Barely less than two months to open the Ninth assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari has urged All Progressives Congress (APC) House of Representatives members-elect to stand firm in the battle for the Ninth Assembly’s leadership.
The President made the plea on Tuesday in a dinner at the Banquet Hall of the State House Presidential Villa, Abuja, organised to ensure unity among the newly elected members of the National Assembly ahead of the election of their leaders.
The party’s leadership has maintained that its candidates must lead the National Assembly.
National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu have told members that as the party with the majority, they must produce the leadership of both houses.
The party nominated Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for Senate President and Speaker.
This, however, did not go down well with former Senate Leader Ali Ndume who wants to run for Senate president despite the endorsement of the Senate Leader, Lawan, for the job.
House spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Ahmed Wase (APC, Plateau) and Umar Bago (APC, Niger) are challenging Gbajabiamila for speaker.
Addressing the members-elect at the dinner, President Buhari urged them not to break ranks in the choice of the Assembly’s leadership.
Oshiomhole, according to Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin, presented Gbajabiamila, the House Leader, to the President as the party’s candidate.
He was also presented to members as the party’s choice.
Hon. Ahmed Wase (APC, Plateau) was said to have caused a stir as he stood up after the presentation of Gbajabiamila to express surprise, that after meeting Mr. President to step down and take over as deputy speaker, his name was not mentioned at the dinner for the position.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, told State House correspondents that Buhari called for unity among party members.
”90-95 percent of them are in unison, seem to agree on the position of the party.Unanimity ran through the meeting. We cannot speak for five per cent. The President urged them to maintain the unity referring to what transpired in 2015…if there is disunity in their ranks, then anything can happen,” Adesina said.
He also urged them “to maintain the unity and stand by the position of the party.”
Oshiohmole vowed that the party will not repeat the mistakes of 2015 in the election of the Assembly’s leaders.
He said: “In life, mistakes are permitted but it becomes a problem if the mistake is repeated twice.
“We are determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2015 in 2019, we have learnt our lesson.”
The party chairman maintained that all ‘strategic committees’ in the two chambers of the National Assembly must be headed by members of the party, adding: “We do not need to do business with the devil for us to survive in the Ninth Assembly.”
“Out of 223 APC elected members, about 67 were re-elected, the rest are new members.
“In other climes, you don’t go into coalition when you are in the majority; you do so when you don’t have the numbers. We have the numbers. Out of 306, Nigerians elected 223 APC members because they don’t want Mr President to face the trauma of 2015.
“Most of those who decamped were rejected and even those who led them were uprooted. We cannot as a party which has a comfortable majority entrust critical committees in the hands of the PDP or opposition.
“If Nigerians wanted them, they could have voted them. In the days of PDP, every committee was chaired by PDP members.”
Oshiohmole, who described Senate President Bukola Saraki and Dogara as “selfish, greedy” politicians, said both the re-elected and new members of the APC were entitled to head committees.
He stressed that the APC would never share what belongs to it with the opposition.
The meeting with President Buhari, Oshiomhole said, was meant to ensure a smooth election of officials of the Ninth Assembly.
“In African family, we sit down in a closed door to address issues. The good news is that there is a role for everyone,” he added.
Also speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting with the President, the Director-General of Femi Gbajabiamila’s Campaign, Abdulmumuni Jibril, said the APC leadership officially presented Gbajabiamila to the President as the party’s consensus candidate.
President Buhari had on March 26 also hosted APC senators-elect to a similar dinner at the Presidential Villa.
In a statement, Issa Onilu said: “The APC has adopted Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as its candidate for the position of the speaker of the House of Representatives in the Ninth Assembly.
“This position was reached after an intensive deliberation with the APC’s House of Representatives members-elect at a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Banquet Hall of Aso Villa.
“The Deputy Speaker’s position has been zoned to the Northcentral.”
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