– Ruling party leaders favour Abbas for Speaker, Kalu for Deputy Speaker
– Gagdi, Betara, others press on with aspiration
The decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to adopt consensus in picking its candidates for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly may have upset moves by the opposition parties to hijack the process of installing the legislative heads.
President-elect Bola Tinubu; the party’s National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu; Deputy National Chairman (North) Senator Abubakar Kyari; Deputy National Chairman (South) Chief Emma Enukwu; and the National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, at a meeting in Abuja on Friday resolved to endorse former Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio as the party’s candidate for the Senate Presidency and Dr. Tajudeen Abbas as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Also at the meeting were the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, current House of Reps Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
Alhaji Jibrin Barau was penciled down as Deputy Senate President and Benjamin Kalu as Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps.
However, opposition parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had expected the APC to approach the election of the NASS officials as a divided house and planned to cash in on the situation to install their own candidates, are now shocked at the turn of events.
Their spokesmen reacted furiously to the APC move yesterday, declaring that they were not bound by the party’s decision.
But some other members of the opposition parties told The Nation yesterday that with the APC pre-emptive moves and the declaration by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike that lawmakers from his state would not be part of any plot to deny the APC the opportunity of controlling the legislature, it would be difficult for PDP and its allies in the National Assembly to stop the ruling party.
Rising from a meeting in Abuja yesterday, some House of Representatives members-elect from the PDP, Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) vowed that they would not respect the decision of the APC on who becomes what in the Green Chambers.
Their spokesman, Peter Akpanke (Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwara) named their own candidate as Aliyu Betara (APC, Biu/Bayo/Shani and Kwaya Kusar in Borno State).
Some APC members were at the meeting.
He said: ”All of us are not members of APC, so whatever they decide cannot be binding on us. That is their party’s decision.
“So if they can convince their members, that’s good for them. But they don’t have the numbers.
“We, the minority members are more. They need us to be able to produce the speaker.
“By the way, will all members of the APC even support the party’s decision?
“Those of us in NASS want to support a speaker who is our own; a speaker who will defend democracy, someone who will protect the interests of members and help us deliver the dividends of democracy.”
Some opposition party members however are not persuaded by Akpanke’s view.
One of them said: ”We need to have the votes of at least 10 dissatisfied APC lawmakers for us to topple the ruling party on June 13. With the way the consensus thing is widely being accepted, that is looking pretty difficult to bank on as we go on.
“Also, of recent, more and more opposition members-elect are declaring their stance, saying they will not work against the decision of the leadership of the ruling APC.
“Many of them, like myself, are from the PDP, the leading opposition party driving the plot. They are listening to the dictates of their godfathers back home and it will be difficult to make them do otherwise.
“Some are already identifying with APC aspirants publicly.”
Another source said though members of the coalition continue to meet regularly on how to stop the APC, many of them have already lost interest in putting opposition party men in legislative leadership positions.
The source added: “A good example is the Joint Task under the leadership of Hon. Chinda, leader of the PDP caucus in the Hous, and Hon. Bello Kumo, Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs.
“The group has many members from PDP and other opposition party. They are being lured by the belief that APC will ensure consensus and as such, defeat any opposition easily.
“Most PDP members from the South are committed to the group.”
An APC source said: “APC members will not vote against the party’s choices. That will not happen.
“The party has made it clear anti-party activities will be severely dealt with and our members-elect understand what that means, especially with the party strongly united behind President-elect Bola Tinubu.”
Tinubu needs someone like me as Speaker to succeed as president, by Gagdi
An aspirant for the position of Speaker House of Representatives Usman Gagdi formally declared his ambition yesterday, saying Tinubu’s success as President would depend on having right thinking presiding officers of the National Assembly who share his vision for the country.
Gagdi, 41, said he deserved an endorsement for Speaker as the youngest aspirant in the race, adding that the move will foster youth inclusion in the next administration.
“I am confident that our President-elect, a talent hunter, will take Nigeria to the promise land. I have the confidence that he will want me as partner,” he said in Abuja.
“Tinubu can transform Nigeria into a world class economy only if he is supported by those who mean well.”
He said the APC leadership should zone the office to the Northcentral and adopt him as candidate.
Gagdi, former Deputy Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly, described himself as an experienced and competent lawmaker who initiated 20 bills, six of which were assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Jibrin, Umahi, Ndume boost Akpabio’s chances
Observers said yesterday that Akpabio’s move to team up with Kano North Senator Jibrin Barau has gone a long way in paving the way for him to become Senate President.
Barau was one of the first Senators to declare interest in the position and appeared to be enjoying the backing of many of his colleagues until he was persuaded to step down for a Southern Christian.
Moments after the APC leadership endorsed Akpabio’s candidature on Friday, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, who was also interested in the office, announced that he had stepped down for the former Niger Delta Affairs Minister.
“My brother (Akpabio) came to consult with me. Yesterday (Thursday), I saw the president-elect on his invitation and he told me that he is already committed, and that please ‘don’t run’. I accepted and stepped down for my brother, Senator Akpabio,” Umahi told reporters.
“He is my consensus candidate. I also step down for him as the deputy Senate president.”
Akpabio’s campaign is being led by one of the longest serving Senators, Ali Ndume, Borno South, who said on Friday: ”I am leading the campaign for Akpabio because he is the president’s preferred candidate and we have to put the interest of the country, the party, above any other interest.”
and we have to put the interest of the country, the party, above any other interest.”
Why PDP Senators may not vote Akpabio
Some PDP Senators-elect are also said to be against the candidature of Akpabio as the next Senate President.
Their grouse with him is that he dumped their party, which chose him as minority whip, to join the APC.
A source said: ”Without any just cause, he abandoned the PDP midstream and joined APC. He was rewarded with a ministerial position.
“We can’t trust such a person as Senate President.”
Zamfara West Senator-elect, Abdul’Aziz Yari, who was elected on the platform of the APC, is also said to be pressing ahead with his campaign to contest the Senate Presidency.
The former member of the House of Representatives described the contest as Senators’ business and not based on instructions from anyone.
Tajudeen Abass, who is being tipped for the Speaker House of Representatives, is the current Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport. He represents Zaria, Kaduna State.
Benjamin Kalu (Bende, Abia State) who is vying for the post of Deputy Speaker, is a third term ranking member of the House.
He is the current spokesman for the House.