NASS leadership: northern senators move against zoning 

Abuja—Barring an urgent intervention by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, some desperate aspirants might frustrate the ruling party’s zoning arrangements for the leadership positions in the National Assembly, Sun newspapers reports.

Such disruptions, analysts say, might lead to a repeat of what happened in 2015, when Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, despite the zoning arrangements by the party.

The 10th National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, is expected to be inaugurated tentatively on June 13 2023. In line with Nigeria’s democratic practices, the four positions up for grabs are expected to be zoned to the various geopolitical areas of the country.

Already, the South West has produced the President-elect, while the North East produced the vice President-elect. In line with existing arrangements, South East, South-South, North Central and North West, are expected to fill other elective positions.

The next President of the Senate, according to APC stakeholders, is expected to be a Christian from the Southern part of the country, to balance the religious faiths in the country. Both the President-elect and the Vice President-elect are Muslims.

However, some current members of the National Assembly from the North, who have been re-elected to the upper and lower legislative chambers, are intensifying campaigns and mounting pressure on the various organs of the ruling APC to leave the contest open and jettison zoning.

Even though only three Senators-elect from the South has signified interest in the Senate Presidency, about six from the North are plotting to hijack the process. Former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu; former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio; and a former organising secretary of APC, Osita Izunaso, are the only major Southern senators-elect that have already declared interest.

In the North, the current President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan from Yobe, Sani Musa from Niger, Mohammed Ali Ndume from Borno, Jibrin Barau from Kano, Abdulazeez Yari from Zamfara, and Aliyu Wamakko from Sokoto, whose re-election has not been decided, are believed to be eyeing the position of Senate President. They are all Muslims and Northerners.

Two of the aspirants from North West, a former governor and a chairman of a juicy committee of the current Senate, respectively, have opened offices at a Five Star hotel in Abuja, where they pay millions of naira everyday.

The two aspirants have held a series of meetings in groups and one-on-one arrangements with senators-elect. They have also been accused of inducing the new incoming senators with foreign currencies to secure their commitment and loyalty, despite the party’s insistence that the offices will be zoned.

One of the aspirants from the North West, Saturday Sun gathered, has vowed to ignore the position of the party and put himself up for election on the day of inauguration.

A senator-elect who recently met with the aspirant told Saturday Sun that the former governor is relying on his huge financial war chest and contacts within the Governors’ Forum to secure the position. On the other hand, Senator Jibrin Barau from Kano State, who has also joined the race, told some media advocates in Abuja that religion should not be a consideration.

The lawmaker has, however, said he would discontinue his campaign if the party insists on zoning and settles for another geopolitical zone.

He said: “Religion should not be a consideration. In the past, only Christians headed the Senate and no one complained. I’m the most ranking senator from the North West and I deserve to be given a chance.

“But I’m a party man and I’ll respect the position of the APC if they zone it to another geopolitical zone. But I still believe that religion shouldn’t be used or zoning. We should adopt the style of the United States of America, where everything in Congress is based on ranking.”

Saturday Sun gathered that the new senators-elect have been reluctant to give commitments to any of the Northern aspirants, despite alleged inducements. The new incoming senators who met in Abuja, reportedly resolved to wait until their various political parties zone the positions and give a clear direction on who to support.

Meanwhile, a former senator who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, Shehu Sani, has endorsed the Senate Presidency bid of Kalu.

Sani has also canvassed for the zoning of the position to the South East geopolitical zone of the country.

Insisting on equity and justice as harbingers of unity in any country, Sani said APC should consider that above any primordial sentiments in the interest of the nation.

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