President Muhammadu Buhari has personally taken charge of lobbying incoming members of the 9th National Assembly in the bid to install Dr. Ahmad Lawan as the next Senate President and Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The President, according to well placed sources, is taking nothing for granted this time around to avoid a repeat of the 2015 ‘coup’ when dissenting members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their allies in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hijacked the election process and picked candidates other than those preferred by the ruling party.
It was gathered that shortly before leaving for London on a private visit last week, Buhari took the driver’s seat at meetings with some of the aspirants for the two plum offices.
He was said to have met Senator Danjuma Goje who enjoys the backing of the opposition PDP, and a member of the House, Ahmed Idris Wase, rated as enjoying wider backing from Reps.
One source said the President has already sent an emissary to Senator Ali Ndume who has consistently said that the President is yet to discuss with him on his ambition.
The source said the President plans to meet soon with Umaru Mohammed Bago, who has vowed not to step down for Gbajabiamila.
A top source who is familiar with the situation said: “Following complaints of imposition, the President has decided to reach out to the main aspirants to explain to them that he is actually the one who is interested in working with Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
“His determination to leave sustainable legacies has made him to be involved in opening talks with some aspirants.
“The President is reaching out because there is a lot of disinformation as if he is not personally involved in the demand for Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
“He is also worried that the election of principal officers is being personalized beyond the actors in the National Assembly.
“He met with Goje and begged him to support his choice of Lawan. Actually, the meeting with Goje was facilitated by Governor Nasir el-Rufai after preparatory discussion with the former governor of Gombe State.
“Goje admitted that he had some difficulty and would need to consult more before giving the President any feedback. A second session between the President and Goje is expected any moment from now.”
Investigation also revealed that the President has indirectly opened talks with a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, on why he should allow Lawan to be the next President of the Senate.
It was learnt that Governor el-Rufai has already held discussion with Ndume preparatory to the aspirant’s meeting with Buhari.
“Apart from the APC governors, the President will have a follow-up meeting with Ndume. But his emissary (el-Rufai) has done preliminary consultations,” a Presidency source said.
It was similarly gathered that Buhari has met with one of the aspirants for the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, from Plateau State on the need for him to step down for Gbajabiamila.
Buhari met with Wase in company of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State. Wase is from the state.
A source privy to the session said: “The President persuaded Wase to concede the Speaker slot to Gbajabiamila in the light of his second term agenda.
“He told Wase that although as a ranking member, he is entitled to lead the chamber but he wants to work with Gbajabiamila while Wase can be part of the team of the new Speaker.
“It was a confidence building session facilitated by an APC governor. But Wase is yet to make any commitment.”
Meanwhile, a group called Advocates of Good Governance, has launched an initiative for the adoption of the Open Ballot System in election principal officers of the 9th National Assembly.
The group, in a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, said it was dismayed by information coming from the National Assembly that the leadership of the 9th Assembly will be conducted via a secret ballot process.
The group said: “We write you this letter as a group of patriotic Nigerians and advocates of Good Governance keenly following political developments and events in our country.
“We are particularly interested in the activities of the National Assembly and contributions of various members and how they reflect the aspirations and interests of their constituents in electing leaders of the National Assembly.
“Sir, you may wish to know that every elected member of the National Assembly is a representative of specific constituents keeping tabs with unfolding developments at the National Assembly.
“We are however, dismayed by information coming from the National Assembly that the leadership of the 9th Assembly will be conducted by via a secret ballot process.
“More worrisome is the fact that the leadership of 8th Assembly has perfected plans to select leaders who will constitute a legislative cog in the wheel of progress of Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari.
“At this juncture we wish to remind the President that Nigerians are watching and are not ready to leave this important matter in the hands of NASS Members alone.
“We recall the heroic resistance of all Nigerians to the third term agenda of ex-President Obasanjo. Patriotic Nigerians rose in unison and ensured that voting was done in the open and every vote counted to frustrate that infamous bid. We are ready to do the same again.
“Here, we cite the global parliamentary practice of electing leaders through open ballot. Except the 8th Assembly when the rules were circumvented, it is on record that successive election of the New Leadership of the National Assembly has been by Open Ballot system.
“Sir, we demand open ballot or a voice vote during the election of the New Leadership of the National Assembly. Only this approach will give the New Leadership the confidence and trust it deserve before Nigerians
“We also call on all members-elect of the 9th Assembly to be vigilant and defend the interest of his/her constituents and ensure that the election of the New Leadership is by Open Ballot system.”
The letter was signed by a former member of the House of Representatives, Duro Meseko, who is the Convener of the group.