By Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Johnbosco Agbakwuru,ABUJA
After months of political intrigues, permutations, and drama, the four candidates nominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for Senate and House of Representatives leadership won their elections in style yesterday.
The four anointed candidates are Senate President, Godswill Akpabio; Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau; House of Representatives Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas; and Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu.
While Barau and Kalu emerged unopposed, Akpabio prevailed after a tough battle and Abass recorded a landslide victory over his two opponents.
In the Senate where all the 109 senators took part, Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and one-time Senate Minority leader, polled 63 votes to defeat former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West) who polled 46 votes.
In the House of Representatives, it was smooth sailing for Abass as 353 of the 359 lawmakers inaugurated gave him their votes. His challengers, Idris Wase and Aminu Jaji polled three votes each.
Congratulating Akpabio and Abass on their election, President Bola Tinubu told the new leadership of the 10th National Assembly that Nigerians want the lawmakers to lift their economic burden.
Tinubu urged the National Assembly to work with him to deliver the dividends of democracy, adding that now that elections are over, it is time to get on with the business of governance to justify the mandate given to them.
Mild drama in Senate
Instead of the 10 a.m. Clerk of the National Assembly, CNA, Alhaji Sani Tambuwal, communicated to the lawmakers last week, the election process commenced at 8 a.m. yesterday.
Before the election, former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), nominated Akpabio after a call was made to that effect by the Clerk to the National Assembly and the nomination was seconded by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Ogun West).
There was drama when the CNA asked if there was any other nomination for the position as Senator Elisha Abbo (APC, Adamawa North), tried to nominate Senator Abdulaziz Yari for the position, but Senator Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno North), kicked against it, saying that Yari is not a ranking senator.
Monguno argued that Yari’s nomination contravened Senate Standing Order 3, 2020 as amended. The argument was spontaneously opposed by senators-elect in support of Yari with shouts of No! No!
The CNA overruled Monguno and declared that nomination of Yari was in order and not an infraction on any rules of the Senate or relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
At this point, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (APC, Ondo South), seconded the nomination of Yari. In the election by secret ballot, Yari scored 46 votes against Akpabio’s 63.
How Barau emerged unopposed
After the declaration of Akpabio as President of the 10th Senate, the CNA called for nomination for the position of Deputy Senate President where Senator David Umahi (APC, Ebonyi South), nominated Senator Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano North) and was seconded by Saliu Mustapha (APC, Kwara Central).
In the absence of further nominations, the CNA declared Senator Barau as the new Deputy Senate President.
Immediately after his activities in the Senate, the CNA proceeded to the House of Representatives for the election of the presiding officers.
Akpabio extends hand of fellowship
In his inaugural speech, Senate President Akpabio, extended an olive branch to Senator Yari who contested against him and other senators who were not on his side, irrespective of political party membership, saying: “Having won elections and inaugurated, we should see ourselves as Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not that of political parties.”
Akpabio who described the 10th Senate as an uncommon one that will collaborate with the executive arm of government in the area of improved revenue generation for the country, said: “This Senate and by extension, the 10th National Assembly, needs to collaborate with the President Bola Tinubu-led executive arm of government on improved revenue generation.
“President Tinubu as the executive governor of Lagos State from May 1999 to May 2007, did it by raising the internally generated revenue, IGR, of the state, which was below N1billion then to between N50billion and N61billion every month now.
“We, therefore, need to come up with legislation on improved revenue generation by looking at new sources for that purpose.”
He said that the 10th Senate should look in the direction of strengthening the legislative space and at the same time support good policies and programmes of the Federal Government like the recent removal of fuel subsidy
Akpabio, after his speech, called on the Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau to move for an adjournment to today, Wednesday, which he did and was seconded by Senator Ali Ndume.
We refused to be intimidated —Ningi
Reacting to the election, former Deputy Senate Majority Leader and Head of Media of Senator Yari’s Campaign Organisation, Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), who described the poll as free and fair without much-anticipated drama, said: “The election was free and fair without much-anticipated drama. That is what makes the institution of the Senate different.
“The animosity, the fear of what happened in the last two days completely vanished. You go into the hall and you see how people are embracing themselves and that is parliament and that is democracy. We have refused to be intimidated by any enforcement and imposition and that is why we said there must be an election and those who came up with the idea of theatre party and the sitting government had the day, we have no problem.., the election was free and fair and to be honest I was expecting it to be so.
“The position I took was not the position of my party but that of the minority caucus and you could see not all of us actually voted on the same page. Some people actually went to negotiate, and that is parliament. I believe in six months or so we are going to bind together by putting the nation first.”
I’m happy democracy is being deepened — Izunaso
On his part, an aspirant for the Senate Presidency, Osita Izunaso (APC, Imo West) who noted that he is happy that democracy is being deepened, said, “I feel happy that members of the 10th Senate have made their choice, have elected their President and Deputy President. I think from there we can hit the ground running because a lot is expected of us by Nigerians.”
How Abbas, Kalu emerged
In the House of Representatives, the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, DCNA, Kamaru Ogunlana, kicked off the electoral process before his principal, Magaji Tambuwal emerged from the Senate at the end of a similar exercise, to complete it.
It will be recalled that Abbas and Kalu were the preferred choices of the ruling All Progressives APC for the offices.
However, their unveiling on May 8 triggered fierce opposition from a number of their colleagues such as Idris Wase, Aminu Jaji, Ado Doguwa, Aliyu Betara, Miriam Onuoha, Yusuf Gagdi among others, who later formed a Group of 7(G7), vowing to run against his nomination.
At the twilight of the inauguration of the 10th Assembly, Betara, Gagdi heeded the voice of wisdom and joined Doguwa who had long stepped down for the joint ticket but Wase and Jaji were adamant and vowed to run to the end.
At the inauguration, the Majority Leader of the 9th House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa from Kano State nominated Abass for the speakership position. He was seconded by Nnolim Nnaji, representing Nkanu East/Nkanu West. Abbas was to later accept his nomination.
At this point, Ogunlana asked if there were “further nominations “.
A shout of “no, no” erupted from the chamber.
It, however, suddenly simmered down when Rep Tijani Kayode, representing Offa Federal constituency of Kwara State nominated Wase.
The nomination was also seconded by Mohammed Abdulmumuni, representing Nasarawa/Toto federal constituency of Nasarawa State.
Yet again, a third nomination for Jaji ensued from Ahmed Yusuf Doro who represents Katsina Bindawa/Mani federal constituency of Katsina State
It was seconded by Mohammed Aliyu Ibrahim from Malumfashi/Kafur federal constituency of Katsina State.
In the absence of further nominations, the election began on a state by state basis with lawmakers openly announcing the name of the candidate they were voting for. At the end of the exercise, the clerk, Tambuwal announced that Abbas polled a total of 353 while Wase and Jaji got three votes each.
“Members-elect, Abbas, having scored the highest number of votes cast is hereby declared winner and returned as speaker of the House”, Tambuwal said.
The declaration prompted a spontaneous jubilation in the chamber.
Emergence of Kalu as deputy speaker
The emergence of Kalu as the deputy speaker of the House followed a call by the clerk.
On that note, Babajimi Benson representing Ikorodu Federal constituency of Lagos State nominated Kalu for the office of the deputy speaker.
Upon his nomination, the shout of “Kalu, Kalu” filled the air.
The nomination was seconded by Kadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim representing Damaturu/Gujba/Gulani/Tarmuna federal constituency of Yobe State.
After Kalu accepted his nomination, the clerk asked: “Are there other nominations?”
Shouts of “no no” resonated, making the clerk declare and return Kalu elected unopposed.
Why Wase, Jaji got 3 votes each
Wase and Jaji’s votes came from their two colleagues who nominated and seconded them. The others were their personal votes.
359 members take oath
Meanwhile, 359 members out of 360 took their oath of office due to the death of a member-elect from Taraba State, Isma’ila Maihanchi.
He was elected to represent Jalingo, Yerro, and Zing Federal Constituency but died shortly after the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Gbajabiamila hands over to Abbas
The immediate past speaker, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila on the sidelines of the inauguration formally handed over to Abbas.
Performing the ritual, Gbajabiamila said: “On behalf of the members of the Ninth Assembly and I believe the 10th Assembly, I congratulate you on your election as the Speaker of the 10th Assembly. I wish you well. It is not an easy feat. But from what I know, you’ll do a good job. We are your members. On behalf of them, I hand over the hand-over notes as the speaker of the 9th Assembly. This will be a guide to you and I hope you continue from where I left.”
I’ll be fair to all— Abbas
In his acceptance speech, Abbas acknowledged that the speakership position was keenly fought, and said that his administration will be just, fair and guided by the constitution of the land.
He pledged not to discriminate against any member or political party.
He said: “This victory is not just about me; it is about all of us coming together as a united House to serve the Nigerian people diligently. It is about honouring the trust that has been placed in us and working tirelessly to deliver on our promises of good governance and effective representation.
“It is worthy to note that the speakership campaign witnessed in the past few months was democracy at play. But today, all of that has come to pass, and it is time to forge ahead and work together for our people for our common good.
“I do not take this mandate bestowed on me for granted. I want to assure you today that I shall be just and fair to every one of you irrespective of our perceived differences. I shall operate a House that you all will be proud of. I shall be guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the House Rules. Our doors will be open for members of APC, PDP, Labour Party, NNPP, APGA, SDP, ADC and YPP as we strongly believe nation-building is a joint task.”
“My dear colleagues, I invite you all to be on board for the next four years as we embark on this Nigerian Project to renew the hope of our people”, Abbas urged.
10th House to surpass gains of 9th parliament
Abbas also said that his administration will sustain and even surpass the gains recorded by the 9th House of Representatives, saying: “Under my watch, the 10th House shall sustain and even surpass the gains of the 9th House. That is my prayer. We shall carry out the task before us jointly. We shall introduce reforms and innovations for the benefit of Nigerians. In a few weeks, we shall be reeling out the legislative agenda that will shape the 10th House of Representatives.”
We shall work in harmony with executive, judiciary
The Speaker also said that the House will work in harmony with the executive and the judicial arms of government for the good of the country.
“We will work in harmony with the executive arm, while upholding principles of checks and balances. Our collaboration will be anchored on the principles of transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.”
Time to get on with governance — Tinubu
Congratulating the lawmakers, President Tinubu in a statement he personally signed, hailed the new leadership of the National Assembly and also reminded them that in the course of work together, disagreements may occur and that any disagreement will not be out of malice, ill-will and quest to diminish the institution of the National Assembly or any individual member.
Describing the election of Akpabio and Abbas as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 10th National Assembly as a good development, he said: “I heartily congratulate them and also rejoice with the new Deputy Senate President Jibril Barau and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu for their well-deserved victories.
“Being elected by their peers as presiding officers and assuming the leadership of the National Assembly is a great honour that comes with a huge responsibility. I trust that you will justify the confidence reposed in you by your members and many Nigerians.
“I wish Senator Abdulaziz Yari, Honourable member Idris Wase and Honourable Aminu Jaji who enriched the process with their participation in the leadership election the best and a successful tenure in the 10th National Assembly.
“I urge them to sustain the same level of enthusiasm they brought to the leadership contest in the discharge of their duties to their constituents and Nigeria.
“My congratulations to all members of the National Assembly, across party lines, who, today, enlisted into the service of the blessed people of our great country.”
He further said, “We have all been called upon and accepted the responsibility to diligently and faithfully serve our fatherland with the oath we took. It is time to get on and move swiftly with the business of governance in the service of Nigeria.
“As your President, I am prepared to transparently work with the National Assembly. Nigerians expect senators and Rep members to make laws and carry out oversight duties that will enhance the performance of government to achieve successful outcomes, including improving their quality of life.
“In the course of our work together, disagreements may occur. When we disagree, it will not be out of malice, ill-will and quest to diminish the institution of the National Assembly or any individual member.
“Our people across the length and breadth of our country expect so much from us. They want us to lift their economic burden. They want us to eliminate insecurity so our farmers in rural communities can go to their farms and produce the food we eat.’’