Barely three weeks to the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, lawmakers loyal to the incumbent Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Mohammed Ali Ndume, are flexing muscles and spoiling for war following a disagreement over the voting pattern to be adopted in the election of presiding officers.
Lawan and Ndume are the frontline contenders for the office of the senate president. While Ndume’s camp is rooting for a secret ballot which is currently the position of the Senate’s Standing Rules, Lawan’s loyalists are pushing for an open ballot system.
A ranking lawmaker, who spoke to newsmen, yesterday, revealed that senators-elect who are loyal to the candidate favoured by the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lawan, are mounting pressure on the presidency to ensure that the National Assembly management adopt the open ballot system.
Lawan’s camp has, however, denied the claim. Its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told journalists in Abuja yesterday, said the camp was too busy to focus on such trivial issues.
But supporters of Ndume are insisting that the 2015 Senate Rule Book which had already been distributed to all senators-elect, be used for the election of presiding officers on the day of inauguration.
The 2015 Rule Book made provisions for secret ballot, while the 2011 version provided for open ballot as an option.
Making further revelations, the senator who does not want his name mentioned, told some journalists that there may be a violent clash on the day of inauguration if the issue of voting pattern is not resolved.
He said his colleagues have confided in him that the inauguration may be disrupted by hired thugs.
Similarly, an APC senator loyal to Lawan, who is gunning for a key position in the Senate, said the inauguration might be disrupted if the management decides to adopt the secret ballot method.
“We are going to adopt the open ballot system because that is the standard practice all over the World. The 2015 Rule Book which made provisions for the secret ballot was forged, we must use the 2011 version.
“I cannot guarantee that the event would be peaceful if the management succumbed to the pressures of the current presiding officers of the eight National Assembly by conducting the election through a secret ballot arrangement.”
Countering Lawan’s supporter, Ndume’s loyalist warned that management must adopt the secret voting method to avoid any violent clash on inauguration day.
The senator-elect, who also spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The Lawan group are jittery that their candidate would not win if the management adopts the current Rule Book to conduct the election.
“It is clear to the pro-Lawan senators-elect that some leadership of the APC are trying to force Senate Leader on all of us and we would reject such an imposition.
“We have also learnt that they have planned to use thugs to stop some anti-Lawan senators-elect from entering the National Assembly premises on the day of inauguration.
“We have also established it from good authorities that names of some anti-Lawan senators have been forwarded to the EFCC to be arrested and kept behind bars until after the inauguration.
“We are fully prepared and ready for them. The thugs should stay out of the National Assembly affairs on the inauguration day.”
The Ndume supporter alleged that there was a grand plan to arrest some of his colleagues ahead of the inauguration.
“A ranking PDP senator was invited by the EFCC recently and would have been kept behind the bars until after the inauguration but for the timely intervention of a strong member of the APC who signed his bail conditions.
“The PDP ranking senator was actually invited over the same case that he had earlier defended before the EFCC. A principal officer of the Senate was said to have even approached him that he should openly declare for Lawan so that the EFCC would discontinue with the case.”
Abdullahi who doubles as spokesman of the Senate and Lawan’s campaign organisation, said they were confident that their candidate will emerge victorious.
He said they have no reason to scuttle the inauguration or resort to use of force or coercion to compel members to vote for Lawan.
He retorted: “This is news to me. I am just hearing that officials of the National Assembly were invited by the EFCC. But what I can tell is that we are not aware and we have no hand in what you are alleging; that we are using EFCC to harass them to change the rules for us or to harass our colleagues.
“We have been working and our contact and mobilisation committee has reached out to our colleagues. We are taking our campaign serious; we are not taking our chances likely.
“We have no reason to harass anyone or do anything to scuttle the inauguration. We are solidly on ground and working round the clock to deliver our candidate on the day of inauguration. This is our preoccupation and whatever you have been told is not true.
“We are selling Lawan’s strong areas to our colleagues which are integrity, intelligence and capability. We are also selling our agenda to our colleagues to buy into what we intend to do for for the ninth Senate.
“I know that I am part of the outgoing Senate. To be frank, there were so many things we didn’t do right. So, our plan is to ensure that Lawan’s presidency improves on that. These are the issues.
“With what we have done, on the day of inauguration, by the grace of God, we shall carry the day and Lawan will emerge as president of the ninth Senate. No cause for alarm my brother. We are marching forward.”
The senate has a poplulation of 109 members. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 44 senators-elect, while it is hopeful that three others would soon join from Zamfara State if the Supreme Court rules in its favour and another one from Imo State, to take the tally to 48. APC has 63 senators-elect while the Young Democratic Party (YDP) has one.
Meanwhile, Umar Bago, who has been re-elected for the third time to represent Chanchanga Federal Constituency of Niger State, has said his decision to contest for the speakership of the House of Representatives was not to spite the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) but to provide a credible alternative to the choice of the party.
Bago, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, disclosed this in Iseyin area of Oyo State at the weekend during the official opening of head office of Shina Ayo Empowerment Programme (SAEP) and second Ramadan Lecture delivered by Fadhilat Sheikh Sulaimon Farooq Onikijipa, organised by a member-elect of the green chambers, Mr Shina Peller. He represents Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/Iwajowa Federal Constituency in the ninth National Assembly.
The national leadership of the party has settled for Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State to succeed the outgoing speaker, Yakubu Dogara, in the ninth national assembly. But some ranking lawmakers said they would still vie for the speaker’s seat so that members would elect who they prefer.
“As you are aware, I am one of the contestants for the office of the speakership of House of Representatives, by the grace of God. If I win and I am sworn in, by the grace of God, we will give special consideration to Shina Peller.
“We will ensure the legislature as an arm of government works independently and also interdependently to give support to the executives in the promulgation of laws that will enable their policies to thrive,” he told journalists.
Asked if his aspiration for the speaker’s seat was not tantamount to anti-party activity since the APC has settled for Gbajabiamila, Bago responded: “No, we are only providing an alternative to the choice of the party and that is what we are doing.
“We are very loyal to the party, we are loyal to the president but we are providing an alternative to the choice of the party because we are sure that when their books get to the shelves and other things will get to the fruition and it will come to the public and we will be given opportunity to represent the party.”
Bago, a graduate of political science from the North Central geo-political zone, who reportedly donated 100 vehicles for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, said: “We want to commend Shina Peller for the community service he is doing for his people. That was why we felt it necessary for us to be here to celebrate with him and encourage his people to keep supporting him.
The programme was attended by more than 40 members-elect of the House of Representatives from Oyo, Lagos, Borno, Benue, Yobe States and so on; governor-elect of Yobe State, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, who is the outgoing National Secretary of APC; Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Abdulganiyu Adekunle, among other top traditional rulers from the region, a former federal lawmaker from the constituency, Dr. Wale Okediran.
Peller promised to work with investors and developmental partners to implement several programmes, which would stimulate economic development of his constituency, adding that he has plans to support the elderly from age 70 and above with stipends and healthcare monitoring and management.