Senate Presidency: North East Hopeful, As Tinubu ‘Pencils’ Audu Ogbeh For SGF
• We Didn’t Endorse Gbajabiamila For Speaker, Say Benue Lawmakers
• Gaidam Drums Support For Lawan-led Senate
BARING last minute changes, the South East geopolitical zone might have finally lost the position of Secretary to Government of the Federation to the North Central zone.
Investigation by The Guardian revealed that the plan to move the position away from the South East was thrown up by the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s insistence that the South West should produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It comes as a group of North Central lawmakers have distanced themselves from the purported endorsement of Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On Friday, a statement published in some national dailies under the North Central caucus purportedly endorsed Gbajabiamila with the names of Emmanuel Udende, Chris Adabah, Orker Jev, Mark Gbilah, and Adamu Entonu listed among the members.
But in a statement issued at the weekend in Abuja yesterday, the members whose names were among the 20 elected lawmakers who purportedly signed the endorsement said they were not consulted before the publication was made.
“We want to make it abundantly clear that at no time did we sit to endorse Hon. Gbajabiamila as Speaker. Our names were only added to the list and we didn’t sign the notice.
“We are still awaiting the decision of the APC on zoning of National Assembly leadership positions. Both our constituents and Nigerians should be guided,” the group said.
A member of the one of the committees set up to thrash out the issue of zoning of positions in the APC confided in The Guardian Friday night in Abuja that Tinubu has penciled down a one time National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, to occupy the post of SGF.
The source disclosed that apart from positioning Ogbeh as the next SGF, the decision by the party elders to zone the position to North Central was to stop Senator Saraki’s determined campaign to succeed Senator David Mark as the next President of Senate.
“The game plan is to block Saraki’s chances and ensure that the South West gets the position of Speaker of House of Representatives this time around. The Tinubu camp believes that given the role they played in the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as presidential candidate of APC and president-elect, it would be politically unwise not to produce one of the leaders of the two-chamber National Assembly,” he explained.
The source added that the South East had to be traded off easily on account of the visibility the zone enjoyed during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, pointing out that the South West leaders argued that giving the post of SGF to the South East would amount to “rewarding an absentee candidate with high marks”.
It is believed that if the plan sails through, APC must have dramatically punished the South East for giving bloc votes to President Jonathan in the last election as well as rekindled the political rivalry between South West and South East.
Prior to the present plans to shift the position of SGF away from South East, the zone had already shortlisted three candidates for the post including former national chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Ogbonaya Onu, former Governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige and current Secretary to the Imo State Government (SSG), Prof. Awurum.
Chairman of Ohanaeze State Presidents’ Forum, Chief Chris Eluemunoh, however, said it was disgraceful for Nd’Igbo to go can in hands begging for appointments from APC or the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, stressing that the zone voted for Jonathan without apologies.
Eluemunoh who made the remarks during the State Presidents’ Forum meeting of the seven Igbo-speaking states, in Awka said: “Issues of federal appointments were constitutional obligations that every president of Nigeria, irrespective of the voting pattern of the people in an election, must obey.”
As the race for Senate President gathers momentum, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State has expressed “total and unreserved support” for Senator Ahmed Lawan’s aspirations to clinch the position.
In a statement in Damaturu, the state capital, yesterday, Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Affairs and Information, Abdullahi Bego, said: “Governor Gaidam believes strongly that at this pivotal moment in our nation’s history when the entire country is mobilized for positive change, the Senate needs a leader who has the requisite experience, knowledge and network to organise and bring fellow senators around the issues that are uppermost in the minds of all Nigerians – security, jobs, education, quality healthcare, electric power supply, among others.