The zoning hurdle before APC in 8th National Assembly

Pulse Blogger Ezrel Tabiowo discusses the emergence of Nigeria's former opposition party APC as the ruling political party and the composition of principal offices with adherence to the zoning formula in the Senate and House of Representatives

Following the emergence of Nigeria's former opposition party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, as the ruling political party in the country during last month's Presidential and National Assembly elections, the composition of principal offices with adherence to the zoning formula in the Senate and House of Representatives has been a question most consider a high hurdle confronting the party in the eight National Assembly set to take off in the first week of June this year.

Recall that the All Progressive Congress during the March 28,  2015  National Assembly elections seized majority control of the Senate after winning 60 seats, leaving the Peoples Democratic party with only 49.

A similar situation was replicated in the House of Representatives where APC also recorded majority status. Out of a total 360 seats, the new ruling party won 214; one which had 81 lawmakers from the North-West, 47 from the South-West, 41 from the North-Central, 40 from the North-East and three from the South-South.

With the Peoples Democratic Party relegated to being the minority political party in both chambers of the National Assembly, as against its majority status in the present 7th National Assembly, its is expected that the principal offices of Senate President, Deputy Senate President, the Senate Leader, Deputy Leader, the Chief Whip of the Senate and Deputy Chief Whip, are to be shared accordingly across the six geo-political zones in the country by the All Progressive Congress in adherence to the federal character principle.

The present zoning formula in place used by the ruling PDP in the Senate produced Senator David Mark from Benue State (North Central), as Senate President and Ike EKweremadu from Enugu State (South East), getting the Deputy Senate President slot.

Others are Victor Ndoma Egba from Cross River State (South South), as the Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi from Bauchi State (North East), as the Deputy Senate Leader, Bello Hayatu Gwarzo from Kano State (North West) as the Senate Chief Whip and Ayoola Hosea Agboola from Oyo State (South West) as the Deputy Whip of the Senate.

However, the four principal positions at both chambers meant for the parties in Minority, going by practice and tradition since 1999, are not always shared in accordance with the zoning principle.

For instance, in the present senate, the position of Senate Minority Leader is being held by George Akume, who is from Benue State (North Central) as the Senate President, Deputy Minority Leader, Ahmad Rufai Sani from Zamfara State (North West), Senate Minority Whip, Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon from Lagos State (South West) and Deputy Minority Whip, Abu Ibrahim from Katsina State (North West).

In view of existing tradition which require the six principal offices in the Senate and House of Representatives to be filled on the basis of a zoning principle that accommodates all six geo-political zones in the country, the situation leaves a big problem on the hands of APC in conforming with the practice, given that two zones, the South East and South South, are not represented in its membership of the 8th Senate.

Recall that PDP cleared all 15 senatorial seats in the South East without APC wining any, just as the former cleared 17 out of the entire 18 senatorial seats in the South-South geo political zone leaving just one seat (Edo North), for the All Progressive Congress.

But the National Chairman of APC, John Odigie Oyegun, while reacting to the present predicament confronting the party in terms of ensuring equal representation of all geo-political zones in the leadership composition of both chambers of the National Assembly in June, described the absence of South-East and South-South in the membership of both the Senate and House of Representatives as sad, particularly the former region which produced no APC senator.

He said: "It is really sad, you heard the governor (Rochas Okorocha of Imo State) the other day when he talked about the way things went there. It is a peculiar politics being played. But we thank God we won and the same God will teach us how to go about it at both chambers in carrying the two zones, particularly the South East which had no single APC senator along, in power sharing in NASS."

Consequently, political analysts have posited that the way around the zoning problem confronting Nigeria's new ruling party could be resolved should some Senators from the South-East defect to APC to fill whatever position is set aside for the zone.

The position, which seems to be under consideration by some leaders from the South-East, has led to pressure being mounted on Senators like Ike EKweremadu (PDP Enugu West), who is presently the Deputy Senate President, and Uche Ekwenife (PDP Anambra Central) who defeated Chris Ngige of the APC, and some others to defect to APC.

But the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu had in a press statement signed by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, last week said there was no such plan by him to defect to APC from PDP in spite of the enormous pressure being mounted on him by APC leaders from the zone.

He said: "Contrary to rumour being spread and speculation making the rounds that the Deputy Senate President , Ike EKweremadu is planning to defect from PDP to APC for the purposes of clinching the position of Senate President , purportedly zoned to South East by APC leadership before the National Assembly election, my principal has no such plan.

"He is not in any way contemplating that, in spite of pressures being mounted on him by some APC chieftains and leaders of thought in the South East."

However, only the period of six weeks leading up to the beginning of the 8th National Assembly in June can resolve the puzzle, and answer the question as to whether or not Ekweremadu, Ekwunife or any of the other 13 PDP Senators from the South-East will in fact defect to the All Progressive Congress just so as to clinch the position reserved for the zone by the party in the leadership of the senate.

Ezrel Tabiowo is a practising Journalist with years of experience in Parliamentary reporting. As a Political and Public Affairs Analyst, he has made countless contributions as a Columnist and Blogger towards issues of national importance as they affect Nigeria and the continent of Africa. He is also a trained Rights Activist based in Abuja, Nigeria.


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