The crisis within the All Progressives Congress over the choice of candidates for the speakership and the Senate presidency of the 8th National Assembly deepened on Sunday as candidates not endorsed by the party’s leadership vowed to contest the elections on Tuesday.
Findings in Abuja on Sunday showed that the candidates – Yakubu Dogara (House of Representatives) and Bukola Saraki (Senate) had intensified lobbying the Peoples Democratic Party incoming lawmakers.
Senators-elect and their counterparts for the House began accreditation for the Tuesday election at the National Assembly in Abuja on Sunday.
The immediate past Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at the party’s mock election on Saturday emerged the APC consensus candidate for the post of speaker. He polled 154 votes as against Yakubu Dogara’s three votes.
A total of 183 members registered for the mock election but the votes of four were declared as invalid.
Bukola Saraki’s group boycotted the primary conducted for senate presidency, but the APC picked Ahmad Lawan, who got 32 votes.
But on Sunday, the spokesperson for the 8th Assembly Consolidation Group which is Dogara’s campaign body, Abdulmumin Jibrin, warned that the APC was a on a path of self-destruction by sticking to the outcome of the primary.
Jibrin, a former Chairman, House Committee on Finance and contestant for the speakership until last week when he stepped down to support Dogara, insisted that there was no election.
“The mock election is a blatant lie. It was very shameful and disgraceful and the party only made a mockery of itself.
“We walked out of the hall and we never participated in the election. Therefore, the votes allocated to us were a fraud and we will not accept them,” he told a news conference on Sunday.
Jibrin claimed that members of the group had received threats of disciplinary actions from the party since Saturday, but he restated the resolve of Dogara’s supporters to ignore the APC and nominate him(Dogora) for Tuesday’s (tomorrow) election.
Disclosing that the group had petitioned Buhari to wade into the matter, he said it was regrettable that in just a week after the APC formed the government at the Federal level, it appeared set on “derailing” from the ideals which propelled it to power.
“We have decided to write a petition to Buhari to intervene in this matter; to call the party to order. We will go ahead to nominate Dogara on the 9th and we will not back out,” he said.
The group seized the opportunity to unveil Lasun Yusuf, a member from Osun State, as Dogora’s running mate .
The same Yusuf, had last week, announced that he was backing Gbajabiamila, only to make a U-turn on Sunday.
Shortly after the news conference, The Gbajabiamila Secretariat in Abuja called on the Dogara group to bury the hatchet and join the Lagos State lawmaker to build the House as from Tuesday.
It noted that had Dogara won the mock election instead of Gbajabiamila, the former minority leader would have supported him, being the candidate so chosen by the party.
The Secretariat, also said there was nothing strange in conducting a mock election, which it argued was not different from the primaries members participated in before their election to the National Assembly.
Dickson Tarkighir, who spoke for the Secretariat said, “It is unfortunate that some members sought for intervention of the party before their election into the National Assembly but suddenly realised that the unbiased intervention of the party in the mock election is inappropriate.
“Definitely, these are not agents of change. The party gave members-elect the platform to elect a popular candidate that would represent the party in the House and we are glad that at the end of that exercise, it was res ipsa loquitur.
“Had Dogara won the mock election we would have all queued behind him now but as a mark of discipline and respect for the party, we are all behind Gbajabiamila.”
However, The PUNCH gathered that Gbajabiamila would most likely emerge as the speaker, barring any major alterations in the support structure he already had among members-elect.
It was learnt that flowing from his victory on Saturday, the North-West and North-East caucuses of the House resolved to sustain their support for him on Tuesday.
He was said to be already assured of the votes of 47 out of the 48 APC members from the South-West.
Findings revealed that the North-West, with 87 APC lawmakers, had over 84 backing Gbajabiamila.
A returning member of the House, who asked not to be named said, “Kano, with the largest state caucus, has 24 members; 21 voted for Gbajabiamila on Saturday and will repeat the same on Tuesday.
“Jigawa has 11 members, all whom are with Gbajabiamila.’’
Investigations also indicated that 35 out of the total 39 APC members from the North-East were firmly backing Gbajabiamila.
A top APC member, who also spoke with The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday, said, “The project in the House is tied to the project of Senator Ahmed Lawan, who is contesting the President of the Senate.
“It is the same project and we will keep to it until victory is won on Tuesday.’’
It was learnt that the North-West and the North-East started plotting in May to edge Dogara out of the contest when they prevailed on Mohammed Monguno, a former contestant for the speakership, to step down for Gbajabiamila.
Monguno was later asked to team up with Gbajabiamila as his deputy for a single ticket, a move meant to block Dogara in his North-East .
On the other hand, the North-West was said to have asked to be given no higher position than the Majority leader in the 8th House.
A former President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and member-elect from Kano State, Sani Zoro, confirmed that the North was the main support base of Gbajabiamila.
Zoro said, “For someone who has served the opposition well for 12 years, he (Gbajabiamia) deserves to be rewarded.
“In a parliamentary system of government, he would have become the prime minister without debate.”
Findings showed that even the PDP Caucus with 193 members, was divided, an indication that Gbajabiamila and Dogara might share the votes of the minority camp on Tuesday.
“There is no guarantee of a block vote anymore because the two camps will share the votes of the PDP.
“The APC’s mock election of Saturday also spoke volumes of what to expect on Tuesday,” another member stated.
A group of senators-elect who are canvassing for the emergence Saraki as President also insisted on Sunday that the Kwara State senator would contest the position on Tuesday.
The group, in a statement by two of its members, Dino Melaye and Ahmed Rufai-Sani, argued that the mock primary that produced Ahmad Lawan as the APC concensus candidate, was manipulated by the party leaders.
The senators-elect noted with regret that the leadership of the APC did not carry the pro–Saraki group along while the Lawan group was allegedly informed ahead of the meeting.
The group explained that it went to the International Conference Centre venue of the meeting in Abuja with just five members to discuss the modalities for the conduct of the election on Tuesday.
It said, “The Unity Forum (Lawan’s group) insisted on open ballot voting which we discovered is different from the electoral process used to conduct the earlier election with the House of Representatives members -elect.
“To us, this open ballot voting is primitive; undemocratic and against universal electoral norms and practice. In the light of the above, we the Senators elect of Like Minds hereby insist on our position of Open ballot.
“Secret voting process which we believe is in consonance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the universal electoral values.
“As responsible citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and leaders in our own right, we have resolved and hereby state that we shall not be part of a process that promotes undemocratic electoral process.
“Such undemocratic process may resort to rancorous and uncivil situations which inhibit the rights of individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice, as this process will further divide us than unite members of our party.
“In conclusion we the Senators-Elect of Like Minds wish to state categorically that we will participate only in the constitutional election scheduled for Tuesday, the 9th of June 2015 in line with the rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The group vowed to address a news conference with 65 senators-elect across the APC and the PDP, who had already endorsed Saraki’s candidature for the post.
Investigations by our correspondents had revealed that 33 out of the 59 APC senators – elect voted for Lawan at the mock primary, leaving Saraki with the remaining 26.
Already the Saraki group are claiming to have the support of 49 PDP senators – elect who will give him their votes on Tuesday.
An incoming PDP senator, who confided in The PUNCH on the lobbying by the candidates, said, “The candidates have been reaching out to us, but we in the PDP are not united.”
Credit: The Punch Newspapers