobody lost out. Yes, we thought some people would emerge but since it was a majority’s choice, we have no reason to fight. There is a lot of work ahead of us and nobody is willing to have a crises-ridden senate.”
But the lawmaker representing, Kebbi South, Garuba Maidoki, expressed surprise over the emergence of the leadership.
He complained that nobody informed him about the process, stating that it was unfair “to sideline some people because they didn’t vote for the presiding officers.’’
Speaking on the controversy trailing the emergence of the NASS leaders, the Deputy Director of Publicity of the PDP, Chinwe Nnorom said the party would sort itself out on the issue.
“It is the internal affairs of their party and we are sure they will sort it out,” she said.
On his part, the Spokesman for the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council, Charles Aniagwu advised Adamu to remain calm, noting that Akpabio would not take any position against his party.
He said, “The ruling party produces the Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, and Deputy Chief Whip. These are positions for the party in the majority. But I don’t think Adamu needs to worry. Senator Akpabio will not take a position that will go against his party’s interest.
“Senator Bamidele is Tinubu’s boy. So, his emergence as Senate Majority Leader may not have been a unilateral decision engineered by Akpabio. With time, I think the APC NWC will know what happened and why it happened on Tuesday.”
Concerned by the friction generated by the choice of the National Assembly principal officers, the Labour Party blamed the face-off on President Bola Tinubu, saying it was obvious that the 10th National Assembly had mortgaged its independence.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, the LP National Secretary, Umar Farouk, faulted the alleged interference of the APC in the business of the parliament.
He stated, “The way I see it, the two chambers have completely mortgaged the independence of the 10th National Assembly. They were selected and not appointed.’’
But he vowed the opposition and minority caucus would not take a back seat and watch the two chambers fall apart.
Going by the APC’s position, the Chief Spokesman for Obi-Datti Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said this meant that the legislature was truly not independent.
Tanko stated that the ruling party’s frequent interference in the decisions of the legislators “will sooner or later reduce them to the status of a rubber stamp assembly.’’
Meanwhile, the Progressive Governors’ Forum has pledged to intervene in the conflict between the APC and the presiding leaders of the National Assembly over the choice of principal officers.
But the governors believed the action was a result of a communication gap between the party and the party’s high-ranking legislators.
Addressing newsmen after they met with the NWC, the PGF Chairman and Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, promised that they will resolve this with the aid of the APC internal mechanism.
He said, “Don’t let us misquote him. The chairman never said that they (Akpabio and Abbas) are on their own. The National Assembly leadership belongs to our great party and they enjoy our support.
“If there is a communication gap anywhere, we will make up. We have our internal mechanism for resolving such things. The national Assembly leadership enjoys the support of Progressives Governors Forum and that of our party. We don’t have any problem at all.
“We congratulated ourselves in the way and manner the leadership of the National Assembly election was conducted. We now have a Senate President, his Deputy Senate President, Speaker and his deputy who we are very confident will do well,” he stated.
The Imo governor also debunked the growing report that Adamu has handed the audited account of the APC for scrutiny ahead of the National Caucus meeting slated for July 10.
“In the course of the conversation, the chairman did mention that in keeping with the Electoral Act, they (NWC) are working on having an audited account that will be presented at the national caucus meeting. It was just mentioned. It has not been presented,” he said.