9th NASS leadership: The Behind the scene deals

Lawan and Omo-Agege with Buhari

In every contest certain factors usually define and shape its outcome. This is as behind the scene deeds and dealings also play significant roles in contests. Taiye Odewale examines behind the scene processes that led to the emergence of leadership of the 9th National Assembly

The 9th National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives, Tuesday, elected its leaders in keenly contested polls.

Senator Ahmad Lawan, (APC, Yobe North), was elected President of the 9th Senate, while Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), was elected Deputy, Senate President.

Similarly, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos state) and Hon Idris Wase (APC, Plateau state), were elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.

The polls saw the emergence of candidates endorsed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) contrary to the party’s experience at the election of the leadership of the 8th NASS.

The intrigues

The strongest of the factors that led to victory of the four presiding officers at both chambers as declared by the lawmakers elected across party divide who spoke to Blueprint Weekend after the elections, was party loyalty on the part of legislators elected on the platform of the ruling APC given the numerical strength.

APC controls 62 out of the 107 in the Senate, just as the party controls 208 out of the 358 seats in the House of Representatives.

Speaking to our correspondent, Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan, (APC Lagos West), who seconded Lawan’s nomination, in a telephone interview, said: “The margin of votes in the two elections indicate very clearly that not less than 90 to 95 per cent of the 62 APC senators voted for candidates of their party as instructed by national leadership of the party.

“It is even a thing of joy that despite the required simple majority votes (54), senators on the platform of our party needed to get both Senators Lawan and Omo-Agege elected for the two presiding officer positions, considerable number of our colleagues in the PDP and of course, the only senator on the platform of Young Peoples Party (YPP ), Ifeanyi Uba, also voted for them, signifying a united 9th Senate.”

Also reacting, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP Enugu East) said what played out in the election was nothing ,but party loyalty on the part of APC Senators who have definitely learnt their lessons from what happened in 2015 at the take off of the 8th Senate then.

Another PDP senator, who pleaded for anonymity said: “The results of the elections in the Senate and by extension, in the House of Representatives, clearly show that federal lawmakers elected on the platform of APC, voted for anointed candidates of their party in compliance with directives given to that effect by the National leadership of the party and also, the presidency.

“It was a clear demonstration of lesson learnt from what happened in 2015 coupled with the fact that those of us in the PDP don’t have the required number to create upset in any of the elections.

“Though 44 is an appreciable number out of 107, but not enough to create upset without collaboration from within the fold of those who are 62 in number. Therefore, the one directional shape or outcome of the elections was not a surprise at all.”

But aside from the factor of party loyalty said to have been displayed by elected Federal lawmakers on the platform of APC, the factor of lack of cohesion and direction among their counterparts on the platform of the PDP at both chambers also played out in the election which resulted in the  total votes garnered by the APC anointed candidates, far exceeding the number of elected federal lawmakers on the platform of the party.

While the total number of APC senators-elect as at the time of the election was 62, the total votes garnered by Ahmad Lawan from the election  to emerge as President of the 9th Senate was 79, leaving Ali Ndume purportedly supported by the PDP senators who are 44 in number, with just 28 votes.

The same scenario played out in the House of Representatives where the 281 votes that made Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge speaker, far exceeded the 208 seats controlled by members on the platform of APC, leaving Umar Bago purportedly supported by the 121 PDP House members with just 76 votes.

More apparent of the lack of cohesion and direction within the fold of the PDP federal lawmakers- elect then, was the outcome of the election for the position of  Deputy Senate President contested for by one of their own, the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was throunced by Senator Ovie  Omo- Agege of the APC with 68 votes as against 37 garnered by Ekweremadu which was short of 7 , when compared to   the 44 seats presently controlled by the PDP Senators.

Though some PDP senators alleged that Ekweremadu’s woeful performance in the election was caused by lack of collective endorsement for that purpose by all the PDP senators but picture of purported collective decision for that purpose was painted by Ekweremadu in his reaction to the outcome of the election.

The immediate past deputy senate president, who took to his social media handles few hours after the inauguration of the 9th Senate, said: “I congratulate the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, and my successoras Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, on their elections.

“I specially appreciate my colleagues, who supported me as I vied for the office again to preserve the hallowedness and honour of the Senate and uphold equity as a priceless ingredient for building a Nigeria of our dreams.

“I have made my point and my colleagues have made their choice. It is now for us all to join hands across all divides to work for the success of the 9th Senate and National Assembly as well as the peace and prosperity of our nation.

“I am deeply indebted in gratitude to the good people of Enugu West and well-meaning Nigerians, whose support and prayers have seen me this far. They can rest, assured that I will continue to give them quality representation.”

However, the outcome of the elections contradicted the fears earlier demonstrated by some of the APC senators over method of voting to be adopted.

Trouble started at exactly 10:10 am when the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Omolori, after reading the proclamation issued by President Muhamnadu Buhari for inauguration of the 9th National Assembly announced to the senators-elect that secret voting method would be adopted for the elections as contained in the 2015 Standing Orders of the Senate.

According to the Cerk, the secret voting method is legalised by orders 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the 2015 Senate’s rule book.

But immediately the Clerk made the announcement, some APC Senators like Barau Jibril (Kano North), Ovie Omo- Agege (Delta Central), among others objected by shouting that the rule had been set aside by a purported court ruling in Abuja on Monday.

Specifically, Senator Barau fired a question to the Cert on whether he was aware of the court ruling or not, to which the Clerk responded thus: “I will answer the question from you out of respect. I heard about the purported ruling, but not served.

“The guiding principle here is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Senate Rule book as amended.  Provisions in the rule book as regards how to conduct today’s election are very clear and that is what we shall complied with.

“May I please announce that I will not entertain any further question on the subject matter from any other senator-elect.” 

Gratifyingly at the end of the elections at both chambers, intrigues and factors that shaped them were subsumed by unity-driven speeches separately delivered by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.

Lawan said, “Elections are over. It showed that we voted for a united Senate and it is clear that the outcome is bi-partisan.

“All parties, including the PDP and YPP voted for me and with this outcome, the 9th Senate is ready to take off as a united senate.

“Today means so many things. It is the commencement of another decade of our democracy and we will work to ensure best global parliamentary practice among other things. We will work with the executive for sustained pursuit of national ethical renewal.

“The Senate will be independent while working with the executive. We will choose unity of purpose instead of conflict.

“We must drive a transformative Senate dedicated to serving the people with confidence courage and patriotism. In doing so, we are convinced that our past was only a story told, while our future can yet be written in gold.”

But whether the seeming unity among elected federal lawmakers across political divides as shown by the outcome of elections that threw up the present leadership of the 9th National Assembly, will serve as its driven force or not; time will tell.

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