Controversy trails Obi’s parley with LP lawmakers over N’Assembly leadership
• Spokesperson denies presidential candidate endorsed Yari, Betara
• ‘Why senators-elect are withdrawing support from Akpabio’
Presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, has met with lawmakers elected on the platform of the party in Abuja, ahead of inauguration of the National Assembly, next week.
It was, however, not clear whether Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed rallied support for House of Representatives Speakership aspirant, Muktar Betara, and Senate Presidency aspirant Abdul’aziz Yari, as claimed by supporters of adopted candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Tajudeen Abass and Godswill Akpabio.
One LP member, who was privy to the meeting, held separately at the Wuse and Maitama districts of Abuja during the week, insisted party members were asked to vote against Abass and Akpabio.
The member, who asked not to be named, said: “First, we met with Datti and he said unequivocally that we can’t vote Tajudeen Abbas, Akpabio or any other candidate the APC is supporting
“He told us that Abbas was endorsed by the APC to suppress him, and Benjamin Kalu was endorsed to suppress Alex Otti in Abia State. The meeting ended in a stalemate. The venue was Chopsticks.
“Another meeting held on Monday, around Zone 5. Obi was present. He said he was endorsing Yari for Senate President and Betara for Speaker, and compelled all LP members-elect to vote Betara and Yari.
“Ideologically, he’s forcing us. If that is the case, there’s nothing new about LP. He was able to get one person away from the Abbas project. It is a female. He wants to force us to do what he wants. But no way!
“They plan to call us for another meeting, this coming weekend. I think on Sunday. It will be to say that LP has decided to vote for Yari and Betara. He’s telling us that the party is supreme. But how do we support someone that is rebellious against his party?
“If he calls for division, we’ll have the majority, but he won’t do that. At the meeting we held, some of us said we are adults and we should be allowed to make our choices. So, we won’t back down. How can Peter Obi that people are shouting his name up and down as a democrat now turn to be undemocratic?”
But a leading LP member and spokesperson of the House Minority Caucus, Victor Ogene, described the claim as baseless.
He said: “The insinuation that Obi, national leader and presidential candidate of LP is coercing members-elect to vote for a particular candidate in the Speakership race is a lie from the pit of hell.
“Yes, as a caucus, we met last night, but not at Obi’s behest. The national chairman, Julius Abure, sent out the notice of meeting, and Obi was only invited as national leader of the party.
“After virtually all 27 members-elect present at the meeting had taken turns to speak, Obi, who was the first to leave because of another engagement, advised members to ensure, as much as possible, that they are united in arriving at a decision regarding who to vote for as presiding officers.
“Not once, throughout his about 15-minute speech, did Obi mention any aspirant by name. On the contrary, he urged the members to continue talking among themselves, under the guidance of the national chairman and the caucus leader.”
Also, barely six days to election of the leadership of the National Assembly, top aspirants for the position of Senate President have resorted to a game of wits to score political gains.
Senators-elect in support of Yari have alleged Akpabio is losing, on account of his alleged hostility to members of the National Assembly during his tenure as Niger Delta Minister.
A senator-elect from Kano South, Samaila Kawu, told journalists at the National Assembly, yesterday, that many of those supporting Akpabio had breached parliamentary rules and traditions in the past, a development he described as injurious to democracy.
But a former Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, dismissed the claim, insisting Akpabio would emerge the next Senate President.
He dismissed speculations that Akpabio’s Campaign Organisation has resorted to making frantic pleas to senators-elect.
But a senator-elect, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed his withdrawal of support for Akpabio.
He said: “I have withdrawn support for Akpabio. It’s not only me. Many of us have withdrawn our support, and it will show on the floor.
“I used to have very high regard for Akpabio as a person but I can’t support him to be Senate President.
“How can he (Akpabio) come and preside over an institution he once described as a cesspit of corruption, after benefitting from the same institution?”