Sequel to the still unsettled crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, arising from last week’s National Assembly leadership contest, another crisis may be in the offing as lawmakers take up battle with national officers of the party over the appointment of principal officers of the legislature.
Ahead of next week’s resumption of the Senate and the House, informed sources disclosed pressures from the party to be given the privilege to appoint principal officers of the two chambers and some key committee positions.
The development, it was learnt, had again reignited supporters of Senator Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara who last week outfoxed the party’s leaders to emerge Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Senators peeved by the pressure were, yesterday evening, enclosed in a meeting in one of Abuja’s five-star hotels on how to resist the pressure.High-level sources in the Senate and the House disclosed, yesterday, that informal contacts have been made with the new leaderships as part of the process of restoring amity between the party and the leadership following the ‘rebellion’ that enthroned Saraki and Dogara last week.House members equally agitated by the pressure were also threatening to flout the party’s directive.
The sources, who were seething over the development, said that it was another attempt by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party to diminish the power of the Senate President and the Speaker.
Against the procedure of parties zoning the principal offices in the two chambers and allowing the party caucuses to produce the officers, the APC leadership, it was learnt, was now putting pressure on influential members of the House close to the Senate President and Speaker Dogara to allow the party to appoint the officials.
Compounding the fury of the legislators is the alleged plan by the party leadership to also appoint loyal officers into key committee positions.
The four principal offices to be filled by the APC in the Senate and the House of Representatives are Senate/House Leader, Deputy Senate/House Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip.
What obtained in the past
The procedure in the past was for the party to zone the offices to the geopolitical zones and for the party members from the zones to elect from among themselves the persons to fill the positions given them.
Given that the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are from the Northeast and the Southwest, it is expected that the Northwest, Southeast, North-Central and South-South would produce the remaining key principal officers in the House.
In the Senate, given that the Senate President and his deputy are from the North-Central and the South-east, it is expected that the remaining principal officers would come from the North-west, North-east, South-west, and South-South.
What the party wants
“The party wants to appoint principal officers for us and this is going to be part two of the crisis and it is unheard of for the party to tell members who will be their principal officers,” a returning member of the House who was pivotal to the rebellion that saw Dogara emerge as speaker told Vanguard yesterday evening.
“We will resist it especially because the caucuses have a role to play in the election of their officers,” the member said on the condition of anonymity.
Another high level source in the House saw the party’s interest in the appointment of members into key committees as an attempt to undermine the speaker and his deputy who have the leverage in appointing committee officials.
Traditionally, the Senate President and Speaker have used the privilege of appointing committee chairmanships as a leverage in mustering support with appointments into juicy committees going to the speaker’s power base.
One associate of the speaker said yesterday that the move was apparently being made to ridicule the speaker and degrade his privilege in the 8th House and open the legislative chamber to further crisis.
Meanwhile, it was learnt, yesterday, that the issue was already causing a division in the NWC of APC as some members were opposed to the party’s efforts alleging that having burnt its fingers in the election of presiding officers, the party should restrain itself this time.
A ranking senator who traced the problem to the determination of a clique around a prominent national leader of the party said yesterday:
“Some of us were just called by some members of the NWC, intimating us of details of a letter forwarded to the body that it should just fill the remaining four leadership positions in the Senate.
Senators fight back
Ranking Senators are, however, fighting back and there are strong indications in the APC Senate caucus that some Senators have already met with some NWC members familiar with the parliamentary tradition and rules and have impressed it on them to “ignore the letter.”
The ranking senator from North West continued, “It’s not done. The tradition is that zonal caucuses which did not produce the Senate President and deputy would meet, nominate among themselves and then, if there is more than one nomination, there would be an election and whoever has the highest votes for the particular office would be the candidate.
“Thereafter, after the positions have been filled, the caucus would now write the party on the preferred candidates. There are so many factors to be considered in choosing Senators that would be in leadership. It is not the duty of the party in this case.”