By Danladi Al-Hassan
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has directed its members-elect to vote the former Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, and Umar Bago both of the All Progressive Congress (APC), as the 9th National Assembly’s Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively.
The members of the National Working Committee of the PDP at the end of a meeting with its lawmakers-elect in Abuja on Monday night, declared that it would support Ndume to become the President of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly alongside Bago’s ambition to lead the House of Representatives as its speaker.
The meeting was presided over by the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus.
Sources at the meeting said 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 Ahmed Lawan and Femi 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.
There were signs that some members of the ruling party in both houses would also work against the party’s candidates.
Sources within PDP 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.
“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,” a PDP source said.
Likewise, Secondus stated that the PDP is ready to play the role of effective opposition at the National Assembly.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly management appeared set for the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and the election of the presiding officers of both chambers on Tuesday (today).
The bureaucracy of the federal parliament has also, finally laid to rest, the issue of voting method it would adopt for the polls.
Investigations by one of our correspondents revealed that the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani -Omolori, has taken possession of some ballot boxes from the Independent National Electoral Commission.
A member of the management staff of INEC on Monday said that the boxes had been kept in the offices of both clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The issue of voting method is no longer in contention. The ballot boxes supplied by INEC are already in the possession and safe custody of the clerks of both red and green chambers.
“The lawmakers are aware that they would elect their presiding officers via open-secret method as contained in House Rule booklets in their possession.
“We are looking forward to a peaceful election tomorrow (today) because adequate arrangements have been perfected around the National Assembly complex, the premises and inside the chambers.”
The management of the National Assembly was believed to have taken the decision to avoid rancour on Tuesday (today) as the new rule book distributed to legislators- elect provided for such.
“There were attempts to amend the rules of both chambers to give room for open ballot but the idea was frustrated by the outgoing leadership.
“I’m aware that advocates of the open ballot method mounted pressure on the outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and stressed the need to amend the rules in line with the global practice.
“There is no way the management will come up with a voting method different from what is contained in the Rule Book that had been distributed to elected members since April,” a senior civil staff of National Assembly said.
Some members of the Ahmad Lawan Campaign Organisation had soft-pedalled on their agitation for an open poll.
Ibrahim Gobir, a senator-elect from Sokoto State, confirmed on Tuesday that the Rule Book in his possession provided for an open-secret poll.
Gobir, who fielded questions from journalists shortly after completing his documentation process on Monday, said the 2015 Rule Book would be used for the election.
“The voting pattern is provided in our standing rules; so I don’t think that it is going to be a problem. We are going to make use of the 2015 Standing Rules (which provided for open -secret ballot).”
Meanwhile, the Deputy President of the 8th Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, on Monday evening sent messages to all the PDP senators-elect for a meeting with Governor Nyesom Wike.
The meeting, according to the Special Assistant (Administration) to Ekweremadu, Ndubuisi Nwigwe, was scheduled for the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja by 8pm.
“Thereafter a final meeting of the forum will meet at DSP (Ekweremadu’s) residence at 10pm at the Apo Legislative Quarters,” the notice added.
The meeting was still going on as of the time of filing this repor