Senators-elect for the 10th Assembly are mobilising against the plans by the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to make the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate president, Daily Trust Saturday has gathered.
It was also reliably gathered that governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are divided on the matter, with some of them favourably disposed to Asiwaju’s choice of Akpabio, while others believe the North should produce the next Senate president.
Daily Trust had exclusively reported on Friday that Tinubu had settled for Akpabio and Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano) as Senate president and deputy respectively.
This was after he met with some key stakeholders of the ruling party, including some members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
But impeccable sources told this newspaper that even the NWC of the party is divided as some want Akpabio, others want Senator Jibrin Barau from Kano, while some want the position ceded to the South East.
Recall that Tinubu had met with all APC governors on Thursday; and yesterday, he met with the party’s governors from the North West, where Barau comes from.
Although Tinubu’s office issued a statement after Thursday’s meeting, saying it was meant to seek the support of the governors in having a seamless election of presiding officers of the National Assembly, there was no statement from Friday’s meeting.
Indication emerged yesterday that lawmakers-elect, especially those who are returning to the Red Chamber, are against the nomination of Akpabio as Senate president.
This is despite the ongoing consultation by Tinubu with critical stakeholders of the party.
Some senators interviewed said Akpabio would not be able to pilot the affairs of the parliament.
One of them, a northerner, said the Senate presidency should go to the North and not the South, given the contributions of the zone to the victory of Tinubu during the February presidential election.
He said, “Akpabio will not fly, for two reasons. One, he contributed nearly nothing to the victory of Tinubu, aside stepping down for him during the primary election. Two, he disparaged the parliament during the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe.” He, therefore, urged Tinubu to have a change of mind.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that in the 109-seat Senate, the APC has 59 senators, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 36; Labour Party (LP) eight, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) two, Social Democratic Party (SDP) two, Young Progressives Party (YPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one seat each.
To win the Senate presidency, a simple majority of votes is required when the parliament is inaugurated in June after the transmission of a letter of a proclamation by the president to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Another senator-elect said the choice of the president-elect was the best for the country but some of his colleagues were already teaming up against it.
In a phone interview, he said this was because of the attitude of Akpabio during the probe of the NDDC when he was the minister of the Niger Delta.
“ I won’t work against Asiwaju. I have been told of the choice and I am 100 per cent in support of this. However, our colleagues are already mobilising against Akpabio. They said he exposed the parliament to ridicule when he was a minister,” he said.
It was learnt that some of the senators were also against Akpabio because he reneged on the promises he made to them ahead of becoming the minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
“When the Senate turned down some of Akpabio’s requests for spending, he simply went away and found his way,” he said.
But a source who met Tinubu on Wednesday said the senators were being mobilised by an aggrieved presiding officer in the parliament.
“They are being pushed by a presiding officer, but this will not work because the choice of Asiwaju is in the best interest of the country. We will work against anything that will hinder the Tinubu presidency from performing,” he said.
Another source said Tinubu’s preference for Akpabio was to carry the Christians in Nigeria along, and not necessarily because of his contribution to the success of the party.
“It has been said again and again that the North contributed over 63 per cent of the votes that drove Tinubu to victory, however, it is not a matter of the winner carries everything. It is about equity.
“Tinubu wants to start on a sound footing. Sadly, by the time he did not carry all the six geopolitical zones along, there would be distraction and he might not succeed.
“Of course, if elections were to hold today, certainly, Senator Barau Jibrin will defeat other contenders hands down because he has the support of senators-elected on the platform of all the parties represented in the Senate,” he said.
Several efforts to meet with Akpabio to have his take on the controversy surrounding his ambition did not yield fruit.
Also, Senator Barau was not reachable as of press time, but a colleague of his said the senator from Kano is a party man and will always respect the decision of the party leadership.
Govs hold the ace
A source close to some of the governors at the Thursday and Friday meetings told one of our reporters that some governors who were part of the meetings advised the president-elect not to dabble into the politics of the National Assembly at all so as not to cause trouble for his administration.
He said those in this school of thought believed he should not anoint a candidate but allow the best to emerge.
The source said, “What some of the governors told Tinubu was that he should not dabble into the politics of the National Assembly. That was the advise they gave him.
“The governors stood their ground that zoning of the preferred candidacy is out of place, so they advised Tinubu to let the National Assembly, and particularly, the senators to sort themselves out.
“Tinubu also agreed that he would not dabble into the politics of the National Assembly beyond reasonable limit, so he appealed to the governors to work in synergy with the national leadership of the party to put things in proper shape regarding the choice of principal officers of the National Assembly.
“Some of the governors are lobbying for Senator Barau, some are keeping an eye on Sani Musa (from Niger). Some of them want to go for Orju Uzor Kalu,” he said.
The Kalu, Yari permutations
Daily Trust Saturday reports that besides the permutations around Akpabio and Barau, some forces are working towards bringing Sen Orji Uzo Kalu and a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari as Senate president and deputy respectively.
“Yari had met with Tinubu; while Kalu also met with Tinubu separately, and both of them told him they needed his support because they have what it takes to make his administration turbulence free.
“But the ultimate game plan is to have Kalu and Yari. Yari has enormous resources at his disposal just like Kalu. Yari has the listening ears of many of the senators, so anything can happen.
“However, all of these things might likely change by the time Buhari leaves and second term governors also leave.
“The influence of most of the outgoing governors will reduce significantly after handing over, especially in states where the outgoing governors are not instrumental to the emergence of their successors. It will take almost two weeks after they leave alongside President Buhari before the inauguration of the National Assembly; and anything can happen,” he said.
Among the governors that attended meeting with Tinubu on Thursday were Simon Lalong (Plateau), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Babajide Sanwo-olu (Lagos), Ben Ayade (CrossRivers), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti).
Others were the deputy governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe and the APC governorship candidate in Kano State, Alhaji Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna.