President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday in Abuja met with APC senators-elect to brainstorm on who becomes the next Senate president.
A major agenda of the meeting was to create a platform for a harmonious position among senators with a view to avoiding the pitfalls of 2015 when Senator Bukola Saraki emerged as the Senate president against the wish of the party and an opposition senator, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, became the deputy Senate president.
The senators-elect were hosted to a dinner in the Presidential Villa last night.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Oshiomhole, who vowed that with 65 senators-elect on the platform of APC and 230 members of the House of Representatives, the party was well positioned enough to produce leaders of both houses, threatening that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would not be allowed to have a share of leadership positions in both houses in this tenure.
The national chairman who tasked the lawmakers to reach a consensus on who will lead them to avoid giving any room for the opposition PDP to express interest in Senate leadership, said the essence of the meeting was to bring the senators-elect together and discuss how they would work effectively with the president.
Oshiomhole said: “We had the first meeting with the president who is also the leader of the party and also with serving senators, newly elected senators and ranking senators. The whole purpose of this is to bond the new and old members, to establish a new relationship between the executive and the legislature.
“The system talks about the separation of powers between the executive and legislature and the two must handshake for things to happen. And when you have a president that is determined to drive changes, fundamental changes that will affect our habits, our life style, review the economy, deal with the security situation, fight corruption as fiercely as he is trying to do, he will need a very supportive legislative arm of government. And happily, the Nigerian people have given us the number in the legislative arm of government.
“All we have agreed today is that we will use these numbers as a functioning whole to determine the leadership of the Senate in a way that we are not going to go to the floor of the Senate and allow the opposition dictate who becomes the Senate president. Because, we have comfortable majority to drive that, what we have to do is to manage that majority.
“We have discussed those specifics and because these are businesses that have to do with elections, as a caucus, this is more or less a meeting of the incoming caucus to discuss leadership question and to build consensus around individuals so that people don’t have to go trading, generating heat in a way that can weaken internal solidarity in the party.
“Of course, we are aware that the opposition is expecting that the APC senators are going to fight themselves, the House of Representatives members are going to fight themselves and then they will take advantage and pick who they will support.
“They will be disappointed because our senators are seasoned senators. We have a cream of ranking senators that are in their own right capable of providing leadership of the Senate. So, what we have to do is to weave all these together and arrive at a consensus of who leads and everybody follows so that we will have this time, a more cohesive National Assembly and I think it went extremely well.”
In the race for Senate presidency are Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, former governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje, and Senator Ali Ndume.
Those jostling to become deputy Senate president are: former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Ajayi Borofice and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
Oshiomhole had earlier in the day met with newly elected members of the House of Representatives.
He said the ruling party will ensure that all the leadership positions in the National Assembly, including chairmen of committees, except ones that are statutorily reserved for opposition, are occupied by APC members.
Oshiomhole, who met the new members at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, said the APC was aware of the clandestine meetings already being held by the PDP to plot how to infiltrate APC ranks for pecuniary gains.
He said the APC national leadership is determined to checkmate any such attempt by the PDP to apply the tactics it used in 2015 to pick up plume positions in the National Assembly.
”We will not share power in the House of the Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by APC members. If the Nigeria people wanted them to be chairmen of committees they would have voted for them,” he said.
Oshiomhole said that in the next edition of the National Assembly, APC will not allow disunity among its members, adding that “PDP and other minority parties can have their say but working together, APC must have its way in legislative agenda, in the leadership of the National Assembly and the leadership of the committees in the National Assembly.”
He said the party’s administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari will require the full support of the legislature to ensure that it delivers on the fight against corruption, insecurity and other key promises made to Nigerians.
He warned newly-elected APC members to avoid the PDP’s trap and work as a united team to ensure that all the government policies trust are given the necessary backing by the National Assembly.
While responding to the chairman’s entreaties, one of the coordinators of the newly elected APC House of Representatives Forum and a member from Ondo State, Mr. Olubumi Tunde Ojo, assured the leadership of the party of the support of members.
Also another member, Hon. Ugonna Ozuligbo, representing Nkwere Ideato, Isu Federal Constituency of Imo State, said he and his colleagues are going to ensure that the party remains supreme and that its decisions are upheld. – Thisday.