By Bako Johnson
As senators-elect intensify their last minute horse trading, consultations and negotiations over today’s election of presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly, a cloud of uncertainty is hanging across the parliament as no one seems to be sure what might be the outcome of today’s polls.
Although there have been publicly announced endorsements of Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) by over 60 senators-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some others from the opposition parties, it is yet not clear the direction the elections will take.
This is because the body language of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members-elect indicates a tendency that they might play a joker card today.
For instance, when the outgoing Deputy Senate Minority Leader and Senator- elect, Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP, Taraba South) was asked why his colleagues were maintaining a loud silence on the issue of Senate Presidency, he said that their silence was a sign of dignity, and that they were not noisy about the whole matter because they desire a rancour-free 9th Senate.
He also said that the PDP senators-elect would act as a family during voting to elect presiding officers of the Senate today, noting that noise-making among politicians could be mischievous.
He said: “There is dignity in silence and there is mischief in noise-making. So, we maintain a dignified silence because we want a 9th Assembly that will be rancour-free. We speak as a family; that is our tradition. We speak as a family; we are not divided.”
Also, Rep-elect, Fred Agbedi (PDP, Sagbama/ Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State), who spoke to journalists at the National Assembly yesterday, noted that the PDP had not decided on the direction its members would vote today, saying that when the decision was made, they would act accordingly as loyal party members.
He said that only the secret voting system would be acceptable in the elections of presiding officers of the National Assembly, stressing that anything other than that would be undemocratic.
He said: “I can’t say where the pendulum will swing to in the elections. I’m of the minority party. The majority party says they have a decision; and that is the direction they want to go. As a minority party man, I will be around watching; if it becomes necessary for me to cast my vote, I cast.”
While expressing his unflinching support for Ahmad Lawan, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto), however, noted that concerning the election of the Deputy President of the Senate, he would take a personal decision on who to vote for and not just cast his vote for any one parading as anointed candidate.
He also expressed support for the use of secret ballot voting model during the election, noting that the 2015 Standing Rules of the Senate, which stipulate the use of secret balloting, would be the instrument to be used.
Senator Gobir, however, interpreted the silence of PDP lawmakers on the jostle for the 9th Senate Presidency to mean acceptance of Lawan as the candidate of the APC. He said: “I am not worried about the election of today because what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.
“What is right is that the person we are going to choose, we will choose him tomorrow (today). When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. Certainly, what the President wants is Lawan, and I am going for Lawan.
“On the Deputy President of the Senate, that one is left to me. I think am going to make my decision.”
However, it appears that the APC would be going into today’s battle with a divided house as several of their members who are in the race for different positions have shunned all entreaties to step down for the anointed candidates of their party.
Former Senate Leader and Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, yesterday, shunned the meeting scheduled by the APC governors and the National Working Committee (NWC) members with the APC Senators-elect.
Ndume, who is contesting for the Senate Presidency, insisted he was still in the race and not prepared to step down for Lawan, the choice candidate of the ruling party.
The meeting was to formally ask all Senators and House of Representatives members aspiring for principal positions in the 9th Assembly to support the candidates of the party.
The APC leadership had endorsed Lawan as Senate President and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as Deputy Senate President. Also House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has been endorsed as Speaker, House of Representatives and Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase as Deputy Speaker.
However, those contesting for the positions the party has zoned to individuals did not attend the meeting.
Among them are Ndume, who is contesting the Senate Presidency; former governor of Abia State and Senator-elect, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who is contesting for the Deputy Senate President; Senator Kabir Gaya, who is also contesting for the Deputy Senate President and Hon. Umar Bago, who is contesting for Speaker, House of Representatives.
Others who had indicated interest to contest one position or the other at the meeting stepped down for the preferred candidates of the party.
Among them are Senator Ajayi Boroffice, who had indicated interest to contest for the Deputy Senate President and Hon. Nkiruka Onyejiocha, who had indicated interest to contest the Speaker, House of Representatives.
Addressing the media after the meeting that had in attendance APC governors, members of the NWC and Members-elect and 60 Senators-elect, the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said the meeting was basically to firm up all the conversations and lobbies that have been going on and draw a specific conclusion.
“We have all agreed as a caucus to endorse distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan as the APC candidate for the presidency of the Senate and Senator Omo-Agege as the Deputy Senate President and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker,” he said.
PDP governors and leadership of the party met, yesterday, for a second time in four days on the elections of presiding officers of the 9th National Assembly.
The governors with the leadership first met last Thursday, but failed to take a position on whom to support.
PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, as well as the outgoing President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the 8th House of Representatives, Dogora Yakubu, were present at the meeting.
A source said the meeting was to harmonise the party’s position before presenting it to PDP members in the National Assembly before the inauguration of the Assembly this morning. The meeting is under way as at the time of filing this report.
FROM THE TOWER OF TRUTH