There were indications at the weekend the leaderships of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) may have settled for a former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari, and chairman, House committee on Appropriation in the 9th Assembly, Hon Mukthar Betara, as the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the incoming 10th Assembly respectively.
This is coming just as Yari has said majority of the Senators are deserting former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and shifting their support to him.
Yari who spoke through his campaign director-general, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, noted that Akpabio is currently in a panic mood, which led to what he described as a “preposterous statement” made by director general of the Akpabio campaign group, Senator Ali Ndume, that Yari’s only claim to the Senate presidency was money.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had endorsed Akpabio as Senate President and Senator Barau Jubrin as his deputy.
Hon Tajudeen Abbas also received the blessing of Tinubu and APC as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, with Hon Benjamin Kalu as his deputy.
But some APC lawmakers under the aegis of G6 Coalition fiercely opposed the zoning arrangement, describing it as “an unconstitutional imposition of leadership of the 10th Assembly by forces outside the National Assembly.”
LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that a number of elected and re-elected PDP and LP federal lawmakers have rejected the entreaties of the leadership of their parties to endorse some preferred aspirants presented to them ahead of the proclamation of the 10th National Assembly and election of principal officers.
As the June 13, 2023 date for the inauguration of the 10th Assembly inches closer by the day, the PDP and LP lawmakers said they are prepared for showdown with the leadership of their parties over the choice of the helmsmen of the 10th National Assembly.
The leaderships of the two main opposition parties have made futile attempts to ram the choice into the throat of their re-elected and elected members of the 10th Assembly.
It was however gathered that the majority of the federal lawmakers elected on the platform of the opposition parties are backing the zoning arrangement adopted by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
LEADERSHIP further learnt that a good number of the opposition lawmakers have given their commitment to the choice of the ruling party, a development, which has pitched them against the leadership of their parties.,
The intention of the leadership of the two main opposition platforms, according to sources who should know, is to scuttle the zoning formula of APC for the leadership of the 10th Assembly and prevent the election of the preferred aspirants of the ruling party in the crucial legislative leadership election on June 13.
To this effect, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP, in collaboration with the PDP Governors’ Forum, organised a retreat in Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi State, during the weekend apparently to work out measures and modalities to frustrate APC’s leadership succession plans for the 10th Assembly.
Curiously, the PDP NWC, in a yet unclear circumstance, brought other opposition lawmakers to the Bauchi forum obviously to muster enough support to meet the target and achieve results.
This kept tongues wagging that the retreat was sponsored and funded by forces outside PDP interested in the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
Some of the aspirants for the Senate president and Speaker of the House positions were also reported to have relocated to Bauchi, during the weekend’s retreat, ostensibly to monitor the development at the ceremony.
In a concerted effort to prevent APC’s wish to prevail, LEADERSHIP further learnt that PDP leadership opted to operate in collaboration with its LP’s counterpart.
Though findings by LEADERSHIP could not ascertain reasons why some lawmakers elected on other platforms were invited to the PDP retreat, it was learnt that concerted efforts by PDP leadership to lure lawmakers to endorse Yari and Betara were roundly rejected by them.
An LP elected federal lawmaker, in giving a graphic picture of the event that unfolded in Bauchi, said the retreat was obviously funded by some aggrieved aspirants, for the Senate presidency and Speakership positions, on the platform of APC.
He wondered why LP elected members were mobilised to the retreat of another opposition party in Bauchi.
The lawmaker said, “All these retreats going on across the country, these private jets, hotel accommodation, logistics, who is funding and bankrolling them? It’s surely beyond the reach of any of the opposition political parties. Every grown up and sensible adult will wonder in his or her heart about who’s behind the expenses of all these retreats going on across the country?”
“My greatest fear is where all these will land us at the end. I pray this is not where the crack of our party (LP) will start. A crack far bigger than the one the national secretariat is facing. When we use our hearts as it is, we should not blame external people.
“What are LP members doing at PDP’s retreat in Bauchi? I have seen tougher crises in my life but I have not seen this kind of poor management of it. We still have time to control this one before it spills like milk on sand. The greediness of the chairmanship of the committee is what is causing all these problems.”
Similarly, a PDP Senator-elect, who was at PDP’s Bauchi retreat, said, “The PDP’s NWC invited some elected members on the platform of the minority political parties, especially LP to the Bauchi retreat. Initially, we were surprised that elected lawmakers from other platforms other than PDP were brought into the retreat.
“They were brought into Bauchi to endorse Senator Yari and Hon. Betara along with their PDP counterparts and a communiqué was supposed to be issued to the effect that both the PDP and LP have endorsed the aspiration of Senator Yari and Hon. Mukthar Betara, respectively for the Senate Presidency and speakership of the House of the 10th Assembly.”
Also, a member-elect representing Okpe/Sapele/Uvwie federal constituency of Delta State, Barrister Benedict Etanabene, confirmed the pressures on opposition members-elects to vote for the preferred aspirants of the leadership of their political parties in an interview with LEADERSHIP last night.
Etanabene urged leaders of LP to exercise restraint and caution in desperation to frustrate the zoning agenda of the ruling party, adding that the choice of Yari and Betara by the leadership of the opposition parties lacked justice and integrity.
Senators Deserting Akpabio, Yari Boasts
Meanwhile, Senator Yari has said the majority of the Senators are deserting former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and shifting their support to him.
The campaign director-general of the Yari for Senate president group, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, who stated this noted that no one in Nigeria has more money to spend in politics than a former governor of a South-South state.
Senator Ibrahim was reacting to a statement credited to his counterpart of the Akpabio campaign group, Senator Ali Ndume, over the weekend that Senator Yari’s only claim to the Senate presidency was money.
The Yari campaign DG said, “Ndume might have read the handwriting on the wall that majority of the Senators are deserting Akpabio and shifting their support to our good-natured candidate, Abdulaziz, and is therefore in a panic mood, which brought about that preposterous statement.
“That careless outburst has further brightened the chances of distinguished Senator Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar to clinch the presidency of the Senate.”
The Yari campaign DG further stated that Akpabio has a checkered history with the Senate.
He said, “As Minister, he threw several of his colleagues, including Senators Nwaoboshi, James manager and others under the bus. Mr Akpabio had released the names of some federal lawmakers involved with contracts when he presided at the Ministry for Niger Delta. He listed Mr. Nwaoboshi against 53 projects. Akpabio also listed two other senators, Matthew Urhoghide and James Manager and a former senator, Samuel Anyanwu, and linked them to projects.
“The former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, was also named by the minister as receiving 74 contracts – the highest among the listed lawmakers. With this toxic relationship between Akpabio and the National Assembly, Akpabio is more likely to polarize the 10th assembly and take its eye off the ball when it comes to its constitutional duties and obligations to the people.
“Among other allegations, Akpabio himself has been alleged of perpetrating a N40billion fraud when he headed the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC. In 2020, the Senate and the House of Representatives resolved to probe the alleged N40 billion financial recklessness of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC being supervised by Akpabio. Heading the 10th assembly would give him the opportunity to be vindictive to retaliate and get back at those who fell afoul of his expectations.
“These infractions are coming to haunt Akpabio’s aspiration to lead the 10th assembly and tilt the victory pendulum towards Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar; that is why Senator Ndume is panicking.”
Already, there are insinuations that the presidency has been influenced by the EFCC to withdraw its tacit approval of the Akpabio Senate presidency aspiration on grounds that the former minister has multiple questions to answer before the financial crimes commission.
The fear, according to feelers, is that such a personality would be more of a liability than an asset to the Tinubu presidency.
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdul Rasheed Bawa, is said to have compounded the woes of Akpabio by opening a can of worms on the series of financial crimes allegations being investigated by the commission which had necessitated the commission to invite him twice.
A competent security source disclosed to our correspondent in Abuja that the EFCC chairman was upbeat on Akpabio’s criminal cases when he discussed them with his crack team in the commission’s office.
The source who declined to give details of the directives given to the crack team on the matter hinted that Senator Akpabio may soon be invited to the EFCC again.
He said the EFCC boss was in the villa ostensibly to brief the president on the rumpus between the commission and the DSS which led to the storming of the Ikoyi EFCC office, where he also briefed the president on Akpabio and his inordinate ambition to lead the Senate.
“But Akpabio is no respecter of institutions. He showed the same disdain to the Senate many times when it invited him to discuss certain urgent issues rearing their ugly heads at the NDDC where he was minister but he shunned the senate,” the source added.
It was also reliably learnt over the weekend that the Ekiti State senators and representatives to the NASS are reconsidering their collective endorsement of Akpabio after learning of his poor relationship with the NASS. The Central Working Committee CWC of the APC has since also resorted to a wait-and-see posture, but many of its members have shown their preference for Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar to become president of the Senate.
It’s Not True, We Have The Number To Deliver Him – Ndume
But the director-general for the Akpabio/Barau Stability Group, Senator Ali Ndume, declared yesterday that their focus is to deliver their candidate as the presiding officers and have the number to do so.
Describing EFCC’s case against Akpabio as sponsored, Ndume said, “It is not surprising that whenever a politically exposed person is contesting elections, some people would be sponsored to raise issues against him or her.
“Don’t forget that President Bola Tinubu was also severely accused when he was campaigning to be president.
“We are not actually bothered about what the sponsored groups are saying about Akpabio, the anti-graft agencies know what to do, why are they teaching them what to do?
“They are accusing that some corrupt activities took place under his watch at the NDDC but they did not say he misappropriated funds as governor or as Minister.
“Akpabio was not the accounting officer of the NDDC; he was only heading the supervising ministry.
“They also accused him of not constituting the board of the NDDC but that also, was not his job. The president of the country is saddled with such responsibility,” Ndume added, noting that many Senators are in their camp.