By Biola Adebayo
About 11 lawmakers-elect have indicated interest to contest for the positions of Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives during the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
While six senators-elect are jostling for the position of Deputy Senate President, another five reps-elect were reported to have joined the race for Deputy Speaker of the House.
The position of a Deputy Senate President is the second in command in the Red Chamber as Deputy Speaker is next to the Speaker.
In the absence of the Senate President and the Speaker, their deputies step into the shoes of presiding over the two chambers.
Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday showed that those gunning for Deputy Senate President include Deputy Senate Chief Whip Francis Alimekhena (APC, Edo), Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta), Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos), Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano), Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia) and Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu).
As for Deputy Speaker, those that have indicated interest in the position are Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila (APC, Kano), Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano), Garba Muhammad Datti (APC, Kaduna), Magaji Da’u Aliyu (APC, Jigawa) and Abubakar Lado Suleja (APC, Niger).
Our correspondent reports that one of those contesting for the Deputy Senate President and four of those gunning for the Deputy Speaker’s seats are all from the North-West, where President Muhammadu Buhari hails from. They are Sen Gaya, Kawu Sumaila, Suleiman, Datti and Da’u.
Also, two aspirants for Deputy Senate President, Alimekhena and Omo-Agege, are from the South-South, while another two, Kalu and Ekweremadu, are from the Southeast.
One aspirant each for the Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, Oluremi Tinubu and Lado, are from the South-West and North-Central, respectively.
All the contenders, with the exception of Ekweremadu, are of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the aspirants have intensified secret campaigns among their colleagues to realise their ambitions.
It was gathered that some of those that have declared for the position of speaker may later drop their ambition to contest for deputy speaker.
So far, those gunning for speaker are House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Mohammed Umar Bago (APC, Niger), Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), Muktar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno) and Nkeiruka Onyeajocha (APC, Abia).
Contenders for Deputy Senate President
Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta)
Omo-Agege first came to the Senate in 2015 under the platform of the Labour Party to represent Delta Central Senatorial District. However, he joined the APC in 2017. He got re-elected to the Senate under the APC’s platform in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
It was learnt that Omo-Agege has the backing of some APC chieftains to occupy the position of the Deputy Senate President, although the party is yet to zone the seat as it did for the Senate President.
Being from the South-South geopolitical zone, it is believed that Omo-Agege, 55, has high chances of clinching the seat as the zone has two returning APC senators.
Sources at the National Assembly said Omo-Agege has serious interest in the seat and has been lobbying his colleagues to get their support.
Alimekhena represents Edo North Senatorial District. Also a second term senator, the 71-year-old lawmaker is the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate and the Deputy chairman Senate Committee on Housing.
Soft-spoken and calm, Alimekhena is believed to have commenced secret campaign to become the Deputy Senate President.
Already, the councillor-elect for Wuse Ward in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mathias Aliu, commenced an open campaign for the Deputy Chief Whip to be Deputy Senate President, saying the South would be cheated if the APC did not endorse Alimikhena for the position.
He said Alimekhena was in a position to promote the party’s agenda in the southern part of the country because of his influence and being a performing senator.
“The South, particularly Edo State will be cheated if the party does not endorse Sen Francis Alimikhena for the position of Deputy Senate President. His track records speak for him, he is one senator who has proven integrity and good leadership skills.
“The ninth National Assembly needs what Alimikehna has to offer and that is why I call on our party chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and other party leaders, to consider my humble appeal.”
Remi is the wife of the APC National Leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She has been a senator since 2011, representing Lagos Central Senatorial District.
Mrs Tinubu is the first to be rumoured to have nurtured the ambition of becoming the Deputy Senate President. Several media reports linked her with the ambition. But the woman has not publicly said she would be contesting for the seat.
Though her husband is among the top decision-makers in the APC, it is not immediately clear if he is behind her candidature for the seat.
However, what is clear is that Tinubu has thrown his weight behind Gbajabiamila to emerge as speaker. In that case, it is believed that it would be difficult for the same Tinubu to push for another person from Lagos to become Deputy Senate President.
Gaya, a ranking senator who is returning to the Senate for the fourth time, has since made his ambition to become Deputy Senate President Public.
Gaya, senator for Kano North, said he believed his legislative experience, loyalty and contributions to the development of the APC should be considered in making him the Deputy Senate President.
Although he hails from the same geopolitical zone as Buhari, Gaya feels that would not stop him from emerging as Deputy Senate President based on the contribution of the region to APC’s victory at the polls.
Declaring his intention recently, Gaya said: “If the six zones are accommodated in the sharing formula for the National Assembly leadership positions, four of them contributed tremendously to the election of Mr. President.
“The South-West, which has now got the position of the Speaker, North-East which has not got the position of the Senate President, North-Central has the position of Deputy Speaker.
“Considering the zoning arrangement, it is clear that the North-West has been left behind and I am a ranking senator from the North-West. That means the deputy senate president position should go to North-West.”
However, many still believe that the North-West should not enjoy any such position because it already has the President.
Orji Uzor Kalu
Kalu, a former 2-term governor of Abia State, has since made his intention to contest for the Deputy Senate President’s seat public. At first, Kalu wanted to go for the Senate President, but he later backed down to the position of deputy.
A former member of the House of Reps in the Third Republic, Kalu won the seat for Abia North Senatorial District under the APC, defeating the incumbent senator, Mao Ohuabunwa, of PDP.
He became governor of Abia State in 1999 and spent eight years piloting the affairs of the state. Since 2007 when he left Abia Government House, he never occupied any elective office, though he had made unsuccessful attempts to come to the Red Chamber.
Kalu recently made subtle threats to the APC, saying he would be compelled to go for the seat of Senate President should the party fail to zone the position of Deputy Senate President to the South-East.
It was gathered that Kalu was already in talks with a lot of senators-elect, including former governors who are now in the Senate, to clinch the position.
Ekweremadu has been the Deputy Senate President for a record 12 years, from 2007. He has been the senator representing Enugu West Senatorial District since 2003.
Though a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ekweremadu was able to wiggle his way to become the Deputy Senate President in 2015, in an APC-dominated chamber.
Like four years ago, Ekweremadu is believed to be keeping his ambition under wraps, waiting for the APC to fumble once again so that he could clinch the seat without any hassle. Should that happen, Ekweremadu would succeed in occupying the seat for 16 years, nonstop.
To realise his ambition, it was learnt that he was making frantic moves to unite the 43 PDP senators-elect in the Senate.
Part of the plan, it was learnt, is to form an alliance with any ‘recalcitrant’ APC senator who is ready and willing to go against his party, like in 2015, for the PDP senators to bring their block votes and make such a senator Senate President against APC’s adopted candidate, Ahmad Lawan.
In turn, the APC senator would persuade some of his colleagues to vote for Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President once again. However, sources said this could be an uphill task this time around.
Contenders for Deputy Speaker
Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila
Kawu had represented Sumaila/Takai Federal Constituency of Kano State for 12 straight years, from 2003 to 2015, before going to contest for the Kano State governorship under APC in vain.
During his stay in the House, he served as Deputy Minority Leader for eight years, a position that many believed has shaped and prepared him for the task ahead. He won the election for the same seat in February.
Besides, Kawu, who was until January this year the senior special assistant to Buhari on National Assembly matters (House of Reps), is said to be very close to and enjoys tremendous goodwill of the President.
Since after the elections, there have been moves by some party chieftains for Kawu to be deputy speaker to Gbajabiamila, who is favoured to be endorsed for speaker by the party.
Those pushing for this are of the opinion that having worked together as Minority Leader and Deputy Minority Leader for eight years and understood each other very well, the duo could make a good combination.
However, Kawu is from the North-West, where the president hails from. Thus, it is believed that the position of deputy speaker should go to another region.
Again, it is believed that Kawu does not enjoy the support of his governor, despite working assiduously for his reelection.
Aminu Suleiman (Goro) represents Fagge Federal Constituency of Kano State. He has been in the House since 2011 and has established himself among his colleagues as a formidable lawmaker.
He had served as the chairman of the House Committee on Education during the 7th Assembly and now serves as the chairman of the committee on tertiary education and TETFUND.
Though he initially wanted to contest for speaker, he later joined the race for deputy speaker as the position of speaker may be difficult for the North-West, having produced the president.
Because of the large number of APC members from the North-West zone, which stands at about 86, many believe that the zone could comfortably produce the Deputy Speaker and that Suleiman should be given the chance.
However, sources told Daily Trust on Sunday that Suleiman maybe persuaded to go for any other position, possibly House Leader, to be zoned to the North-West as there are plans by the party to pair Gbajabiamila with Ahmed Idris Wase as speaker and deputy, respectively.
Garba Datti Muhammad
Rep Datti, who has been representing Sabon Gari Federal Constituency of Kaduna State since 2007, is one major contender for the office of the deputy speaker. Before coming to the House, he had served as a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
He served as Deputy Minority Whip in the House between 2011 and 2015. Babawo, as he is fondly called, has been a loyal APC member as he was previously in Buhari’s defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC).
Datti is among the earliest to have declared their intention to contest for the Deputy Speaker’s seat. He is also believed to be one of those close to President Buhari.
But like the other two contenders mentioned above, Datti is from the North-West, and that may affect his chances of emerging as deputy speaker too.
Magaji Da’u Aliyu
Aliyu represents Birnin Kudu/Buji Federal Constituency of Jigawa State. He is going for his second term in office.
He recently told journalists in Abuja that he would be gunning for deputy speaker because he believed he has a lot to offer for the position. But his number one albatross is his being from the North-West.
Abubakar Lado Suleja
Lado is the only member from the North-Central to have indicated interest for the deputy speaker’s seat. He first came to the House in 2015 to represent Suleja Federal Constituency of Niger State.
He said as a young person who was once a member of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), he believed he has a lot to offer.
But Lado’s biggest challenge is the fact that he still has a court case hanging on his neck. He is being challenged for the APC ticket for his constituency.
It was gathered that as a result of the court case, INEC did not present certificate of return to him. However, Lado, it was learnt, is keeping hope alive, believing that he would win at the court to carry on with his ambition.
Lado told Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday that “I’m in the race. I’m the top and only contender from the North-Central and the most ranking member in the 9th Assembly, having held the position of the first APC National Youth Leader and member of the NWC and later elected as the first Deputy National Treasurer and NEC member.”