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NASS leadership: APC’s real headache

Posted: Apr 26, 2015 at 1:26 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Rotimi Akinwumi, Abuja

apc-logo_24Facts have emerged on why the lingering crisis within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the formula for sharing leadership positions in the National Assembly has lingered for so long.

Reliable sources reveal that the issue has remained unsettled because one of four power blocs in APC is feeling shortchanged in the distribution of offices, and is believed to be holding the party by the jugular until it resolved issues concerning the sharing formular.

According to a competent source within the party, the current stalemate followed the insistence by one of the pillars in having the office of the Senate President, as sharing of the leadership seats in the National Assembly was being considered.

The APC’s four power blocs are the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC); All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP); Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and ‘New PDP’, comprising PDP members who defected to APC as a result of the internal crisis within the ruling party’s fold at the time.

Among the four groups, Sunday Independent gathered that only the ‘New PDP’ has not yet been taken care of in the ongoing sharing of key political offices in the unfolding APC government.

In the formula, the CPC group produced the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari; the ACN group has the Vice President-elect, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; the ANPP is set to clinch the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), a position said to have been reserved for Ogbonnaya Onu, the erstwhile ANPP National Chairman, in addition to the APC National Chairmanship, being held by John Odigie-Oyegun.

While the APC leadership has agreed that the next big political office, the Senate Presidency, should be allocated to the North Central, the struggle to produce the occupier of the office seem to have polarised the party, allegedly causing disaffection among the power brokers.

According to investigations, the group of ‘New PDP’, led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, has expressed deep dissatisfaction with the attempt to edge it out, as the candidate they are supporting seems to have been schemed out of the race.

The group, it is believed, is backing former Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki, for the position of Senate President, as they see him as the face of ‘New PDP’ within the APC.

However, it is believed that his smooth sail to the office is being hindered by what insiders see as “the strong opposition by a combination of the ‘CPC and ACN’ planks, who prefer former Benue State governor, George Akume, also from the North Central geopolitical zone.”

Investigation by Sunday Independent revealed that the attempt to have Saraki as Senate President is being seen by the party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu’s group, as an attempt by the ‘New PDP’ group to flex muscles and place a big hurdle ahead of the emerging Buhari government.

The fear within the party’s top echelon was that Saraki is too independent minded and not amenable to control, and may constitute a big problem for the government if allowed to have his way as Chairman of the National Assembly.

In an attempt to benefit from the logjam in the party, the ANPP group, playing the role of the ‘dark horse’, is secretly supporting a candidate from the North East geopolitical zone in preparation for an implosion, which may lead to the re-zoning of the Senate President seat to another geopolitical zone, which in this case, is most likely to be North East.

According to a highly credible source, the ‘New PDP’ group has been playing the card of ‘partiality and oppression’ within the party to draw sentiments unto itself as the cheated clique of the lot.

While the party leaders are still trying to decide on how to resolve the impasse, the ‘ANPP bloc’ has been secretly giving support to the demand by the North East geopolitical region, who are reportedly putting forward Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Since 1999, the ANPP had been the most dominant party in the North East before the merger that produced the APC as a united and strong opposition party.

At a meeting held on Wednesday, which ran through Thursday morning, the attempt by the party leaders to resolve the Saraki versus Akume struggle was compounded when the proponents of the North East candidate for Senate Presidency put forward a strong argument on why the North Central should not have the seat, but rather the North-East.

The North central has held the office though the incumbent, David Mark, since 2007.

The meeting, Sunday Independent can authoritatively reveal, did not achieve anything tangible, as the power blocs stuck to their hardline positions.

While the combination of the ‘CPC bloc’ and the ‘ACN bloc’ reportedly mounted serious campaign on why Akume should have the seat, the ‘New PDP bloc’ elements also insisted on Saraki and refused to yield ground.

Another source disclosed to Sunday Independent on Saturday that a drastic decision on the matter is being contemplated by the CPC and ACN blocs towards resolving the impasse.

According to the source, the two blocs are currently assessing the possibility of “throwing away the baby and the bath water” by giving the seat to the North East, while the Deputy Senate seat will be given to the North Central.

This, the source said, is aimed at weakening the demand by the ‘New PDP’ bloc, as Saraki is seen as someone who may not want to take the seat of the Deputy Senate President, because of the possibility of being relegated to the background, as a strong willed Senate President can easily do.

Lawan, who is the consensus candidate from the North East for the Senate President seat, is seen as a man who, though calm, can stand his ground against anyone trying to undermine him.

To achieve the ‘Plan B’, the President-elect is said to have been prevailed upon by the Tinubu camp to insist that no one with a case of corruption hanging on his or her neck be allowed to assume the office of Senate President.

This new twist introduced to deal with ‘stubborn’ party members is seen as the best available way to resolve and deal with the demand of the ‘New PDP’ group.

Meanwhile, at the last party’s caucus meeting, Buhari and the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, and three others were mandated to fashion out an acceptable formula to throw up unblemished candidates as leaders in the National Assembly.

Those who know are ready to swear that Lawan may just be poised to clinch the prized position.

As a demonstration of the readiness of the North-East to take the seat, leaders of the Zone have become more vociferous in their demands for the Senate President slot since the last Wednesday’s caucus meeting was concluded.

On Thursday, less than few hours after the meeting held at the River State Governor’s Lodge ended, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ali Ndume, who is an advocate of North East Senate Presidency, made a surprise appearance at the party’s secretariat, where the special committee set up earlier to “find a credible candidate for the senate president seat”, was meeting.

After spending some minutes in a closed-door meeting with the APC chairman, Ndume, in a chat with newsmen, expressed strong feelings that the North-East should get the slot, rather than the North Central.

He told journalists that the North-East was seeking the highest available office, adding that as genuine party members, they were prepared to abide by the party’s decision on the matter.

He said: “Anything that is given to us will be okay. We have contributed so much as a zone. We even prefer to be given the best; but, we know that the best cannot be given to all.

“For instance, we prefer to be given even the Presidency, but that has been given to another zone and the Vice-President also to another zone.

“The party is considering all these and we are pushing our case. It is left for the party to decide what is in the best interest of the country, which is what the party stands for.”