The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, walked its talks to produce the main principal officers of the ninth National Assembly, as its anointed candidates emerged as the president and deputy president of the Senate, in persons of Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege respectively.
Their counterparts in the Green Chamber, Honourables Femi Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase, also won the exalted offices of Speaker of the House of Representatives and deputy speaker respectively.
At the Senate, Lawan polled 79 votes to defeat his rival, Ali Ndume, who scored 28 votes, making a total of 107 senators that voted at the inaugural session.
Gbajabiamila, who had served as both minority and majority leader, polled 281 votes out of 358 votes cast, while his rival, Umar Bago, scored 76 votes. One vote was declared invalid.
Few weeks after the general election, President Muhammadu Buhari, alongside the party stakeholders, had held a meeting at the Presidential Villa, where the positions of Senate president and Speaker House of Representatives were zoned to the North-East and South-West, respectively and went further to microzone to the two individuals that emerged on Tuesday.
It was a decision that courted dissension of other aspirants within the party, who squealed against the endorsement. Some of them even accused certain leaders of the party of trying to fix their footsoldiers in strategic positions ahead of the 2023 presidential race.
Events in the last two weeks, however, showed that the ruling party was determined to secure what belongs to it, unlike in 2015 when its leadership, under Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the Presidency were jolted when Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara emerged as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the duo being members of the defunct nPDP, one in the blocs that coalesced to form the APC.
Some power blocs were instrumental to the feat the “fractured” APC recorded at both chambers.
The list included its national officers, led by Adams Oshiomhole; the governors, with the likes of Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and his colleague from Jigawa State, Salmon Badaru, permanently in pursuit of perceived errant lawmakers.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, led the Presidency footsoldiers.
It was the governors led by el-Rufai who ensured that the former Gombe State governor, Danjuma Goje, withdrew from the race and pledged support.
A party source revealed that the governors were also privy to the horse-trading that disarmed the lawmakers in the main opposition party, the PDP, who delivered votes to Senator Lawan.
Ekweremadu: The big backstabbing
Checks revealed that 107 senators participated in the electoral process that produced Senator Lawan, while 105 exercised their franchise in the election that produced Senator Omo-Agege as deputy Senate president.
For the entire exercise, the APC had 62 senators to PDP’s 44, while the oil magnate, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah from Anambra State, got elected to the Senate on the ticket of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).
Two seats are outstanding from Imo State.
The PDP, which had boasted of delivering bloc vote for its adopted candidate, Senator Ndume, left him out in the cold as the senator from Borno South could only secure 28 to Ahmed Lawan’s 79 votes.
The immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was given a bloodied nose as he was trounced by Senator Omo-Agege, who scored 68 votes to Ekweremadu’s 37.
The belly of the red chambers erupted in celebration as members of the APC clinched the victory with the emergence of Lawan as president of the Senate.
With the victory, Lawan earned the spot as the 14th president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Lawan was nominated by Senator Abdullahi Yahaya, through a motion that was seconded by Senator Adeola Olamilekan, after a mild drama was doused by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, as some senators had protested over the Senate Rule to be adopted for the election.
Some senators-elect had sought to move the motion for adoption of the 2011 Senate rule as against the subsisting 2015 rule for the election, but the clerk dismissed the call, pointing out that the only order of the day was the election of the principal officers before the inauguration of the Senate.
Omolori insisted that he was not served any court order barring him from using the 2015 Senate rule for the election of the principal officers.
The clerk then instructed the clerk of the Senate to make a roll call, with 107 senators-elect present, as against the statutory 109.
Before his election, Ahmed had assured his colleagues of the need to unite and forge a common front in promoting the national development.
He said there was the common challenge of security facing the nation and the Senate must work together as a team, irrespective of party affiliation, to secure the country.
In his charge to this colleagues before losing to Lawan, Ndume said he was in the race to defend the independence of the Senate while maintaining the interdependence of the chamber in relation with the executive.
The election of the deputy senate president was short of two more senators-elect. One of the votes was invalid while one senator abstained.
However, Omo-Agege emerged after polling 68 votes as he defeated Ekweremadu who garnered 27 votes.
The result of the election, which lasted a little over an hour, produced a President of the Senate from the North-East and a Deputy President of the Senate from the South-South.
Omo-Agege’s squaring with Ekweremadu came as a shock to many members when the former was nominated by Senator Chukwuka Utazi in a motion supported by Senator Rose Okoh.
Ekweremadu’s entry into the race may have been informed by the withdrawal of the other aspirants like Francis Alimikhena, Orji Uzor Kalu and Kabiru Gaya.
Speaking after the election, Ekweremadu, in a chat with newsmen, said though the PDP was in support of Lawan, his resolve to vie for the office was taken between Monday and Tuesday.
Ekweremadu said: “I believe that there must be a referendum, looking at what happened when I was presiding when the Senate was invaded.
“It would have been very embarrassing that somebody who led that operation would just be asked to take a bow and would be endorsed and we all walk over as if it doesn’t matter.
“So I wanted a situation where Nigerians, especially through their representatives, will be able to present a referendum in respect of what transpired and then be able to either endorse or condemn it.”
He added that: “Only this morning, because actually we weren’t minded to run for any office but we thought that our friends in APC will be able to come up with another candidate to replace Ovie Omo-Agege.”
Newsflash247 observed that all the security detail attached to Ekweremadu after the election switched loyalty to his successor, Omo-Agege.
Also, while responding to questions after the election, Ndume pledged loyalty to the newly inaugurated President of the ninth Senate.
Ndume, who spoke during a media chat after the election, expressed his resolve to work with Lawan in the interest of the country.
“Ahmad Lawan is my brother who is well experienced, having been here four years ahead of me. I will give him all the necessary support. I insisted on contesting against him in order to deepen democracy.
“I hope the party would agree with me that, what I did was in the interest of democracy and I do know that power belongs to God. It’s God’s will that my colleague becomes the president,” Ndume said.
While acknowledging that the election was over, Ndume unveiled his readiness for legislative activities.
Meanwhile the Senate has adjourned plenary till tomorrow.
Addressing his colleagues, Senator Lawan, who showered encomiums on all the senators, irrespective of political affiliations, assured Nigerians that the ninth Senate would “drive a transformative Senate” that will meet the yearnings of Nigerians in the next four years.
He also pledged the Senate resolve to come up with legislative intervention that would complement the executive arm’s plans toward improving the citizens’ well-being.
While describing the inauguration of the ninth Senate as historic, he observed that the Senate, under his leadership, would be resourceful, accountable and live up to expectations of Nigerians by addressing issues relating to millions of Nigerian children out-of-school, youth unemployment, delayed appropriation, insecurity challenges, among others.
In the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase emerged the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively
Gbajabiamila scored a total of 281 votes while Honourable Umar Bago, his only challenger, polled 76 votes.
Sani-Omolori, who announced the result, disclosed that 358 members-elect voted during the election while one vote was invalid
Wase, on his own, emerged as the Deputy Speaker unopposed through the popular demand of the members.
In a rare spirit of sportsmanship, Bago accepted his defeat, even when the final result was yet to be announced and embraced Honourable Gbajabiamila
Gbajabiamila, in response, walked straight to him and embraced him to demonstrate that the battle had been fought and won.
Sani-Omolori later administered oaths of office to both Gbajabiamila and Wase, after which members were sworn in.