April 28, 2023

Senate presidency: Kalu, Akpabio jostle for Tinubu’s endorsement 

Senate presidency: Kalu, Akpabio jostle for Tinubu’s endorsement 

By Miftaudeen Raji

As the hustle for leadership of the 10th legislature becomes intense, the All Progressives Congress, APC has continued in its push to make its nomination, a decision which was deferred  till after Ramadan.

Top leaders of the APC, those aspiring for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly and others lobbying for ministerial and other appointments have been besieging the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for his endorsement.

The current Senate Chief Whip and former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, and former Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom state are foremost contenders for the Senate leadership seat.

Kalu, had, in signifying his interest in the presidency of the Senate, stated: “I will like the party to zone it to my area, to my village in Igbere because the President-elect needs people of high character to work for the masses and make laws that will enable him turn around the economy.”

Vanguard gathered that the ruling party has zoned its choice of Senate Presidency candidate to the South.

With this, there is possibility that the seat may favour either of th South-East or the South-South. Already, the duo of Kalu and Akpabio have become topmost contenders.

Akpabio, it was learnt, is attracting support of many party leaders because of his swift withdrawal from the race for the presidential ticket during the primary.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, a group of serving and former members of the National Assembly, led by Eseme Eyiboh, made it clear that the President of the 10th Senate should be made to emerge from the South-South because the Southeast had produced five Senate Presidents in the past.

The group also contended that the South-South gave the APC more votes than the Southeast in the February 25 presidential election.

According to Eyiboh, the larger consideration should be the emergence of a Senate President and Senate leadership that will engage the executive in developmental issues.

On the need for APC to nominate Akpabio, the group said the work done by the former Akwa Ibom State governor, as well as his contributions as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, should be considered.

The group also made a case for a National Assembly leadership that will not engage in unnecessary warfare with the executive arm of government.

Also, a socio-political group, Niger Delta Conscience Coalition (NDCC) has drummed support for Akpabio. Speaking through its National President, Aniefiok Fabian, and Secretary, John Adangu Dagogo, the group, in a briefing in Uyo, described Akpabio as a 10-in-one representative and expressed optimism that he has capacity to deliver the much-needed robust, cohesive and transformative leadership in the 10th Senate.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, alongside a coalition of returning and new members-elect across political parties, yesterday, pledged to adhere to the zoning formula of the APC for electing presiding officers of the House.

Gbajabiamila also faulted reports in a section of the media that he has a preferred candidate among those jostling to succeed him at the end of the Ninth Assembly, while particularly working against his deputy, Idris Wase.

He said, “I have not declared support for any of my colleagues who have declared their interest. I have made my position clear that there is a need to wait for the party to complete its zoning exercise as I cannot work against my party’s interest and position.

“I am a product of APC’s zoning in 2019, and I shall adhere to that any time the party comes up with its arrangement. Anyone/media peddling rumours of my endorsement of any of the aspirants should desist forthwith.”

Gbajabiamila’s position was reinforced by the coalition, known as the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’, comprising 283 members-elect from APC, PDP, LP, NNPP, SDP, APGA, YPPP and African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Lobbying at top gear

Meanwhile, as lobbying and jostling intensify in the ruling party, consultation has remained at the top gear. 

The APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and other party leaders including the House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Ekiti State Governor Biodun Oyebanji, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin visited Tinubu, at his residence in Abuja on Tuesday. Others who visited include Senator Olamilekan Adeola, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, Senator Tokunbo Abiru and Hon. James Faleke.

The 10th Assembly will be inaugurated in June 2023 after the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is sworn in on May 29.

In the red chamber, the 10th Assembly will be populated by APC lawmakers. Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and Young Peoples Progressive Party (YPPP) will make up the 109 chamber.

While APC clinched 57 seats, PDP claimed 29, LP has six seats, NNPP and SDP got two members each, while APGA and YPPP have one member apiece.

Apart from the Senate presidency, positions such as the deputy Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives are up for grabs.

Others are leaders of the majority and minority caucuses. They include the majority leader, deputy majority leader, majority or chief whip, deputy whip, minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.

No fewer than seven ranking senators are jostling to succeed Ahmad Lawan as Senate President. 

They include Jibrin Barau (Kano Central), Sani Musa (Niger East), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North-West), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Peter Ndubueze (Imo North) and Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara West); just as debutant to the Upper chamber, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, is giving the top seat a shot.

Tinubu meets APC stakeholders

Tinubu has demonstrated the expected leadership as he met with the stakeholders of the party including the APC governors who paid him a courtesy visit on Thursday. 

The President-elect has also urged them to work with the party leadership and lawmakers on the election of principal officers of the National Assembly.