Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The All Progressives Congress has opposed northern senators vying for the senate presidency.
It insisted that any northerner angling for the leadership of the senate had no respect for the party’s constitution.
The National Vice Chairman of the APC (North-West), Malam Salihu Lukman and the party’s Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, on Monday, said for fairness, northern senators contesting the post should step down.
Party chieftains in the South-South and South-East had called for the zoning of the senate presidency to their regions in the spirit of fairness and to give other geo-political regions a sense of belonging in view of the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket adopted by the party.
So far, no fewer than eight senators had indicated an interest in the race. They include Senators Jibrin Barau (Kano Central), Sani Musa (Niger East), Orji Kalu (Abia North), and GodsWill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom North-West ).
Others are Senators Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Peter Ndubuze (Imo North), Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara West), and Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), amongst others.
But Lukman called on Yari, Barau and other northern senators to step down from the race for the office of Senate President in the 10th National Assembly.
Lukman noted that it was compelling for the ruling party to zone the prestigious office to either the South-South or South-East for national unity.
The APC chieftain made the appeal in a statement issued in Abuja titled ‘Cash-and-Carry contest for leadership of 10th National Assembly.’
He said, “It is therefore very compelling that the Senate President should come from either the South-South or South-East. I want to specifically note that two respected Senators-elect from North-West have made public declarations about their aspirations for the position of Senate President. These are His Excellency Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Barau Jibrin.
“Now that power has shifted to the Southern part of the country, as a region, we equally have the responsibility to regulate the conduct of all our Senators-elect from the North-West, including the two Senators-elect Abdulaziz Yari and Barau Jibrin to withdraw their aspiration for the Senate President.
“All party leaders from North-West must prevail on these leaders to, in the overall interest of the unity and peaceful co-existence of the country withdraw their aspirations to contest the position of Senate President for the 10th Senate. At the most, they should aspire for the position of Majority Leader of the Senate in line with the 1999 zoning formula in the Senate.”
Lukman, a member of the APC National Working Committee, reiterated that no North-West or North-East candidate should be considered for the position.
While describing the lobbying by the lawmakers and NWC members as worrisome, he warned against the imposition of another Muslim leader as the Senate president following the outrage that greeted the emergence of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his deputy-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, who share the same faith.
He noted, “Apart from the clear disregard for national unity and outright disrespect for Nigerians, especially the persons of Tinubu and Shettima, being the President-elect and Vice-President-elect respectively, some of the aspiring candidates for the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives are neither concerned about the security and well-being of Nigeria nor are they in any way disturbed about factors that could erode the electoral viability of our party – APC.
“These are aspiring candidates for these positions, two of them Muslims from North-West aspiring for the position of Senate President and one of them from North-East aspiring for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, who are desperately mobilising support.
“Certainly, these aspirants know that there is a very high probability that once the party is allowed to finalise the processes of zoning positions of leadership, the probability is high that these positions would be zoned to other sections of the country outside theirs.
“’It should be very clear that any person whose aspiration for the position of Senate President, the number three highest ranking position in the Federal Government, who is a Muslim will not mean well for Nigeria and will be working to undermine the electoral viability of APC as a political party.”
“Any Muslim aspiring for the position of Senate President has no respect for both the constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the APC. ’This is because chapter II, section 14(3) of the Nigerian constitution clearly outlined that ‘the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
‘’With two Muslims already elected to be sworn in as President and Vice President of the Federal Republic on May 29, any attempt to consider another Muslim as Senate President will promote the dominance of Muslims in the Federal Government and will be injurious to national unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity, which must not be allowed.”
On his part, the APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, described Lukman’s call for the withdrawal of North-West aspirants from the race as ‘ethical.’
“Fairness demands that these aspirants step down. It will seek to give a semblance of inclusiveness and give everyone a sense of belonging. But the ultimate decision rests with the party which will not do anything injurious to its interest,” he stated.
Asked if the APC had taken a position on the zoning of the senate president and speaker, the APC image maker disclosed that no formal position had been taken on it.
He said, “We haven’t come to that yet (zoning) but it has been discussed. I think people want the atmosphere to be cool following the stress and tensions generated by the elections. But consultations are ongoing, it doesn’t have to be formal, where everybody will meet and decisions taken.
“The Saraki-Dogara lesson has been learnt and I don’t think the 10th Assembly will happen that way. The party will not lose focus. I think they want to see the outcome of the supplementary elections. That will give an impetus to the direction where things will go. My intuition is telling me, probably, the 1999 arrangement is probably what will hold.”
On whether the president-elect would have a say in who emerges as NASS leaders, Ibrahim stated that it was incontestable.
“That is an understatement. It is only the president (Buhari) that says he belongs to nobody. But this one (Tinubu) belongs to everybody. He will certainly have a say because the function of the executives is dependent on the relationship with the legislature.
“If you have a hostile legislature, you will certainly not get your policies implemented,” he said.
But some northern aspirants told The PUNCH on Monday that they were in the race because the Senate needed a competent person as the Senate president.
The Senator representing Borno South, Senator Ali Ndume, stated that he would support fairness, not zoning.
He said, “The issue should be about fairness, equity and justice. Zoning is a word that is being used for zoning but fairness, equity and justice are what the Constitution preaches and it is the right thing to do.
“The constitution is clear that in the distribution of resources, there must be fairness and inclusiveness to ensure an even distribution so that no position or resources is concentrated in one zone, tribe, religion and so on.
He said, “I want you to know that I am not vying for this position out of desperation or because I am the best but I am looking out for the best for the institution.
“When defining the best, you have to look at competence, experience, position and pedigree of the person involved.
“I have already thrown in my ring but whatever the party and my colleagues feel should be the consideration. I am not going to vote for myself.
“That is why I have put my agenda out there for my colleagues to judge and vote accordingly, That is why I am not comfortable with processes based on trivialities.
“If they come up with the arrangement, if it’s fair then why not but if it is not, then that is going to be another thing.”
Talking of his chances considering that the Vice –President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima is from his state, Senator Ndume stated that they were separate individuals who should be treated by merit as “one’s tribe isn’t what one has a choice over.
“The argument is not sustainable because the current Vice-President is from the South-West, and so is the Speaker. If that can happen, so what stops the Vice-President and the Senate President from coming from the same zone?
“Also, during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President, David Mark; the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Speaker, Patricia Etteh, were all Christians, nobody had an issue with it.“
Also, Barau argued that the party had a lot to gain if it zoned it to the North- West considering their performance at the last election.
He said, “The North-West zone deserves the Senate Presidency and it would be in the interest of the party to zone the Senate Presidency to them.”
Barau noted that at the recently concluded election, the North-West, precisely Kano, gave the President-elect a huge advantage over other states.
The lawmaker, therefore, noted that if any zone had a stronger claim to the Senate Presidency, it should be the North-West.
Reiterating his point, the Kano Central Senator noted that the legislature was distinct from other arms of government as it thrives more on experience and longevity in the parliament which he had garnered over the years.
He said, “Among those who are running for the seat of the Senate Presidency, I am the most ranked senator. So, it’s constitutional and among those who are showing their intentions to run for the Senate Presidency, I am the most experienced.
“The issue is that of competence. You need to be grounded, in the residue of the legislature before you become the Senate Presidency. Merits shouldn’t be overlooked for sentiments.”
He, however, said he would agree with whatever decision the APC takes as a loyal party man.
In the same vein, the Senator representing Niger East, Senator Sani Musa, also made a case for the North-Central stating that it was only fair to include the region in the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
As a ranking senator, he said he was eminently qualified for the position of Senate President.
He said, “I am eminently qualified and the North Central does deserve the zoning of the seats.
“I am a ranking senator with different experiences in leadership capacities in and outside of the National Assembly. By every merit, I am qualified.
“North-Central delivered its votes for the APC and if the South-West and North-East got both the president and vice president; the North-Central should be given the opportunity to produce the Senate president.”
He further noted that if the party refused to zone the position to the North-Central, he would go for the position of deputy senate president.
He said, “I have always made it known that I am in support of the party’s decision. If the zoning of the party doesn’t favour the North-Central which is where I come from, I will go for the seat of the Deputy Senate President.”
Making a case for the South-East, Senator Osita Izunaso (APC-Imo) submitted that he was the most qualified for the Senate Presidency ‘’going by situations on the ground.’’
Speaking in Abuja on Monday, he said the South-East should be allowed to produce the Senate President in the spirit of justice, fairness and equity.
He said he had the experience and capacity needed to ensure stability and a cordial working relationship between the executive and legislature and has been a lawmaker since 2003.
In a related development, the Progressive Youth Group has urged the APC to zone the Senate Presidency to the South-East.
To this end, the pressure group endorsed Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC-Abia), who is the Chief Whip of the Senate.
This was contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by the group’s Convener, Mr Idris Jibril.
He said: “Having thoughtfully considered several factors and the greater good for all, the Progressive Youth Group hereby endorses Kalu as the next Senate President of the 10th Assembly.”
Meanwhile, a reliable source within the APC Secretariat told our correspondent that the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had travelled out of the country to Saudi Arabia for ‘Umrah.’
Confirming the development, the APC publicity director said that the national chairman went on a routine pilgrimage and would be back this week.
“The chairman is also out of the country on pilgrimage. In fact, everybody that is anybody including the president-elect has travelled out of the country,” he added jokingly.(Punch)