This Monday, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) approved the zoning arrangement in the leadership structure of the National Assembly. Even before now, those who feared the zoning pact would not favour them had resolved to pressure the party leadership to abandon the power-sharing arrangement and allow for a free contest for all. That was not to be.
Less than 48 hours after the party announced what zone is to produce who to lead the lawmakers, president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu embarked on yet another foreign trip aimed at wooing investors and putting finishing touches to his dream of ensuring the realisation of a renewed hope for Nigeria.
The choice of former Niger Delta Minister and governor of Akwa Ibom, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for the position of Senate President was already foretold and confirmed even before he led prominent APC senators to witness Tinubu’s visit to Rivers for the commissioning of some legacy projects constructed by Governor Nyesom Wike.
With the senators’ visit to Port Harcourt, and behind-the-scenes negotiation for support for his ambition, it became obvious that the man popularly known “for his uncommon achievements” in Akwa Ibom he governed for eight years, is set to become the next Senate President.
Akpabio’s ambition is not without discordant tunes, especially from the outgoing Senate President, Ahmad Lawan who has reportedly vowed to oppose Akpabio’s aspiration of succeeding him. Despite visits to Lawan for support, the outcome of such nocturnal visits never yielded any positive result. Not even the press conference held by the dreamer of the Senate Presidency changed the mind of Lawan who had been told categorically by the APC that his position won’t be available for him after the 9th National Assembly.
When penultimate Sunday Akpabio paid a visit to the presidential villa to seek support from President Muhammadu Buhari, there were many expectations. No doubt, the outgoing president holds the magic wand to change the mind of the Yobe State senator whose loyalty to him has never been in doubt. However, Lawan was said to declare his support for former governor Orji Uzor Kalu, whose interest for the Senate Presidency is well known. Seeing the contest through the war of proxies, Akpabio is regarded as Tinubu’s Man Friday. It was Akpabio, among others, who brightened the chances of the president-elect during the APC presidential primaries. Fortunately, Akpabio’s visit to the villa attracted the endorsement of Buhari who was said to have advised Lawan to toe the line of the party in order to avoid rancour and divisiveness as was experienced from 2015 to 2019.
After the visit to Buhari, while speaking with State House correspondents, the former governor praised the outgoing president for his leadership acumen he has displayed in the last eight years. Expressing hope that new days are ahead for the country, the former Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs articulated hope of a new dawn, stressing that the incoming administration would leave no stone unturned to ensure the security of lives and property.
An insider’s account of the meeting told yours sincerely that the villa visit provided a tonic for Akpabio and an assurance from the president that everything shall be done to rein in the adversarial disposition of Lawan in order to smoothen the rough edges to his dream. For the Yobe State Senator who, like Akpabio, pulled a fast one through the courts to secure the ticket to contest the National Assembly poll against all odds, the future may see him lying low to watch proceedings from the floor, and under the leadership of another first equal.
To clearly demonstrate his disapproval of the party’s endorsement of Akpabio as the consensus for the Senate Presidency, Senator Kalu declared that he was still in the race. Despite debunking the statement that he has been ruled out of the contest, the former Abia governor insisted he would stay his course till the last minute.
As it is, Akpabio is only a step for the crown, but the coast is not fully cleared for him.
There are still issues that need to be tackled. Kalu and others opposed to the choice of Akpabio as Senate President may wage a battle that could land them in trouble in the near future. For the man from the South-east who dreams of succeeding Lawan next month, it is not over until it is all over. Though Kalu is not showing signs of caving in to pressure to renounce his aspiration, the days and weeks ahead will demonstrate how far he can go. If the past is anything to go by, then the road ahead for Kalu’s opponent is bound to be rough
In the lower chamber of the National Assembly, the rumbling discord over the power-sharing arrangement as approved by the party is yet to settle. The choice of Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, who represents Zaria Federal Constituency, is causing dissension. Both Hon Aliyu Muktari Betara of Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno State and Hon Yusuf Gagdi of Pankshin/Kanam/Kanke Federal Constituency of Plateau State are poised to cause ripples ahead of the inauguration of the 10th Assembly leadership
Before the approval of the sharing of positions in the House of Representatives by the party, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila was accused of plotting to impose a favoured candidate to the detriment of popular choices. The outgoing speaker, who is among leading candidates for the position of Chief of Staff to the incoming president, is opposed to the emergence of anyone outside the consensus candidates as approved by the party. Like Kalu in the upper chamber, both Betara and Gagdi are determined to run the full course and vowed never to retrieve their hats from the ring.
If those opposed to the APC consensus candidates in the National Assembly have their ways, it could turn out a repeat of what happened in 2015 when lawmakers, seeking to exercise their freedom of choice, kicked against Lawan and Hon Gbajabiamila and elected Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker. The outcome of this rebellion led to a serious strain in the relationship between the executive and legislature which made it impossible for both arms to work in unity.
To demonstrate the supremacy of the executive over the lawmakers, which should not be as the Legislature are the symbol of democracy, the executive in 2019 ensured the emergence of their preferred candidates who are now described as mere rubber stamps. The experiences garnered in the way our democracy was run from 2015 to 2023 are grim signals that the executive can only suffer a momentary defeat in the hands of lawmakers. In a country where the worship of money is enthroned, those who control the nation’s purse are far superior to those who appropriate the nation’s wealth.
As Nigerians await the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the road for Akpabio to assume leadership of the National Assembly is already paved with bright prospects. Those who participated in the 2015 rebellion have been taught a bitter lesson and may not risk going against the position of the party. The challenge before citizens is to ensure the 10th National Assembly is not turned into a rubber stamp platform. The hallowed legislative chamber must not be allowed to continue as a business centre for some characters that are committed to empowering only themselves and their cronies.
We live at a time when Nigerian electorates are looking for a robust legislative arm that is committed to the dream of a nation where all are equal before the law. We want a legislative chamber that must hold the executive accountable to the safety of lives and prosperity. Nigerians are tired of lawmakers who can’t demand the executive to do the right thing. The National Assembly remains the beacon of our democracy, and allowing themselves to be subjugated by the executive, often dominated by wealth-seeking power cabals, is the surest way of killing the government of the ballot.