The opposition to the emergence of the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as the preferred candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the position of the next Senate President and Senator Barau Jibrin as his deputy has continued unabated as a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, has insisted that the North-west must produce the Senate President, THISDAY has learnt.
The ruling party had anointed Jibrin and Hon. Tajudeen Abbas as its preferred candidates for the Deputy Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives, respectively.
Both Jibrin (APC, Kano), and Abbas (APC, Kaduna) are from the North-west.
THISDAY gathered that Yari, who is the arrowhead of the opposition by the North-west, has refused to back down on his ambition to challenge Akpabio.
The former Zamfara governor, it was learnt, has been mobilising North-west Senators to reject the two positions allocated to the zone and insist on Senate Presidency so as to head one arm of the government.
Yari, Senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunaso had vowed to challenge APC’s anointed candidate.
Izunaso, in particular, insisted that he is the best man for the job, having served in both the Senate and the House of Representatives without any baggage.
However, unlike Yari, whose campaign office at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja has consistently been playing host to both the newly-elected senators and the returning ones, Kalu and Izunaso do not operate from any established campaign offices.
Despite the APC leadership’s insistence on its choice of Akpabio, the former Zamfara State governor has continued to mobilise North-west Senators to insist on the Senate Presidency.
Some of the North-west senators-elect, who spoke to THISDAY on conditions of anonymity insisted that Yari would run for the position of the Senate President to represent the interest of the North-west in the incoming Bola Tinubu’s government.
“We in the North-west have discovered that we are being sidelined from the incoming administration of Tinubu because we would not be in control of any arm of government if the APC anointed candidates for the presiding officers’ positions in the 10th National Assembly succeeded.
“For instance, the President, who would head the executive is from the South-west while the judiciary currently has another South-west indigene as the head. There is also, every possibility that the person who would succeed him is from the Southern part of the country.
“If we allow the current zoning arrangements of the APC to stand, it means that the nation’s legislature would be in the firm control of another southerner.
“That is why we are very serious about the Yari project and we have seriously mobilised all our people within and outside the National Assembly to key into the agenda. We shall make it a reality,” one of the North-west senators told THISDAY.
Meanwhile, a civil society group, the Coalition for Good Governance Network (C2G-Network), has called on President-elect, Tinubu, to listen to the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari’s voice of reason on the independence of the legislature.
Buhari had on Thursday, during the inauguration of the permanent site of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in Abuja laid emphasis on the need for the lawmakers to be truly independent and be able to elect their leaders without executive interference.
The C2G-Network, in a statement yesterday said, the revelation by President Buhari was commendable and worthy of emulation by Tinubu in the interest of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy.
National Coordinator of the group, Michael Musa, and Secretary, Ajayi Bello, commended the President for such revelation at this time.
The group also called on Tinubu to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the legislature and instead promote a culture of mutual respect and collaboration between the two arms of government to engender good governance for Nigerians.
Meanwhile, with the expected inauguration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the President on Monday, some senators-elect have advised him to address the sharing of the National Assembly presiding offices crisis to the extent that the North-west concedes one presiding office to the North-central.
The senators-elect said after their meeting Thursday in Abuja that it would be against the spirit of equity to allow a zone to occupy two offices of the presiding offices when the other has none.
The senators-elect advised that Tinubu should avoid inheriting another crisis like what happened in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the Senate presidency and the office of the speaker due to internal squabbles.
According to one of the senators-elect, who spoke with THISDAY, “We intend to meet Tinubu as President, once he is sworn in between Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss with him this time as the President and Commander-in-Chief.
“We want to lay bare before him the implication of starting off with squabbles and agitation from a zone that feels neglected and cheated.
“We will reason with him on why a zone, the North-west will occupy two offices of presiding officers and another zone, the North-central will have none.
“This is the major position of our meeting on Thursday. To some of us, this is just to lay a landmine of crisis for him as the President.
“He is the President and he should not start off with agitation and crisis or allow the National Assembly to slip out of his control. If he allows himself to be deceived, then, it means that he will inherit the crisis,” the senator-elect stated.
The senators-elect mostly from the North-central explained that it is expected that the North-west be allowed to choose from the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy senate president.
According to the senator-elect, “Senator Jubrin Barau from Kano State and Hon Abbas Tajudeen from Kaduna have been micro-zoned for the offices, without considering the North-central that also contributed substantially to the victory of the APC. For equity, we expect that one of the presiding offices should go to the North-central.”
When asked of the continued agitation of the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon Aliyu Betara, he said, “From what we gathered, the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima and the Governor Babagana Zulum are not disposed to him becoming the Speaker because of his alleged governorship ambition.
“They seem to be against his cult followership as Muhammadu Buhari. If he becomes the Speaker, then it will be difficult to control him when the tenure of Zulum is over,” the senator-elect said.
When he was reminded that the national chairman of the APC is from the North-central, he said: “We are talking of the National Assembly presiding offices and not party offices.”
The senator-elect explained that they decided to wait till the swearing-in Tinubu as President to see his body language in the first appointments that he would make.
He said: “By the time he appoints the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and his Chief of Staff, we can see the direction of his government. For now, we will only be guessing what he will do.”
Chuks Okocha and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja