Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila will be facing their first major test as heads of the two chambers next month when some of their closest associates will be slugging it out to fill the remaining principal offices in the National Assembly.
In contention are the positions of Senate Majority Leader, Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, and Deputy Chief Whip.
The APC governors had tactically avoided zoning the offices to keep the party’s caucus in the legislature united ahead of the election of the senate president and House of Reps speaker and their deputies.
The governors feared that the jostle for the principal offices might have implications on the election of the Senate President and the Speaker.
But following growing tension over the remaining offices, there were indications yesterday that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) might intervene with zoning formula and leave the party’s caucuses in the two chambers to elect the remaining principal officers.
The Northeast and Southsouth already have the Senate President and Deputy Senate President and are technically out of contention for the remaining offices while the Southwest and the Northcentral have the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives.
Aspiring to become Senate leader are ex-Governor Abdullahi Adamu (North-Central); former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (Southeast), a former Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah (Northwest); Prof. Ajayi Borrofice and Sen. Olubunmi Adetumbi( Southwest); Sen. Aisha Dahiru Modibbo ( Binani)- Northeast but representing women folk; Sen. Kabiru Gaya (Northwest) and Sen. Adamu Aliero (Northwest); a former spokesman for the Senate, Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Northcentral); and ex- Chief Whip, Francis Alimikhena ( Southsouth).
A reliable source said: “The jostle for Senate Leader is more intense because those interested are heavyweights.
“As the leader of the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG) which was used to confront the administration of the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu feels he should automatically be compensated for coordinating the assault which staved off some impeachment plots against the President.
“But old age is counting against him because the position of the Senate Leader is highly demanding as the engine room of the upper chamber. Also, the PDP, which is the main opposition party in the Senate will not be comfortable with the ex-governor as Senate Leader more so after the emergence of a strong member of PSG is now the Deputy President of the Senate (Omo-Agege).
“Having lost out in the race for the President of the Senate, Abdullahi Adamu is overwhelmed with suspicion that he might be left in the lurch by the President and the party.
“The thinking of some of the APC governors is that Abdullahi Adamu does not have the capacity; but for political expediency, he can be Senate Leader and an agile ranking Senator can be Deputy Senate Leader to make the office vibrant.
“But the young elements among APC Senators are insisting on a middle aged Senate Leader in view of the enormous tasks at hand.
“We are looking forward to the zoning formula by the party. Once we have it other positions might be resolved through consensus or election by caucuses.”
The race to be principal officers is tighter in the House of Representatives with the emergence of three blocs.
Sources said it has reached a point that a member, Emeka Nwajiuba of the Accord Party is being prevailed upon to defect to APC to be able to occupy any of the offices available for contest.
The blocs are Northwest, Northeast and Southeast.
The competition has further split the Northwest into sub-groups as follows: Sokoto-Kebbi axis; Kano-Jigawa alliance, and Zamfara- Kaduna challenge.
Top aspirants are former Deputy Speaker nominee to Gbajabiamila in 2015, M. T. Monguno (Northeast); ex-Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa; Garba Datti; Musa Sarki Ada; Goro Aminu Suleiman (Northwest); Johnson Egwahido Oguma (Southsouth); Nkiru Onyejeocha who stepped down for the Speaker ;and Emeka Nwajiuba (Southeast).
Both the Northeast and Northwest say they deserve the office.
Also, the Southeast said it would be absurd to lose out at the Executive level and in the National Assembly.
It was gathered that the Northeast has resolved its differences and opted to present Monguno (a fourth termer) as its candidate for the House Leader.
But it seems difficult to foster any agreement in the Northwest because most states in the zone are claiming that Kano-Jigawa axis has dominated principal offices conceded to the zone in the past.
A source said: “We are trying as much as possible to negotiate so that there will be no rancour when we resume. As it is now, we are thinking of conceding the House Leader either to the North-East or the North-West.
“If the Northeast produces the House Leader, the Northwest will automatically secure the Chief Whip. Also, some concerned members are thinking of the Deputy Majority Leader slot either for the Southeast or the Southsouth. If the Southeast produces Deputy Leader, then the Southsouth may go for Deputy Chief Whip.
“All these suggestions are in the realm of permutations until the party meets and agrees on power sharing formula.
“Where there is no consensus, whatever is concedes to each zone, the APC caucus in the zone will conduct election to choose who they prefer to be their candidate for their slot.”
Checks indicated that while APC is trying to wriggle out of its challenge, the PDP has a bigger problem in picking Minority Leader and Deputy Minority Leader for the House of Representatives.
Those in the race to be Minority Leader are a former House Majority Leader/ Minority Leader, Leo Ogor; Chukwuma Onyema; Nicholas Osai Osai; Kingsley Chinda; Ndudi Elumelu; and Muraina Ajibola, who was once favoured to be the Speaker.
A PDP lawmaker said: “What is making our party’s decision difficult is that Governor Nyesom Wike is pushing for Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State as Minority Leader. He said he wants an opposition leader in the House who can put APC on its toes.
“But some of us are saying since Leo Ogor has fully recovered from his recent illness, he should be allowed to continue as the Minority Leader. Wike and other PDP governors have not been able to reach any compromise on any candidate.
“They have been able to decide the positions for PDP in the Senate, we may have to go for election in the House.
“Ogor has however said it is not a do-or-die affair. He said he is taking it easy. APC lawmakers however prefer to work with Ogor than Chinda.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have been careful in managing pressure from those who want to be principal officers.
A ranking House member said: “The choice of other principal officers is a litmus test for Lawan and Gbajabiamila. It is always a bigger aspect of the banana peel in the National Assembly.
“If they get it right, there will be peace in the National Assembly. Otherwise, it is going to be four years of treachery.”
A Senator said: “The appointment or election of principal officers will determine the leadership direction of the Senate President and the Speaker, We will be able to determine whether we can trust them or not.
“So far, they have applied wisdom in shifting everything to the party. We however know better.”
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has already picked Chief Enyinnaya Abaribe,a former deputy governor of Abia State , as Minority Leader , Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba South) as Deputy Minority Leader and Philip Aduda (FCT) , as Minority Whip. To assist him is Clifford Odia (Edo Central).