As the crisis over the leadership of the 10th National Assembly festers, panic has gripped Senators in the camp of former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, following suspicion that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu may withdraw his support for him or may have done so already.
This is coming amid feelers that senators, mostly from the South West, have called for a meeting on Friday to review their position and chart a new course on the leadership of the Senate. Akpabio, a former Nigeri Delta minister, who is contesting for the Senate president of the 10th National Assembly, had been endorsed by the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) as its preferred candidate.
A Senator from one of the South West states, who asked not to be named, said the meeting was fixed for Friday as they await the outcome of a crucial meeting of the leading tendency among the Senators-elect scheduled for Thursday, which they have strategically asked some of their members to attend.
The APC had, in a press statement weeks ago, announced the endorsement of Akpabio and three others for the top positions in the National Assembly. While the party endorsed Akpabio from South-South for Senate president, Senator Jubrin Barau was picked from North West for deputy Senate president.
In the House of Representatives, Hon Tajudeen Abass, was picked from the North West as Speaker, while Hon Benjamin Kanu from the South-East was picked for deputy Speaker.
The announcement attracted protests from other aspirants in the race, with some quering the exclusion of the North Central zone and allotting two of the six presiding offices in the National Assembly to the North West. Others faulted the zoning of deputy Speaker to the South East instead of Senate President position.
There was also a complaint against the micro zoning of the Senate president seat to Akpabio who has a pending case of alleged corruption. It was however gathered that some key political allies of Tinubu prevailed on the president not to ignore the implication of supporting a Senator who is battling with alleged cases of corruption. Our source added that Tinubu may have heeded the advice and might have tactically withdrawn his support for Akpabio.
The president, the source said, was resolute in running a corruption-free government, with emphasis on strengthening all the existing policies and institutions concerned with corruption towards achieving this goal.
The source further recalled that the president, in his inaugural speech, had declared that his government would take” proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption, while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.”
“With this statement, most of us have come to the full realisation of the fact that President Bola Tinubu would not for anything support any Senator with myriads of cases of corruption in the anti-graft agencies after declaring before the world that he would strengthen and make them more effective.
“We have seen the follies remaining in this camp. It will not work. We have fixed a meeting for Thursday where we are going to chart our next line of action,” a senator from one of the states in the South West confided in our correspondent.
Reacting however, the director general for the Akpabio/Barau Stability Group, Senator Ali Ndume, said it was not surprising that whenever a politically exposed person is contesting elections, some people would be sponsored to raise issues against him or her. He noted: “Don’t forget that President Bola Tinubu was also severally accused when he was campaigning to be president. “We are not actually bothered about what the sponsored groups are saying about Akpabio, the anti-graft agencies know what to do, why are they teaching them what to do?
“They are alleging that some corrupt activities took place under his watch at the NDDC but they did not say he misappropriated funds as governor or as Minister. Akpabio was not the accounting officer of the NDDC; he was only heading the supervising ministry. They also accused him of not constituting the board of the NDDC but that also was not his job. The president of the country is saddled with such responsibility.”
In a related development, a series of APC meetings to resolve the brewing impasse failed to yield expected results. It was learnt that while the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting with the progressive governors ended without a consensus, another meeting between the APC leadership and the group of six aggrieved aspirants for the speakership position ended in a deadlock.
Members of G6 comprises of Ahmed Wase the current Deputy Speaker, Aliyu Betara Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Yusuf Gagdi, Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Sada Soli Jibiya, Sani Jaji, and Miriam Onuhoa (APC-Imo).
A source knowledgeable about the latter meeting said the party has been thrown into confusion because of the zoning arrangement which was sold to the president. “President Tinubu had taken all submissions and calculations submitted to him by Speaker Gbajabiamila as the truth and bothered not seek further opinions or make consultations. He just believed in him and went ahead to give his nod in principle.
“But what are we seeing now? There is confusion everywhere and even the party’s NWC’s meeting with the progressive governors ended without a consensus. Anything they say outside this is just a deceit. The governors were very angry that Gbaja went to meet Tinubu and discussed NASS leadership and even almost concluded without carrying them along. Where is this done for God’s sake?
“Now, they are trying to paint those who are standing their ground as anti-party or anti-Tinubu people. That’s not the best approach. “If they thought the G-6 could be intimidated, they are joking. We in the NWC already know what they are planning but it’s just the crude approach. Some of us have advised quietly that all the aspirants should go to their colleagues and test their popularity.
“One thing that interests us a lot is that even the President now knows the real truth and that is the reason he is giving approval for all these meetings to hold in order to douse the tension. Unfortunately, when the national secretary met with the G-6, they were bold enough to tell him they would not support Abbas as presented by an outgoing speaker,” the source added.
National Vice Chair Accuses Adamu Of Working Against APC Zoning
Meanwhile, national vice chairman (North West) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Salihu Moh’d Lukman, has accused the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, of working against the party’s zoning arrangement for the 10th National Assembly leadership.
According to him, the leadership of the governing party is subtly working against the zoning arrangement recently adopted, with Adamu operating as a factional leader.
The party’s leadership had endorsed former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godwill Akpabio, as Senate president and Tajudeen Abbas as Speaker of House of Representatives for the 10th National Assembly by the party leaders. The party also endorsed Senator Barau Jubrin (North West) as deputy Senate president and Ben Kalu (South East) as deputy Speaker of the House.
But last week, Adamu had curiously warned party members and some lawmakers to stop addressing Abbas as the incoming Speaker of the House, saying their consultations with other aspirants and other legislative stakeholders were still in progress.
In a statement he issued yesterday, the national vice chairman alleged that Adamu is strongly opposed to the zoning formula announced by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) after getting President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s nod.
Lukman strongly said Adamu and some other party leaders are working to actualise a replay of the 2015 debacle by making sure that another rebellious leadership emerges in the 10th National Assembly through their consistent ‘hardcore ethnic Northern arguments.’
In the statement titled, “APC and Transition Politics”, Lukman stated: “The same conservative bloc is now spewing up hardcore ethnic Northern arguments against the zoning decisions approved by the NWC following the outcome of consultations between Sen. Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC team with President Tinubu. As if those consultations were not designed to produce agreements, once the NWC approved the recommendation for zoning the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
“Senator Abdullahi Adamu, instead of acting as the National Chairman, facilitating implementation of decisions of organs of the party, is acting as a factional leader opposing the decision of the NWC. Instead of working for the success of the decision of the NWC through activating meetings of higher organs of the party to confer more legitimacy to the decision of the NWC, he seems to be more interested in ensuring that the 2015 model of rebellious leadership emerges in the 10th National Assembly.”
The former director general of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) warned that the governing APC is ‘choking’ under Adamu and the national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, who he said have blocked all party organs, apart from NWC, from meeting. Lukman added that after blocking other party organs, Adamu and Omisore are now spoon-feeding the NWC members “with convenient information.”
He continued: “When APC and Asiwaju won the 2023 elections, the structures of the party were blocked from functioning to allow for wider internal democratic consultations, debates and contestations using the legitimate structures provided in the constitution of the party to facilitate internal negotiations to zone leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
“Practically, in a manner that is nothing more than suspending the constitution of the party, the National Chairman, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, supported by the National Secretary, Sen. Iyiola Omisore have blocked all organs of the party from meeting, except the NWC.”
Allow Legislators Choose Their Leaders, APC Chieftain Cautions Tinubu
Meanwhile, an APC chieftain, Dr. Tom Ohikere, has advised President Bola Tinubu to allow federal legislators to elect their leaders without interference from him.
Ohikere, the publisher of APC Newsonline, told select journalists in Abuja that interfering with the selection of principal officers will smear the new administration. He said the interference by the executive arm of government would portray the legislative arm as a rubber stamp.
According to him, those alleged to be the anointed candidates of the executive have negative baggage that might tarnish the new administration that is still finding its footings. He said the present push for the enthronement of Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas is being misinterpreted and misconstrued as a legislature that would not be able to perform its duties accordingly.
“We know that some of the chief contenders for the position of senate president such as Akpabio, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Jibrin Barau are personalities with less than clean records. It is widely known that Akpabio has been in the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since 2015, when he was arrested and an investigation began into the alleged theft of N108.1 billion of Akwa Ibom funds.
“Similarly, in 2021, Akpabio was detained after he attempted to bribe the Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Abdulrasheed Bawa with $350,000 (about N135 million).” Ohikere said such a person should not be saddled with the high office of a Senate president. Like Akpabio, the publisher noted, Orji Uzor Kalu who was the chief whip of the 9th Senate also comes with his baggage.