Unlike the previous assemblies, the overwhelming victory of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives and Senate election last Saturday will automatically translate into the emergence of new set of leaders at the two chambers of the National Assembly.From 1999 to 2015, the outgoing ruling Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) had produced the Senate president, Speaker of the House and their deputies and all other majority leadership positions in both red and green chambers.However, the emergence of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker on June 6, 2011 was a major upset as it was the first time the lower chamber elected its own speaker, defying the power sharing arrangement of the PDP at that time even though Tambuwal himself was a PDP member.The PDP had endorsed Rep Mulikat Adeola-Akande from Oyo State as its anointed candidate, but the lawmakers teamed up with their opposition colleagues and overwhelmingly elected Tambuwal as speaker, which was unprecedented.Tambuwal’s emergence made him not to be in the good books of the PDP, and he subsequently defected to the APC in October last year. That singular act was another unprecedented move that further consolidated the power hold of the APC in the House.Before the elections, APC had taken over the majority position from the PDP in the lower legislative chamber and further consolidated it in the election.Following the outcome of Saturday’s polls, there is an imminent change of guard in the legislature given that the APC has garnered comfortable majority seats to produce Speaker, deputy speaker, majority leader, deputy majority leader, chief whip and deputy chief whip.In the last four years, Tambuwal has been largely credited with stabilizing the hitherto rancourous and chaotic chamber. It is on record that not a single attempt was ever made to oust him even though the executive tried to incite his colleagues on many occasions.Many say to Tambuwal’s credit, the House witnessed some measure of independence. However, pundits say having succeeded in finishing his four years tenure, it is also incumbent on Tambuwal to ensure that he leaves behind a more independent, vibrant, people-oriented House, which can only be achieved if the right persons succeed him. Analysts say that while he campaigns for his election for Sokoto State governorship under the APC, Tambuwal should also as a matter of necessity keep not only his eyes but also his ears on the House for a smooth transition in June.The APC is already bracing up to form the new leadership, and political observers say the party must be careful not to repeat the many mistakes of the PDP by trying to impose leadership on the lawmakers.Going by this, pundits say that members of the lower chamber are likely to choose their own Speaker even though the principle of zoning or power sharing will also be considered this time around.Analysts say another challenge before the APC is that while it considers all other factors and variables in the selection and zoning of the National Assembly leadership positions, it should also not jettison competence and merit which are two critical factors to be considered in the exercise.This is in sync with the relevant provisions of the House and Senate standing orders which say only members with ‘cognate’ legislative experience can be elected as presiding officers and into other leadership positions.It is believed that the North West is already out of the equation for the speakership since it has produced the president-elect. Thus, the South West, South South, South East, North East and North Central zones are now free to jostle for the number four position in Nigeria.However, with the results of the elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the South South and South East have edged themselves out of the equation having failed to return any of their ranking lawmakers to the green chamber on the APC platform.This means that the two zones will not have the Speaker, deputy speaker or majority leader in the incoming assembly.Thus, the three remaining zones - the South West, North Central and the North East are left in the contention. But the snag here is that just like the North West, the South West zone has already secured the position of the vice president-elect, which means that only the North Central and the North East are left to contest.Now, as the two zones slug it out for the two top jobs at the National Assembly, if the North Central finally produces the Senate president, then the North East will bring the Speaker. As it is, there is serious agitation by senators from the North East to produce the Senate president.But three senators from the North Central are already neck-deep into underground campaigns for the Senate president’s seat. Senators Bukola Saraki, George Akume and Abdullahi Adamu are said to be in contention.Since 2011, the North East zone has been arguing that it is the most marginalised region in Nigeria because during that transition, the position of the Senate president was supposed to have been zoned to the region, but the PDP re-zoned it back to the North Central and to David Mark specifically.Again, the Deputy Speaker which was later on zoned to the region ended up in the South East when lawmakers defied the PDP power sharing arrangement and elected Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha as Speaker and deputy speaker respectively. The region was only left with the position of the House Chief Whip in person of Isiaka Mohammed Bawa.It is believed that there is nothing to show that the legislators cannot repeat the Tambuwal scenario, but with the way the APC national leadership appears to be firm, analysts say chances are that the party’s decision on the matter will be respected by the lawmakers.Already, two ranking lawmakers are rumoured to have started canvassing for support from their colleagues. They are current Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State and Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Services and Welfare.On ranking, the duo are ably qualified given that they both have cognate legislative experience in the parliament. Gbajabiamila has been in the House since 2003, while Dogara has been there since 2007. Like Tambuwal, both Gbajabiamila and Dogara are members of the legal profession. Gbajabiamila is well-respected and adored by his colleagues and is credited with giving the opposition a voice in a hitherto PDP dominated House. Analysts say that should members of the lower chamber decide to do what they did to PDP when they elected Tambuwal in 2011, then Gbajabiamila will have it easily.For Dogara, this will not be the first time he will vie for a presiding position as he was the PDP’s anointed candidate for the deputy speakership when he was paired with Akande-Adeola. During that time, the Bauchi-born lawyer campaigned vigorously, but the PDP dropped him as its adopted candidate on the day of the election.“We in the North East consider the Speakership as a right and not a privilege, because we must be fully and adequately compensated in this new dispensation. Therefore, the speakership position is not negotiable,” a ranking North East lawmaker who did not want to be named said. For the South East and South South, the only leadership position available to them is the minority positions, which means that either of the regions may produce the minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip respectively.This, however, does not automatically shut out a handful of PDP members from other zones including the South West, North Central, North West and North East zones who may also angle for any of the positions.But as the inauguration day approaches, more facts will emerge on the direction the 8th Assembly will take and the personalities that will lead the green chamber in the next four years.
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