Tinubu meets lawmakers-elect over National Assembly leadership
The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress has invited the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima; senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect on its platform to a crucial meeting.
The closed door meeting, which is scheduled to hold at the State House in Abuja on Monday, according to a report by The Punch, has got political stakeholders pondering what it is all about.
Though the agenda for the meeting was not stated, a source at the APC secretariat told our correspondent that it had to do with early consultation and strategic plans concerning the issue of zoning of the Senate presidency, Speaker for the House of Representatives and other principal offices in the National Assembly.
“We have a feeling that this was a frantic effort to avoid a repeat of the coup that brought in Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House in 2015, respectively,” the source stated.
The source explained that the “ghost of the civilian coup” executed by Saraki and Dogara in 2015 was still haunting the ruling party.
According to him, the situation could have been averted if both politicians had considered party supremacy ahead of their selfish interests.
The invitation to the meeting, which was signed by APC National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, was also published on the party’s official Twitter handle around 10.08pm on Friday.
While requesting the guests to come along with the Certificates of Return issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission after they were declared winners, the statement also urged them to arrive early enough to participate in a screening before the event slated for 2.00pm would commence.
The invitation read, “This is to inform all Senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that they are invited to a parley with the party’s national leadership.
“The meeting, which will be attended by the President-elect and Vice President-elect, will be held at the State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. Senators/House of Representatives-elect must come to the meeting with their Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Certificates of Return and must come alone.
“The meeting is strictly on invitation. Date: Monday, 13th of March, 2023. Time: 2pm prompt. Venue: State House Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. All invited guests are expected to arrive early to allow for screening and be seated before 12noon.”
Confirming the agenda of the meeting, a member of the APC NWC, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “The meeting is going to deal with the issue of who leads the next National Assembly. You know we cannot stand aloof and allow everyone to continue spending money in wooing their colleagues for their ambitions.
We are also trying to prevent power brokers and external forces from hijacking the next National Assembly. The President-elect will not stand by like the current President and allow power seekers and enemies to hijack the National Assembly. It is not in the interest of the President-elect and not in the interest of the ruling party as well.
“Yes, the President is aware of the meeting, but he is not attending. We took the meeting to the Villa in order to limit the number of attendees and prevent those not invited and also our enemies from coming.”
Power sharing formula
The invitation to the meeting is coming on the heels of calls by concerned members of the party, including the National Vice Chairman (North-West) and member of NWC, Mallam Salihu Lukman, who insisted that there was a need to lock down the sensitive positions of the Senate president Speaker after the posts of President and Vice-President had been zoned to the South-West and North-East regions, respectively.
Lukman warned that no candidate from the two regions should be considered for both positions and that the APC should not give consideration to narratives by opportunities in the party.
The Kaduna politician, who earlier called for reformation of the party, appealed that only candidates from the North-West, South-East and the South-South should be considered for the principal positions.
He said, “Some specific recommendations may be necessary at this point. The offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to be locked. Given that the President and Vice-President are from the South-West and the North-East, respectively, nobody from either of these two regions should aspire for any of these offices. Opportunists may argue that in the last four years, the South-West also produced the Vice-President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“We must correct this kind of lopsided reality as a strategic approach to dousing ethnic and religious tension in the country. With a national chairman from the North-Central and hopefully a Christian, the North-Central too should also be excluded from aspiring for either the position of Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Accordingly, the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West, South-East or the South-South. With a Muslim President and a Muslim Vice-President, it is only logical to zone the Senate President, who is the number three ranking leader of government, to either the South-East or the South-South, who will be a Christian.
“Logically, the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-West. This will have the advantage of acknowledging that the North-West gave Asiwaju the highest votes of 2,950,393, representing 33.6 per cent of the votes he won. All other positions in government can be assigned by taking a bearing from that.”
Lukman added that while it might be important to also consider the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation as part of the positions to be zoned, Tinubu must not undermine his government by appointing a politician with zero experience in managing public service institutions to serve as the SGF.
According to him, the office of the SGF is the brain box of any government system, warning that if a wrong person is appointed into such a sensitive position, the delivery capacity of the government will be weak.
‘S’East deserves positions’
Another member of the APC NWC and National Vice Chairman, South-East, Dr Ijeomah Arodiogbu, has drummed support for the party to consider zoning the Senate presidency or the speakership of the House of Representatives to the region.
The appeal was in reaction to the agenda of Monday’s meeting.
Although Arodiogbu admitted that he had no inkling of the agenda of the meeting, he expressed confidence that it would be about consultation on principal officers of the lawmakers to avert a repeat of the controversial manner in which Saraki and Dogara emerged as leaders of the respective chambers of the National Assembly..
He urged the leadership of the APC to look beyond the poor performance of the party in the South-East region when considering offices for fairness and inclusive governance.
Arodiogbu said, “Monday’s meeting could be all about zoning of the offices at the National Assembly. We don’t have the agenda of the meeting yet. But I believe it is a consultation meeting. We have to meet as a family to decide on the way forward for the party and the incoming administration. But the agenda has not been discussed with us.
“The South-East should be accorded its due recognition despite our not-too-wonderful outing and contribution at the presidential and National Assembly elections. But that should be quite understandable, considering the fact that the entire nation embraced the (Peter) Obi candidacy and the South-East especially was very direct about it. Also, the role played by religion and ethnicity in Nigerian politics cannot be ruled out. This is why we believe that the South-East should be strongly considered for any of these positions