Senate Presidency: Kalu, Akpabio lead as South jostles for Lawan’s seat
With barely 60 days to the expiration of the present ninth National Assembly, the jostle for who takes over leadership of the 10th legislature is getting intense.
Ahead of the announcement of the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) zoning arrangement for the election of National Assembly’s presiding officers, it emerged, yesterday, that the pre-presidential primary election politics, among others, is causing serious rumpus in the ruling party’s bid to make its nomination, which deferred decision on the matter till after Ramadan.
The 10th Assembly will be inaugurated in June 2023 after the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is sworn in on May 29.
In the red chamber, the 10th Assembly will be populated by APC lawmakers. Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and Young Peoples Progressive Party (YPPP) will make up the 109 chamber.
While APC clinched 57 seats, PDP claimed 29, LP has six seats, NNPP and SDP got two members each, while APGA and YPPP have one member apiece.
Apart from the Senate presidency, positions such as the deputy Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives are up for grabs.
Others are leaders of the majority and minority caucuses. They include the majority leader, deputy majority leader, majority or chief whip, deputy whip, minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.
Already, seven ranking senators have thrown their hats into the ring to succeed Ahmad Lawan as Senate President. They include Jibrin Barau (Kano Central), Sani Musa (Niger East), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North-West), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Peter Ndubueze (Imo North) and Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara West); just as debutant to the Upper chamber, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, is giving the top seat a shot.
Among the thorny issues delaying the announcement of APC’s suitable nomination for the number three position, it was learnt, is the alleged plot to push out current Senate Chief Whip and former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, for the role he played as campaign coordinator for Lawan during the Senate President’s bid for the APC ticket before the presidential primary.
Lawan was among the four presidential aspirants who refused to step down for President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during the June 6 presidential primary.
Kalu, had, in signifying his interest in the presidency of the Senate, stated: “I will like the party to zone it to my area, to my village in Igbere because the President-elect needs people of high character to work for the masses and make laws that will enable him turn around the economy.”
But checks by The Guardian within the APC caucus in the National Assembly, yesterday, revealed that though the party might have narrowed its choice of Senate Presidency candidate to the Southeast and South-South, the duo of Kalu and Akpabio have become topmost contenders, despite Izunaso’s perceived endorsement by APC governors and his recent reception at Aso Rock by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akpabio, it was learnt, is attracting support of many party leaders because of his swift withdrawal from the race for the presidential ticket during the primary.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, a group of serving and former members of the National Assembly, led by Eseme Eyiboh, made it clear that the President of the 10th Senate should be made to emerge from the South-South because the Southeast had produced five Senate Presidents in the past.
The group also contended that the South-South gave the APC more votes than the Southeast in the February 25 presidential election.
According to Eyiboh, the larger consideration should be the emergence of a Senate President and Senate leadership that will engage the executive in developmental issues.
On the need for APC to nominate Akpabio, the group said the work done by the former Akwa Ibom State governor, as well as his contributions as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, should be considered.
The group also made a case for a National Assembly leadership that will not engage in unnecessary warfare with the executive arm of government.
Also, a socio-political group, Niger Delta Conscience Coalition (NDCC) has drummed support for Akpabio. Speaking through its National President, Aniefiok Fabian, and Secretary, John Adangu Dagogo, the group, in a briefing in Uyo, described Akpabio as a 10-in-one representative and expressed optimism that he has capacity to deliver the much-needed robust, cohesive and transformative leadership in the 10th Senate.
MEANWHILE, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, alongside a coalition of returning and new members-elect across political parties, yesterday, pledged to adhere to the zoning formula of the APC for electing presiding officers of the House.
Gbajabiamila also faulted reports in a section of the media that he has a preferred candidate among those jostling to succeed him at the end of the Ninth Assembly, while particularly working against his deputy, Idris Wase.
He said: “I have not declared support for any of my colleagues who have declared their interest. I have made my position clear that there is a need to wait for the party to complete its zoning exercise as I cannot work against my party’s interest and position.
“I am a product of APC’s zoning in 2019, and I shall adhere to that any time the party comes up with its arrangement. Anyone/media peddling rumours of my endorsement of any of the aspirants should desist forthwith.”
Gbajabiamila’s position was reinforced by the coalition, known as the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’, comprising 283 members-elect from APC, PDP, LP, NNPP, SDP, APGA, YPPP and African Democratic Congress (ADC).
A statement by the Chairman and Co-Chairman of the coalition, Usman Bello Kumo (APC, Gombe) and Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), said members of the coalition are in agreement with whatever the majority party’s decision on zoning might be.
The coalition expressed readiness to put Nigeria first and allow the majority to form the leadership of the 10th House with other opposition parties playing a major role.
They noted that those who may want to defy APC and have a repeat of the 2015 rebellion should remember the consequences of such action on governance as the sour relationship between the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly and the Executive left Nigeria and Nigerians at the receiving end.
“We are aware of the theatrics in the 8th National Assembly, but Nigerians want to see good governance and not grandstanding. Rebellion will deny the incoming Tinubu administration opportunity to deliver on its mandate and the high expectations from Nigerians, especially under the current ethnic and religious tension in the country.”
IN another development, President of the Senate, Lawan, has decried the low level of returning lawmakers, describing it as disturbing and worrisome.
Lawan lamented yesterday that it becomes very expensive and costly when there exists a situation where only about 30 per cent of members of the ninth National Assembly would be going to the 10th Assembly, which amounts to loss in capacity, experience, skills and enterprise, among others.
Ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, Lawan has set an agenda, saying that capacity building for members of the incoming 10th National Assembly should be a priority for efficient and effective service delivery.
According to Lawan who will round off as the President of the Senate in June, what should be of major concern for the next National Assembly is that there should be provisions for capacity building, especially for the new members to achieve the set goals and targets.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja while receiving 2020, 2021 and 2022 annual reports of the activities of the National Assembly Service Commission from the Executive Chairman, Ahmed Kadi Amshi, Lawan said: “What is critical to us is what happens when we leave. Everybody knows the turnover rate has been very costly and this is without prejudice to anybody elected.
“Costly in the sense that when you have only about 30 per cent of members of the ninth National Assembly going to the 10th, you know that you have lost capacity. You have lost experience. You have lost skills, enterprise and so on and so forth. These are traits that you need, to hit the ground running immediately.
“And I use the word costly deliberately because what this means is that, in the 10th Assembly, we must make provisions immediately for capacity building for new members of the National Assembly If we want to achieve our goals and set targets.
“Everybody is enthusiastic. Everybody is ready. We want to come in and continue to contribute to making Nigeria better. But the parliament is not like the Executive.
“Therefore, I am using this channel to sound that advisory that the National Assembly will need money will need more resources for capacity building for members of the National Assembly that are coming new, as well as those staff that we will be working with.”