As the race for principal offices in the 10th National Assembly enters full swing, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, on Friday, in Abuja, said the opposition cannot determine who emerges even though the All Progressives Congress no longer had the strong presence it once enjoyed.
He also said the governing APC must involve the opposition parties in the leadership structure to ensure legislative stability.
“There is no way an opposition will decide who should be the senate president or who should be the speaker; it is our party and other leaders that will decide,” Lawan told State House, correspondents after joining residents of the Federal Capital Territory for a Sallah homage to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
When asked about growing concerns that the opposition may bank on the reported division in the party and seize the process, he said: “I don’t think opposition parties are planning to usurp because it is presumptuous that the APC will not be a united party.
“The APC is a united party and the opposition party will simply work with the APC majority for us to have stability because there is no way an opposition will decide who should be the Senate President or who should be the speaker; it is our party and other leaders that will determine what zone or whoever, and the rest of us in the party will key in and of course, the opposition would have no option but to support.
“I don’t see anything wrong in the opposition talking to us, or we talking to the opposition to ensure that we’re on the same page, because we need the opposition to ensure that we get most of our constitutional amendments when the time is right, passed because we don’t have the 73 in the Senate. So, you need 73 senators at least for you to have any constitutional amendment. So, you would need the opposition.”
Therefore, the Senate President explained that working with the opposition becomes critical.
“Don’t ever think the opposition should be pushed away. I don’t believe in that. I only believe in a bipartisan chamber because it is more productive, stable, calm and gives you the kind of outcome you will never get with a very rancourous chamber.”
However, Lawan avoided discussing his involvement in the senate presidency race, saying, “I’m not here to answer whether I’m running for senate president or not.”
He praised Buhari, whose regime he said, was “finishing strong.”
“The Buhari administration is closing on a very strong note. We have succeeded in reducing the insecurity that we met in 2015.
“This administration has provided so much infrastructure across the country like no other administration. It assented to legislation more than any previous president, especially in the last four years.
“Therefore, it is a thing of joy for all of us to come and celebrate with Mr. President on the Eid-el-Fitr today,” Lawan said.
Meanwhile, the Senate President expressed sadness that members of the ninth National Assembly voted against all five gender bills that sought to promote more opportunities for women in politics and governance.
However, he advocated alternative strategies to engage with the legislature, urging newly-elected and returning lawmakers to push for the passage of the pro-women bills in the 10th Assembly.
In March 2022, the NASS rejected a bill to create additional seats for women to increase women’s representation in the Assembly, which currently stands at five percent.
Second was a bill to enable Nigerian women to transfer citizenship to their non-Nigerian husbands, a right that every Nigerian man married to a foreign spouse enjoys.
The NASS also rejected a bill to ensure affirmative action of at least 35 per cent in political party administration and appointive positions across federal and state levels, a bill to ensure that at least 20 per cent of ministerial or commissioner nominees are women, another bill to allow women to become indigenes of their husband’s state after five years of marriage.
At the time, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, described the rejections as “shameless.”
But Lawan said, “I felt bad we could not pass even one. But then, we shouldn’t lose hope; we should continue to campaign and talk to more members of the National Assembly. And we should also re-strategize.
“Maybe the kind of campaign that was undertaken may not necessarily be the one that will give you the kind of outcome that we needed. But I’m very confident that we should continue to campaign for issues that we have not been able to get right.
The lawmaker said he does not regret his actions as Senate President even though he acknowledged lapses in his performance.
“I can’t say we have regrets. We can only say there are things we have been unable to deal with satisfactorily. And this is natural because we don’t have sufficient funds.
“Two, as human beings, there are areas that naturally, whatever you do, you may not get it right. But it’s for us to identify those areas, go back and rework them and this administration, as it winds up a new one, an APC administration, will continue to work on those areas that we need to improve,” he explained.