Leading contender for the President of the Senate in the 9th Assembly, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, yesterday described the Supreme Court judgment which voided all votes cast for the All Progressive Congress in Zamfara State as a huge setback for the party.
However, Lawan who is the current Senate Leader, expressed optimism that the APC would still garner enough votes in the election of presiding officers in both the two chambers of the National Assembly especially with his plan to run an all-inclusive leadership structure that would benefit all the lawmakers.
He told reporters at an interactive session in Abuja that although the APC has majority representation in both houses despite the Zamfara judgment it was important to bring every member together to work for the interest of Nigerians at large as against fixation to party affiliation.
His words: “The Supreme Court judgment on Zamfara State was a setback to the ruling party because the APC lost three senators and seven or eight in the House of Representatives.
“This leaves us with a new set of numbers of representation in the 9th Assembly. The APC had 65 senators before judgment, now the APC has 62. PDP now has 44 because it had 41 before Friday’s judgment while the Young Progressive Party has one.
“As it is now, there are two cases that are yet to be determined in Imo State. The case of that of the outgoing Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha and that of Senator Ben Uwajumogu which we are anticipating to win. If we have these two, we will have 64 from the APC which makes us to be in the majority.
“But, for me, the issue is not the distribution or the majority. What is important is our ability to come together to work for the interest of Nigerians in every part of the country. We have the responsibility to work for the betterment of Nigerians because, if there is a crisis, there wouldn’t be a distinction between an APC member or the PDP. The crisis will affect all of us.”
Reacting to insinuation that Nigerian lawmakers receive the highest pay in Africa, Lawan said the legislature, since inception in 1999, has never received any jumbo pay, noting that it was a misconception that has no bearing with reality.
“I don’t think there is anything like Jumbo pay. For example, my gross pay is one million naira and what I take home is just about N700,000 after tax deductions. There are funds for us to perform oversight functions, represent and legislate.
“We also travel to our foreign missions and that is what the N13m monthly is meant for. It is not free but rather to perform our functions. What is required of Nigerians is for them to ask questions and demand for value for money. We want to have high quality legislation and this comes with attendant cost. Let Nigerians demand for value and there is no jumbo pay. The money does not go into our pockets.”
He reiterated the fact that he was not imposed on his fellow senators by the Presidency or the party due to his close affinity to some powerful hawks in the corridors of power, arguing that he was just privileged to be recommended among many other qualified candidates which is in conformity with democratic practice all over the world.
“This is a democracy and political parties have the opportunities to recommend certain persons for certain positions. Recommendation does not confer on you the office. A recommended person has the responsibility to reach out to colleagues because they would have to, ultimately, work together. That is why we are not taking anyone for granted. We have to work hard to reach out to our colleagues and we are happy we have reached out to virtually all our colleagues.”
He said the fight against corruption should be pursued with all the seriousness that it deserves as this would enable the government to maximise the scarce resources at its disposal for the general wellbeing of the people, noting that it was his desire to run a legislature that adds value to the success story of the executive even when they would have to disagree occasionally in the course of doing their constitutional duties.
“We must fight corruption and we must be fair in the distribution of resources. There were years when we had plenty but the administration then did not deploy such for the benefit of all. If you look at Nigeria since 2015 to date and with fewer resources, you will realise that a lot has been done.
“I can give the example of the Second Niger Bridge where, in the past, several administrations were busy turning the sod without any physical construction. Today, the story is different because the government has deployed resources for the work. If we are able to tame corruption to the barest minimum as it is not possibly to completely eradicate it, then we will be the better for it.
“Today, we have a big base of support. And, as for being a rubber stamp, the function of the legislature is for the majority to take a decision. The presiding officer is just to coordinate the views expressed by legislators. You go with the majority decision. So, how then do I become a rubber stamp? Yes, we must work with the executive instead of going to the market square to fight all the time. We would disagree and out perspective may differ, but we must find a middle ground in the interest of the public. It is my belief that the National Assembly should be part of the success story of the government.”