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The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress on Monday ordered all the party’s members-elect in the National Assembly to vote Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively during the inauguration of the 9th federal legislature on Tuesday (today).
The NWC gave the directive after a meeting with the APC governors and its members-elect in the National Assembly in Abuja on Monday.
This is as the Peoples Democratic party directed its members-elect to vote the former Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, and Umar Bago both of the APC, as the 9th National Assembly’s Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively.
The APC NWC’s meeting also endorsed Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Idris Wase as Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, respectively.
Ndume from Borno State, who had also declared for the Senate President, was absent from the APC meeting.
Among the contestants also absent from the APC meeting were Senator Francis Alimikhena, Kabiru Gaya and a former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Addressing journalists at the end of the meeting, the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said, “We have all agreed as a caucus to endorse senator Lawan for Senate President and Senator Omo-Agege as the Deputy Senate President.
“We have also agreed to endorse Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Wase as deputy speaker. These four are the APC nominees for the respective positions. The governors and members-elect were unanimous in adopting this position.”
He thanked other aspirants for agreeing to step down despite being qualified to contest the positions in order to preserve the unity of the APC and the interest of the country at large.
Specifically, Oshiomhole thanked Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe State for stepping down for Lawan and Senator Francis Alimikhena for assuring him to support Omo-Agege.
He also thanked Senator Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo State), Olusegun Odebunmi and Nkiruika Onyejeocha among others for agreeing to step down for the party’s candidates.
Oshiomhole noted that those that stepped down were eminently qualified to contest the positions.
“They offered to step down as a mark of honour for the President and leadership of the party. They are all unanimous to back these candidates as the APC candidates for the good of the country,” he said.
Oshiomhole commended Lawan and Gbajabiamila for travelling the length and breadth of the country to woo members of the opposition in order to build bipartisan cooperation, which he noted, had been helpful to their course.
“I believe together we will work to take Nigeria to the next level,” he said.
Oshiomhole urged Ndume to respect the party’s position, which he said, was the position of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He added, “For now we are still trying to talk to Senator Ali Ndume but I believe he is a democrat; he understands that it is important to listen to the voice of the majority and accept the decision of the majority. It is all about sacrifice.
“For those who have agreed to step down, they did so because they realise at a point in time, only one person will lead.
“I believe that my friend, Ndume, will not be a lone ranger; he will respect the party and the President who is the leader of the party. I do not have any fear that he will respect the decision of the party.”
Earlier, the NWC had urged all aspirants for the presiding officers of the 9th National Assembly to step down and support the anointed candidates of the party.
The party made the declaration at the end of its NWC emergency meetings held over Saturday and Sunday.
PDP backs Ndume for Senate Presidency, Bago as speaker
But rising from a meeting the members of the National Working Committee of the PDP had with its lawmakers-elect in Abuja on Monday night, the party said it would support Ndume to become the President of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly.
In the same vein, the main opposition party is also giving tacit support to the ambition of Umar Bago to lead the House of Representatives as its speaker.
The meeting was presided over by the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus.
Sources at the meeting told one of our correspondents that the attendees engaged in serious calculations on whether their preferred candidates could defeat those lined up for the job by the ruling APC.
The APC had adopted both Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the positions of Senate President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.
However, the national leadership of the PDP was said to have told the lawmakers-elect that the party must play the role of opposition in both chambers.
Though it was argued that while the meeting was ongoing, some lawmakers-elect from the party were at the press briefing where Gbajabiamila was endorsed, the party believed that mere attendance of the meeting might not necessarily translate into votes for the Lagos State lawmaker.
A source, who was at the meeting, told one of our correspondents that there were signs that some members of the ruling party in both houses would also work against the party’s candidates.
The source said the APC lawmakers were merely carrying on and appearing as if they were in tandem with the dictates of the national leadership of their party.
He said, “We have done our calculations very well. We have also spoken with a lot of lawmakers and we have come to the conclusion that we should not just be part of the crowd that the APC is forcing on Nigerians.
“We have spoken with our lawmakers-elect and even some members from the APC in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. We have interacted with the candidates running for different positions in both chambers.
“We know that the legislature must be independent and also be free to elect their leaders. We must not be seen to be controlling this special arm of government from outside. The legislature remains the beacon of Nigeria’s democracy.”
When contacted, Secondus confirmed the position taken by the party.
He said, “As the opposition political party, we must be seen to play responsible opposition role.Yes, none of the two presiding officers we are rooting for belong to the PDP, but we know that as a critical member of the National Assembly, we must have a say in the election of its leaders. This is the reason why we are backing both Ndume and Bago.”