In preparation for inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, there are strong indications that the Clerk of the house might affect some minor changes to the conventional rules of the legislature.

News men were reliably informed that the move to break the conventional rules on the inauguration day is to allow the incoming President and chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to witness the voting pattern of the Assembly, especially that of the House of Representatives.

The zoning of principal officers for the 10th National Assembly by the APC’s National Working Committee, NWC, is causing a stir as some aspirants have vowed to challenge the decision.

The APC had zoned the Senate presidency to the South-South and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North-West.
It announced Senator Godswill Akpabio as its consensus candidate for Senate presidency and Senator Jibrin Barau, as the next Deputy Senate President in the 10th Assembly.

Similarly, the party zoned the Speakership of the House of Representatives to a Kaduna lawmaker, Tajudeen Abbas, while Ben Kalu, from South-East, clinched the Deputy Speaker slot.

NASS Clerk may amend the conventional rules on inauguration day

A source, familiar with the workings of the National Assembly, confirmed the move to news men.

The source said: “We have received strong evidence regarding information that the Clerk may have been directed to pave the way for the newly sworn-in president as well as the national leadership of the APC to be physically present on the inauguration day which is not on the conventional rules.

“The thinking is that maybe their presence can intimidate lawmakers as they make last-minute moves to elect their leaders. For those of us who have been there two or three times, we are just watching how this strange style will succeed.

“All we have known before now has been the practice where only lawmakers are allowed into the hallowed chamber. Even our guests are asked to exit and go to the gallery. So we don’t know why this is being planned but it will shock them.

“Even in their party, they are facing stiff opposition in their plans to impose Abass, let alone those of us in the greater minority. What they are banking on is the enormous powers vested in the Clerk to conduct the proceedings on that day.

“We gathered that shortly after the dismal outing at the Transcorp Hilton on Wednesday night where they wanted to use an expected majority to endorse Abass, they have not slept and that’s the reason for this game plan.”

Speaker’s meeting with lawmakers-elect

Another source, who was in attendance at the meeting called by the speaker said: “Gbaja was not happy seeing the number of lawmakers in attendance and I think he has sensed danger, as an experienced politician, that his preferred candidate won’t fly.”

Asked if he was going to support Abass, the lawmaker-elect, who won his election on the platform of the Labour Party, said he was at the meeting, like some of his friends, who got an invitation that Gbajabiamila was going to address both returning and new members, only to see that it was a forum to sell the candidacy of Tajudeen Abass.

The lawmaker said: “Some of my colleagues understood the reason for the meeting, but innocent me, like few of my friends I interacted with in the hall, didn’t get the notion behind the invitation until we got here and we decided to sit and listen to whatever they had to say.

“I was personally disappointed seeing just a few members in attendance because I had thought they got all the votes since it’s their party that selected this man for speaker.

“But since their members cannot honour their party, and most of them stayed off, is it those of us from the minorities that would support APC? Even though we are more than them in number, we would not be used to project mediocrity or support the composition of a rubber-stamp Assembly.

‘’The institution of the National Assembly is supposed to be an independent arm of government and not an appendage of another arm of government.”

Minority caucus to make stand known soon on conventional rules

“The minority caucus has been meeting lately and we shall make our stand known soon. We shall throw our weight behind anyone we feel has the capacity and independent mind to make the 10th House work for the people of Nigeria and not for an individual.

‘’We shall support such a person, regardless of any region or state he or she comes from. About 358 members are going to cast their votes to decide the next speaker and I don’t think, this number I’m seeing here tonight can make one-quarter of the deciding votes,” the member-elect added.

Opposition parties agree to support Abass

Meanwhile, some members of the minority caucus of the opposition parties, yesterday, agreed to support the candidacy of APC-preferred Abbas and Kalu for speaker and the deputy speakership positions of the 10th National Assembly.

The opposition parties, known as the’Greater Majority’, disclosed after a meeting with the speaker of the House of Representatives.
In a statement by its spokesmen, Messrs Victor Ogene and Dachung Bagos, the opposition parties said they had agreed to build consensus in the interest of the House.

The statement read: “In furtherance of his quest to ensure that the emergent 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives does not take off on a turbulent note, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila met with leaders of the ‘Greater Majority.’

“The group, a coalition of the seven opposition political parties in the incoming 10th Assembly, was led by Mr Nicholas Mutu.
“Others, who accompanied him included Messrs Fred Agbedi, Convener, ‘Greater Majority,’ Wole Oke, Ali Isa, Dennis Agbo, Mansur Soro and Kabiru Ahmadu.

Spokespersons of the opposition, Messrs Bagos and Ogene were also part of the delegation.

“The parley with Gbajabiamila was the climax of a series of interfaces which the ‘Greater Majority’ has had with all those aspiring to lead the House.

“During the talks, during which frank exchanges were shared, all sides agreed to embark on consensus building, in the interest of the institution of the legislature.”

Why I chose Abbas over Betara, Gagdi, and others—Gbaja

Meanwhile, Speaker Gbajabiamila has said his decision to support the candidacy of Mr Abass for the speaker of the 10th House of Representatives was to build on legislative gains so far recorded by his administration.

Speaking on the candidatures of Abbas and Kalu, Gbajabiamila, who attended a meeting of the aspirants with some opposition members at the instance of the Joint Task-10th Assembly, said Abbas was a man with tremendous capacity to lead the parliament.

Gbajabiamila also said he regretted supporting Mr Aminu Tambuwal to emerge as then-speaker of the House.

His words: “I stand before you here as a testament of what party loyalty and consistency can do in your life. I have a story to tell and I am sure everybody has one story or the other to tell. My story may not be unique.

‘’I came here on the platform of a party. We don’t have an independent candidacy in Nigeria. It’s not in our constitution or laws. Perhaps, one day we will get to that point. But my core belief is that if I come here on the platform of a party, there is a saying all over the world that your party is always supreme.

“You will disagree with your party just like people will disagree among family members but at the end of the day, the party is an organized structure. Let no one kid you. I am here to offer advice. I have been the pioneer leader of what they called the House project when we installed Tambuwal as Speaker.

I regret it. The incoming speaker will tell more of the travails and the problems we went through for four years when we did that the first and the second time. And I want you to hold that and compare it to what the last four years have been. Now, when you look at those two sessions and the last one that is just rounding up, you have the benefit of being able to compare and then, you take an informed decision.

“Not when somebody comes and tells you that the independence of the legislature cannot be compromised, that’s hogwash. Nobody is compromising the independence of the legislature. The last person that will do it is me. But the fact that your party says this is where we are going; doesn’t mean you are compromising the independence of the legislature.

“Many of us are new here. People will talk to you. They will cajole you, and say all sorts of things in flowery and romantic language but at the end of the day, we have to be mindful of one thing. The party we represent has its leaders. The governors from the state whether we like it or not, are very powerful.

“You can do your bidding today. I share these things just to advise from my own experience. In 2015, I ran for the speakership of the House of Representatives. The party nominated me.

“So, I decided to support a person that’s least close to me of everybody that is running because I saw in him a man with tremendous capacity.”

Rebellion against APC won’t stand—Abass

Also speaking at the meeting, the APC speakership nominee, Mr Abass urged the members-elect to engage in constructive criticism, saying he was chosen because of his pedigree.

He also warned that rebellion against the party would not work.

His words: “Mr Speaker has not discussed interests in the 10th Assembly. The speaker’s support is based on my pedigree and capacity. He believes I would sustain the achievements of the ninth assembly.

“Let the contestants engage you on the issues. Is he competent, is he transparent, does he have the right temperament, is he just and fair? These are the right questions. If anyone is trying to drag you to go for another house project, be mindful.

“If you are here to take dividends of democracy to your people if you are here to contribute your quota in lawmaking, believe me, rebellion against the government should not be one of those things you should do.

‘’What you need is constructive engagement. We need guided cooperation between the two tiers of government. So, please take note of that. It is a lie that committees have already been shared among certain members.”

We need synergy—Kalu

Also speaking, his deputy nominee, Kalu from Abia State called for synergy among the political parties.

Kalu said: “At this time, a single view will not give us a balanced approach to solve our hydra-headed needs. The joint task is raising a call today and saying come, let us work together as a parliament to give to Nigerians what is best. It’s not about any party.

“Together we will tell Nigerians that the impartiality of the Speaker is achievable and sustainable just as the Speaker that is here has commenced.

“Together we will tell Nigerians that the inequalities that we will balance would also include gender inequalities.
‘’Together we will tell Nigerians that we will innovate and transform through legislative intervention.”

Earlier in his remarks, the APC candidate for Senate President, Senator Akpabio charged the members-elect to be mindful of government.

Doguwa, Yalleman join APC’s speaker nominee campaign trail

Meanwhile, one of the speakership aspirants and members of the G7, Mr Ado Doguwa, formally withdrew from the race to join the campaign trail of Abass and Kalu.

Declaring his support at the meeting, Doguwa said: “I have benefited from party arrangements, this kind of arrangement. I’m the majority leader courtesy of my party. So, it’s only fair to stand beside my party’s decision.

“Time has come for me to pay back. We are here individually and collectively to support Tajudeen. We are surrendering our speakership ambition. The selection process of Abass is not biased and he and Kalu are qualified to be speaker and deputy.”

Northern govs won’t go against Tinubu, APC – Gov Sule

Also yesterday, the governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, said he and his colleagues from ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the North would not go against the choice of the president-elect regarding the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

Sule said they are loyal party members who would want the incoming Tinubu administration to succeed.

Speaking when he received a delegation of Abbas Tajudeen/Benjamin Kalu Campaign Team at Nasarawa State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja yesterday, Sule said as a governor, he also has preferred candidates for the leadership of his state assembly, adding that nobody would disagree with him on such decision.

He said going against the choice of the President-elect and the APC could create problems for the administration.
He said Northern governors were the ones that stood their ground for the presidency to go back to the South, and that the “best has emerged”.

“If people hear that we’re disagreeing with the president-elect, they will laugh at us. We won’t disagree with him,’’ he said.
The Tajudeen/Kalu Campaign Team visited the governor as part of efforts to get the support and blessings of all the relevant stakeholders, ahead of the inauguration of the 10th Assembly in June.

Recall that the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC had on May 8, released the zoning formula for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

The party had picked Senator Godswill Akpabio from South South as its candidate for president of the Senate; Sen. Jibrin Barau for deputy president of the Senate; Tajudeen Abbas as speaker, and Benjamin Kalu as the deputy speaker.

Sule told the delegation, led by Tajudeen Abbas: “I sincerely thank you for finding me worthy to be among the people to be visited for this project.

“We cannot in any way fight the choice of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We cannot in any way fight the choice of our party.’’
The governor added that when the president-elect returned to the country, they would make enquiries on what was accrued to the north-central.

He said: “We’ll sit down with him and ask him what is there for us in the North Central. I’m a governor, and when I indicate interest in who becomes the speaker in my state, nobody argues with me.’’

He advised both Abbas Tajudeen and Benjamin Kalu to reach out to other contestants for the top positions so as to carry them along and get their buy-in.

“You asked me for advice, and I’ll give you one. I saw you with PDP, LP and the rest of them. That shows you’re serious. Also, visit all the other aspirants. Visit all the opposition parties and ask for their support, so that they won’t penalize their members for supporting you.

“I wish you well. I like the way you’re carrying the campaign. Try and carry everybody along. We know that the next administration is coming into an economic storm, so the president needs total peace and stability. From the governors, I promise you we’re going to give him the total support,” Sule added.

Earlier, the APC candidate for the speakership, Abbas, told the governor that the team visited him to seek his support, cooperation and blessings for the speaker and deputy speaker’s offices.

He said since his first election to the House in 2011, he had been making modest contributions to the legislature, which culminated in his sponsoring 74 bills from 2019 to date, out of which 21 were signed into law.

Abbas said he was qualified to serve as speaker in the incoming 10th Assembly, stressing that his 12 years in the legislature had been productive.

He also noted that before becoming a lawmaker, he had been a teacher from primary to tertiary institutions and that he established three different departments in Nuhu Bamalli and Kaduna State University, KASU.

He was accompanied on the visit by members-elect for the 10th House from the APC, PDP, Labour Party, and NNPP, among others.

Urhobo Daily

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