The Peoples Democratic Party and its standard bearer in the last election, Atiku Abubakar are on a collision course with the G-5 over the minority leadership in the National Assembly, particularly the Senate.
The PDP and Atiku, Punch reported, had declared support for the ex-governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal (PDP, Sokoto South) for the minority leadership seat but the G-5 was pushing for Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe (Cross River North ) for the same position.
Atiku and the G-5 comprising Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, former governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); ex-Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue; his colleague in Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia)) had been at loggerheads since the ex-Vice-President emerged as the party’s standard bearer in the last presidential election.
While Makinde is still in office for his second and final term, the other members of the G-5 have concluded their eight-year tenure.
As governor, Wike led his four colleagues to work against the former vice president in his quest to succeed ex-President Muhammadu Buhari.
As provided for by the relevant laws and rules of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, aside from the two presiding officer positions, eight principal positions are also to be occupied by elected lawmakers on the platforms of both the ruling and minority political parties.
On resumption of the plenary on July 4, the Senate President is expected to read the letter from the parties announcing their nominations for the minority leadership positions.
After the election of the presiding officers, both the majority and minority caucuses of the National Assembly are expected to appoint their leaders.
But the jostle for the Senate minority leadership position appears to be generating tension among the opposition senators following moves by some vested interests to impose a candidate on the Senate.
Lawmakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that Atiku was behind the choice of Tambuwal as the minority leader.
PDP backs Tambuwal
A source said, “Tambuwal is Atiku’s choice as the PDP Senate leader while Wike is also pushing for Jarigbe as minority leader. Wike is looking for an opportunity to get back at Tambuwal over the presidential elections primary elections.
“He is still bitter. But the party would not allow him to try the same thing he did during the national elections with the National Assembly.”
With 36 senators in the upper chamber, the PDP is expected to take two out of the four minority seats comprising the Senate minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip, and deputy whip.
However, there has been tension in the minority camp of the PDP since the former Rivers State governor visited the Senate President, GodsWill Akpabio at his office last Thursday for a marathon meeting which ended around 6:30 pm.
Sources revealed that the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are, however, treading carefully on the matter.
A source stated, “Having assisted APC to win the presidential election in Rivers State in February and supported the aspirations of the now elected four presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly, making one of his loyalists a principal officer is his next plan.
“He is very serious about the plan and he is getting the required support from the leadership of the National Assembly as well as membership of the other minority political parties in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
Another lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that the PDP was intent on enthroning Tambuwal as the senate leader.
The lawmaker added, “His Excellency, Senator Tambuwal is the one that the party has chosen as the Senate leader. The party at this time needs someone who can play the role of opposition very well and he is experienced having been a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. The party wants a competent person for that position and no doubt, he is one.”
Contacted the Media Adviser to Atiku, Paul Ibe, explained reasons the former Vice-President was supporting the aspiration of the former Sokoto State governor.
Ibe said if his principal aligned himself with the position of his party concerning the Senate minority leader position; the same should not be misunderstood, adding that Atiku had always been a party man.
He noted, “The position of the minority leader of the Senate should be taken by the biggest opposition party which is the PDP. The PDP will naturally vie for the role in consultation with other opposition party members in the Senate. This is how the minority leader will emerge.
“If the party is backing Tambuwal and Atiku Abubakar happens to support this, there is nothing wrong with that. It is the prerogative of the party to decide who they think can champion the interest of the party in the hallowed chamber. Normally, they will support someone whose competence they can vouch for.
“If Atiku and the PDP are on the same page on this, it is merely a coincidence because the former Vice President has always been a party man.”
Confirming the stand of his former principal, ex- Chief Press Secretary to erstwhile Governor of Benue State, Nathanial Ikyur said Samuel Ortom would support Wike’s choice.
“Ortom will support Wike and I can tell you that for Wike to identify with Senator Jarigbe, that means the man (Jarigbe) is the choice of the G-5. The group is intact and they make decisions together. All five of them are together. Seyi Makinde, Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Ortom, and Wike are together. They resolved to always stand together before, during and after the elections. Nothing has changed even after the elections,” he said.
Corroborating this, an ex-official of the party who served in the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee told The PUNCH that the former governors who formed the G-5 would oppose the choice of Tambuwal for any position in the Senate.
Speaking with our correspondent in confidence, the PDP chieftain who is of South-West extraction said, “There is no way the G-5 leaders will support Tambuwal. He betrayed other PDP presidential aspirants. Instead of staying in the race for the PDP presidential ticket, backed out to support Atiku. They will never support him on this.
“I hope the PDP will back out of this mission of pushing Tambuwal as Senate Minority Leader. If they insist he is the one they want, he will lose.”
Also, some pro-G5 lawmakers, who spoke to our correspondents, supported the position of the PDP chieftain, saying the party should not present Tambuwal.
Our correspondent could not get the position of the party as the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba was not available for comment.
But Senator Jarigbe denied being in the race for the minority leadership.
Jarigbe, who during his speech at the valedictory of the ninth Assembly thanked Wike for his support and called him his mentor, told The PUNCH on Monday that he had not been informed about the plan to make him the minority leader.
He also stated that the ex-governor had yet to discuss the move with him.
He said, “Such news is rumours and unfounded. Nothing like that happened. Even if there was such a thing, I am not aware because as we speak he and I have not had such a conversation.”
When our correspondent asked if Wike’s visit to the National Assembly last Thursday was in line with such a move, Jarigbe insisted that he was unaware as he also learnt of his mentor’s visit.
Jarigbe said, “Yes, I heard he was at the National Assembly last Thursday but we didn’t even talk. “
Tambuwal could not be reached for comment as he did not respond to calls and a message sent to him.
Meanwhile, the former lawmaker who represented Kaduna Central in the eighth Senate, Shehu Sani, has warned the PDP not to allow the G-5 to take over the minority leadership slot as it would incapacitate it as an opposition party.
Speaking in an interview on Arise television monitored by our correspondent, Sani stated, “The main opposition PDP has to be careful because if they allow those who call themselves G-5 to have an agent who is going to be the minority leader, they have simply surrendered the role they are supposed to play in the National Assembly for the next four years.
“Naturally, a parliament is supposed to work in partnership with the executive but in the last four years, we have seen the legislature become an appendage of the ruling party, where the Ahmad Lawan-led Senate simply approves anything that was sent by the president.”
Sani noted that from the statement made by the new Senate President, he tried to provide a balance that they would work with the executive and at the same time protect the sanctity of the parliament.
He added, “Well that would have been a good thing to do but the signs that are coming in show that they want a stooge in the opposition as far as the leadership of the National Assembly is concerned.”
One of the PDP lawmakers interested in the minority leader position and the senator representing Osun East, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, said that the party had yet to reach a consensus on the matter and that it would be unfair for the North-West to get another position
“The minority caucus of the Senate has not met and no one has been picked for the position,” Punch quoted him to have said.
“North-West cannot get Deputy Senate President, Speaker and you will still give them a minority leader. Are they the only zone available?”