This is mainly because of an alleged growing resistance of a host of Senators-elect and some Members-elect to align with the supposed endorsement of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of some candidates eyeing the Senate Presidency and House Speakership.
In a crowded field of qualified and ranking members, the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC NWC, rising from a meeting last Friday, reportedly endorsed Senator-elect, Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
This was as House of Reps member-elect from Kaduna State, Tajudeen Abass and Benjamin Kalu from Abia State got the nod as Speaker and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives respectively.
Party sources hinted The Guardian that the choices of the new leaders for the 10th NASS are set for NWC’s ratification tomorrow.
HOWEVER, while the party echelon are perfecting plans on their choices, a groundswell of opposition to these choices seem to be building, just as plots to thwart the plans to influence choice of leaders for the two arms of the Assembly are thickening.
For instance, notwithstanding the news of Senator Akpabio being favoured to lead the Senate, two political groups, the Tinubu/Shettima Network (TSN) and Northwest Political Forum (NPF), have thrown their weight behind the candidacy of former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari as the next Senate President.
In backing Yari, they noted that there are several moves and counter-manoeuvres by regionalist political actors seeking to place their respective zones at advantage where it is not deserved.
Following reports of Akpabio’s endorsement for Senate Presidency, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership, it was learnt, has also refused to give its blessing to his aspiration.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, when contacted, said he was not aware of any move by PDP leaders, organs or caucuses to adopt Akpabio as Senate President.
Also, a top member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP told The Guardian that the option of adopting Akpabio is completely outside political calculations in the party.
According to the top PDP NEC member, what is interesting about politics is its dynamic nature. “While there are fears that not every PDP Senator-elect would comply with official directive from the party’s national leadership on the candidate to support, what is certain is that there will never be an official directive by the PDP to members to support Akpabio.”
National President of TSN, Kilani Muhammad and Convener of NPF, Nasir Dambatta, at separate press conferences in Kaduna, argued that of all those jostling for the Senate President’s position, Yari remained the best for the job.
“It’s no doubt that Senator Yari’s pedigree and tested capacity will make for quality legislation of the 10th Senate, will also improve the quest for national cohesion and development of a renewed national template for the general socio-economic and political evolution of our dear country, Nigeria,” he said.
Highlighting the imperatives for Senator Yari to be the Senate President, Muhammad noted that the North West geo-political zone gave the highest votes of 2,700,000 to the APC at the February 25, 2023 Presidential election. He said it was therefore expedient, in the face of justice, equity and fair play, that the Senate Presidency be zoned to the region, and by extension, to Yari, being the most qualified from the zone.
In his own submission, Dambata cautioned President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC to beware of ambush by politicians seeking to take undue advantage of the party’s electoral victory to divert the Senate President slot to undeserving geopolitical zones.
According to him, official election result figures show that the North West produced the highest number of votes for Tinubu, which makes it the natural and legitimate claimant to the number three seat.
The PDP, in stating it has no plans to support the Senate presidential bid of former Akwa-Ibom governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, hinted that it may exploit the divisions in the APC on the Senate presidency politics to produce its own candidate for the nation’s number three position.
Recall that while the APC had adopted Ahmad Lawan as its candidate for the Senate Presidency in 2015, the PDP took advantage of the crisis in the ruling party and adopted Saraki who was later elected unopposed.
For the 10th Senate, the PDP has so far produced 36 Senators-elect as against APC’s 59. The Labour Party has eight Senators-elect while the YPP and SDP have one each.
FOR the Speakership of the House of Representatives, one of the aspirants, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi yesterday unveiled his aspiration to occupy the exalted seat in the lower legislative chamber.
Again, in a veiled reference to the purported decision by the President-elect in conjunction with the party leadership to cede the seat to Tajudeen Abass, he argued that it would be fair and just to throw the race open to all the aspirants from the northern part of the country.
He spoke while unveiling his manifesto, tagged, ‘The Gagdi plan for the 10th House of Representatives,’ at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, graced by scores of National and State Houses of Assembly members and a horde of his supporters from across the country.
Gagdi, who chairs the House committee on Navy, argued that it behooves the President-elect Asiwaju Tinubu to take a cue from an already laid precedence when the APC, working in tandem with the Governor Atiku Bagudu-led Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), zoned the exalted seat of the Presidency to the entire southern part of the country.
Pledging to ensure a cordial relationship between the legislature and the executive arm under the President Tinubu-led administration, he said it is incumbent on the APC leadership to give the entire members of the House the leverage to cast their votes for their preferred choice as the 10th Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He said: “Following the footstep of the President-elect who was elected based on his antecedents as a performer and track record of sterling leadership qualities in his days as Lagos State governor, I can’t remember as an APC member of Tinubu being endorsed as a consensus candidate.
“I recall that the presidency was only zoned to the southern part of Nigeria after the intervention of our respected northern governors in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness to all the presidential aspirants. This gave our delegates opportunity to choose whoever and I am happy they overwhelmingly voted for him.
“I want the same spirit of justice, equity and fairness extended to all of us from the North in the election of the 10th Speaker of the House of Representatives. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The Plateau-born lawmaker urged his colleagues in the House to consider his aspiration since it would be unfair to cede the seat to any of the aspirants from the North West geopolitical zone, which is credited to have produced Salisu Buhari, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Aminu Bello Masari, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Sokoto s in that ordertates since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Noting that he has the wherewithal to preside over the affairs of the House, he argued that the North East has had it’s fair share of the speakership seat, having produced Yakubu Dogara as speaker of the House in the 8th Assembly. “Let it be zoned to the North and the north central in particular. I want the members-elect to endorse me and see the prospect in me,” he stressed.
In similar vein, a member of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Gudaji Kazaure has declared that Muktar Aliyu Betara, another aspirant, remains unbeatable in the race for Speakership.
He described Betara as a man with tremendous goodwill that could easily sweep the race for the Speakership of the 10th Assembly.
The Jigawa-born politician recalled that Betara singlehandedly influenced the votes that led to the emergence of Yakubu Dogara and his successor, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila as Speakers of the House of Representatives in the 8th and 9th Assemblies.
He maintained that Betara, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriation, remains indispensable in the race for speakership.
He advised Gagdi to strike a deal with Betara to decide which of them would succeed the outgoing Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
“The truth is Betara is the major contender in this race. If he is with Gagdi, he would win 100 percent. They understand each other. They know each other. Betara is a good man; he is a very gentleman who is always calm and silent.”
Kazaure, who warned the APC leadership against imposition of Speakership candidate on the House, described Betara as the father of the House that is admired by the entire members of the House of Representatives.
MEANWHILE, a group of newly elected members of the lower chamber, under the auspices of New Vision, has also expressed support for the lawmaker representing Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno state, Muktar Aliyu Betara.
The lawmakers, drawn from the six-geo political zones, insisted that they would not support imposition of any lawmaker contesting for the office.
Drawn from the All Progressives Congress (APC), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), and other political parties, the lawmakers unanimously pledged support for Betara’s aspiration, noting that the Borno-born lawmaker is the most qualified among the contenders for the Speakership position.
Rising from a meeting with new members-elect from the South-South late Friday night in Abuja, member-elect representing Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwara federal constituency, Cross River, Peter Akpanke, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said members of the group have been moving across the country to garner support for Betara, who is also the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation.
Noting that the lawmakers had met most of the contenders for the Speakership position, Akpanke said only Betara showed sincere commitment to work with the executive arm in solving the mirage of challenges bedeviling the country.
Akpanke, who is also a member of the opposition PDP said: “We have had an interface with all the people running for speakership in the 10th assembly. We met with all of them one-on-one but we chose Betara because when we met him, he spoke the minds of the members and how the 10th assembly is going to be independent. He also spoke on how projects are going to get to federal constituency, how budgets are going to be executed and how he will collaborate with the executive to make sure that projects are funded, issue of insecurity and employment are tackled, all for the betterment of Nigerians.
“So the new vision group decided to stand behind him. We’ve been going round the geopolitical zones to interface and lobby members-elect to support this cause. In the meeting with our colleagues from South-South, all of us resolved that no matter the pressure, we should support Betara based on his antecedents. He has been Chairman, Army committee, and we saw how the committee graduated from Grade C to Grade A. He is currently the House Committee Chairman on Appropriation and since then, there has been nothing like budget padding.”
Insisting that the lawmakers would vehemently reject imposition, he said the National Assembly is an independent arm and members must be allowed to choose their leaders.
Akpanke added that the zoning arrangements of the ruling APC won’t be binding on the lawmakers.
He stated: “I am not a member of APC, but we have been hearing some rumours of zoning and all of that. You know the National Assembly is an entity on its own. It’s independent. Those of us in NASS want to support a speaker who is our own, a speaker who will defend democracy, someone who will protect the interests of members and help us deliver the dividends of democracy. All of us are not members of APC, so whatever they decide cannot be binding on us. That is their party’s decision.
“But they don’t have the numbers, we the minority members are more. They need us to be able to produce a speaker. By the way, will all members of the APC even support the party’s decision? The present speaker has contested three times and he has always been going against zoning. So, we are going to support a speaker that can help us salvage our current situation.”