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69 senators-elect now backing Akpabio/Barau, Stability Group says

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THERE were indications on Sunday that no fewer than 69 senators-elect are now backing the choices of Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin for the office of president of the Senate and deputy respectively.

The development, the Nigerian Tribune learnt, was fallout of the peace initiatives embarked on by the duo and other major stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress (APC), following the discontent expressed by other contestants over the Akpabio/Barau endorsement by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.

A new organisation called Stability Group, gave the figure during an interaction with newsmen in Lagos on Sunday.

The rise in the number of senators-elect supporting the ticket comes on the heels of a recent viral video during the visit of the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu to Rivers State that showed 40 senators accompanying Akpabio when he was called upon to make remarks.

Barau was also seen in the video introducing other senators to Tinubu, with Akpabio to his right.

According to feelers on Sunday, more senators-elect are likely to embrace the Akpabio/Barau ticket because of the ongoing peace moves and consultations by concerned leaders at different levels and across party lines.

The stakeholders, working behind the scene, are said to be emphasizing that the Akpabio/Barau choice was based on national interest, coupled with the need to entrench parliamentary practices and procedure.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State was the first to drop the hint that the APC had zoned the position of president of the Senate to the South-South and deputy to the North-West before the NWC made a formal announcement.

Akpabio, who served in the Senate before he was appointed as the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs by President Muhammadu Buhari, is a former governor of Akwa Ibom State.

He is the most ranked senator-elect from the six states in the South-South geopolitical zone.

Last Thursday, APC national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu appealed to the aggrieved aspirants for Senate presidency to sheathe their sword with a promise that the party leadership would look into their grievances.

The NWC had announced the zoning of the position of president of the Senate to the South-South, with Akpabio a ranking senator from the zone.

Similarly, Barau, the highest ranked senator from the North-West, started as a member of the House of Representatives.


Akpabio in Lagos, seeks Sanwo-OIu’s support

Senator Godswill Akpabio, on Sunday, in Lagos, sought the support of the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for his ambition to clinch the seat of president of the Senate in the 10th National Assembly.

Akpabio, alongside some other senators, both incumbent and newly elected from various political parties, including the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) representing the Support Group, visited Governor Sanwo- Olu at his State House, Marina, to seek his support.

Akpabio told Sanwo-Olu that 69 senators had signed to support his ambition, projecting that the number would soon rise to 86.

According to him, his visit alongside his loyalists was to thank the governor for his support for the president-elect,  Bola Tinubu, adding that the 10th National Assembly comprised “men of integrity who will not allow Nigeria to be bought.”

He commended the governor for his giant stride in Lagos, promising a cordial relationship with the state executive if he becomes the president of the Upper Chamber “to ensure Lagos and Nigeria works.”

He said: “We would work with the next administration to ensure Lagos and Nigeria works. We would address youths’ restiveness. The senators have track records of performance,” he said.

In the last one week, the senators-elect have been undergoing an induction training in Abuja preparatory to the inauguration of the National Assembly in June.

Some of the senators-elect that accompanied Akpabio during the courtesy visit to the Lagos governor included: Senator Ndubueze Patrick Chiwuba; Abdulaziz Musa Yar’Adua; Ikra Aliyu Bilbis; Senator Mohammad Tahir Monguno; Nasir Sani Zango Daura; Lawal Adamu Usman; Muntari Dandutse Lawal and Daniel Justus Olugbenga.

The list also consisted of Senators Ibrahim Boma, Fasuyi Cyril, Emmanuel Undende; Darlington Nwokocha; Rufia Hanga; Dafinone Ede Omueya; Eteng Williams; Salisu Shuaibu Afolabi; Aliyu Wadada Ahmed; Nweze David Umahi, Imasuen Neda Bernards; Salisu Mustapha; Karimi Sunday Steve; Nwebonyi Onyeka;  Diket Plang; Kenneth Eze Emeka; Asuquo Ekpenyong; Ohere Sadiku Abubakar, Solomon Adeola; Abiru Mukhail Adetokunbo; Opeyemi Bamidele; Alli Ndume; Dr Titus T Zam; Adaramodu Adeyemi and others.

Governor Sanwo Olu, in his response, said the 10th Assembly should be about purposeful leadership and should collaborate with the executive, even as he commended the senators for chosen Akpabio as their candidate for the exalted office of Senate president.

“I have no doubt you have chosen well. The 10th Assembly should surpass the successes of the 9th Assembly. When you succeed, the executive also will succeed. A lot will be expected of you because Nigerians will be looking out for you. You have found the real partner in Lagos State,” he said.

Also speaking, the Director-General of the Support Group, Senator Ali Ndume, said the idea of having a consensus candidate for the Senate President post was for the stability of Nigeria.

The lawmaker said the President-elect, Tinubu convinced him and other aspirants to the position such as former governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi (now Senator-elect), to step down for Akpabio in the interest of the stability of the House.

According to him, Tinubu also advised them to secure the support of the majority of members of the red chamber, adding that within three days of Akpabio indicating interest in the seat, 61 senators appended their signatures supporting him.

He appealed to Governor Sanwo-Olu to support Akpabio’s ambition,  saying that some other governors had already been lobbied into the project.

“We have lobbied some governors and we are here to seek your support too. I want to appeal for your support because we know once we have Lagos support, we already have the support of the whole South- West,” he said.

The deputy Senate president aspirant, Senator Barau Jibrin, said no government could succeed without a strong National Assembly, urging Governor Sanwo- Olu to support them.


NWC zoning arrangement fair, equitable —Akanbi

A member of the South West Agenda (SWAGA), Senator Adesoji Akanbi, has backed the National Working Committee (NWC) zoning formula for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

Akanbi’s stance comes against the backdrop of the dissent trailing the zoning arrangement thus: president of the Senate –Senator Godswill Akpabio (South-south, Akwa Ibom); deputy president of the Senate – (Senator Barau Jubrin (North-West, Kano); Speaker, House of Representatives – Honourable Abbas Tajudeen (North-West, Kaduna); and deputy Speaker- Honourable Ben Kalu (South-East, Abia).

In a statement, Akanbi argued that the NWC arrangement promotes balance, equity and fairness.

He argued the South-East zone have had their fair share of producing Senate President since 1999 compared to the South-South.

This, according to Akanbi, is apart from the South-South zone contributing more votes to the APC when compared to the South-East.



Confusion as South-South lawmakers reject micro- zoning

A move is in the offing to polarise the South-South National Assembly caucus ahead of the June 13 date for the inauguration of 10th National Assembly and election of Presiding Officers.

Certain former lawmakers from the zone under the aegis of “Forum of Former National Assembly Members, South-South zone” at a media briefing, on Sunday, kicked against the micro-zoning of the office of Senate President to former Akwa- Ibom State governor and Senator elect to represent Akwa- Ibom North West, Akpabio.

The group demanded for the review of the zoning template, which was adopted by the APC NWC, on Monday.

Quoting from the amended Senate Standing Orders, the forum said the issue of ranking should be ignored and every elected senator be allowed to contest for the positions of two presiding officers of the 10th Senate.

Spokesperson of the group, Halim Agoda maintained that the issue of ranking should be discountenanced in the election of presiding officers of the Senate.

“The Forum notes that it is the prerogative of Senators-elect of the National Assembly to choose their Presiding officers to wit: President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate, and other Principal Officers.

“The Forum further notes that unlike the House of Representatives where only ranking members can aspire to the Speakership and Deputy Speakership positions, all Senators-elect are qualified to contest for the offices of Senate President and Deputy Senate President.”


Group faults endorsement

Meanwhile, some Nigerians under the aegis of Citizens Advocacy Group have faulted the endorsement of some aspirants.

Describing the action of the APC as  an affront on the principle of separation of power, the group which expressed its commitment to democratic ideals and independent legislature, rejected what it called the imposition of candidate for the Senate presidency for the 10th National Assembly.

In a statement signed and made available to journalists in Lagos at the weekend by  the convener and secretary  of the group respectively, Mr Chris Sunday George and Malam Haruna Kabir, the group stated: “What the party has done is an autocratic imposition which has no place in a democracy as it poses serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power.

“For instance, the position of the Senate President was zoned to the South-South geopolitical zone, are we saying there are no other candidates from that zone who are qualified and competent enough to become the Senate President? The zone alone has six states including Akwa Ibom where the APC’s anointed candidate hails from; Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo states.”

“We believe the race should be thrown open for all the candidates who have expressed interest from the zone to test their strength and popularity in a free and fair contest and anything short of that would not augur well for the smooth take-off of the 10th Assembly.“

Similarly, a  group, Movement For Good Governance in Nigeria (MFGGN), has urged the president-elect and the APC National Working Committee (NWC) to consider a review of the zoning formula for the Senate presidency and look in the direction of the South-East.

Spokesperson of the group, Chief Emmanuel Asuquo, gave the admonition, in a statement, at the weekend.

Asuquo tasked the APC stakeholders to consider Senator-elect for Imo West, Osita Izunaso for the exalted seat of Senate President.

Asuquo said:” We have very great respect for the president-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We are not talking about party affiliations here. We are concerned about how to have a new Nigeria where the Senate and National Assembly leadership will assist the incoming president to give optimum performance to the nation.

“To be very honest, our position is not based on partisanship; we cut across all the political parties that fielded people for the Senate. We just want to express our respect for the incoming president, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His success as president is of utmost importance to us.

“We know his antecedents in Lagos, and he has not interfered with governance since he left as governor. He needs the goodwill of the ordinary masses that elected him into office; he should bring new people on board.

“Izunaso is not the only one good for this job; we have senators-elect from all parts of the country and all political parties; but if we are talking about moving Nigeria forward at this time, he is the best we thought of. We should try to depart from the part of recycling people for positions.

“Even, the president-elect himself, who has been on the stage since pre-1999 and fought the military, did not fight for any position after he served as Lagos State governor. That gives Nigerians the hope that he is coming to use his reservoir to serve us.

“This man, Izunaso, has been everywhere around the executive and the National Assembly, both chambers for that matter. He hasn’t haggled for any position for the sake of ir. He is brilliant, capable,  experienced, level-headed, intelligent and a person that understands our socio-religious intricacies. He has no baggage of controversy and he is not a person that will be at loggerheads with those in power in other arms. We have to be well guided this time around.”



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