10th Assembly: Tension as Akpabio, Yari, APC anointed candidates, rebels test popularity today

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…Yari, others fail to step down for Akpabio, Abbas as leadership poll holds

…Izunaso, Musa withdraw, Lawan endorses Akpabio after Tinubu meeting

Ahead of today’s inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, President Bola Tinubu, on Monday mobilised support for Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is contesting the Senate presidency.

The President, as part of efforts to rally support for Akpabio and other anointed aspirants of the All Progressives Congress, met the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodimma.

But a former Zamfara State Governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari, was pressing ahead with his Senate presidential ambition on Monday just as the Deputy Speaker, Idiris Wase and another member of the House of Representatives, Sani Jaji, insisted on contesting the position of the Speaker.

The APC’s National Working Committee had zoned the Senate President to the South-South and nominated Akpabio, a Christian, as the preferred candidate and Senator Jibrin Barau from North-West for Deputy Senate President.

Similarly, the party nominated Tajudeen Abbas (Kaduna/North-West) for Speaker; and Benjamin Kalu (Abia/South-East) for Deputy Speaker.

Despite the insistence of the aggrieved aspirants to contest, the APC, on Monday, expressed confidence that its Akpabio would emerge through a consensus.

Uzodimma, revealed this to journalists after meeting President Bola Tinubu, following a Democracy Day ceremony held at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa.

Uzodimma, who chairs “a small technical committee to help coordinate the process of Tuesday’s election” in the Senate and the House of Representatives, said his team was hopeful of a landslide victory for the Akpabio.

Asked about the likely success rate for the Senate President contender, he said, “Well, substantially, for a substitute consensus, by the number of people and by the efforts we have put in place, it is our hope that tomorrow it might even be a consensus event.

Govs back Akpabio

“But to the glory of God, we pray for that. And at the same time hoping that, should we go into an election, Akpabio’s acceptance as of today cuts across the political party we belong to.

“In other political parties, there are also some similar minds who are interested in the development and progress of Nigeria; who also understand the need to safeguard democracy as being practiced in Nigeria today. And they are in sync with our preferred candidate.”

Uzodimma added that his committee had achieved substantial progress in collaborating with the outgoing Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, adding that the latter would work for the emergence of the preferred candidates of the party.

There were also indications on Monday that Lawan had endorsed Akpabio for the Senate presidency after a meeting with Tinubu.

According to multiple sources, Lawan, who was a major voice in the Yari camp, backed out on Monday and threw in his weight behind the Akpabio/Barau ticket.

Lawan in a meeting with President Bola Tinubu, Akpabio, Barau, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajamiabila, and some governors, endorsed the candidacy of Akpabio as the Senate President.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Stability group, Ali Ndume, stated that senators Kalu and Izunazo, who were major contenders, had also stepped down and endorsed the Akpabio-Barau ticket.

Ndume also noted that Akpabio met with 15 senators-elect from the South-East where the duo reportedly stepped down and endorsed his candidacy alongside their colleagues.

Ndume added that former governors from the North, who hitherto refused to support Akpabio, had also made a U-turn and had given the candidacy their nod. He listed Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Wamakko, Adamu Aliero, among others, who were now on their side.

The Stability Group DG added that Sani Musa, who had coveted the position of the Deputy President of the Senate, had also stepped down and endorsed Jibrin Barau.

Yari-Kalu ticket

Meanwhile, an aide to Senator. Kalu, Emeka Nwala, said his principal had not stepped down for Akpabio, as he had just been made the Deputy Senate President to run with Yari.

Nwala said, “In sha’Allah, Senator Kalu is Yari’s Deputy Senate President and none of them have stepped down. If we have, it would be breaking news by now.

“So anyone who is purporting such a story is lying. How can someone who has the majority of the lawmakers on their side step down for anyone? It’s not possible.”

The source said, “I cannot categorically state that he has stepped down for anyone, but I know there has been a lot of pressure mounted on him to step down.’’

Similarly, a source close to Senator Musa also stated that he had withdrawn his support from Yari’s group but had yet to give credence to the Akpabio’s faction.

The source stated that as a party man, he had withdrawn support but he preferred to maintain neutrality.

The source stated, “ Senator Musa has backed down on his support for the Yari ticket but would not support the Akpabio team. He would rather prefer to be neutral than give them his vote.”

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has been agog with activities in preparation for the 10th Assembly inauguration which is scheduled for today, Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

The lawmakers-elect, comprising 109 Senators-elect and 360 Members-elect, will be officially sworn in respectively to mark the commencement of the 10th Assembly.

Ahead of the inauguration, lawmakers-elect have been accredited and are being assigned to their offices.

The accreditation of lawmakers which started on Sunday at rooms 231 and 224 of the Senate wing is expected to end on Monday night.

Still in preparation, the temporary galleries of both chambers are being prepared for the lawmakers ahead of D-day.

According to the management, unlike in previous years when each lawmaker was allowed with two guests into the gallery, just the lawmakers-elect would be allowed into the National Assembly building but would watch from the arcade already designed and decorated for guests of the lawmakers.

Our correspondent observed that the name tags assigned to the seat of the 9th Assembly lawmakers have been removed.

In the same vein, no fewer than four patrol vehicles and scores of civil defence officials have been deployed to the National Assembly for surveillance.

People were barred from entering the premises through the main White House entrance, but referred to use the House of Representative and Senate entrances.

Further indications emerged on Monday that the anointed candidates of the APC would have to test their popularity to occupy the presiding offices of the National Assembly.

Two prominent members of the G-7, a group of aspirants aggrieved with the endorsement of Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu for Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively, by the APC, Aliyu Betara and Yusuf Gagdi, had on Sunday stepped down from the speakership race.

However, two members of the G-7 will likely contest against the APC candidate regardless of the interventions by President Bola Tinubu.

The G-7 includes the incumbent Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase; the Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara; Chairman of House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; Chinedu Ogah, Miriam Onuoha and Sani Jaji.

In the Senate, the aggrieved aspirants for President of the Senate include the current Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, from Abia State; former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; Senator Sani Musa from Niger State; and Senator Osita Izunaso from Imo State.

However, there were strong indications from the G-7 that the group would adopt Sani Jaji from Zamfara State to contest against Abbas, even though the outgoing Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, is billed to continue with the speakership race.

“We are going for an election. Now, we are meeting with Wase to reconcile with him. We are making moves,” a credible source in the Jaji campaign told our correspondent on Monday evening.

However, none of the aggrieved aspirants for President of the Senate has officially withdrawn from the race as of press time on Monday.

Wase still in race

The organisation campaigning for Wase, on Monday, declared that the Deputy Speaker was not backing down on the speakership race.

This was made known in a statement signed by the Secretary, Wase for Speaker Media Team, Dominic Alancha, titled, ‘Wase Still in the Race.’

The statement read, “Our attention has been drawn to rumours making the rounds that the Deputy Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, His Excellency, Ahmed Idris Wase, has withdrawn from the race for the speakership of the 10th National Assembly.

“We wish to state that the rumour lacks basis and has no iota of truth in it as the Deputy Speaker is not only in the race but remains the most favoured by his colleagues to win the seat.

“It should be further stated that Wase is not considering withdrawing or stepping down for anyone as he did not enter into the race for mere showmanship but to win with the hope of bringing his wealth of experience to bear in running the affairs of the parliament.

“This is with the firm belief that after serving as Deputy Minority Leader, Deputy Leader, and Deputy Speaker consecutively, he is in the best position to stir the affairs of the House in the 10th Assembly more efficiently than any of the aspirants contesting the seat.

“The general public is, therefore, urged to disregard the rumour and support the cause for a sound and credible leadership for the next Assembly.”

Fifty-five members-elect from the South-South geopolitical zone have endorsed Abbas and Kalu.

The adoption took place at the residence of the most ranking member of the House, Nicholas Mutu, on Sunday night in Abuja, bringing the number of members-elect backing the Abbas/Kalu ticket to over 290.

The members-elect were drawn from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers states, respectively.

One of the leaders of the South-South, Unyime Idem, from Akwa Ibom, stated that the zone must key into the vision and agenda of the Abbas/Kalu ticket.

Idem said, “I consider it a great privilege welcoming our incoming Speaker and Deputy, by the grace of God. As a coordinator of the Joint Task, it gives me pleasure to announce to Your Excellencies that we have 55 out of 55 members of the South-South Caucus who have penned their signatures in support of the joint ticket. I, therefore, want to assure you that we will have the whole 55, as they are going to appear in the chamber on Tuesday to give you 55 votes from the South-South geopolitical zone.”

The Chairman of the Joint Task – 10th Assembly, Usman Kumo, in his response, partly said, “This 55-over-55 is something we are not surprised (about), given the level of support we have enjoyed from key

“I want to say that the zone has paid its dues and what is remaining now is for Hon. T.J Abbas and Kalu to reciprocate at the end of the day. And I want to assure you that by the character of the incoming Speaker and his deputy, you will not be disappointed.”

Meanwhile, family members, friends, aides and well-wishers of members-elect would be barred from the ad hoc chambers.

While the members-elect, workers directly involved in the ceremony and a few journalists would be allowed into the chambers, others are to monitor the event at the arcade ground outside the National Assembly Complex.

Already, the management of the National Assembly, the bureaucratic arm of the federal parliament, had told members-elect to come along with only one person for the ceremony, unlike in 2019 when members were accompanied by their wives and children as well as extended family members, friends, aides and party faithful.

Several invitations cited by our correspondent showed that members-elect have invited guests to various venues outside the National Assembly to celebrate the swearing-in ceremony.

One of the highlights of the inauguration ceremony of the outgoing 9th Assembly was when the outgoing Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, stormed the House with his four wives. As the Kano lawmaker introduced his wives amidst claps and cheers from the audience, the lawmaker also disclosed that he had 27 children “and still counting.”

A member of the directorate of the National Assembly, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, noted that while it would be easier to manage the population at the Senate, it would not be the same at the House.

The House has 360 members, while the Senate has 109. This is despite that the House uses two conference rooms for sitting, with the second connected to the first electronically with multi-media facilities.

Two tents have been erected at the arcade ground, which is in front of the White House section of the complex, to accommodate guests.

Labourers were busy painting strategic points in and around the premises for over two weeks.

The renovation contract was awarded by the Federal Capital Territory Authority in April 2022, while the project is being executed by Visible Construction Limited.

The Federal Government had planned to renovate the building with N37bn in the first version of the 2020 Appropriation Act, a proposal that generated wide condemnations.

The cost was later slashed to N9bn when the budget was reviewed due to economic considerations.

Meanwhile, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Monday, disclosed that the Governors’ Forum had reached a compromise to support the President, Bola Tinubu, on his choice for Senate leadership.

Makinde, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, made this known during a post-inauguration Special Interdenominational thanksgiving service organised by the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria in conjunction with Fathers of Faith, which was held at Oritamefa Baptist Church, Total Garden, Ibadan.

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