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All Progressives Congress (APC) National Assembly members yesterday got the nod to negotiate with the opposition in their bid for principal positions in the Ninth Assembly.
It is democratic to do so, the party said in a statement signed by National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu, who stressed that the party has nothing against its members seeking cooperation with other legislators as it is confident that they will not betray the party.
There has been reports of Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan, who has been adopted for Senate President, holding meetings with members of the opposition, but Issa-Onilu said that Lawan was adopted by the party for the position in the first place because of his ability to carry everyone along, which is needed for such a position.
He also said that the party will announce its zoning arrangement for the National Assembly leadership in the coming days.
The statement reads: “We are inundated with reports of our members in the National Assembly holding consultations with members of the opposition over the election of leaders into the Ninth National Assembly. Let me state that our party has no objection to such consultations.
“It is a normal democratic practice world over to stretch hands across the divides. And contrary to some media reports, the actions of our members do not contradict the party’s position. APC has a comfortable majority in both chambers. Therefore; we have the number to produce the leadership.
“But democracy recognises the importance of the opposition, especially when you do not have two-third, which would be required at some very critical situations. For us as a ruling party, we understand that a stable and peaceful National Assembly would enhance our capacity to deliver more for the people of Nigeria.
“So, the party is not averse to negotiation by Senator Ahmed Lawan and our other senators-elect working to fulfil the position taken by our party.
“It is important to note that one of the key considerations for adopting him as the party’s candidate for the Senate presidency is his ability to carry everyone along. On top of that, the party has confidence in him not to compromise the progressive ideology of APC. So, clearly, Senator Ahmed Lawan is capable of conducting his negotiations within the prism of APC’s objectives.”
On zoning and the leadership of the House of Representatives, Issa-Onilu assured Nigerians that the party will put to rest ongoing agitations and “will soon release the zoning arrangements for the principal positions of the incoming Ninth National Assembly.
“The party will also make its position clear in the coming days on the principal positions in the House of Representatives,” the party’s spokesman said.
He said that the nationwide consultations being championed by the Senate Leader and Leader of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, who is seeking to become the Speaker of the Green Chamber, were in line with the party’s policy of inclusiveness.
According to him, national interest is guiding the ongoing rapprochement between APC’s candidates and members-elect from the opposition.
Issa-Onilu said: “It is just part of politics and in a democracy, consensus is a key element. To have a smooth sail in the National Assembly, you don’t go to the floor pretending that the opposition parties do not exist.
“Even if the opposition parties cannot defeat you, in the spirit of national interest, you must work with them. We want to run a government of inclusiveness, we need every party.
“We will support every effort by our candidates for principal offices in the Senate and the House of Representatives to carry elected members from the opposition along.
“As long as we can, we will keep our members-elect united to present common candidates to lead the National Assembly. The fact that we are saying that we can go it alone is not the same thing as saying that the opposition does not matter.
“We have the numbers to achieve our aim but we have to ensure comfort for the opposition too. Unlike in the past, what we are pushing before the 9th National Assembly is a national interest agenda.
“We want them to see our candidates within the prism of the national agenda we are pursuing.”
The Senate Leader at the weekend had audience with more senators-elect from PDP. He was busy selling his vision of a united Ninth National Assembly.
A PDP senator-elect said: “Actually, Lawan met with us to seek our support. He tried to make a few clarifications which boosted our confidence in him.
“It is not a party affair at all. It is left to individual senator to decide who to vote for.”