FROM the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday came the final word on the hot contest for headship of the National Assembly that is set to be constituted today: No going back on Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as House of Representatives Speaker.According to the National Chairman of the governing party, John Odigie-Oyegun, once a decision has been taken, everybody must fall in line.Odigie-Oyegun, who addressed National Assembly members-elect at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, where a meeting to douse the tension generated by the strife-filled contest for the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives, said that party discipline could not be compromised.
The meeting was not attended by supporters of one of the candidates for the Senate Presidency seat, Bukola Saraki, who was edged out by the APC?s mock election at the weekend which produced his opponent, Ahmed Lawan.The mock election also produced Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State as Speaker, a result dismissed by his main opponent, Yakubu Dogara.When Daily Times reached one of the aggrieved legislators-elect for reaction to the party?s position on Monday night, he simply said: ?We shall see.?Governors on the platform of the APC held a late-night meeting on Monday to resolve the impasse.Odigie-Oyegun told the legislators-elect that they must learn to be loyal to the party and advised them not to take any action that might give room for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to either retake the headship of the Assembly or influence those who may emerge.It was, however, obvious that the National Chairman of the party was only addressing the pro-Lawan and the pro-Gbajabiamila legislators, as the supporters of their opponents stayed away.
About 35 Senators-elect turned up for the meeting, majority of them believed to be supporters of Lawan.Daily Times learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the leadership of the party to douse the growing tension among the federal Legislators who are to elect their leaders on Tuesday (today). Buhari, according to reports, asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to call a meeting of APC legislators and assist in harmonizing issues, which have been casting them apart as they prepare to elect their leaders. The refusal of Saraki and his supporters to attend the meeting, according to party chieftains who spoke with Daily Times, could have been responsible for why Osibajo did not turn up after all. Buhari who is on his way back from Germany where he went for the G7 meeting, reportedly assigned Osinbajo the task when the party Chairman made contact with him through telephone on Sunday night. However, Oyegun accompanied by some member of the party?s National Working Committee (NWC) arrived the venue of meeting with APC legislators at about 6.26 pm and immediately commenced the meeting with those who had already taken seats.
While supporters of Senator Lawan had already taken seats at the International Conference Centre, none of Saraki?s backers was seen, thus fuelling speculations that they might not eventually honour the party?s invitation. Since last week, the two factions of the Senate and the House of Representatives have been flexing muscles on who should emerge as Senate President and the Speaker. Senators-elect are already polarized along two groups, the Unity Forum and Like Minds Senators each fronting for Lawan and Saraki.The situation remained the same in the House of Representatives, with Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila and Yakubu Dogara contending fiercely for the leadership. The APC had initially intervened by conducting mock voting to smoothen the process of electing the Senate President and the House of Representatives Speaker, whereas the attempt was vehemently rebuffed by the Saraki group in the Senate and that of Dogara in the House.
All through last weekend, the Like Minds Senators backing Saraki took a position never to honour the decision of APC to put forward Lawan and Gbajabiamila for affirmation on Tuesday as Senate President and Speaker. Dino Melaye, spokesperson for the group had boasted that Saraki?s supporters had reached 65 in number and were prepared to present Saraki as a nominee of their group tomorrow. However, the press conference, which Dino said, would hold earlier in the day by Like Mind Senators as part plans to show their numerical strength never took place. Melaye explained to newsmen that the Press Conference was cancelled for strategic reasons.