Saturday 13 May 2023

10TH NASS LEADERSHIP: Aggrieved APC aspirants plot sponsoring candidate against party choice

Aspirants for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 10th National Assembly, who are aggrieved over the zoning plan of the All Progressives Congress have said there is no going back on their plan to pick one among them to contest against the adopted candidate of the ruling party and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

Despite the zoning formula unveiled by the APC on Monday, which favoured the North-West and the South-East geopolitical zones for the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively, two of the aggrieved aspirants went ahead on Friday to declare for the Speaker, including the incumbent Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase.

At the declaration held in Abuja, which was televised live, were other members of the G-7, the seven aspirants who have resolved to go against the APC anointed candidates.

The fresh threat came 24 hours after the aggrieved aspirants met with the APC National Working Committee to register their complaints, and after the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adami, begged aggrieved aspirants for President of the Senate that the party would review the zoning plan with Tinubu.

Top contenders for the Speaker’s seat, some of whom are in the current leadership of the 9th House, opposed the move by the APC to announce consensus candidates without due consultation with stakeholders in the chamber.

There is also unrest in the House over the decision by the APC to allocate two of the four presiding positions to the North-West and none to the North-Central.

The NWC of the APC had on Monday announced a former Minority Leader of the Senate and immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom/South-South) as its consensus candidate for the position of President of the Senate.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano, North-West), was also announced as the preferred candidate for the Deputy President of the Senate.

In the House, the seat of the Speaker was zoned to the North-West and Tajudeen Abbas (Kaduna) is the consensus candidate, while the South-East clinched the slot of Deputy Speaker and Benjamin Kalu (Abia) emerged the party’s candidate for the Deputy Speaker.

 Abbas, Kalu meet Shettima

In a related development, Abbas and Kalu met with the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, in Abuja on Friday.

The Chairman of the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’, an alliance between members-elect of the APC and opposition parties, Bello Kumo (APC/Gombe), led over 150 members-elect to present the speakership and deputy speakership candidates to Shettima.

Addressing Abbas and Kalu, the Vice President-elect urged the incoming presiding officers of the House to consider the members of the opposition parties in the appointment of chairmen of committees.

Shettima also said he would reach out to the aggrieved aspirants to see how to get them to accept the APC zoning plan.

He said, “I am quite glad because this is a gathering of ladies and gentlemen of different political colouration but bound together by our collective desire to reposition our nation. Be rest assured that we are not only onboard this dream project, I will take it upon myself to reach out to the other contenders.

“Politics, as we always say, is local. Honourable Betara Aliyu is my brother. We are from the same sub-region; we are from the same state and I have the best relationship with him. I met him two nights ago. I will sustain that discussion so that at the end of the day, there will be no winner and no vanquished.

“Around 1am today (Friday), I met with Honourable Wase, the Deputy Speaker. He is someone who is very close to me. We will continue the engagement so that we shall have a rancour-free 10th Assembly.”

In his remarks, Kalu said it was magnanimous for the APC to have zoned the Deputy Speaker to the South-East despite that the zone did not vote for the ruling party in the just concluded  general elections, adding that the 43 members-elect from the zone were grateful to the party.

Abbas noted that Tinubu and Shettima were alumni of the National Assembly, saying, “In the history of the legislature in Nigeria, there has never been a time when you the number 1 and 2 are products of the National Assembly. This is the very first time.”

Earlier in his welcome address, Kumo noted that ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’ was neutral in the leadership matter and with the mandate to adopt any zoning plan made by the APC.

Tinubu meeting controversy

Meanwhile, there is controversy over the alleged decision by the aggrieved aspirants to shun a planned meeting with the President-elect and register their displeasure with the NWC of the APC instead.

Tinubu, who departed Nigeria for Europe on Wednesday, was said to have scheduled a meeting with the outgoing Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila; and the adopted candidates of the APC, Abbas and Kalu, as well as the aggrieved speakership aspirants in Lagos on Tuesday.

While Tinubu and Gbajabiamila had on different occasions met with the aspirants individually and collectively before the APC announced the zoning plan, it was learnt that some of them invited to a meeting with the President-elect did not show up.

They include Wase; Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Muktar Betara; Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; Chairman, House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; and a former member of the House, who is now member-elect, Sani Jaji.

A source in the APC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “Following Tajudeen’s choice, a meeting was convened in Lagos at the instance of the President-elect before he travelled to Europe, to which all the major aspirants, including Wase and Betara, were invited.

“Gbajabiamila and other key members of the House from a forum of the APC and opposition lawmakers known as the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’ were in attendance. But Wase and Betara declined to attend the meeting.

“When information filtered through that the meeting with Tinubu would be held, the Betara team convened a late-night meeting on Tuesday and resolved that the Borno lawmaker should not attend the Lagos gathering.

“Wase was conspicuously absent from the meeting as Tajudeen, Kalu; another speakership aspirant, Makki Yalleman from Jigawa; and Tunji Olawuyi from Kwara, some senior APC lawmakers, and members-elect on the platforms of the NNPP, LP and the PDP attended the meeting.”

The source alleged that Betara has now gained the support of some leaders in the opposition PDP, including the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; former Speaker of the House and Governor of Sokoto State, Senator-elect Aminu Tambuwal; and another ex-Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.

A spokesperson for the aggrieved aspirants denied any invitation from Tinubu but confirmed that the President-elect called them. “All I know is that he (Tinubu) called them individually and they spoke, but he did not invite them,” the aide said.

Gagdi also stated, “Tinubu did not invite me. Quote me anywhere that Tinubu did not invite me.”

Meanwhile, the G-7 has said it was not invited to the meeting between Shettima and the APC consensus candidates.

In the ‘Statement by the Group of Seven Aspirants for Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives,’ which the aggrieved lawmakers jointly signed, they denied receiving any invitation to the meeting.

 Opposition joins APC

Meanwhile, the ‘10th Assembly: Greater Majority’ has disowned some of its leaders who attended a meeting with Gbajabiamila and the consensus candidates of the APC on Tuesday night.

The 10th Assembly: Greater Majority is a coalition of members-elect On the platforms of the seven opposition parties which won seats in the 10th House. They are the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Social Democratic Party, African Democratic Congress, Youth Progressive Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party.

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