APC courts PDP as 9th national assembly leadership campaign intensifies

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Ime Akpan

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has made a volte-face and courted the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the selection and election of the leadership of the ninth national assembly which will be inaugurated on June 12.

The ruling party’s decision to romance the PDP followed the rejection by some APC lawmakers the party’s adoption and imposition of Messrs Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as the sole candidates for the posts of the senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively

It would be recalled that the national chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, had stated that the party would take all the leadership positions and key committee chairmanship of the 9th national assembly.

“We have the number to produce speaker and will produce the speaker who must be a member of the APC. We have the number and we will use the number to produce the deputy speaker who must be a member of the APC. We have the number and we will use the number to elect the House Leader who must be a member of the APC. We have the number and we will use the number to elect the chief whip and deputy who must be a member of the APC. The only position that we are not interested in is the minority leader,” he said.

“We will not share power in the House of Representatives. The leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by APC members. If Nigerians want the opposition to chair committees they would have voted for them. All chairmen of committees, except one that I understand that is statutorily reserved for opposition and that is public accounts. They can have that.

“We will not do the kind of thing that happened the last time in which some APC members, as members of the ruling party, became distant spectators in the management of committees.”

“We are aware that they (PDP) believe they can use divide and rule by sponsoring many people within our ranks to contest for the positions so that they then become the kingmakers and in return, the person will offer them some chairmanship seats…We are not going to do business with them.”

But the party has found itself at the crossroads as Mr. Ali Ndume is challenging Ahmed for the post while Olusegun Odebunmi (Southwest), Garba Datti (Kaduna), Ado Doguwa (Kaduna), Babangida Ibrahim (Katsina), Suleiman Kawu (Kano), Sulaiman Aminu (Kano), Tahir Monguno (Borno) and Abdulrazaq Namdas (Adamawa), Yusuf Buba Yakub (Adamawa), Mohammed Bago (Niger), John Dyegh (Benue), Idris Wase (Plateau), Abubakar Lado (Niger), Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Abia) and Chike Okafor (Imo), challenge Gbajabiamilla’s candidature.

APC spokesman, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu, said in a statement following reports that Lawan had been holding meetings with members of the opposition that the party (APC) was not averse to its national assembly lawmakers negotiating with the opposition in their bid for principal positions in the ninth assembly.

He said “it is democratic to do so” stating that the APC has nothing against its members seeking cooperation with other legislators as it is confident that they will not betray the party.

“We are inundated with reports of our members in the National Assembly holding consultations with members of the opposition over the election of leaders into the ninth national assembly. Let me state that our party has no objection to such consultations.

“It is a normal democratic practice world over to stretch hands across the divides.  And contrary to some media reports, the actions of our members do not contradict the party’s position. APC has a comfortable majority in both chambers. Therefore; we have the number to produce the leadership.

“But democracy recognises the importance of the opposition, especially when you do not have two-third, which would be required at some very critical situations. For us as a ruling party, we understand that a stable and peaceful National Assembly would enhance our capacity to deliver more for the people of Nigeria.

“So, the party is not averse to negotiation by Senator Ahmed Lawan and our other senators-elect working to fulfil the position taken by our party.

“It is important to note that one of the key considerations for adopting him as the party’s candidate for the Senate presidency is his ability to carry everyone along. On top of that, the party has confidence in him not to compromise the progressive ideology of APC. So, clearly, Senator Ahmed Lawan is capable of conducting his negotiations within the prism of APC’s objectives,” he said.

On zoning and Leadership of House of Representatives, Issa-Onilu said the party would soon release the zoning arrangements for the principal positions.

“The party will also make its position clear in the coming days on the principal positions in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Issa-Onilu also said nationwide consultations being championed by Lawan and Gbajabiamila, were in line with the party’s policy of inclusiveness.

He said national interest is guiding the ongoing rapprochement between APC’s candidates and members-elect from the opposition.

“It is just part of politics and in a democracy, consensus is a key element. To have a smooth sail in the National Assembly, you don’t go to the floor pretending that the opposition parties do not exist.

“Even if the opposition parties cannot defeat you, in the spirit of national interest, you must work with them. We want to run a government of inclusiveness, we need every party.

“We will support every effort by our candidates for principal offices in the Senate and the House of Representatives to carry elected members from the opposition along.

“As long as we can, we will keep our members-elect united to present common candidates to lead the National Assembly. The fact that we are saying that we can go it alone is not the same thing as saying that the opposition does not matter.

“We have the numbers to achieve our aim but we have to ensure comfort for the opposition too. Unlike in the past, what we are pushing before the 9th National Assembly is a national interest agenda.

“We want them to see our candidates within the prism of the national agenda we are pursuing,” said the APC spokesman.

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