10th Assembly: Uproar as PDP writes Akpabio over Minority Leader’s nominations

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Ahead of today’s resumption of the Senate, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has resolved to transmit a letter to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to stay action on filling the position of the Senate minority leadership of the upper legislative chamber.

This was part of the decision taken by the National Working Committee of the party on Monday at a meeting held at the Wadata Plaza, the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.

The meeting which was attended by seven NWC members and 25 out of 36 Senators elected on the platform of the PDP adopted the immediate past Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal for the position of Senate Minority Leader of the 10th Senate.

Tambuwal was elected in 2023 into the red chamber to represent Sokoto South Senatorial District following the completion of his second tenure as governor.

The NWC, however, resolved to delay the announcement of Tambuwal’s nomination until the majority of its Senators and NWC members return to Abuja from the Sallah break.

However, opposition to Tambuwal’s aspiration has heightened with loyalists to ex-Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike kicking against the PDP’s choice of the former House of Representatives speaker.

On July 2, Sunday PUNCH reported that Wike and other members of his G-5 group were supporting the lawmaker representing Cross River North, Senator Agom Jarigbe for the senate minority position.

Also, the All Progressives Grand Alliance has vowed not to support the aspiration of the former Sokoto State governor.

PDP NWC

In a statement issued after the NWC meeting by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP premised its decision to withhold its position on the Senate minority leadership position on the need for adequate consultation, even as it slammed the All Progressives Congress for allegedly meddling in the selection process.

The statement read in part “At the meeting, the importance of a virile and stable opposition in the Senate and indeed the National Assembly was emphasized, and the caucus assured that it will play that important role in the defence of democracy in the interest and wellbeing of Nigerians.

“The meeting condemned in its entirety the alleged subterranean moves by the APC to meddle in the affairs of the minority with regards to the emergence of the minority leadership which is an exclusive reserve of the minority caucus as expressly stipulated by constitutional provisions and Standing Rules of the Senate.

“The PDP and the Senators will continue with consultations on the emergence of the minority leader in the Senate and are resolved to collectively present a unified leadership after due and conclusive considerations. Accordingly, the PDP will continue to provide the necessary leadership in this regard.

“Consequently, the meeting resolved that the PDP NWC communicates to the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, on the ongoing consultation in the minority caucus to the effect that the nominations into the minority leadership positions in the Senate have not been concluded and that upon conclusion, the nominated list will be formally conveyed to him appropriately for necessary action.”

However, speaking, a member of the NWC told our correspondent in confidence that Tambuwal was chosen because the party believed in him.

“At the meeting, we chose Tambuwal for a couple of reasons. He is experienced and has the capacity to defend the PDP in a minority position against a rampaging Federal Government,” he said.

“A letter will be sent to the Senate President on Tuesday (today) on the need for our caucus in the Senate to deliberate further and arrive at the list of officers chosen to represent the party in the minority positions. Because of the Sallah break, most of our Senators and NWC members are not yet in town. Nobody wants to take a factional decision.

“Even the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagun was not at the meeting. The meeting was presided over by the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba,” he explained.

Commenting on the opposition party’s decision, a former member of the House of Representatives, Ogbonna Nwuke accused the leadership of the party of working against precedents.

The Wike loyalist, who represented Etche-Omuma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, also said national interest would determine the next line of action of the ex-Rivers State governor.

He stated, “We have heard that the PDP or a group of persons acting in the name of the party has nominated the former Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal as the official candidate for the position of minority leader in the 10th Senate.

“Of course, those who are projecting Tambuwal as the one to represent the PDP interest acted well within their rights either as individuals or a group.

“But what is instructive as we get ready for a vote is the precedence that has been laid previously in the Red and Green Chambers as well.”

According to him, the popularity of a candidate rather than his endorsement by a party would determine if he will win.

“Those who have won in the past had done so on the basis of their popularity among their colleagues, not necessarily on the dictates of a party platform or the plot of a group of persons acting in the name of a party,” he added.

Nwuke, a former Commissioner for Information and Communications in Rivers State said Senator Bukola Saraki emerged as the Senate President under former president Muhammadu Buhari even though “He was not the choice of the APC leadership that he was part of.”

“He garnered the majority votes and sat pretty in office. Tambuwal is a classic example of what played out on the floor of the parliament. Mulikat Akande was the official candidate of the PDP in the 7th Assembly during the Jonathan era but Tambuwal ran against what could be considered party directive and won. He became Speaker.

“Ndudi Elumelu is also a recent example. He was not the choice of the PDP machine but he was elected minority leader of the House of Representatives. The heavens did not fall, “ he stated.

Continuing, Nwuke said the PDP leadership should understand the ‘dynamics of the game; there are other candidates who have signified interest in the job of minority leader,’ noting that the party cannot disenfranchise them.

“The PDP has interests. Those outside of the PDP who belong to other parties have their own interests. At the end of the day, those who enjoy the support of their colleagues will be elected into majority and minority positions. As a person, Tambuwal will discover how popular the decision to field him is at this point on the floor,’’ the former information commissioner noted.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Tambuwal may not have an easy ride following alleged moves by Wike to influence the Senate leadership.

The ex-governor, who favoured Jarigbe for the senate minority position, was said to have held a series of meetings with Akpabio on the matter.

Regardless of moves by Wike to push Jarigbe’s candidacy, it was gathered on Monday that PDP senators may have opted for former senate majority leader, Abul Ningi as their choice for the minority position.

Sources said Ningi is perceived as a neutral party member and a strong opposition voice.

A source said, ‘’Ningi is a strong member, committed to the party; he is also a friend to the Wike camp. More importantly, he is a strong opposition voice. He won’t be docile and can’t be controlled easily.”

Speaking on the tussle for a minority leadership slot on Monday, Senator Jarigbe clarified that no decision has been taken on the minority principal officers’ positions for the 10th Senate.

“The minority caucus has not met on how to share the four positions. Though PDP has 36 Senators out of the 50 Senators on the platform of the seven minority parties in the Senate, but there is a need to carry the 14 other Senators on the platforms of other parties along,” he explained.

Findings also indicated that the APC caucus has not finalised the list of principal officers.

It was gathered that the caucus meeting of the ruling party has been slated for July 10, where the lawmakers would decide but no consensus had yet to be reached on the nominations.

Party sources attributed the delay to the contest between Senator Ali Ndume and Opeyemi Bamidele for the Senate majority leader position.

Majority leader

An APC Senator from the North Central, who did not want to be named, said, “The fierce contest between Ndume and Bamidele for the position of majority leader in the 10th Senate has polarised the entire membership of APC Senators which cannot be singularly handled by the Senate leadership without the involvement of national leaders of the party.

“The tension heightened last weekend when Akpabio, his deputy, Senator Jibrin Barau , and some other Senators including Ndume and Bamidele, paid Sallah homage to the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu at his country home in Keffi, Nasarawa State, without the chairman mentioning anything about the letter from the party to the Senate leadership on those nominated for the principal officers’ positions.’’