Tuesday 13 June 2023

Senate presidency: Battle day for Kalu, Akpabio, Yari, Abbass

The curtail would be drawn on  the long drawn campaign for the office of the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives today with the formal inauguration of the 10th National Assembly and election of presiding officers.

Major contenders include incumbent chief whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, former Akwa Ibom governor, Goodwill Akpabio, former Zamfara state governor, Abdullaziz Yari, Osita Izunaso and Tajudeen Abbas.

Regardless of the decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to back  Akpabio, the Kalu/Yari camp is hopeful of victory just as all 55 members-elect of the House of Representatives from the South-South zone have endorsed Abbas for speakership.

In a statement by the Abba Campaign Team, the members-elect also endorsed Benjamin Kalu as Deputy Speaker. The statement said the endorsement had brought the number of incoming lawmakers backing the ticket to over 290.

Addressing the candidates and their team, Unyime Idem, a member-elect from Akwa Ibom, stated that it had come to a point where the South-South caucus must key into the vision and agenda of the Abbas/Kalu ticket.

Meanwhile, to forestall defeat, former members of NASS and some pressure groups from the South South, yesterday,  made last minutes push to ensure victory for Akpabio. Under the aegis of The Initiatives, a group composed of former members of NASS, and Coalition of South South Community for United Nigeria for Justice and Equity, the groups intensified lobby to secure majority votes from senators-elect for Akpabio and Jibrin Barau, paired as Akpabio’s deputy in what has been presented as a joint ticket.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Dean of the Faculty of The Initiatives, Eseme Eyibo, said Akpabio would ensure President Bola Tinubu administration delivers on campaign promises.

He said the Senate, under the leadership of Akpabio, would initiate reforms that would turn around the fortunes of the country.

It was also learnt that some of the eelcted senators  already on Akpabio’s side were lobbying those opposed to his choice to move to their camp.

•Northern elders warn against imposition

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) warned against imposition on the senate leadership, advising  that the 109 senators-elect be allowed to choose their leaders without external interferences.

The elders also cautioned that individual faith, either Islam or Christianity, should not be a deciding factor as to who leads the senate.

This was even as NEF lambasted Vice President Kashim Shettima over the statement credited to him that “under the current dispensation, the worst incompetent Southern Christian is better than the most puritanical Northern Muslim for the Presidency of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

NEF Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who addressed the media, yesterday, described the Vice President’s statement as “unfortunate” saying  such utterances would have been avoided.

“The statement of Vice President Shettima in the context of the commitment  of the administration to determine the legislature’s leadership makes references to Muslim and Christian faiths in the most unbecoming and irresponsible manner imaginable.”

•Steer clear of NASS leadership, VP told

Democratic Watch Initiative has told Vice President Kassim Shettima to maintain neutrality in the election of National Assembly leadership.

The group claimed that some persons have been hired to harass and intimidate some frontline aspirants like  SenatorAbdul’aziz Yari, on the day of inauguration.

Its Secretary, Lawal Rabiu Tinka, told journalists, yesterday, in Abuja, that the impunity must stop, adding that if the government attempts to become a law breaker, it would breed contempt of the law.

“We invite the attention of Nigeria’s friends in the international community to the emerging trend in Nigeria and call on them to be vigilant as to the direction our country and our democracy are headed. To call out Kashim Shettima’s hypothetical inconsistency in speaking out against the use of religion in politics in one breathe and in another breathe manipulating the same religious sentiments to drive this dangerous agenda.”

•Monitor NASS leadership poll, Yoruba groups tell Int’l community

Oodua People’s Frontiers (OPF) and Yoruba Patriots Alliance (YPA) have urged the international community to monitor the election of the presiding officers in the National Assembly.

The groups said its request was as a result of the “undue interferences” by  the APC which had nominated Godswill Akpabio and Jubrin Barau as preferred candidates for the president and deputy senate president positions.

Convener of OPF and YPA National President, Moses Odewale and Oluwabamise Adetutu, in a statement, yesterday, claimed that the country’s democracy was under siege and needed to be liberated.

•Remark taken out of context -Presidency

The Presidency has said Vice-President Kashim Shettima’s remarks on support for southern Senate president were taken out context.

The vice-president met with senators campaigning for the emergence of Akpabio and Barau Jibrin to lead the 10th Senate on Sunday.

Shettima said at the interactive session that the nation’s current political structure demanded the emergence of a southern Christian and a northern Muslim as the fairest balance to promote inclusivity at the centre.

According to a statement by Mr. Olusola Abiola, Director of Information, Office of the Vice-President, “Shettima’s statement was motivated by a profound awareness of the divisive factors within our great nation and was in harmony with the governing party’s pledge to ensure inclusivity across all regions and among all groups.

“President Bola Tinubu has wholeheartedly reassured the country of his dedication to providing every group with equal representation, which has resonated with the vice-president who shares the same commitment to this honourable endeavour.

“Unfortunately, the vice-president’s remarks have been stripped of context and mischievously circulated as an attempt to minimise the suitability of Muslim contestants in the race for the Senate leadership.

“The remarks have not only been taken out of context, but also misinterpreted to suit an agenda that sabotages our collective bid for unity,’’ Abiola stated.

He stressed that what Shettima advocated was the choice of a non-Muslim contestant, even if it was against a more qualified Muslim option, to achieve balance, since the president and the vice-president are Muslims.

Abiola added that it was alarming that such unambiguous plea was unfairly misconstrued to imply that the vice-president said the most incompetent Christian candidate was superior to a Muslim candidate.

“The vice-president’s position reflects the stance of the All Progressives Congress (APC). APC assigned the leadership of the House of Representatives to the Northwest and designated the position of Deputy Senate President to the same region.”

• Akpabio meets South East senators-elect

Senators of South East zone yesterday endorsed Akpabio and Jibrin as their choice candidates.

Governor Hope Uzodimma made this known in Abuja after a meeting he held with the 15 senators-elect of the South East geo-political zone.

“All the 15 of them attended the meeting. We resolved to toe the line of the preferred candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Senate to support Akpabio and Barau.

“As it has to do with the Senate president and the Deputy Senate president, the APC, with most senators-elect has preferred and recommended Sen. Akpabio and Sen. Jibrin.

“We have already agreed that we will vote according to the recommendation of our great party.

“We don’t want to go into any controversy of going into unnecessary blind opposition.

“We want to work under a constructive partnership across party lines in the Southeast region and that is actually my position.

“It is a good development for the region and for the unity of the nation,’’ Uzodinma told newsmen.

The Imo governor who is also the chairman, Progressives Governors’ Forum (governors of APC-controlled states) noted that democracy is about engagements, discussions and dialogues.

“People are entitled to have aspirations. Because we are practicing partisan democracy, it is always assumed that loyalty to the party will always prevail.

“Whether you are Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or APC, South East is south East and leadership is leadership.

“We think we will be more organised in the interest and unity of the country to work with the ruling party so our people will also have the opportunity to get dividends of democracy,’’ Uzodinma stressed.

Principles of fairness, justice, equity must prevail  – Makinde

Governor of Oyo State and Vice Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Seyi Makinde,  has advocated principles of fairness, justice and equity in the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly today.

He made this position known in his address at the post inauguration special thanksgiving service, organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and Fathers of Faith, yesterday,  at Oritamefa Baptist Church, Total Garden, Ibadan, the state capital. 

He said: “We already have a President that is of Islamic faith, and we have a Vice President that is of Islamic faith. Number three is going to be the Senate President, and what we are saying across party lines; I am saying it publicly, all the governors in Nigeria came together and we said we will support the choice of the Senate President, who is a Christian from the South South region of Nigeria.

“We are not playing religious politics, but what is fair is fair. We stood for Southern presidency, we will stand for justice. We stood for fairness and we are going to stand for equity as well. So, I will be at the National Assembly tomorrow (today), even though I wasn’t elected as a Senator and I have never been elected as one.

“I will be there with my other colleagues  We will go  and  ensure that the principle of fairness, justice and equity prevails in the selection of the president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Makinde commended the people of the state for the confidence reposed in him by re-electing him for a second term. He also thanked he Christian community for organising the programme. He also announced  that the Oyo State House of Assembly would be proclaimed on Wednesday.

In his sermon, Oyo State CAN chairman, Apostle Joshua Akinyemiju, said the gathering was to appreciate God and worship him on account of the Governor’s electoral victory.

“Seyi Makinde is a political apostle and a covenant child of God who brought accountability and probity to the governance of Oyo State,” he said.


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