The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, have emerged as favourites for the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Also in the race is a retired permanent secretary and former Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed. New Telegraph learnt at the weekend that the party leadership was in a fix whether to zone the position to either the South- East or the South-South. But some Northern party bigwigs are rooting for one of their kinsmen as the SGF. A source told New Telegraph that Odigie-Oyegun had indicated interest in the office and had enlisted the support of party leaders to get the post.
“The national chairman feels that the South- South deserves the position of the SGF and he considers himself as the right person for the job, having served as permanent secretary in the Buhari military regime. I can tell you that Oyegun has been lobbying party leadership for the job,” the source said. It was, however, learnt that Onu has so far enjoyed the backing of some party leaders who were pushing his candidacy in order to ensure equity in the distribution of positions in the party.
According to sources, the choice of Onu was arrived at by the party leadership, given his steadfastness and contribution to the party growth. “You know there were three legacy parties that fused to become the APC. Already, the Congress for Progressive Congress (CPC) produced General Muhammadu Buhari as president while the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has produced the vice-president in Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. So, only the ANPP has been left out of sharing of sensitive offices. That is why we are supporting Onu for the office,” a member of the APC Board of Trustees (BoT) told New Telegraph. It was, however, learnt that some forces in the party are kicking against the choice of Odigie-Oyegun as the SGF on the strength of age.
He is 75 years old and the president-elect is 72 years old. “We will be sending a wrong signal out of running a gerontocracy. Buhari is 72 and you want to pick an SGF who is 75? The office of SGF is demanding and needs a young man. Some of us have drawn the attention of the party leadership to this age issue. Don’t forget that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made issue out of Buhari’s age in the course of electioneering,” a source said. Some vested interests in the party are, however, pushing for the former Governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, who lost his re-election on April 11.
The names of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and the incumbent Secretary to the Borno State Government (SSG), Ambassador Ahmed Jidda, had initially featured as possible SGF were also mentioned. The candidature of Amaechi, who served as Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, was stepped down because of what a party source described as “his temperamental nature whereas the office of the SGF demands a high level of maturity and level-headedness.”
Jidda was dropped because of “political exigency” and that the North- East, where he is from, is being considered for another top position. A source said Amaechi is being considered for a ministerial appointment and he may either head the Petroleum Resources Ministry or the Niger Delta Ministry. A party source told New Telegraph that the inability of the South-South and South-East to produce a ranking National Assembly member to occupy the leadership of one of the legislative chambers was one of the reasons that informed the decision to zone the SGF to either of the zones.
He stated that Buhari was confused over who to pick as SGF between Onu and Ahmed. According to him, Buhari has much respect and regard for Onu, but there is pressure on him to consider Ahmed since Jonathan had someone from the South-East as SGF. He said so many people from the North believe that somebody from the North should be appointed as the SGF now. The source also said a former SGF, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, was being considered to be Buhari’s chief of staff to checkmate strong elements in the Buhari administration. Kingibe, with a background in intelligence gathering, was appointed SGF by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and was later sacked by the administration on the grounds of inordinate ambitions. According to the source, the inclusion of Kingibe as a member of the 13-member APC transition committee was strategic. He said: “Kingibe is a seasoned administrator, a technocrat, a politician and an intelligent expert.
“Buhari would rely much on his wealth of experience to do most of the work he has to do and his opinion would be highly respected in the circle of government functionaries. “As a Chief of Staff to Buhari, the president would be rest assured that his office would command the desired respect.” The source stated that former President Olusegun Obasanjo chose as his chief of staff someone with security background and Yar’Adua inherited that. He stated that one of the undoings of President Goodluck Jonathan was the first choice of his Chief of Staff, Mike Ogiadomhe, a former deputy governor of Edo State.
Meanwhile, the battle for the presidency of the Eighth Senate has entered its deciding stage as National Assembly members, both old and new, participate at a three-day induction ahead of the inauguration of the National Assembly in June.
The induction programme, organised by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), will take place at two venues – the International Conference Centre for members of the House of Representatives as well as Transcorp Hilton Hotel for the senators. One of the newly elected senators said three ranking senators had approached him while a colleague of his, also a new member, had discussed the leadership issue with him. The lawmaker, who asked not to be named, said what was going on at the registration venue for the induction was beyond ‘mere registration’.
”This is beyond mere registration my brother, as soon as we got here, we met some serving senators, three of them, all welcoming us with their versions of how the next leadership of the National Assembly should look like. I won’t mention names, but I tell you that emissaries of the three main contenders for the Senate presidency have reached me for informal discussions. ”Surprisingly, as soon as I finished my registration formalities, I got an sms welcoming me and inviting me to a brief meeting tonight (yesterday).
About four of my colleagues also received such sms. ”This is really intriguing because as soon as I got here, even before registration, a new senator-elect had approached me that his leader asked him to reach out to his colleagues from other zones on the need to back a particular candidate for the Senate presidency. ”He did not end there, he disclosed that some of his leaders were already pushing for a South-South man as Speaker and that any support from my zone for his man means a lot for a prospective speaker from the South-South.”
An outgoing member of the House of Representatives also said the South- South was pushing for the speakership. ”Our zone is very critical; the party has to ensure something is given to the region, that is why we are bent on this lobby, at least it can start from a point,” he said. The race to succeed Senate President David Mark has been laced with intrigues and uncertainty just as the APC has been unable to come out with a definitive statement, two weeks after a select committee of the party evolved a zoning formula with reference to the leadership positions in the National Assembly.
Under the zoning formula, which has not been ratified by the NEC of the party, the Senate presidency goes to the North- East while the South-West gets the speakership of the House of Representatives. Senators Bukola Saraki and George Akume are the frontline contenders from the North-Central, but the entry into the race by Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State, North-East, has put the leadership of the APC in a fix just as power brokers within the party are said to be weighing various options. For the speakership, New Telegraph gathered that the South-South is pushing for Hon. Pally Iriase, a ranking member from Edo State for the position.