BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
Barely 22 days to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the tussle for the leadership of the two chambers has evolved into different dimensions. The aspirants have embarked on a chase for a united legislature devoid of political party inclinations.
Last week the ruling All Progressives Congress anointed leadership teams of the Senate led by the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio and the House of Representatives led by the choice Deputy Speaker, Ben Kalu visited the National Working Committee of the Labour Party led by Julius Abure, at the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
Kalu represented his principal, Tajudeen Abass, who he said was on a screening appointment at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Besides the LP, the teams have, according to them, visited other political parties leadership like SDP, NNPP and will still visit more before the D-Day to ask for permission to engage their “beautiful brides” (the senators-elect and members-elect) in the marriage that will produce a formidable parliament that will ensure even distribution of dividends of democracy for the citizens they are representing.
While introducing the team and its mission to the LP leadership, co-chairman of the task force, Kingsley Chinda, representing Obio/Akpor Constituency of Rivers State on the ticket of the People’s Democratic Party, said the major reason those of them who are not from APC are supporting the candidacy of Abass and Kalu is because the duo are the most qualified among the aspirants.
He said when the affairs of the House are handed over to them as Speaker and Deputy, the country will be better off because with the gavel in their hands, laws will be enacted based on their usefulness not to please segments of the country.
“I’m an unapologetic member of the PDP but I am neck deep in this cause because it is for the good of our country and people. I have worked closely with the two of them but I can boldly say that I never knew their houses and never visited them or visited me. I didn’t have their phone numbers and they didn’t have mine till recently as we embarked on this national mission. What I am saying is that I became a member of this team because I want the best for our country and people who voted for us regardless of political party inclinations.”
It is very clear that no individual party can form the majority to win the election on the floor of the Senate and the House and that is why the aspirants indulge in intrigues by arousing the desire, interest and curiosity of their colleagues across party lines, particularly the first timers.
A chieftain of the ruling party who wouldn’t want his name in prints while analysing the process noted that though APC has the sole majority in the Senate with 59 followed by the PDP with 36, LP with 8, NNPP and SDP with 2 each and APGA and YPP have one each, any aspirant depending on APC senators-elect only will definitely lose. Reason being that among the senators-elect of the party, there is no way a block vote will be cast.
“Let us not forget that it is not an appointment, it is an election. We have a majority of the senators-elect but everyone knows that no single aspirant can have a block vote from them. All the aspirants are from our party therefore, it will be very difficult for any of them to emerge winner without votes from other senators-elect of other political parties. I feel this is why Akpabio and his team as well as Abass and his team are visiting the leadership of other political parties and it’s the right thing to do.”
“Let us not forget that it is not an appointment, it is an election. We have a majority of the senators-elect but everyone knows that no single aspirant can have a block vote from them. All the aspirants are from our party therefore, it will be very difficult for any of them to emerge winner without votes from other senators-elect of other political parties. I feel this is why Akpabio and his team as well as Abass and his team are visiting the leadership of other political parties and it’s the right thing to do”
In the House of Representatives, APC has 175 members, PDP 118, LP 35, NNPP 19, SDP and ADC 2 each.
Describing the Labour Party members-elect as beautiful brides, the anointed Deputy Speaker aspirant, Kalu said they were at the party’s national headquarters to solicit for the leadership’s approval of the marriage because each of the parties needs the other to run a sound parliament.
He also said no political party is a push over and added that the tsunami of the LP that blew across the political arena of the country is such that anyone that neglects it does it at his peril which is another reason they thought it wise to woo them to join in bringing the leadership that would stabilize the incoming administration and distribute dividends of democracy to the people.
While these consultations are ongoing, much is yet to be heard of the way the June 13 elections will go on the floors of both Chambers.
Several camps have been formed by the aspirants, an indication that the choices of the ruling APC are not the choices of the general parliamentarians. The implications are that, as usual, it will be decided on the floors by elections.
Adolf Oguike, a lawyer described what is happening as true politicking which crossed party lines.
“What is being witnessed in the choice of the NASS leadership for the 10th Assembly is pure politics but the difference is that these are politicians who are representing their parties and constituencies in both the Senate and House of Representatives. They have put part politics aside now it is politics of like minds. The voting will be really tough because what happened in 2015 can hardly be repeated this time around.
“I think the APC leadership is wiser now that they are really encouraging the anointed aspirants to go for wide consultations, reach out to everyone regardless of their ideology. It’s good. This is about governance, it’s not party affairs, and they are on the right track.”
Meanwhile, a member of the faction of the LP, Abayomi Arabambi has accused Akpabio of bribing the Abure-led faction of the LP with N500 million. He said in a media briefing in Abuja on Thursday that Abure received N500 million from Akpabio and his team.
The breakaway group of the LP led by the former Deputy National Chairman, Lamidi Apapa, accused Julius Abure, the LP National Chairman, and other officials of the party, of being in bed with the governing APC.
The suspended former National Publicity Secretary, Arabambi, told the media that Abure and other party officials used the opportunity of the opposition party as a money minting front to enrich themselves.
Arabambi’s allegation stemmed from a visit on Wednesday to the National Secretariat of the Labour Party in Abuja, by Akpabio’s team that has been lobbying across political parties for the position of principal offices of the National Assembly.
He accused Abure, and other party officials of accepting N500 million bribes from the visiting lawmakers.
So many accusations are trailing the lobbying of the political parties for support by encouraging their members-elect to join these teams.
An Abuja-based political and economic development analyst, Geoffrey Titus, while reacting to the accusations trailing the lobbying of political parties leaders by the aspirants, said such accusations are coming from enemies of the country who can be bought easily.
Citing Arabambi’s accusation, Titus said “When you hear politicians accusing others of taking bribes, what they are simply saying is that they are very cheap and possibly have been bought one time or another by politicians from opposing parties to do dirty jobs for them. Akpabio’s visit with his team to the leadership of the Labour party is not different from those of other parties like SDP, NNPP and the rest. That Arabambi singled out the Labour Party Chairman and his NWC members to accuse of bribery has not only disparaged the man but Akpabio and his team.
“What he has told us is that Akpabio is a corrupt politician that should not be handed the authority of the National Assembly because the Senate President is the Chairman of the National Assembly. Another information he has brought to our knowledge is that the ruling APC is trying to force a corrupt leader on the parliament. He may not have thought of this while exposing the bribery that happened between Akpabio and Abure. If it’s true that Akpabio bribed Abure and his NWC members then our effort to fight corruption is futile.”
However, the LP National Chairman, Abure has denied the accusation. He said Arabambi and his co-travellers are enemies of democracy and are not happy with the consultations by the aspirants because it will cut short the dirty job they are doing.
Former aspirant for the APC National Chairman, Sunny Monidafe has called on the lawmakers to work towards having an independent legislature.
Monidafe said, “I am expecting a national assembly that will be focused, that will be independent, that will put the executive on its toes. Yes I am an APC man and my party is in governance at the presidential level right now. At the National Assembly level the gap is very close. In fact if the opposition parties come together at the House of Representatives, they will be more than us, we must be careful.
“I also want to advise that the lawmakers go for an independent legislature. As someone once said if there is peace between the legislature and the executive, somebody is being cheated and in this case the masses. But I’ll be happy to say that APC as a party we are not interested in that, our aim is to appease the people by allowing the lawmakers make their choices of their leaderships though we can advise them which is what we have done through zoning.”
He also maintained that the independence of the National Assembly must lead them to elect independent-minded leaders at both chambers.
“Their focus must be on electing leaders that will work with every one of them without bias to which party one belongs to. This will pave the way for passage of more bills in the incoming assembly, particularly people friendly bills. I’m happy that the APC is encouraging the aspirants to consult with even other political parties and not making it a party affair. This will lead to having a national assembly that is people-oriented. Moreover, if the solution is consensus candidates, let them go on with that. The era of imposing leadership on the people should be in the past.”
However, the lobbying across the party lines seems to be producing positive results. The Akpabio team and Abass team respectively are made up of lawmakers of different political parties but they are singing the same tune. They are working hard to ensure that the tag on the outgoing ninth assembly as rubber stamp assembly is not transferred to them.