There were indications yesterday that president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have ended the prolonged speculations about the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that Tinubu and the APC governors eventually endorsed former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as the next president of the Senate. Similarly, it was learnt that Senator Barau Jubrin, Kano North Senatorial District (North West) was picked as deputy president of the Senate.
Sources who should know among the members-elect of the 10th National Assembly further told this paper that Tajudeen Abbass, representing Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State (North West) also received the blessing of Tinubu as the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 10th Assembly.
The position of the deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives was given to the outgoing spokesman of the 9th Assembly, Benjamin Kalu, who represents Bende federal constituency of Abia State. The much awaited zoning arrangement for the leadership of the 10th Assembly was made public at the end of an eight-man caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in Abuja yesterday.
The meeting presided over by Tinubu also had the national chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; APC’s national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore; APC’s deputy national chairman, (North), Senator Abubakar kyari and deputy national chairman (South), Chief Emma Eneukwu, in attendance.
Also at the meeting were the president of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan; deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that the vice-president-elect, Kashim Shetimma, who was supposed to be at the meeting, was unavoidably absent. A source close to Tinubu at the APC president campaign council also confided in our correspondent that the meeting held yesterday morning at Tinubu’s residence in Abuja.
Tinubu had last week set up the nine-man caucus to take decision on the zoning arrangement to pave the way for the emergence of the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly. Reliable sources at the meeting told this paper that the choice of Akpabio generated heated debate, as Lawan renewed his opposition to his emergence as his successor.
It was gathered that Lawan, who had last week led a team of Senators to Tinubu to discredit Akpabio insisted that the former governor of Akwa-Ibom State was not a fit and proper person to lead the Senate of the 10th Assembly. Tinubu, it was learnt, overruled the outgoing Senate president by insisting on his preference for Akpabio.
Our sources who did not want their names in print further hinted that the zoning of the positions of deputy president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North West also became contentious at the meeting.
It was gathered that some attendees protested that it would not be politically expedient and reasonable to zone the two positions to the North West. Those who canvassed the position particularly expressed worry about the exclusion of the North Central in the power equation in the National Assembly.
They pointed at how the North Central voted overwhelmingly for APC in the presidential election. It was gathered that they were also shut down. “The zoning of the various leadership positions in the National Assembly by APC was made public today after a meeting presided over by the Presidents-elect in Abuja. The positions of Senate president; deputy Senate president; Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House were given to Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Barau Jubrin, Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu, in that order.
“The outgoing Senate president, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who renewed his opposition to Akpabio as his successor, could not have his way as his position was turned down by the president-elect. Lawan was overwhelmed and had no option than to succumb.
“Those who opposed the zoning of Speaker of the House and deputy president of the Senate to the North West were also shut down. We now have an inexplicable situation where the two positions were zoned to one geopolitical zone. The exclusion of the North Central from the power sharing generated serious ripples at the meeting but everyone has to bow to the superior position of the president-elect,” one of our sources said.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also gathered that Gbajabiamila was instrumental to the emergence of Abbas and Kalu, as the outgoing Speaker was reported to be their strong promoter. Giving credence to our story, Tajudeen Abbas’s media team issued a statement yesterday saying Tinubu has chosen the lawmaker as his preferred candidate for Speaker.
Noting that the confirmation was made after a brief meeting with the president-elect and other party stakeholders in Abuja, Abba’s media office quoted Tinubu as saying that Abbas will promote unity, enhance effectiveness and productivity the president-elect, The statement further added that the choice of Abbas by Tinubu should be honoured and accepted by all returning and old members-elect.
It noted that Tinubu said with Abbas, there will be success and progress in the 10th assembly. According to the statement, Tinubu would be meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to officially make his position known.
“The president-elect’s choice for Abbas was made because of the unity and co- existence of members elected from different political parties,” the statement said, adding that Abbas will strengthen the ties of democracy and promote transparency. The statement described Abbas as a Patriotic, detribalised and hardworking man whom Tinubu had seen as very competent and had qualities in leadership.
Meanwhile, there were also indications that some contenders for the House Speaker might press ahead with their aspirations despite the zoning arrangement. It was learnt that aggrieved lawmakers might snub Tinubu and the APC leadership to contest the seat in the House.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Weekend last night indicated that the outgoing deputy Speaker, Idris Wase and the chairman of the House committee on Appropriation, Muktar Betara, are not willing to give up their aspirations. They reportedly summoned a meeting with their supporters last night apparently to review the situation and work out strategies to realise their aspirations.
“Both Wase and Betara are not likely to accept the position of the party on zoning. They are likely to ignore the party and press ahead with their aspirations. Two of them are inviting House members to meetings slated for Friday night.
“It’s obvious that they will contest the election despite that the office of the Speaker were not zoned to their areas. We may likely have the scenario of the 8th Assembly when Senator Bukola Saraki contested and emerged Senate president playing out,” a federal lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent last night.
Meanwhile, APC governors have backed the decision of the president-elect, Tinubu, to endorse Senator Akpabio as Senate president. Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, said the APC governors who had earlier recommended that the Senate president should be zoned to either South East or South South have settled Akpabio as Senate president.
Ganduje who gave the hint while speaking as a guest of Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, noted that the inner caucus of the APC resolved that the South South should produce the next Senate president. The outgoing Kano State governor made the remàrks on Thursday during a courtesy call on Governor Ayade in company of chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.
Ganduje who was seen in a video by African Independent Television (AIT) coming out of a meeting with some persons said, “The Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will come from the South-South and no other person than the former governor of Akwa Ibom. The uncommon governor, the uncommon minister is going to be the uncommon president of the Senate,” Ganduje said. “So, we have resolved that and we are giving you assurance; we are waiting for D-Day. He will be the Senate president of Nigeria.”
Responding, Ayade thanked the governing APC for zoning the Senate president position to the South-South geopolitical zone. The governor said, “I want to actually thank you so much for zoning the president of the Senate to the South-South and to our brother from our neighbouring state who is also part of Cross Rivers State. We thank you and celebrate this great opportunity because our dream is becoming real.”