Amid harsh criticisms and stiff opposition, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday stuck to his guns on the preferred choices of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly.
He said he remains firm on the choices of Senators Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin for Senate president and deputy Senate president, as well as Hon Tajudeen Abbas and Hon Benjamin Kalu for Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Tinubu, who spoke at a meeting with elected members of the National Assembly, pleaded with the lawmakers to allow the zoning arrangement adopted by the governing party for the emergence of the leadership of the 10th Assembly to sail through on Tuesday June 13 when the new legislative body is slated for proclamation.
The president, at the meeting with Senators-elect and members-elect across all political parties held behind closed doors at the presidential villa, Abuja, sought their understanding and backing to ensure the emergence of the new leadership of the National Assembly through consensus.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that Tinubu expressed reservations over the conduct of election to determine the leadership of the 10th Assembly on June 13th, saying the meeting was convened to build a consensus and push forward mutually agreeable candidates for the four offices in the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
He said this was in the interest of delivering a working country, the Nigeria Project and ensuring a smooth take-off of his government with the seamless election of next National Assembly presiding officers.
According to Tinubu, the four chosen ranking lawmakers for the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, have the capacity, competence, experience and inclusive spirit and humility to deliver on a stable and progressive parliament that understands the urgency and need to solve critical national problems with parliamentary instruments.
While begging the aggrieved aspirants to bury the hatchet, the President assured lawmakers that he will ensure that Nigeria’s potential will be turned into reality, if they all drop their colours and fly the national colour of progress.
Thereafter, messages focusing on the need for corroboration and joint task of working to deliver on the Nigeria project were delivered.
It was learnt that the meeting was well attended as majority of the Senators-elect and members-elect, with the exception of those aggrieved over the contentious zoning arrangements, were in attendance.
Those who boycotted the presidential parley include former Governors of Zamfara and Abia States, Senators Abdul’aziz Yari and Orji Uzor Kalu, who are also strong contenders for the Senate presidency; Yari’s campaign director-general and Senator-elect, Jimoh Ibrahim; outgoing deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, and chairman of House committee on Appropriation in the 9th Assembly, Hon Murktar Betara.
Tinubu also at yesterday’s meeting literarily accused Senators Danjuma Goje, Adamu Aliero and Aliyu Wamakko of impeding the smooth take-off of his administration.
In a sarcastic reference to the support for Yari’s aspiration by Goje, Aliero and Wamakko, the president was said to have pleaded for the cooperation and support from the trio to enable his administration to step up in achieving its set goals.
The zoning of the positions of Senate presidency to the South South, deputy Senate presidency and Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North West and deputy Speaker to the South East ignited crisis in the APC ahead of the proclamation of the 10th Assembly on June 13th.
The President and the leadership of the ruling party had favoured the emergence of the former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio from the South South as Senate president; Senator Jubrin and Hon Abbas from North West as Deputy Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively and Hon Ben Kalu from South East as deputy Speaker of the House.
Yari, Wase, Betara and some other Senators and members-elect moved and mobilised against the zoning arrangement, vowing to truncate the arrangement by ensuring that the choices of the governing party do not sail through to the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that the presidency initiated yesterday’s meeting as part of moves to subdue the opposition to the zoning formulae and ensure that the position of the party prevails in choosing the leadership for the National Assembly.
Our sources at the meeting disclosed that Tinubu, after remarks by his chief of staff, Femi Gbajabiamila; outgoing president of the Assembly, Ahmed Lawan and Vice President Kashim Shetimma said the zoning arrangements adopted by the APC was in the best interest of the country.
Insisting that the choice of the leadership of the 10th Assembly was not borne out of selfish interest, the presidents urged all Senators and members-elect to honour and support him by allowing the decision of his party on the leadership of the National Assembly to prevail.
One of the Senators-elect, who was present at the meeting, described the president as humble and down to earth in his presentation, adding that, ‘’Mr. President was practically on his knees. “He (Tinubu) begged and pleaded with us to support his administration to succeed. He was not arrogant and pompous about anything. He started by saying that all of us are equal as all of us contested for different positions.
“He begged us to leave the zoning of the National Assembly for him. He said the meeting was meant to build a consensus and to beg us to accept what he wants. Mr President appealed to us that in the interest of the country, that we should put our differences aside and allow the interest of the country to prevail and dominate. He said there was nothing wrong if all of us get together to get this country going.”
“He spoke on the need to build consensus and have a single candidate for each of the four offices in the leadership of the 10th Assembly. He said he does not want election but that we should allow this one (leadership of the 10th Assembly) for him not for selfish interests but for the best interest of the country. Mr. President assured us that he has come to make a difference and that Nigerians would surely remember him for the difference he would make in our national life.
“As a minority senator-elect, if I have my way, I would ask my party to withdraw the case against Mr President at the election petitions tribunal because he was able to impress us. His humility and leadership qualities are legendary. He told us how he had earlier today (yesterday) held meetings with the governors of Plateau and Akwa-Ibom, states which belong to the opposition, to discuss issues bordering on the development of the states.
“Although the attendance was impressive, some aggrieved lawmakers didn’t attend. For instance, Senators Yari, Kalu and Senator-Elect Jimoh Ibrahim as well as Reps Wase and Betara didn’t attend the meeting”.
Reliable sources at the meeting told LEADERSHIP Friday that Tinubu also took on Goje, Aliero and Wamakko, apparently over their support for the aspiration of Yari, accusing them of frustrating his administration.
One of our sources quoted the president as saying: “Senator Goje, Senator Aliero and Senator Wamakko, we are colleagues; release the brake. You are holding the brake of the vehicle. Please release the brake so that the vehicle can move.
“I plead with three of you, let’s come together and think of Nigeria more than our personal and selfish interests,” he added.
The source said, “Mr President is a diplomat; he practically disarmed everyone. With what Mr President has done today, who are you to work against his interest? To do otherwise is to set the country on fire. Many elected members of the National Assembly present at the meeting were very impressed with Mr President. It’s obvious that he has a lot of things upstairs. We are very impressed and the turn-out was impressive. He has the helped the case, especially for the House of Representatives. From now, many elected senators and members of the House in the camp of the opposition would start moving and shifting base to the mainstream backed by Mr. President and APC,” added the source, who craved that his name should not be mentioned in print.
Our source further hinted that the lawmakers-elect, who responded via Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, thanked the president for taking off on a good note by building the bridges of cohesion, inclusion and stability and assured the President that his message was well delivered and received by lawmakers-elect.
Speaking to journalists after the presidential parley, the Communication Adviser to Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu Campaign Organisation and Member-elect for Ideato North/South federal constituency of Imo State, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, said lawmakers have accepted the message and hand of friendship extended by the President towards having a stable and united all-inclusive Parliament that will deliver on urgent national goals.
Ugochinyere said the president’s decision to invite members of the opposition alongside lawmakers of the ruling party in his quest for seamless take-off of government was a positive development that has been accepted on the grounds of people’s interest and need for courageous decisions in solving huge national problems.
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the presidency is mindful of averting a situation where an all-northern presiding officer emerges.
This comes amid plots to make elections for both the Senate president and House speaker to hold simultaneously.
A source, who attended the meeting between the president and APC lawmakers said, “You can imagine that even that of Reps speaker that we thought was almost settled for Abbass is still cloudy. We had the feeling that the G-6 had been broken, especially after the president met with the group. What stopped him from announcing that to the Reps, even if ours in the Senate looks dicier?
“Mind you, most are just following some candidates; they were waiting for the president to say it by himself, but now that he is evasive, it is not clear to us at all.
“We were just APC and the meeting is in-house, a family one, and that is the most appropriate place to say, guys, this is my thinking but nothing happened in that regard means a lot especially when we observed that only about 23 of us were there as APC senators. Kalu, Yari and over 30 did not turn up to attend the meeting. I hope there is still time to salvage the situation.
“What surprised some of us is that prior to the meeting with us, some of us knew that the presidency had put in place a machinery to avert the emergence of two northerners as presiding officers of both Chambers.
“And to achieve this, I think they are trying to ensure that the two elections take place at the same time so that even if Yari wins, Abbass will not be shut out at the green chamber. But there is a lot to be done if we want to be sincere.”
Menwhile, outgoing deputy Speaker, Wase, has said he would go ahead to contest for the Speaker’s seat because it has been prophesied that he would become Speaker.
Wase stated this during the House valedictory session on Wednesday after the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) pleaded with other aspirants to step down for the APC consensus candidate Abbas.
The deputy Speaker who spoke immediately after Doguwa said as a democrat who believes in contesting, he was determined to continue with the race until the end.
“I want to appreciate my political leaders, among whom I would say is Solomon Lar, who when I was contesting in 2007, I went to him and he prophesied the number of times I will come to this Assembly and I will tell this crowd and to the world, that he said, I will come to the Assembly in the number of times and prophesied even the number of leadership that I will attain and the Deputy Speakership and he prophesied next when I return, and I believe I will be Speaker and I believe I, In sha Allah, I will be the Speaker of the Green Chambers,” he insisted.
Opposition Will Spring Surprises On Tuesday – PDP
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said the opposition bloc in the 10th National Assembly is united enough to influence the outcome of leadership of both chambers next Tuesday.
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Hon Debo Olagunagba, who stated this yesterday at a press conference, said the opposition has the majority and would deploy its numbers maximally in determining how the leadership emerges.
Ologunagba, while declining to expressly state whether or not the opposition would nominate a candidate, however said PDP has a clear direction on how to engage the process which it is keeping close to its chest.
He said, “With regard to the current race for the Presiding Officers of the National Assembly, it is instructive to note that the opposition parties put together form a strong majority in the National Assembly and we are very mindful of that.
“The PDP leadership is working together with our members-elect and opposition Parties in the two chambers.
“Irrespective of the on-going and claims in the media, I want to inform you that the PDP has a clear direction which we hold close to our chest, our members are united in that direction and it will show on the floor of both Houses of the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
“In all, we do not discountenance the fact that the opposition parties have the majority in the National Assembly which we are ready to deploy maximally.
“Our members are united in both chambers and it will show on Tuesday. The opposition has the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.”
On whether PDP will provide a candidate, he said as much as the members-elect will determine their leaders, he said “What will happen is a function of what happens at the floor.”
Governors Across Parties Support APC Candidates – Gov Abiodun
But Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, has said governors across party lines are in support of the APC anointed candidates for presiding officers of the soon to be inaugurated 10th National Assembly.
Abiodun said this yesterday when he received a delegation of the Tajuden Abbas/Benjamin Kalu campaign team championed by the Joint Task – 10th Assembly Group in Abuja.
The Ogun governor said he and his counterparts took the decision after their meeting with President Tinubu on Tuesday.
He said, “We (governors) met with the President two days ago. During our meeting, he told us that campaigns are over. He said that he would be President for all. So, he sought our understanding and collaboration.
“It is within the right of the President to seek those that will make his job easier. He has decided in collaboration with the party that these are the people that he wants to work with.
“All of us across party lines keyed into what the President told us. We had our meeting after meeting him and decided that we should support the President.”
Abiodun said he has met with the National Assembly members-elect from Ogun State and told them to stand solidly behind the President and the party.
While assuring Abbas and Kalu of his support, he said, “I, as governor of Ogun State, am standing solidly behind you.
“You should carry along all members or most members to ensure that you succeed. Your success will be measured by the way your members take dividends of democracy to their people.
“I believe Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas will provide meaningful, purposeful, meticulous, people-oriented leadership.”
Earlier, Hon. Abbas said the visit was to seek the governor’s support, blessing and cooperation to be able to clinch the position and stabilise the 10th House.