Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has warned against imposition of presiding officers on the ninth National Assembly due for inauguration in June.
Dogara, who spoke at the opening of the second batch of the orientation programme for National Assembly members-elect in Abuja yesterday, declared that any attempt to force any leadership on the legislative body will not last.
“Where leadership has been forced upon the people, the history in the National Assembly, and in fact, the history in Nigeria, it has never endured,” he said, adding: “The least we could afford in the National Assembly is crisis on account of the leadership selection process.”
He said whoever a political party is supporting must have the support of the legislators-elect.
Dogara admonished: “The party should make sure it has the backing of the legislature so that the legislators will accept it because they own the process and they own the leadership.
“That way, it will be good, but in a situation it is forced, literally driven down the throat, in most cases it doesn’t augur well. Even in the Senate it doesn’t augur well. In the House of Representatives, it doesn’t augur well too.”
According to him, leadership is always something that emerges from people.
He said: “Some of us that have been a bit old in the field, we know how that is done. My advice is that we stay calm to understand the people going in for these positions of leadership in the National Assembly.
“At the end of the day we are praying that we have those leaders who will be able to sustain what we have done in the Eight Assembly or even surpass what we have done. We don’t want leadership that will take us back.
“We have made a lot of mileage and we hope that we will be able to get the kind of leadership that will build on the achievements of this Assembly which is unparalleled in our legislative history.
“I will advise members to actually look out for those who have thrown themselves into the race to see who it is that will aggregate their aspirations better and then will be able to surpass the record of this Assembly.”
Dogara, in an answer to a question asked by a legislator-elect, said it is very difficult to impeach a sitting president with the procedure outlined in the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
He, therefore, canvassed for the amendment of section 143 of the constitution, which stipulates the procedure to be followed in impeaching the president.
According to him, “Except some of the provisions of section 143 are amended, the possibility of impeaching Mr. President is very slim”.
Some of the federal legislators-elect also supported Dogara’s warning that leadership should not be forced on the legislature.
Former governor of Benue State and senator-elect representing Benue South, Hon Gabriel Suswam, said the lawmakers will not condone anybody dictating to them about who to choose as leaders.
According to him, when subterranean moves are made from outside and produce presiding officers, there is likelihood and tendencies that some members would stoutly object to it.
Dogara explains further: “There might likely be surprises even within the APC because there are lots of resistances. We are talking to a lot of them. They are just keeping quiet but what would happen on the floor will be different because it is we that are going to vote. People who are bringing up names will not vote.
“So, you should expect anything but that is not to say that the people whose names have been bandied are not qualified. Ahmad Lawan has been a federal lawmaker since 1999, he is very vast and experienced. I wouldn’t mind him as a senate president but because he is appearing as if there is an imposition. People are beginning to question him. Ordinarily, Lawan is a complete gentleman who should be senate president but the fact that people are feeling that he is the party’s choice is a factor.
“The same thing is affecting Femi Gbajabiamila who has been in the House for a long time. He is a very experienced lawmaker who will make a very good speaker but the fact that members believe that he is the party’s choice will lead to resistance. That is how it has been happening since 1999. The three people who are contesting the senate presidency are all APC members and whoever that emerges will be loyal. It is the impression of an imposition that is a problem. I was in the House of Representatives for eight years and there was no time that the person nominated by the party became the presiding officer. We are all matured and people want to freely express themselves after all we are equal”.
On her part, senator-elect representing Akwa-Ibom East, Mrs. Akon Etim, suggested a power sharing formula between the ruling APC and PDP when electing the presiding officers.
Her words: “In the eighth assembly, the two parties are being represented. The APC produced the Senate president while the position of the deputy senate president was won by the PDP. I think it’s a good arrangement because it achieved balance in the country’s political equation. If in the ninth assembly, we will do the same, I will strongly buy into it. So far, the final decision has not been taken on it”.
Outgoing governor of Ogun State and Ogun Central senator-elect, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, expressed his readiness to work with his colleagues, adding that the executive and legislature can work together without compromising the principles of separation of power.
Former governor of Abia State and Abia South senator-elect, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, said as a loyal party man he would abide by the zoning formula to be evolved by the party for the leadership of the ninth Senate.
He, however, said APC should zone the Deputy Senate President to South-east zone “so that I can contest with whoever is contesting from the South-east or our caucus from the zone will go and meet in order to produce a consensus candidate.”
Also speaking, House member-elect from Ife Federal Constituency, Mr. Taofeek Ajilesoro, said the federal legislators would elect leaders of their choice as soon as they are inaugurated in June.
“I believe that the issue of the party should not determine whoever that would be chosen as our officers. This is a matter of who is going to protect our interest. National Assembly is supposed to be an independent arm of government, meant to check the executive. So, if the party is now giving us somebody that will be a rubber stamp, it means that whatever the executive brings will just be passed like that. So, what is the essence of being lawmakers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the senator representing Borno South, Senator Ali Ndume, yesterday in Abuja vowed not to step down for Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), in the race for Senate presidency.
Ndume, who made the pledge in the State House after holding a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, said he was still busy making consultations on his ambition.
Ndume who declined to answer questions from State House correspondents, was, however, asked to confirm rumours that he had stepped down for Lawan.
But shocked by the claim, the senator who had declined granting interview, found it imperative to deny the insinuation as he swiftly cut in, saying, “Me? Step down? I’m consulting.”
His reaction smacked of a commitment to his pursuit which ruled out the possibility of any future withdrawal from the race.
Asked why he was in the State House, he said “VP is my oga. I come to see him.”