By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
New, but compelling, realities may have forced the presidency to jettison its “siddon look” approach to who becomes the next President of the Senate and Speaker of House of the Representatives when the ninth National Assembly is inaugurated on June 10, 2019.
The sheer volume of alleged rock-solid evidence at the disposal of Atiku Abubakar’s legal team against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23,2019 presidential election, and the meticulous manner the Osun state governorship election Tribunal dissected and secrutinized INEC’s election materials used for the September 2018 governorship election in the state, which led to the discovery of unexplained discrepancies have forced the President’s handlers back to the drawing board.
Unsure of what would be the outcome at the Supreme Court, members of his kitchen cabinet are insisting that the two topmost positions in the National Assembly must go to trusted allies of the president who will be willing to play ball should the on-going legal fireworks result in the annulment of the Presidential election, and the ordering of a fresh one.
The constitution stipulates that in the absence of the President and Vice President, the President of the Senate, being the third in the hierarchy of Nigeria’s presidential system, takes over as acting President for the period of three months within which a new election would be conducted.
Atiku, a former Vice President, is the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the presidential election, losing to Buhari by over 3million votes. The former Vice President and his party are, however, insisting that the election did not reflect the true will of Nigerians.
They accuse the APC of militarising the electoral process and, in the process, rigged the election. Last week, Atiku released different results of the Presidential election which he said was the authentic one contained in INEC’s serve. The parallel results showed that the PDP presidential candidate beat Buhari by over one million votes.
Impeccable presidency and APC sources told The Source that nothing will be left to chance in view of what one of them termed “resurgent assertiveness of the judiciary”
“Contingency plans are being worked out so that if the unthinkable happens and the Presidential election is annulled and, re- run ordered, we will have a fallback position. And this fall back position is a Senate President who will be an acting President for three months, “and will not rock the boat”, a source within the National leadership of the APC told the Magazine.
To this end, it has been learnt that the President’s handlers have allegedly impressed upon him the need to personally select a Senate President and House Speaker he can trust.
In the light of the above, the likelihood of both the next Senate President and Speaker of House of Reps emerging from the far North — North East and North West – is not being ruled out.
“The President has repeatedly demonstrated he could only trust people from his part of the country and religion with sensitive national positions, so if he is eventually convinced of the imperativeness of having a close, trusted ally as head and deputy head of the National Assembly so as to guarantee his return to office, if his election is annulled and fresh one ordered, he may not look beyond the core North”, a returning Senator from the South said.
Meanwhile, some of the President’s loyalists in the National Assembly say the Nigerian leader is a man of his words and will, therefore, stand by his pledge not to interfere in the selection of leaders of the ninth National Assembly.
Similarly, a presidency source dismissed Buhari’s alleged planned imposition of Speaker and Senate President as hogwash, describing such thinking as “mere baseless speculation”. “Such move is inconsistent with Mr. President’s character trait. It is mere speculation, baseless speculation”, he stated.
Just as he did in 2015 upon winning that year’s presidential election, President Buhari, penultimate week, speaking through his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, declared he would not interfere in the selection of principal officers of the ninth National Assembly.