Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Amid criticisms, Akpabio widens consultations, gets backing of 68 senators

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja), Gbenga Salau and Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos) Nigeria
15 May 2023   |   4:20 am
Not bogged down by the voices of opposition to their endorsement for the 10th National Assembly leadership, the anointed candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Senate President and Deputy Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin, yesterday...

Godswill Akpabio

• Ndume: Senators in our group will get to 86 before inauguration day
• Akpabio visits Masari, Sanwo-Olu, promises Senate will work with executive to prosper Nigeria
• Tinubu: PDP will not take over NASS leadership positions
• Group kicks against APC’s imposition of candidates, says decision autocratic, divisive
• APC Northern support groups threaten to sanction Northern Senators opposed to Yari 

Not bogged down by the voices of opposition to their endorsement for the 10th National Assembly leadership, the anointed candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Senate President and Deputy Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin, yesterday, stepped up their nationwide consultations with party stakeholders, affirming that there were 68 senators-elect, from across party divides, already signed on to the project.

At a media parley in Lagos yesterday with senior journalists, Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, who is leading the Akpabio campaign, known as the Stability Group, said 66 senators have already signed on to the Akpabio project with two senators, who are out of the country, yet to endorse their signatures to affirm their endorsement. 
Leading Akpabio and Jibrin to Lagos, Ndume said: “The Stability Group is doing this because it is the right thing to do at this time. If it is about the Senate president, all of us are immensely qualified but that is not the only thing, we have to look at the interest of the country and the institution before looking at personal interest.
“This is the basis on which the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, decided to narrow down on Akpabio and Jibrin as the preferred candidates of the party. And this is not new, the last time in 2019, I was a leading candidate but the party and President Muhammadu Buhari preferred Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and that was what happened. This time around, I decided to toe the line of the party. Among the senators from the South-South, Akpabio is the most qualified,” he said.
In his address, Akpabio unveiled his nine-point agenda, which he said will be driven by his uncommon public sector experience as a Commissioner, governor, Senate Minority Leader and Minister spanning over 24 years.
“Our 10th Assembly priorities are: Provide quality, stable and inclusive leadership at the National Assembly with a view to providing robust legislative intervention and making relevant laws for good governance; galvanise a united and virile support base that will provide credible government policies for the advancement of good governance;
sustain the January to December budget circle, which the ninth Assembly had worked so hard to achieve; develop and promote innovative bills that will enhance revenue generation while exercising effective oversight function on government expenditure.
“Support members in Bill and Motion drafting, presentation of legislative arguments, legislative briefs and general understanding of parliamentary practices and procedures; establish Bipartisan Parliamentary Network on issues of national interest supported by our party’s/members’ vision; support our members to develop legislative agenda, constituency work-plan and integrated representation model; institute Annual Parliamentary stability Group Summit (APSGS) to strategise, review and develop action guidelines for greater virile and stable National Assembly; and pursue and lobby (where necessary) for the rights and privileges of our members.”
Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said that the Senate of the 10th National Assembly must be about purposeful service and collaboration with the executive to bring about proper dividend of democracy to the people.
Speaking, yesterday, when some senators routing for Akpabio paid a visit to him at the State House, Marina, the governor stated that the senators must ensure that the legislature is impactful and about service to the people.
Sanwo-Olu noted that for each of the senators to have been elected, they must have displayed a high sense of responsibility which has brought them this far. He therefore said that they cannot break down the trust now.
“The least we can do is to respect your wishes in who becomes the Senate President. This is more so that when you succeed, the executive succeeds and Nigeria succeeds. A lot would be expected from you as it would not be business as usual.”
The Director General of the Akpabio-for-Senate President, Ndume, said that the initial idea of the consensus is for the stability of Nigeria. He added that the President-elect said they should support Akpabio, who is his preferred candidate. “And he asked me to lead the campaign. He also asked Jubrin Barau to step down for Akpabio and run for Deputy Senate President and that we should get the support of the majority and not just rely on Tinubu preference. So we got 61 signatures and later it became 64. So the number kept on growing and at the last count, it was 68.”
Commenting while seeking the support of Sanwo-Olu, Akpabio said that by June when the 10th Assembly would be inaugurated, the number of senators who have endorsed him, which is at present 68, would be 86.
Earlier yesterday, the Akpabio team paid a courtesy visit to the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari at the Katsina Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
Many of the other aspirants have rejected the endorsement of Akpabio and Jibrin by APC and questioned the zoning formula on which it is based. Akpabio and the deputy senate president hopeful have, however, ignored the criticisms and continued with their consultations.
In his remarks, Masari endorsed their joint ticket and assured them of his support. Also, the state’s senators-elect threw their weight behind Akpabio.
Masari described Akpabio and Barau as committed members of the party and development-personified public officers who would be ready to join hands with the President-elect to move the nation forward.
The president-elect has however ruled out the possibility of the opposition party hijacking the 10th National Assembly as it did in 2015, when Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives seized power from the ruling party.
Tinubu, who said this at the weekend in Akure during a lecture organised in honour of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, to mark his 97th birthday, however, said APC still has enough time to bring the warring factions together before the inauguration of the National Assembly.
The President-elect, who was represented by the National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of the APC, Isaac Kekemeke, said: “Opposition will not take over the National Assembly, both the President-elect and party are working tirelessly to ensure that whatever you perceive as acrimony will be sorted out and this is democracy.
“I don’t think there is cause for alarm, this is normal and this is what our party is known for, we believe in democratic engagement and we all know that the president-elect is an engager.”
Aggrieved aspirants and members of the party including Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State said APC promoted injustice and worked against the unity of the country by excluding the North Central geo-political and Southeast from its zoning arrangement.
On the position of Akeredolu against the decision of the party, Kekemeke said: “You know our governor has a knack for fearlessness and justice but I know that the governor will be further briefed, they will all be on the same line with the party and the President-elect and I am sure some of the reasons for the decision taken will be explained to him.”
Meanwhile, Citizens Advocacy Group, yesterday, described the imposition of candidates for the 10th National Assembly as autocratic and divisive, threatening that such would not be allowed to prevail. The group in a statement by the convener, Chris Sunday George, and Secretary, Haruna Kabir said imposition has no place in a democracy.
The group also said such imposition posed serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power. It advised the party to allow the National Assembly members to choose their leadership despite the zoning of principal offices.
The group insisted that the decision to impose the candidates on the National Assembly was an anti-democratic posture, which bodes no good for the country’s democracy.
The statement reads in part: “What the party has done is an autocratic imposition, which has no place in a democracy as it poses serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power.
“We in the Citizens Advocacy Group believe the concerned senators-elect should be allowed to make their choice based on the experience, competence and the qualification of each aspirant.
“If you are zoning it to a particular zone of the country, you cannot say this is the person that should be the Senate President from that zone when you have other candidates from the same zone who have expressed interest in the position.”
Also, APC support groups in the Northwest, yesterday, rose from a meeting in Abuja and described the party’s zoning formula for sharing National Assembly’s leadership positions as display of betrayal and insensitivity.
It also threatened to sanction Northern Senators opposed to the emergence of former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari as Senate President. Coordinator of the coalition, Hajia Larai Kolo, said it would be a betrayal to the people of the Northwest if the Senate President is not given to them.
She said if the issue is not addressed immediately and anomaly corrected, “Any Senator who votes for anyone outside the Northwest for the position of the Senate President will no longer enjoy our support and that of our traditional leaders.”