The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomole, is planning to zone the post of Deputy Senate President to his state, party sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
Top members of the ruling party familiar with the scheme said the chairman is working to favour Francis Alimikhena, the senator from Edo North, his senatorial district.
The party had announced the endorsement of Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and decided to zone other principal positions.
Mr Oshiomhole denied this when asked on Tuesday.
“Who said so?” his media aide, Simon Egbebulem questioned on Tuesday. “Nothing has been done. Nobody has said this is the person for that position. But the party is working on how to share the position so that every part of the country will have a sense of belonging.
“They have started the process and the party is backing Gbajabiamila and Ahmed Lawan for the position of speaker and Senate president but other position, the party is still working to sort out these positions.
“But it is believed that the position may be zoned to the South-south but nobody has been pinpointed.”
For two days, PREMIUM TIMES tried to reach Mr Alimikhena. He did not return calls or reply text messages.
Sources insist zoning done
However, some APC stalwarts who spoke to this newspaper said they are aware of efforts by the party helmsman to influence the position to his senatorial district.
“We saw a report in newspaper which earmarked positions to regions,” a top official in the APC secretariat who asked not to be named to evade discipline said Tuesday morning. “When we got to office, we asked around and the conclusion was that since it didn’t come officially, it is only a rumour. But since Friday last week, the news has been flying around.
“Before now, it was Omo-Agege but this time around, the new thing is that Oshiomole wants to favour Alimikhena. All these things have caused a lot of reactions from people that no…Even if that would be done, it should be on consensus.”
A top aide to a senator who is privy to information on the scheming criticised both the chairman and the senator.
The aide, who also did not want to be identified, said Mr Oshiomhole’s move was already tending towards imposition.
“Now, there is tension in the party, because of the rumour that the chairman wants to zone the office of the Deputy Senate President to his state. He wants the senator representing him to be the next DSP.
“If you’ve been following developments, Alimikhena is supposed to be serving the interest of the party because he’s deputy whip but he just got lost for four years.
“It’s not even zoning, he wants to impose. It’s going to cause crisis within the APC caucus in the Senate. They are not going to accept him,” the source said.
Mr Alimikhena, a second-time senator, is qualified to contest the position according to the ‘ranking’ rule.
Some of the ranking senators who have declared interest in the position include three-time senators; Oluremi Tinubu of Lagos Central, Ajayi Borrofice of Ondo North, Kabiru Gaya of Kano and Teslim Folarin of Oyo Central who is returning to the Senate after two terms served in 2003 and 2007.
Mum is the word
Asked about the scheme on Tuesday, APC Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, declined comments.
“I cannot speak for the chairman, I only speak for the party,” he said.
At a leadership meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and senators-elect last week Monday, the party had announced the endorsement of Ahmed Lawan to be the next Senate president.
Also on Monday, Mr Oshiomole had said the APC would not share power with the PDP in the 9th National Assembly to avoid the 2015 scenario. He was speaking to new Rep members-elect in the party.
In 2015, the APC endorsed Mr Lawan following zoning of the position of the president of the Senate to the North-east.
However, he did not make it as the incumbent, Bukola Saraki, emerged Senate President against his party’s wish.
Mr Saraki was able to secure the loyalty of PDP senators and paid back by ensuring an opposition member became his deputy.
He would later dump the APC in 2018, in the build-up to party primaries ahead of the recently concluded 2019 elections.
Mr Saraki’s reign was characterised by a constant face-off between the executive and legislature even before he dumped the APC.
Broaden search for Senate President – Group
Meanwhile, a civil society group, Partners for Legislative Agenda for Nigeria (PLAN), a coalition of civil society and youth groups in Nigeria, has called for the “broadening of the search for the Senate President in the North-east.”
The body made the call at a press conference addressed by its chairman, Charles Ibiang, in Abuja.
According to PLAN, the search for a Senate President must be broadened to get the best man for the job.
It pointed out that the idea of a handpicked Senate President is as undemocratic as it is undesirable.
It noted that the Senate must choose a Senate President that can build bipartisan and nationalistic bridges.
Mr Ibiang also said such Senate President should be able to stabilise the polity and bridge the unity gap.
PLAN also explained that it was shocked and disturbed that in order to impose a candidate, the name of President Muhammadu Buhari was being dragged into the agenda of a few, “under the guise of the vague term”.
According to the chairman, “it must be clear that President Buhari has not shown any sign of supporting any project that undermines participatory democracy”.
“The president openly stated that the electorate in states where supplementary elections are held are wiser now, and should make their choices. During the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries and contrary to APC National Working Committees’ threats, President Buhari encouraged aggrieved aspirants to approach the court for redress, and disagreed with the party on its undemocratic stand then,” the group added.