…Make last minute move to secure APC lawmakers’ support
…Pro-Akpabio/Abbas camp intensify lobby of opposition
…Nation’s stability should be supreme – Shettima
Barely 48 hours to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, top contenders for principal offices of the federal legislature have intensified campaigns against the preferred candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) .
This is in utter disdain to the appeal by President Bola Tinubu to the APC aspirants in the leadership race of both chambers to support the candidates endorsed by the governing party. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered yesterday that the opposing camps in both chambers continued their push for the top seats, setting the stage for an intense race for the position.
The Senate, it was learnt, remained divided between the Democratic and Stability groups who are still pushing to ensure one in their camps emerges chairman of the National Assembly. In the House of Representatives, the aggrieved G-6 aspirants are poised to unveil their consensus candidate in opposition to the APC’s preferred candidate.
But intrigues surrounding the contest for the top legislative seats took a twist yesterday as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged plot to arrest members who are opposed to the APC’s zoning arrangement.
This comes as Vice President Kashim Shettima has urged the lawmakers-elect to place the interest of the nation above personal interests, as they choose their National Assembly leadership, stressing that the nation’s stability should be utmost on their minds as they convene on Tuesday.
It would be recalled that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC had zoned the Senate president position to the South-South, specifically endorsing former Niger Delta minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as its candidate for Senate president position, with Senator Barau Jibrin from the North West as his anointed deputy. In the House of Representatives, the Speaker position was zoned to the North West, with Hon Tajudeen Abbas as the preferred candidate, and Hon Benjamin Kalu from the South East as his deputy.
In the Senate former Zamfara governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari; former Abia State governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, and Senator Osita Izunaso are strongly opposed the party’s choice, while the G-6 aggrieved aspirants have also disagreed with the party in the House of Representatives. There has been a raging opposition to the party’s zoning arrangement with particular emphasis that two presiding officers in the National Assembly cannot emerge from one geopolitical zone.
Tinubu had on Thursday night at a meeting with National Assembly members-elect insisted that the choice of Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin for Senate president and deputy Senate president, as well as Abbas and Kalu for Speaker and deputy Speaker stands. But as the Tuesday June 13 inauguration of the 10th Assembly inches closer, the G-6 members have remained adamant.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the group which comprises the out gone deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, Muktar Betara (Borno), Aminu Sani Jaji (Zamfara),Yusuf Adamu Gagdi (Plateau), Miriam Onuoha (Imo) and Sada Soli (Katsina) were to meet Saturday night in Abuja to field one of them for the race. A source told our correspondent yesterday that one of the plans on the staple of the power cabals is to change the venue of the inauguration at the last minute, thereby causing chaos and confusion.
“The reason they have perfected giving to the public is that the NASS complex is under renovation and that it will be dangerous to allow a huge crowd in there. We are already aware too that the likely venues being proposed secretly are the State House Banquet or the International Conference Centre.
“We are aware of all these, including the fact that Yari, Kalu, Betara and Wase have been placed on surveillance for over three weeks by the DSS and even the EFCC. Anything can happen, including that they’d be denied access to wherever the power cabals finally agree to use as an alternative venue,” the source who did not want his name in print said.
Another source close to the G-6 told this paper that the group is meeting this night in Abuja to decide on who will contest with Abbas on Tuesday.
“They have made up their minds. Even if any of them decides to back the anointed candidate, others will still feature some who will challenge that decision on the floor. The outcome of the meeting will be made public and a consensus candidate from G-6 will be unveiled,” the source said. Wase and Betara were absent at President Tinubu’s meeting with the lawmakers from all political parties, while Jaji boycotted the parley with APC members-elect.
The deputy Speaker of the 9th House had said he would go ahead to contest for the speakership seat because it has been prophesied that he would become Speaker. Meanwhile, a frontline member of the G-6 said he will soon make an official statement about his decision on the race for the Speaker of the 10th House. The Plateau lawmaker, in a tweet on his official Twitter handle on yesterday said he was in talks with other aspirants on the way forward and will make an announcement as soon as consultations are concluded.
“Within the last 72 hours, have visited President Bola Ahmed Tinubu three (3) times at the Presidential villa on one on one meetings that all together lasted for more than one hour. The discussions have to do with my ambition of becoming the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives and the Leadership issue of the 10th Assembly.
“I thank Mr. President for this honour and unique show of love to me and to the good people of Pankshin/Kanake/Kanam Federal Constituency. I appeal to my supporters, Honorable Colleagues in particular to remain calm as I am in deep discussions and consultations with my fellow aspirants and some national leaders. After all deliberations, an official statement will be issued in this regard. Thank you my father and Mr. President,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Labour Party caucus in the House of Representatives, Hon. Afam Victor Ogene, said the outcome of power-play in the Senate would ultimately influence the result of the 10th Assembly Speakership race.
Ogene who is also spokesperson of the ‘Greater Majority’, a group comprising all opposition members- elect in the House maintained that they shelved their speakership ambition to prevent the APC from having a ready-made excuse for poor performance.
The lawmaker who stated this while speaking with select journalists in Abuja at the Weekend added that the endorsement of Hon Abass and Hon Kalu by the APC for Speaker and deputy was already a ‘fait accompli’. Ogene said: “The outcome of the power-play in the Senate may ultimately influence, one way or another, the final outcome of the race.”
On why the Greater Majority dropped its speakership aspiration, he said, “Although the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unambiguously directed, in Section 50(1)(b) that ‘Members of the House of Representatives shall elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker from among themselves,’ I suspect that most members of the Greater Majority simply decided to adorn the toga of statesmen and women by deciding not to put forward candidates for the Speaker and deputy Speaker positions. “This stance, I envisage, was taken to prevent the ruling APC from having a ready-made excuse in the event where the administration does not leave up to expectations.
“So, essentially, it wasn’t a case of abandoning an opportunity to present a Speaker, but rather a patriotic decision by the Greater Majority to allow the incoming government to take off on a smooth sail. For an Abass who in one legislative cycle of four years sponsored a total of 74 bills – 22 of which received presidential assent – and Kalu, with over 40 Bills, both men, I dare say, appear to have fulfilled the conditions precedent for their emergence as Speaker and deputy Speaker. “Indeed, for the Abass/Kalu, the inclusion of the South East in the equation is a major master stroke. Till date, no other speakership aspirant has offered the zone anything.
PDP Alleges Plot To Arrest Lawmakers-Elect Who Oppose Zoning
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday raised the alarm over plots to arrest members-elect who are opposed to the preferred candidates of the APC. The national publicity secretary of PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, who accused some elements within the APC of being behind the plot, said the move is aimed at intimidating and harassing lawmakers-elect to choose the party’s candidate.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the PDP spokesman who decried attempts to undermine the independence of the legislature insisted that the members-elect in both houses must be allowed to elect their leadership.
Ologunagba urged the lawmaker-elect to remain steadfast in asserting their independence in the election of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He said, “Since the PDP made its position known, feelers from public discourse indicated that some elements in the APC have become agitated and resorted to plots to influence the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly outside the floor.
“Information at our disposal reveals attempts by such APC elements to intimidate, harass and threaten lawmakers-elect with the view to influencing the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly.
“Reports in the public space indicate plots to arrest individuals who are considered to be strong proponents of the independence of the legislature and the right of members-elect to elect their leadership. The PDP notes that the independence of the legislature is a prerequisite for a virile democracy and therefore insists that the members-elect in both houses must be allowed to elect their leadership.”
Meanwhile, as the campaign on who emerged as the next Senate President continue, South South Solidarity group has called on Nigerians especially the newly elected Senators to ensure that Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin are elected as the next Senate President and deputy.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja, the Convener of the group, Peter Ikpen Ilefa, said the unity of Nigeria should be paramount. “We, the critical stakeholders within the political space of the South-Southern Nigeria under the aegis of the South-South Solidarity Group have found it necessary to call on all Nigerians on the need to build a rock-solid foundation for the purposeful administration of our country under the new dawn in our body polity.
“We are here to inundate the nation on the imperatives of the emergence of the new leadership of the 10th national assembly and the focus here today as usual is to demonstrate our solidarity for the emergence of distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio’s as the next Senate President of Nigeria and Sen Jibrin Barau as Deputy Senate President.”
Allow Senators To Elect Their Leaders, Northern Elders Insists
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has called on all Nigerians to allow Senators-elect to elect who will lead them in the 10th assembly. Chairman of the forum and former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, advised that members-elect of the National Assembly should be left alone to elect its own leaders.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Abdullahi emphasised that the National Assembly is an independent body and no external force should meddle into its affairs. He stated: “Now we are at a point where the National Assembly is supposed to have leaders. Each chamber of the National Assembly is independent to decide how this should be done.
“But the basic foundation is the constitution of the country which stipulates very clearly that there would be such an institution and how it will be formed. As far as we know the Constitution should be strictly adhered to, by all concerned. All concerned here is the National Assembly, on deciding who would be the Senate President, the Speaker and other positions.
“The National Assembly is an autonomous body and decides its own leadership and mode of operation as long as it is within the context of the Constitution of this country. If we should advise people who care for this nation, the National Assembly members-elect should be left entirely alone to decide who their leaders would be. “We like to appeal to our leaders, friends and associates in parties and government that this is honest advice and that the National Assembly should be free. This is the kind of democracy we require.
“The ruling party is not in charge of the National Assembly, the NASS is an independent body. The ruling party only has members in the National Assembly and they may direct them to do their biddings but they should also allow those who do not belong to the ruling party to also exercise their rights. Their rights include demand for the leadership of the NASS. I think this should be respected.”
He further warned against religious extremism, saying that there is no religious party in Nigeria and that every Nigerian has free will to interact in whatever part of society.
S’West Media Stakeholders Back S’East For Senate President
Meanwhile, a group of seasoned journalists, concerned media managers and veteran journalists under the aegis of the South West media stakeholders has advised the APC and other stakeholders to zone the Senate president to South West.
The group noted the need for a Southeasterner to become the Senate president is necessary to heal the wounds of the past. They added that this will help to accommodate the interests and yearnings of the Igbo nation. The group made these disclosures during a press conference held on Saturday in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital and addressed by Mr. Kolawole Ilori, Founding Editor of Tell Magazine.
Ilori who was flanked with former Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Oyo state council, Victor Oluwadamilare and Mrs Bose Oyewole, a former NAWOJ Chairperson in Oyo state, noted that as media practitioners, it is their duty to enjoin members of the 10th National Assembly to choose the right Senate President for the sake of Nigeria and democracy. He added that for equity and fairness, the choice of a South Easterner is sine qua non. He said that for good governance to endure in the country, the media must have a voice of its own in the scheme of things.
Ilori further explained that the leadership of the Senate has to be anchored by a sound Senator who has a high pedigree with an unblemished record. Stressing that the best man for the job of Senate President at this time is Senator Osita Bonaventure Izunazo from Imo state, he added that the senator remains the most consistent and reliable party faithful over the years.
“For equity and fairness, the choice of a South Easterner, is sine qua non to healing the wounds of the past and genuinely accommodate the interests and yearnings of the Igbo nation. Izunaso’s choice will be the much-needed ‘Balm of Gilead’, to douse the general tension in the South East,” he noted.
Akpabio, Kalu Fail APC Integrity Test, Says APC Media Outfit
Meanwhile, a media outfit of the APC, the APC NewsOnline, has said two of the leading aspirants for the position of Senate president didn’t pass an Integrity Test conducted on them by the media organisation. The APC NewsOnline, in a statement issued and released to the media in Abuja at the weekend, revealed that the duo of Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu did not pass its integrity test. The statement signed by the publisher of the multimedia outfit, Dr. Tom Ohikere, said the two senators “are unsuitable” for the esteemed position of Senate president.
Ohikere, a former two term commissioner of Information and Culture in Kogi State said the APC NewsOnline conducted the Integrity Test on only the aspirants from the South where it said, the media organization believed the Senate President should come from.
APC NewsOnline, which Dr Ohikere said was officially registered by the party and has been at the forefront of promoting the political activities and achievements of the party, consequently conducted the integrity test on the trio of Senator Godwilll Akpabio, Senator Orju Uzor Kalu, and Senator Osita Izunaso out of whom the online platform passed Senator Izunaso. Out of the three contenders from the southern part of Nigeria, Ohikere, said only Senator Izunaso passed the APC Integrity Test.
Nation’s Stability Should Be Superior – Shetimma
Meanwhile, Vice President Kashim Shettima has said the memories of what they have accomplished will not fade away. He spoke during the valedictory session of the 9th Assembly at the National Assembly. According to Shettima, the 9th Senate was not the end of the road for their members, adding that the Senators should ensure that no voice was inferior.
“Let us remember that our journey has just begun,” Kashim said, stating that they should continue to serve humanity. The stability of the nation is superior to the stability of your pockets on Tuesday,” Kashim Shettima told the lawmakers-elect, urging them to abide by the decision of the APC leadership.
On her part, wife of the president, Remi Tinubu, said she never knew she would get to the Senate even when a journalist had asked her why she can’t start from the House of Representatives. “But in the end, I served three terms in the Senate. I contemplated retiring to serve my family because serving the nation takes a lot of sacrifice.
“But over the years, we made a lot of friends. Nigeria is represented here and we came together, with the kind of people we had here, we have moved the country forward. Number 10 will give us double grace. This administration needs the support of the 10 assembly,” Remi said, urging the new Senators to ensure that they elect leaders that will help the present administration.
Also, the Senate chief whip, Orji Kalu, who is also vying for the office of the Senate president, has said that Nigeria has not been fair to him despite his contribution to nation building. Kalu who shed tears during the valedictory session of the 9th Assembly at the National Assembly said people he gave transport fare to travel to Lagos are now living in wealth, while calling him a thief. Kalu thanked the 9th Senate for standing by him during his difficult times, insisting that Nigeria has not been fair to him.
“When I had a problem, most of the Senators stood by me. We went through a difficult period. Before I went into politics, I could buy anything I wanted. I am not a thief. People I gave transport money to Victoria Island (VI) are now in wealth and living as saints while I am being called a thief. This country is not fair to some of us. People who cannot explain their source of wealth are not thieves. “I have factories in Lagos, Aba and Ota in Ogun State. They call me a thief,” Kalu said, as he broke down in tears during the valedictory session of the 9th assembly.
Even though the only order of the day in the order paper was the valedictory session, it marks the end of the 9th Senate. LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that certificate of service, copies of legacy report and video clips were also shared to all the Senators
The rules of the Senate were suspended to invite some of their colleagues who were supposed to be part of the session, including Vice President Kashim Shettima; Uba Sani; APC deputy chairman (North), Abubakar Kyari; deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State; former deputy governor of Zamfara State, Mohammed Hassan, and first lady, Remi Tinubu.
In the Senate sitting arraignment, only principal officers are allowed to sit in the front row but the rules were suspended. Speaking during the session, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege said he was chosen not because he was the most qualified to be the deputy Senate president, adding that it was a great privilege. He said the finance Act, PIA and Electoral Act were landmark laws, even as he urged Senators-elect to give the present administration the maximum support.