Olusola Fabiyi, Olalekan Adetayo and Sunday Aborisade
The Peoples Democratic Party and its senators on Tuesday berated President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress and its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, over their position on the leadership of the ninth National Assembly.
The PDP senators, in a statement in Abuja by the Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, and Senator Dino Melaye, asked their APC colleagues to leave the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, out of their schemes to produce the ninth Senate President.
On its part, the PDP said its elected senators and members of the House of Representatives were constitutionally eligible to lead both chambers of the National Assembly.
Statements by the opposition party and its senators were as a result of reports, which indicated that Saraki and the PDP senators planned to influence the emergence of the Senate President in the ninth National Assembly.
Also on Monday, Oshiomhole, at a meeting with members-elect of the House of Representatives, said the party must have its way in the National Assembly leadership.
All senators can aspire to be senate president—PDP senators
The PDP senators, in their statement on Tuesday, warned that the PDP lawmakers would not allow any outsider to determine the next Senate President.
The statement read, “Let it be known that no matter the mischief being sponsored by these spineless people, Dr Saraki knows that it is the duty of all senators in the ninth Senate to elect their Senate President and other leaders.
“Nobody from outside the Senate has such powers. It is also the right of every senator to aspire to that position as stated by the constitution.
“He has benefited from this practice of senators within the chambers exercising the right. He is conscious of this fact and will not be a party to any plan to seize or interfere with the process of evolving the leadership of the ninth Senate.
“We, therefore, urge the APC gladiators and their handlers to leave Saraki out of their schemes and manipulations.
“They should go and concentrate on how to convince the senators-elect and ensure that the election of the next Senate President takes place in a conducive atmosphere with a view to strengthening the institution and making it perform its constitutional roles, without any hindrance,” the PDP caucus stated.
The senators alleged that the APC lawmakers were making it to appear that Saraki was seeking to play a role in who occupied the various leadership posts in the next Senate.
“His concern now is to continue to provide leadership to the Eighth Senate and to ensure that the Senate achieves as much as it is possible in the remaining two months of its tenure,” the PDP senators said.
N’Assembly belongs to no party, PDP replies Buhari, Oshiomhole
Also, the PDP has said its elected senators and members of the House of Representatives are constitutionally eligible to lead the National Assembly.
The PDP noted that positions of the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker were not exclusively meant for any political party, but constitutional rights of every elected lawmaker in both chambers.
It, therefore, described as laughable, the move by the leadership of the APC and Buhari to impose leaders on both chambers.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, stated the position of the party in a statement in Abuja.
He said, “It is laughable and amounts to empty grandstanding and self-delusion for President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to pose as if the presiding offices and committee chairmanship in the National Assembly are exclusive rights of the APC.
“President Buhari and Oshiomhole should wake up to the fact that the National Assembly belongs to no political party but to all Nigerians, who exercise their control through their elected representatives.
“For emphasis, Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is clear in providing that ‘There shall be:- (a) a president and a deputy president of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.’
“Section 92 (1) makes the same provision for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of State House of Assembly.”
The spokesman for the PDP insisted that the former ruling party had a role to play in the election of who would lead the two chambers.
N’Assembly positions: We will field candidates, PDP warns APC
He said, “The PDP, therefore, does not only have a constitutional say in the process of the emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, but will, as a matter of constitutional right, field candidates into presiding offices of both chambers, if need be.
“The PDP wishes to remind President Buhari and Oshiomhole that the APC had in the past benefited from the provisions of section 50, with the defection of then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from the PDP to the APC, in October 2014, without relinquishing the speakership of the House to the PDP; a development that was applauded by President Buhari, as then opposition leader as well as the APC, through its then National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed.
“In fact, the former Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, echoed the constitutional provision that ‘the constitution requires only that the speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.’”
You are ignorant, APC tells PDP leaders, senators
The APC, in its reaction to the PDP and its senators, said senators elected on the platform of the opposition party had no say on the decision of who became the Senate President.
It said it was also an aberration for opposition senators to take part in the election that would produce the Senate President and others.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Lanre Isa-Onilu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He said in the presidential system of government, there was no need for election of principal officers to be held on the floor of the National Assembly.
According to him, once decisions on those who will occupy positions that belong to the party with majority have been taken, what is left is for the announcement to be made on the floor.
He said, “The PDP leaders and their senators-elect are ignorant. If they are not ignorant, they will know that they don’t have a say on who becomes the President of the Senate.
“The positions that belong to the party with the majority, belong to the party with the majority. The positions that belong to the party with the minority also belong to the party with the minority.
“That is what is being practised in the proper presidential system of government that we adopted in this country.
“So, it is not for the PDP senators to come and vote for who becomes the Senate President. If that has been happening before, it is an aberration.
“This position belongs to the APC. We have won majority and once you win the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, you determine those who are going to occupy those positions that belong to the party with majority.
“That is what is obtainable in the United States. You don’t even see them come to the floor to come and vote for the Senate President. Once they determine who will occupy those positions that belong to the party with majority, they will just come to the floor and announce.”
Oshiomhole unilaterally picked Lawan, says Ndume
Meanwhile, a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, has described as unconstitutional, the endorsement of Senator Ahmad Lawan as the APC candidate for the position of Senate President of the 9th National Assembly.
Ndume, who addressed journalists in Abuja, also said that the choice of Lawan was an unpopular decision, unilaterally taken by Oshiomhole.
He said, “It was Adams Oshiomhole that said that Ahmad Lawan should be our next Senate President. I don’t believe that that is truly the position of Mr President.
“Before I went into this contest, I consulted with Mr President and he gave me the go-ahead. I consulted with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and he also gave me the go-ahead immediately after the primaries.”
Ndume, who expressed shock over the action of the party, however, said he would consult leaders of the party in the North-East and his supportive colleagues before taking a final position on the issue.
He said, “I am surprised that the decision was taken and we were not given the chance to ask questions or make comments. The President was called upon to make his remarks and after that we sang the National Anthem.
“Even the chosen candidate was not given the chance to thank us or to say something about it. Those of us that are interested in contesting the position were not even consulted. I left the venue in shock.
“…If this is God’s decision, it will last, if it is not, God will take His own decision. I have a vision for the Senate because the Senate has drifted and is drifting to a position where it will not be able to serve its purpose.”
APC says Ndume must abide by APC position
But the APC has faulted Ndume for opposing Oshiomhole’s position on the Senate presidency.
Isa-Onilu said Ndume had no choice but to abide by the party’s decision on the matter if indeed he was a true APC member.
He said the decision to endorse Lawan was not that of Oshiomhole alone but that of the party, including Buhari, the party’s National Working Committee, state governors and other respected party leaders.
He reminded the senator of the supremacy of the party.
The party’s spokesman added, “The ticket he is holding belongs to the APC and he cannot go and work with the opposition to give what belongs to the APC to the opposition, like it happened in 2015 when the position of the Deputy Senate President was given to the opposition by some desperate former members of the APC.
“Ndume will be wrong to be calling out the party’s national chairman. The national chairman spoke on behalf of the party. And when we talk of the party in this instance, it is not just about the NWC.
“The President was there when he said it. He did not say anything that the President was not aware of. He did not say anything that the leaders of the APC are not already part of.”