Northern senators, especially those elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have threatened to revolt against the party if the controversial zoning template for leadership of the 10th National Assembly was not revisited.
Specifically, former Governor of Zamfara State and Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari, said the entire North would revolt over the issue.
He spoke when some Senate presidency aspirants visited the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC, yesterday, in Abuja. adopted Senators Godswil Akpabio and Jibrin Barau.
It also zoned the Speakership and Deputy Speakership to North-West and South-East and chose Tajudeen Abass and Ben Kalu for the slots. The party said those selected were also the choices of President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Meanwhile, the 18 senators-elect from the North-Central geo-political zone have kicked against the template and pointedly criticized the exclusion of the zone from the arrangement.
Also, seven speakership aspirants drawn from the North-West, North-East, North-Central and South-East kicked against the zoning formula and sought redress.
We’ll ensure justice —Adamu
Disturbed by the threats of Senators-elect and members-elect to revolt against its zoning template at the June 13 inauguration of the National Assembly, the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC of the ruling APC, yesterday, embarked on an emergency trouble-shooting parley with aggrieved Senate presidency contenders.
The contestants at the meeting with the NWC were Senators Orji Kalu and Sani Musa as well as Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari. The fourth aggrieved aspirant, Senator Osita Izunaso, was said to be away to his home state, Imo, where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was visiting to flag off the hydrographic survey/dredging of the sea route from Oguta Lake to the Atlantic Ocean.
At the meeting, which was at Adamu’s behest, the national chairman, who sounded conciliatory, urged the contestants to hold their fire, saying the party is waiting for the return of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in order to have further consultations on the matter.
The quartet of Kalu, Musa, Yari and Izunaso, who submitted a letter of protest to the NWC had threatened to disregard the party’s zoning formula and engage in intense multi-partisan campaigns to realise their ambitions.
Yari, who was the first to speak among the contestants, said if the current zoning formula is not changed, the North will revolt.
He said: “We are here to present our letter of grievances to you and also tell this house as leaders that we are not satisfied with the arrangement. What we are expecting from you is to give us fair play.
“We have been in this game and we understand it very well and it is about dialogue. We are saying that yes, the party is supreme, and we are looking at the election we won in 2023 and the next election is 2027 and it depends on how we play our part.
“The president-elect got 63.4 percent of votes from the North. Where he comes from, the South, he got 36.6 percent. So, if there is anyone who can say we own APC and the president-elect, it is 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 that the power of anyone is not absolute but only God is absolute. We should not look at these four years as 20 years. We are going back to next election. We should underline that.
Reject Tinubu’s template
“You (NWC members) have all built a reputation for yourselves and you can sit and look at the President-elect and say ‘Mr. President, Sir ‘no.’ I expect all of you to do that. I have been doing that before I became who I am. I would sit down with my governor as secretary (to the state government) and tell him ‘no’ because I know that thing will lead us into a ditch. You know the power of governors of 1999 is not like the one of these days. Governors of 1999 had more powers but I would look at his face and say, ‘no sir.’ He would ask me why and I would say ‘no sir,’ even when other people were saying ‘yes sir.’ So, please, we are expecting you as friends that work with Mr. President-elect, you can look at his face and say sir, no, do not go there, there will be a problem.
“So Mr. Chairman, we are not undermining what you are doing. We are doing this for the sake of the party, because, if we from the North take another decision, it will not be good for all of us and it will become history which we don’t want to happen. It is only justice that will prevent that from happening. We should all pick our pen today, May 11 and write it down. Anything to the contrary, Northern Nigeria will take another decision,” he noted.
Give S’East something reasonable — Kalu
On his part, Kalu, who noted that the APC with 59 Senators-elect does not have an absolute majority in the 109-member Red chamber, added that the South-East deserves “something very reasonable” other than deputy speaker.
He said: “Vote is not a measurement. We had a hurricane in our zone. We need one another and not the level of votes cast. Those who did not vote for the party today can vote for the party tomorrow if they are properly aligned. After all, we have made progress. Before, we used to be one or two senators but it is no longer so. This thing did not only happen in the South-East. Many people from areas where the presidential candidate came from voted along certain lines. I appeal to you people that you must cede something very reasonable to the South-East.
“I am happy the national chairman, deputy national chairman, and national secretary are former senators. You know we are going to do a secret ballot on the floor of the Senate, we will vote according to our conscience. You people have done it before and we will do what you have done in the past. So, it is better, we settle properly as 59 senators of the APC. The difference is not much. If you count three or four of us out, you are losing votes already and we have the capacity to get more from the other side and from our colleagues in the party.
We are going to challenge it
“What you have done (zoning formula) does not look very nice. It is undemocratic and 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 that 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.
“It will not be right for our party, being a very big party, to be doing something that is unconstitutional. I believe the entire 109 senators-elect have what it takes to be Senate President.”
We demand a change — Musa
On his part, Senator Musa said he was at the meeting to speak in respect of his colleagues, Senators-elect from North-Central zone.
“Looking at the secularity of this country and the permutations, we took the risk (same faith ticket) and we were successful. There are certain times we should not push our luck. We have competent Senators-elect from everywhere. We have a Muslim president. We have a Muslim vice President and we thought that at least, the third person should be a Christian.
“As we are going, I had expected that the party will look at those who are very few. I think four or five of us declared interest.
And I thought in the wisdom of the party, they will invite just those five of us which they can manage. If you can manage us like this after a decision has been proposed, and decisions have been reached, it would have been easier if you sat with us before that proposed decision was issued and said there can only be one leader and we are first among equals. But the party didn’t do that.
“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? We are the ones talking about certain principles we want to see but we are not acting it. This issue can be corrected.
“As the leader of the North-Central, we had a caucus meeting before the decision was taken and after it was taken. The caucus agreed that I should make my declaration known to Nigerians. We looked at the secularity of the country and our caucus now said we should go for the deputy senate president. Your statement was a blow to us and we felt, are we really part of this country? 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 North-West to stand against this template and say let us toe the line we have been toeing since 1999. This injustice needs to be corrected. We (APC) have five of six governors and 11 of 19 senators. We will 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 need to correct this injustice. We have six geopolitical zones. The president is from the South-West, we have a vice president from the North-East. We have the office of Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker. It is only fair to give these to the other four geo-political zones.”
Hold your fire — Adamu
Addressing the aggrieved contestants, Adamu said he took responsibility for all the controversy that the zoning formula had generated, but said he would not go into details of how the list came up.
Noting that the party will not behave like the proverbial ostrich that would bury its head in the sand, Adamu said the NWC cannot take any decision on the matter without the input of the President-elect.
He said: “As NWC, we take responsibility. As chairman, I take responsibility. I don’t have to share with you how what your heard on the air came out, but I take absolute responsibility
“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. We must as democrats open up.
“So, when the NWC met, we were very clear that, yes, we have received with respect, the outcome of the meeting with party leaders, comprising the leadership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the party, and the NWC. We will go back to the drawing board. We owe our party that duty to take a look whether what was done cannot be changed; what was done needs some changes or reviews. We will take a look at what necessity compelled us to do by the grace of God.
“Hold the fire until the last word is heard from us. We are the custodians of the party as NWC but we are not acting alone. The voice of the president-elect is an essential voice. We must accommodate him, the best we can. I will not compromise on that. So, he is right now outside the country and by the grace of God, when he comes back, we will go back to the drawing board and put our heads together again and see what we will get. 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 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.
“On the issue of the North Central, I am a bit tongue-tied talking about it because I will be talking about myself. Your argument is extremely plausible. I assure you, we will take a look at what has been given to the public.”
N-Central insists on Speakership
While the meeting was ongoing, the APC Equity and Justice Forum in the North-Central restated its rejection of the zoning formula, warning of a possible repeat of the 2015 scenario, where lawmakers revolted against the party’s anointed candidates.
Nuhu Ayuba Shikdima and Alhaji Ahmadu Babanrabi, chairman and secretary of the forum respectively, told journalists that the prevailing circumstances in the country calls for careful distribution of positions of governance for balance and equal representation.
Faulting the zoning of the speakership and deputy senate presidency to the North-West and nothing to the North-Central, they said: “APC needs nothing but due diligence and consideration in how it goes about with the sharing formula of positions for equity and justice to prevail. The Nigeria state belongs to all of us and we all have equal stake and so, the needful should be done to avoid the Saraki and Dogara episodes from recurring.”
Party will revisit zoning formula — Umahi
Meanwhile, Governor of Ebonyi State and Senator-elect, David Umahi has said that the NWC would revisit the zoning template for the 10th National Assembly Presiding offices, saying no Nigerian can be asked to be patriotic if he or she has been intentionally excluded from the scheme of things in the country.
Answering questions from Journalists yesterday in Abuja at the ongoing Induction Programme for members-elect of the National Assembly organised by the National Assembly and National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, Umahi said that Nigeria as a country should be seen to be one where the leadership must sit down and take a conscious decision to do things differently.
“I have said that the baseline to reset this country is patriotism. 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.”
APC has internal mechanisms for resolving issues — Uzodimma
Speaking in like manner Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, said the APC has internal mechanisms for resolving grievances and would resolve the issues trailing the zoning of 10th National Assembly offices.
Uzodimma who was reacting to how the South-East was zoned out of the Senate leadership slots insisted that ‘nothing unusual happened’.
Fielding questions on Channels Television, ‘Politics Today’ yesterday, he said: “APC is the largest political party in Nigeria and is a rules- driven party. What we practice in Nigeria is party driven democracy. Before you win an election, you must be sponsored by a political party and party loyalty is sacrosanct.
“In power play and politics, people must come together to sometimes disagree to agree. APC has internal mechanisms for resolving differences in advanced political position. So nothing unusual has happened. People are free to say whatever they want to say. Once the party takes a position, I am sure all members of the party will follow.
Asked his opinion on Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu’s view on the zoning, he said: “I don’t want to blame my fellow governor but we cannot be coming out to dance in the market square. What is important is that because it’s a very large family, we will have diverse opinions and views.”