APC picks Akpabio, Abass as Senate President, Speaker

The ruling party yesterday announced its choice for principal positions of the 10th National Assembly.

Aside from the geo-political areas to which it zoned top offices, the All Progressives Congress (APC) attached its preferred people to occupy the offices.

The party’s National Working Committee (NWC) ratified the arrangement at its meeting in Abuja, according to its spokesman Felix Morka.

Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom Northwest) is tipped as Senate president and Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) as Deputy Senate President.

Also nominated are Tajudeen Abass (Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State) as Speaker, House of Representatives and Benjamen Kalu (Bende Federal Constituency, Abia State) as Deputy Speaker.

The election for principal officers is the first assignment the two chambers will carry out after their inauguration next month.

Speaking to reporters after the four-hour NWC meeting, Morka said: “The NWC met today (yesterday) to consider reports of consultations and meetings held with the President-elect, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, other party leaders and stakeholders on zoning arrangement for 10th National Assembly leadership positions.

“The NWC noted with respect the outcome of the meetings held between the President-elect and the leadership of the NWC.

“The NWC called for further and better consultation with necessary stakeholders in order to assure the support of the aspirants to the National Assembly leadership positions and members of the party nationwide.

“We urge our party leaders, members and all Nigerians to continue to work for peace and progress of our country during and beyond the current period of leadership transition.”

Ex-Senators back Akpabio

A group of 72 senators who served as members of the Second to Fourth Republic National Assembly said they were fully behind Akpabio.

Convener of the group, Basheer Lado, said their support for the former minister was based on the need for fairness, equity and justice.

Lado, who once represented Kano Senatorial District, told reporters that in the spirit of fairness and equity, the number three position should be zoned to the Southsouth.

Lado said: “We, in the spirit of equity, fairness, political expediency and following extensive consultations with stakeholders, hereby express our total support for the zoning of the position of the president of the 10th senate, to the Southsouth geo-political zone of Nigeria.

“We also affirm our unfettered support for the position of the president of the 10th Senate who also doubles as the chairman of the National Assembly to be conferred on Senator Akpabio.

“The position of Senate president represents the third position in the hierarchy of our current democratic dispensation.

“This position carries considerable weight in discharging vital constitutional responsibilities and charting the right course for our national development.

“It is also important that the holder of such a position enjoys the confidence and support of the party leadership and that of his peers as Senator Godswill Akpabio undoubtedly does.

“With this same spirit of fairness, we also affirm our solid support that the position of deputy president of the 10th Senate is conceded to distinguished Senator Barau Jubril.”

Listed as some of the group members are Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade; George Akume, Barnabas Gemade, Andy Uba, Olorunnimbe Mamora and Magnus Abe.

Kalu writes APC NWC, Senators-elect

Before a statement by the APC NWC on the zoning arrangement, Senate Chief Whip Orji Kalu said he would go ahead with the race.

Kalu, in a letter to the NWC and 108 other Senators-elect on his interest to become the Senate President, said he was offering himself for the position with sincerity of heart, humility and candour.

He, however, refuted the report that Southeast Senators-elect endorsed him.

According to him, the Senators-elect of the Southeast only met to make a demand from the President-elect and the party and have yet to endorse anyone.

Kalu, a former Abia State governor, promised to promote and defend the constitution as well as foster a cordial relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary if he emerges as Senate President.

The letter reads in part: “Leadership of a sophisticated Senate at the 10th Session will need men and women with an abundance of shared vision, consensus building, charisma, credibility and pragmatism in the saddle.

“This is why I most humbly write to officially inform you of my interest to be elected the next Senate President.

“I make this offer to serve you and the Nigerian people with sincerity of heart, humility and candour.

“The biggest asset I bring to the table is wisdom and experience garnered over the years in the management of human and material resources.

“One thing is indubitably certain: working together in unity and mutual love and respect, we can take Nigeria to the real next level of peace, progress and development.”

Kalu argued that “in a democratic clime like ours, the ruling party plays a key role in setting up the structure of government”.

Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu, who are have been endorsed by the APC leadership for the Speakership and Deputy Speakership positions, argued that they were the most suitable.

Abbas said in a statement by his campaign office that the Northwest deserved the seat because it gave the APC the highest number of votes during the presidential election.


Umahi: Tinubu will compensate Southeast

Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi expressed optimism that President-elect Tinubu will compensate the Southeast with tangible positions having been zoned out of the Senate Presidency.

“We (Southeast) cannot continue opposing everything as politics is all about dialogue, give and take.

“What could have happened if I said no and considering our efforts to promote the APC in the zone, we will get a tangible position,” Umahi said.

He said he was prevailed upon by the President-elect to step down for Akpabio.

Umahi explained that he agreed in the interest of the APC and the Southeast.

He spoke with reporters on arrival at the Muhammadu Buhari International Cargo Airport, Onueke from Abuja.

The governor, who said he was invited by Tinubu, added that he stepped down because he did not “want to be a spoke in the wheel of his progress.”

He said: “I discussed the issue with him (Tinubu) when he was in Paris and on return to the country, he invited me.

“It was an honour to be invited by the President-elect and he told me that he had made commitments.

“It is his right as the President-elect to make commitments and anyone running for such office makes promises.

“I did not want to be a spoke in the wheel of his progress so I accepted.”

Umahi said he was not aware of any resolution by Southeast senators-elect to support Kalu for the position.

“I am the chairman of the Akpabio campaign council and I can tell you that we have more APC senators on our side,” he added.

The governor also said he would never lobby to be appointed a minister in the incoming administration.

“I will accept whatever God wills for me but as a person, I will prefer to be in the Senate to rest.

“I will, however, have no choice if it is the sacrifice to make in the interest of the party, Southeast and to help the President-elect.”


Reps group hails zoning

House of Representatives members-elect, under the umbrella of The Joint Task – 10th Assembly, hailed the zoning arrangement.

In a statement by the Chairman Usman Bello Kumo (APC, Gombe); Co-Chairman Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), and Secretary Aliyu Sani Madaki (NNPP, Kano), the group hailed Tinubu for showing leadership in arriving at the choice.

While pledging to work with the incoming Tinubu administration, the forum said it would work hard to realise the zoning arrangement.

The forum, which comprises members-elect from the APC, PDP, Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria People Party (NNPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Party (ADC) and Young Progressives Party (YPP), noted that it has been waiting for the party’s direction on zoning to decide on the next line of action.

The statement said: “As a forum, we at the Joint Task – 10th Assembly welcome the zoning arrangement of the APC. We believe in upholding the best democratic practices. That is why we want to join hands as political parties that won seats in the parliament to have a harmonious working relationship with the other arms of government, especially the Executive, without compromising our independence.

“Now that the APC NWC has taken the bold decision, we will go in line with the party’s choice and work assiduously to realise same.

“We want to assure the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that as a Parliament, we would work harmoniously and assiduously with him to realise his plans for Nigeria. We would work jointly with all stakeholders within and outside the House to have a stable house.”


Senators kick

Some Senators-elect have advanced criteria that should be observed in choosing the presiding officers of the 10th Senate.

While some favour zoning of the positions, others advise that there must be balance in the distribution of top political positions.

A number of the incoming senators warned against imposition and insisted that they should be allowed to independently choose their presiding officers.


Akpabio hopeful

Akpabio, who got more support from groups outside the National Assembly, said that he was optimistic that justice and equity would prevail at the end of the day.

He also said he was not worried that some Senators-elect were protesting his endorsement by the APC leadership.

The former Niger Delta Affairs Minister said: “I believe that justice will be done in terms of balancing the political equations in the country to ensure a very peaceful tenure for the incoming President.

“I am not worried at all about opposition to my ambition. It is a normal thing. I always describe politics as a game of concentric circles of conspiracy. I am not worried about anything. I believe strongly that the will of God will be done.

“My colleagues would decide my fate on the floor during the inauguration. The senators-elect would take a decision.

“The lawmakers would elect the next Senate President. I believe that there should be cooperation between the parties and the lawmakers.

“Once the leadership is put in place, there should be a collaboration between the leadership and the Parliament to ensure a smooth administration.

“We are all mutually dependent on one another while at the same time, exercising our legislative duties and independence. On the whole, I believe that we can only get better as our democracy matures.”

Senator Osita Izunaso, who is also eyeing the position, argued the most natural thing for the APC leadership to do was to zone the office of Senate President to the Southeast.

Izunaso vowed not to step down for anybody, saying the Southeast was also a contributor to APC’s success in the general election.

Also, Ned Nwoko of the PDP said the National Assembly, being an independent body must have a free hand to decide on its leadership.

Abdulrahman Samaila, one of the Senators-elect, who flayed the consensus zoning arrangement, said constitutional provisions must be followed.

Samaila of the New Nigeria Peoples Party(NNPP), said: “On the issue of the Senate Presidency, we should follow the constitution. There is a clear and express provision in the constitution which allows members of the National Assembly to choose their presiding officers amongst themselves irrespective of party affiliation, religious or ethnic considerations.”

But another group, Good Governance Initiative (GGi), which supports Abdulaziz Yari as the next Senate President also rejected calls by 72 former members of the Red Chamber to have Akpabio as Senate President.

“These were people who functioned as lawmakers at the highest level of this country previously. They ought to understand fundamental rights of individuals as enshrined in the constitution,” National President of GGi, Kunle Sanusi, said.


Group protest

Earlier, a group, All Progressives Congress (APC) North Central Stakeholders, stormed the National Secretariat of the party to protest the exclusion of the Northcentral from the zoning arrangement.

Led by Salihu Ibrahim, the group complained that the arrangement was not favourable to the region, adding that the zone was marginalised.

Ibrahim told reporters: “We are asking not too much. We are asking that the Speaker of the 10th Assembly should be zone to Northcentral. That is what we want for now

“We didn’t come here for the candidacy but for the interest of Northcentral. The Northcentral should be recognised and appreciated by the APC National level.

“The 10th Assembly speakership should be zoned to Northcentral if they can’t give us the Senate President.”