Thursday, 7th December 2023

10th National Assembly: Revolt looms in APC, members kick against imposition of candidates

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Adewale Momoh (Akure)
08 May 2023   |   3:53 am
The twists and turns in the jostle for leadership of the 10th National Assembly continued at the weekend, with the horse-trading getting intense after indications emerged last week on the preferred candidates of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

National Assembly (NASS)

• Speakership: Wase, Betara, Jaji, Soli pull 287-member alliance against Abass
• APC N’Central stakeholders insist on Speakership, reject Tinubu’s preferred candidate
• Akpabio’s endorsement splits Northern leaders
• Kalu, 10 other Southeast Senators-elect cry out over exclusion from Senate Presidency
• Imo Senator-elect Ndubueze joins race

The twists and turns in the jostle for leadership of the 10th National Assembly continued at the weekend, with the horse-trading getting intense after indications emerged last week on the preferred candidates of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

A fresh twist was added to the race for the House of Representatives Speakership yesterday as four main contenders commenced alliance talks ahead of the June 13 inauguration.

The Speakership front runners: Ahmed Idris Wase (current deputy speaker), Aliyu Murktar Betara (Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation), Sada Soli and Sani Jaji, on Saturday night, met at the private residence of one of them in Maitama, Abuja, and agreed to work together and present a common front.

The meeting came barely 24 hours after reports had it that Tajudeen Abbas from Kaduna State, has been adopted as the preferred choice of what a source described as the ‘Lagos cabal’, led by the outgoing Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

This was even as a crack emerged in the Lagos caucus of the House of Representatives over the purported adoption and endorsement of Abbas as the preferred choice of the president-elect.

A close confidant of Tinubu and secretary of the now dissolved Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), James Faleke, was said to have confronted Gbajabiamila and accused him of ‘misinformation’.

But as a first step, the four lawmakers have reportedly directed their supporters to attend the declaration of each of them. Wase has, for instance, directed all his supporters to attend the declaration event of Betara slated for today (Monday) at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

As at press time, the source put the combined figures of supporters of the four aspirants at 287 out of 360 members of the House. It was, however, unclear who among them would likely be presented and supported for the Speakership contest.

The source said: “We still give Tinubu the benefit of doubt because he himself is a product of resilience; we all supported him when there was a similar charade shortly before the presidential primary when someone attempted to do what the Speaker is doing now.

“For now, we can only say that our 287-man combined team of supporters are alert and are ready to go anywhere the four leaders jointly decide to go. As of now, they have all agreed and indeed directed that their individual support groups should attend the declaration event of any of them.”

The division among the Speakership aspirants who are of the APC has now excited the 181 members of the opposition caucus in the House. The caucus also dismissed claims that its members were beginning to drift apart adding that it would surely play the decisive role in who emerges the Speaker.

One of the spokespersons of the Minority caucus christened “Greater Majority”, Afam Victor Ogene, said the mere fact that over 10 persons were still jostling for the speakership barely a month to the inauguration of the new assembly is an indication that APC’s house is not in order.

Ogene assured that the caucus would surely settle for the best among those jostling for the Speakership seat.

Some stakeholders from the North-Central geopolitical zone in the APC have urged the President-elect to be fair and just to the zone if he wants his administration to succeed.

At a press briefing to voice out their disappointment at the purported decision of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) regarding the Speakership seat, which was said to have been zoned the Northwest, the group said if the media reports about the decision were anything to go by, the party would have shown disdain and ingratitude to the zone, which they said, did more than any other zone in the North to improve its electoral fortune at the just concluded polls.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Sunday, the convener, Dominic Alancha, argued that the same principle of equity, justice and fairness, which compelled the Northern Governors’ Forum to insist on taking the presidency to the South, thereby paving way for the emergence of Tinubu as candidate and now President-elect, should also apply to the North Central in the zoning consideration since it has never produced a speaker before.

They stressed that compared to other zones in the region, the North Central comes tops in terms of votes for the party and number of seats won in the parliament.

“In the last general elections, the North Central, apart from giving the APC presidential ticket an overwhelming number of votes, gave a greater number of parliamentary and governorship seats to the APC.

“APC won in Kwara, Niger, Benue and Kogi states in the presidential elections and in the governorship elections, the North-central with six states gave the APC four states of Benue, Niger, Nasarawa and Kwara, while that of Kogi which is still in the hands of the APC is pending, meaning it lost only one state to the opposition parties.

“Compare this with the Northwest where APC failed to secure key states like Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto in the presidential elections, which usually bring the deciding votes, winning only Zamfara and Jigawa of the seven states in the zone.

“The picture is even worse with the parliamentary elections where APC lost majority seats in Kano with the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) clearing 18 out of the 24 House of Representatives seats in the state, while in Kaduna, APC lost all the three senatorial and 11 seats out of 16 seats for House of Representatives to the PDP.”

In similar vein, the purported endorsement of the aspiration of former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has induced an internal crisis among Northern leaders.

Senator Godswill Akpabio

A prominent member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Musa Saidu, said on Sunday, that Akpabio’s choice was wrong because the Senate presidency ought to come from the Northwest, a zone he argued, gave Tinubu the largest votes.

“I think it’s time for the party to reward the zone for the massive votes rather than start looking for somebody from the South as Senate President,” he said.

Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had last week announced that key leaders of the APC in the North and across the country have already adopted Akpabio as the president of the 10th Senate, but former Kebbi State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, faulted the endorsement, describing it as undemocratic.

Also, 11 of the 15 Senators-elect from the Southeast geopolitical zone have rejected the endorsement of Akpabio, warning that neglecting a major ethnic group like the Igbo will be a recipe for more crises and open display of marginalisation.

Oji Uzor Kalu

Senator-elect Darlington Nwokocha (Labour Party), from Abia State, and the three senators-elect from Ebonyi State, were not signatories to the list.
They spoke in Abuja, on Sunday, after a meeting attended by nine out of 15 senators-elect from the region. Those in attendance include Orji Uzor Kalu, Ifeanyi Ubah, Victor Umeh, Osita Izunaso, Ezenwa Oyewuchi, Tony Nwoye, Patrick Ndubueze, Okey Ezea, Kelvin Chukwu and Osita Ngwu.

Reading a communiqué on behalf of others, the host, Ubah, said they have also commenced consultations with senators-elect from other geopolitical zones to support the aspiration of the Southeast.

The communiqué read: “We have observed with dismay the antics of persons with vested selfish interests who have planted themselves around the President-elect and have vowed to shut out the Southeast from the Senate presidency of the 10th Senate.

“Beyond ethnic and religious considerations, the Southeast has been blessed with ranking Senators-elect who have the cranial capacity, competence, influence, experience and political followership to pilot the affairs of the red chamber. It becomes imperative that the APC upholds the principle of natural justice and equity, which it preaches and zones the seat of Senate President to the Southeast.

“The President-elect should extend the same democratic opportunity he received from the outgoing administration, which gave all aspirants equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental and constitutional rights during the APC presidential primary and be conscious of the grave implications of zoning and endorsing a candidate from the South-South without any regard for the Southeast, as such move will serve as a recipe for injustice, which will culminate to restiveness.”

Meanwhile, the Senator-elect from Imo North Senatorial District, Patrick Ndubueze, has joined the race for the position of Senate President. Ndubueze informed the party officially through a letter to the APC NWC and all the 109 Senators-elect across the country for support to realise his aspiration.

The Imo-born politician was first elected member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Okigwe Federal Constituency in 1992.

In a notification letter to the party, Ndubueze thanked the national leadership of APC for the immense support availed him to emerge as the Senatorial candidate of APC for Imo North Senatorial District.

“Now, in respect of current realities in this time, which requires sensitive leadership in the Senate in the mould of a focused leadership, a leadership that is people’s centric and a calm and supportive leadership.

“Having been persuaded of my track record as a ranking legislator, a politician of more than 35 years standing and a personal character that had stood the test of time for integrity and commitment to the people, I, being a ranking member of the National Assembly, do desire to offer myself to contest the office of the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly strongly believing in my capacity to stand in the roles of the leadership required at this time.”