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Senate Presidency: Tinubu, Lawan  Rally Behind Akpabio, Unyielding Yari Determined To Upset the Applecart 

While the APC appears to have succeeded in breaking the ranks of the opposition in the House of Representatives, the situation in the senate remains intense.

Ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, President Bola Tinubu, who seemed determined to get candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) elected as presiding officers, has begun to pull all stops in their favour, in ensuring that both Godswill Akpabio and TJ Abbas are elected Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

This decision also included their deputies, who are Barau Jibril as the Deputy Senate President, and Benjamin Kalu as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The president was said to have instructed everyone, especially the governors elected on the platform of his party to get to work and as well liaise with their counterparts in the opposition parties, with a view to making sure that the APC has its way today during the election of the presiding officers.

Ironically, these moves have neither deterred nor dissuaded a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdul-Aziz Yari, who is determined to upset the applecart, even though he appeared overwhelmed by the heavy deployment of the president in favour of Akpabio, Abbas, Barau and Kalu.

At the moment, the battle for the presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly has reached a crescendo with the two leading camps of Akpabio and Yari, sharply divided over their suitability to preside over the 10th Assembly.

The fierceness of the battle became more pronounced Monday night, when the camps of the two leading aspirants for the position of the Senate President –Yari and Akpabio – disagreed over alleged endorsement by the South East senators.

But the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, has expressed confidence that Akpabio, being APC’s choice candidate for the 10th Senate President, would emerge victorious at today’s inauguration.

This was as the senator for the Southern Senatorial District of Cross River State, Gershom Bassey, has cautioned that Nigeria’s 10th Senate could not afford to fail Nigerians, because it has the fortune of having senators in the executive arm of Tinubu’s administration.

Conversely, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Monday, said it had not directed the appointment of the minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives yet, because it was still faced with the election of the presiding officers.

At the same time, the Oodua People’s Frontier (OPF) and the Yoruba Patriots Alliance (YPA), have condemned the Tinubu-led government for its alleged interference in the election of principal officers of the National Assembly ahead of today’s inauguration.

Battle for the presiding officers of the National Assembly assumed a different twist when the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) not only zoned the positions to some geo-political zones, but also micro-zoned it to some states and individuals.

Akpabio and Barau Jibrin had been endorsed by the leadership of the APC to contest the presiding officers positions in the 10th Senate as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, and are considered candidates of the president, too.

Not satisfied with the arrangement, four other aspirants for the position, Senators Abdulaziz Yari, Orji Uzor Kalu, Osita Izunaso, and Sani Musa formed an alliance, known as Senate Democratic Caucus, to challenge the Akpabio/Jibrin Stability Group.

The development had created intense rivalry among members of the same party and also caused the opposition parties to begin to plan towards bloc support for certain candidates.

While APC appeared to have succeeded in breaking the ranks of the opposition in the House of Representatives, the situation in the senate remains intense, creating panic as the National Assembly was scheduled for inauguration Monday.

There was confusion Monday in the upper chamber, when the camps of Yari and Akpabio laid claims to the support of senators-elect from the South-east geopolitical zone.

The Senate Democratic Caucus, after series of meetings, agreed that Yari should contest the senate president position, while the position of Deputy Senate President would be determined on the floor of the senate after the emergence of the senate president.

Both camps claimed they had the required number of senators that could give them victory, and brandished lists, which could not be verified by THISDAY at the time of filling this report.

Yet, there was a dramatic twist in the entire scenario Monday night, when Director General of Akpabio’s Stability Group, Senator Ali Ndume, released a statement, accompanied by sets of photographs, to the media, suggesting that their candidate had been endorsed by the South-east senators.

In the pictures, all the 15 elected senators from the South-east, including Kalu, were with Akpabio, Ndume and Opeyemi Bamidele, among other members of the Stability Group.

The statement read, “A few hours to the inauguration of the 10th Senate, two leading contenders for the position of President of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Osita Izunaso, on Monday, met with Godswill Akpabio.

“Similarly, President of the ninth Senate, Ahmad Lawan, also met with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Godswill, where the Yobe senator promised to deliver the former Akwa Ibom State Governor on Tuesday.”

Ndume told newsmen that 15 senators-elect from the South-east had met with Akpabio and, reportedly, endorsed his candidacy. He added that with the purported endorsement, Yari’s bid might have hit the rocks.

Speaking further, Ndume said former governors from the northern geopolitical zones, who had refused to support Akpabio, had made a U-turn. He listed the ex-governors to include Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Wamakko, and Adamu Aliero, among others. He said Sani Musa, who had settled for the position of Deputy President of the Senate, had also stepped down and endorsed Jibrin.

But in a swift reaction, a senator, who was at the meeting, told THISDAY on condition of anonymity that the statement and photographs were released to the media as a mere propaganda strategy.

The senator said, “We were holding a meeting of South-east senators at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, when Akpabio came in. He addressed us and requested that we take a group picture with him. Little did we know that he would use the picture as a weapon of propaganda as blackmail.”

Meanwhile, necessary security and logistics arrangements were perfected by the management of the National Assembly for today’s inauguration. The premises of the apex legislative institution had been decorated in the country’s green and white colour, preparatory to the occasion.

Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Sani Tambawal, in a paid announcement, stated that the inauguration would hold at a makeshift chambers being used by the federal lawmakers, while their guests, other invited personalities, and accredited journalists would use the big tents erected in the arcade of the federal legislature.

A combined team of security operatives from the military, Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were seen taking positions last night.

The election of presiding officers would be the first assignment of the CNA after he had read the proclamation letter from President Bola Tinubu and completed the roll call of elected members in attendance as of 10am.

Akpabio’ll Emerge President of 10th Senate, Uzodinma Boasts

Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma expressed confidence that APC’s choice candidate for Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, would emerge victorious at today’s inauguration.

Uzodimma expressed the party’s confidence while speaking with newsmen after a meeting with Tinubu at the State House, Abuja.

Uzodimma, who is also Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), said the committee set up by Tinubu to resolve the controversy over the leadership race had achieved substantial progress, in collaboration with Lawan.

According to the governor, with the level of work already done among senators and through some other state governors, it would not come as a surprise if Akpabio emerged President of the Senate.

The imo State governor assured the people that Lawan would work for the emergence of the preferred candidates of the party. He explained that his team had been working hard to ensure that the 10th National Assembly got the sort of leadership that would aid the executive to achieve desired greatness for the country.

Uzodimma said, “After the event which you all witnessed, we had a closed session with the president because what is at stake is national interest, the interest of our country and how to ensure that the new president is supported to succeed.

“All over Africa, Nigeria is being looked upon that this time around we should produce a very strong president, who will be bold and courageous in character, who will be able to deliver Nigeria to our usual space of being the leader of the continent.

“So we don’t want to allow for any domestic distraction. We are going to pledge our support, work in synergy with our senators-elect to ensure that the election of tomorrow will be free and fair. You must have heard the president, in his wisdom, organised a small technical committee to help coordinate the process of tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) election, which, by my position as the chair of the Progressive Governors Forum, I am chairing that technical committee.

“We have done so much work, to the extent that God has blessed our efforts that majority of the senators-elect are now in sync with the position of the party.”

Asked if he expected a smooth sail for the party’s candidates at Senate in the election of its leadership, Uzodinma said, “Well, substantially for a substitute consensus and 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.

“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 at today cuts across the political party we belong, other political parties. There are also some same minds, who are interested in the development and progress of Nigeria, who also understand the need to safeguard democracy, as being practised in Nigeria today and they are in sync with our preferred candidate.

“Akpabio is going there to create a win-win situation for members of the parliament. He is not going there to be a dictator. He is going there to work with his colleagues. He is going there to work in synergy, collectively they will reason, collectively they will plan, collectively they will deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.

“It is about Nigeria and not about the individuals. And he is a man, too, that has the track record of performance.”

Akpabio assured his colleagues of a united 10th Senate under his leadership, listing as part of the things he would bring to the senate, “robust legislative debate, which I’ll do everything possible to ensure that we meet the aspirations of Nigerians. We will hold public hearings before we take any decision in the interest of Nigerians, for the betterment of Nigeria.”

Why 10th Senate Can’t Afford to Fail Nigerians, by Bassey

Senator for Southern Senatorial District of Cross River State, Senator Gershom Bassey, stated that Nigeria’s 10th Senate could not afford to fail Nigerians, because it had the fortune of having senators in Tinubu’s administration.

Bassey, who was Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), and Chairman, Cross River State Caucus of the National Assembly, said this in a statement

Bassey stated, “The 10th Assembly has a unique opportunity to lead alongside an executive arm of government headed by peers. The president, the vice president, the First Lady, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Deputy Chief of Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are all senators.

“This presents a unique opportunity for exemplary leadership, strategic foresight, efficient policy-making and cooperation between the arms of government, to deliver the country Nigerians have been yearning for.”

Bassey stated that the ninth Senate achieved some credible milestones in law-making and oversight functions, but the works they left uncompleted should be continued and completed by the 10th Senate.

No Decision on Minority Leaders Yet, Says PDP

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Monday, said it had not yet directed the appointment of the minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Rather, PDP said its focus was on the election of presiding officers of the two chambers taking place today.

The party reiterated that it would use its numerical strength in the election of the presiding officers of the National Assembly, and insisted that its members in the National Assembly were united for the purpose of the two elections.

PDP said it would not allow any distraction at the moment.

In a statement by PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, titled, “Disregard Reports on NASS Minority Leadership,” the party said, “For clarity, the PDP is on the same page with our lawmakers-elect in focusing, for now, on maximising our numerical strength with other opposition parties to determine the emergence of the presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 and will not allow any distractions at this moment.

“The interest of the PDP is to ensure that whoever emerges as the Speaker of the House of Representatives must be a person with long standing relevant managerial and legislative experience, leadership capacity and past legislative achievements as a member of the House of Representatives.

“At the right time, the PDP, together with our members in the National Assembly, will speak with one voice on any issues with regard to other leadership positions in the federal legislature.”

PDP urged Nigerians to disregard the rumour and reports as the party and members-elect at the moment had their eyes on the election of the presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The party described the reports on the appointment of minority officers as mere rumours. It stated that certain individuals had been designated for minority leadership positions ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.

The party said that such rumours and reports did not represent the true position of affairs in PDP and among its National Assembly members-elect.

Groups Decry Tinubu’s Interference in Principal Officers’ Poll

Oodua People’s Frontier (OPF) and Yoruba Patriots Alliance (YPA) criticised the Tinubu government for alleged interference in the election of principal officers of the National Assembly ahead of today’s inauguration.

The groups, in a joint statement on Monday, signed by Convener of OPF, Moses Odewale, and National President of YPA, Anuoluwabamise Adetutu, expressed dissatisfaction and concern over the disregard for democratic principles demonstrated by this administration.

The groups stressed that it was disheartening to witness the relentless attempts by the government to utilise security agencies as tools of intimidation, coercing aspiring candidates into submission, adding that such actions are not only undemocratic but also threatened the very foundations of our democracy.

The groups stated, “Nigeria is not an ‘agberocracy’; we are a nation founded on democratic principles, where the separation of powers and the independence of the legislative and judicial arms are paramount.

“We vehemently repudiate any misguided parallel drawn between Nigeria and the confined realm of Lagos State, where agberos and touts reign supreme. We assert that Nigeria, as a whole, transcends the narrow scope of a single state and operates on an entirely different scale of governance.”

They pointed out that it was shameful that the current government, barely at the outset of its tenure, was already exhibiting dictatorial tendencies.

They noted that considering the use of court orders to impede eligible candidates from exercising their fundamental rights to contest for principal offices in the Senate was not only an affront to the country’s democracy but also a blatant violation of the principles of justice and fairness.

‘Tinubu’s Reforms’ll Suffer Setback If Akpabio is Not Elected’

The Leadership Council of The Initiative (an agenda setting college of former and serving National Assembly members) said the unprecedented economic reforms announced by President Bola Tinubu might suffer setback if Senator Godswill Akpabio did not emerge President of the Senate today.

Addressing journalists, a former spokesperson for the House of Representatives, Eseme Eyibo, maintained that Akpabio, more than any other candidate, would defend Tinubu’s policies in the 10th National Assembly.

It said, “What is going on in the National Assembly is very democratic. It has given credence to the fact that the current administration is operating on the platform of democracy. When the president called the senators-elect and members-elect of the House of Representatives, it was to simply appeal to all of them and they saw reason with him.

“All the people aspiring will not be able to stand side-by-side with Akpabio. The reforms in the electricity, petroleum and the fiscal monetary policy will lead to setting up of the legal and legislative framework about its implementation.

“States won’t just apply to generate electricity, there has to be a standard process to which that is done because there will be foreign direct investment in that aspect. There will also be a need to look at the issue of ease of doing business and Nigeria enterprise promotion.”

Nabena: Yari, Others Should Step Down for Akpabio

Ahead of Tuesday’s election of presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena, called on Senator Abdulaziz Yari and Senatir Orji Kalu to step down for Senator Godswill Akpabio to emerge the next President of the Senate.

Nabena, in a statement, said this had become necessary following the decision of the two major contenders for the position of Speaker, Hon. Muktar Betara Aliyu, and Yusuf Gagdi, to withdraw and declare their support for Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, endorsed by the party.

He noted that it had become clearer that the north could not have the vice president, Speaker, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and Senate President at the same time.

Nabena said, “The issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket of the president and the vice president is another genuine factor that should be considered and rally support for the only candidate from the South-south, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as the next Senate President because Nigeria is a secular state.”

He added that there was need for religious balancing in government, saying only South-south will be left out of the equation if the position of Senate President eluded the region.

Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale, Sunday Aborisade in Abuja and Bassey Inyang in Calabar

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