• New alliance between North West, South East Senators-elect rattles Akpabio’s camp
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Barely 10 days to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, top contenders for the position of the President of the Senate, have intensified lobbying and horse-trading.
Among the major contenders are Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia State, Abdulaziz Yari from Zamfara State, Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State and Osita Izunaso from Imo State.
Akpabio has been endorsed by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But Kalu, Yari and Izunaso are insisting on an open contest.
It was further gathered that Kalu, Yari and Izunaso might have formed some form of alliance ahead of the inauguration on June 13.
In spite of the ruling party’s endorsement, Saturday Sun learnt that many Northern Senators-elect are unwilling to back Akpabio’s Senate presidency bid.
It was further learnt that Akpabio has also been unable to secure the support of over 90 per cent of Senators-elect from opposition political parties. Within the ruling party, it was learnt that some Senators-elect, especially from North West and some states in North Central, are unwilling to join the campaign train of the candidate endorsed by the APC NWC.
Warning of the dangers ahead, stakeholders at a meeting on Thursday said other aspirants were making more inroads and had secured the support of Senators-elect.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ally and a former senator, Musiliu Obanikoro, who was present at the meeting, advised the Akpabio group not to restrict its campaigns to within its members and supporters.
“It will not help us. Other aspirants are reaching out to even people who do not support them. Let’s do same by taking our campaigns to them. We must reach out immediately. It is the best and most urgent thing to do,” he urged.
Director-General of Akpabio’s campaign, Mohammed Ali Ndume, condemned developments he said are unbecoming of some persons being addressed as ‘Distinguished Senator’ yet engage in acts that are demeaning
He alleged that Senators-elect were being induced by some aspirants. He, however, failed to mention names.
Meanwhile some stakeholders from the South-South region have denied endorsing any aspirant from the region.
The stakeholders, who are members of Niger Delta Stakeholders, said that at no time did they endorse any Senator-elect from the South-South geopolitical zone and insisted that the upper legislative chamber should be allowed to elect its own presiding officers.
Odiedum Amachree, chairman, Coalition of Concerned Niger Delta stakeholders and Nwisabari Samuel, Youth stakeholder, said since the Executive arm enjoys its independence, the same gesture should be extended to the National Assembly.
The duo said: “Just two days ago, Nigeria witnessed a peaceful and colourful transition from one democratic rule to the other. The executive arm of the government has performed its role in the process. It is now the turn of the National Assembly to elect her leadership. We vehemently reject any interference of the judiciary, executive or even a political party in this process of the National Assembly leadership election.
“The senators, for example, should be allowed to elect their President independent of the Judiciary, executive or even a political party. Senators are elected representatives of Nigeria and not representatives of a political party. The latter is simply a vehicle.
“The state of the nation is pathetic with issues ranging from inflation and its impact on citizens, unemployment, insecurity, to mention but a few. Nigeria needs a robust and formidable Senate that will contribute immensely to the journey of turning the present economic quagmire into economic prosperity.
“Just a few weeks ago, we saw acts of desperation by a political party zoning the seat of Senate Presidency to a particular region and taking further steps to announce a Senator-elect as the party’s consensus candidate, and act which is unconstitutional, unacceptable and a setback to the principles of democracy and fairness.
“More so, the over hyped issue of ranking system at the National Assembly has no place in the Nigerian Constitution, neither is it written in any Act of the National Assembly. All members of the National Assembly have equal representation from their various districts and constituencies. The so-called ranking system is simply a ploy deployed by unpopular lawmakers to cause mischief and this must in all ramifications be discouraged.”
Meanwhile, the new alliance between Yari, Kalu, Izunaso and Sani Musa from Niger State, is gaining momentum. Yari, a Muslim from North West, is unwilling to sacrifice his bid for a Christian from the South.
Kalu, on the other hand, said he was not considering stepping down for any aspirant, though he has expressed willingness to negotiate with Yari’s camp ahead of the inauguration. Addressing newsmen at the National Assembly, Kalu said: “Well, I cannot step down for anybody. Yes you are right. We are talking with Yari, our group and his people are talking, we are in an intimate partnership and talk to make sure that no one zone can produce a Senate president.
“Like I used to tell you, no one zone can produce a president for Nigeria. It’s the same thing. What we are trying to play with Sen. Yari is a united partnership that works for Nigeria.
“So in the coming days and weeks, those partnership will be unveiled. You will see what the partnership looks like.
“We are in serious talks. Yes I cannot deny it. Yari is a friend of mine and I’m his friend and we decided to talk together, we have been talking for the past four weeks and that talk will be unveiled by our sponsors.
“He has his sponsors and I have my sponsors. So the sponsors will come together to decide what direction this partnership will be.
“I will be very happy to follow what the sponsors will say and Yari also will be happy to follow what the sponsors want us to do.
“We are two gentlemen. Two of us are not hitting the nail, we are only thinking of the integrity of the Senate and to support President Tinubu and Vice President Shettima who are our colleagues.
“If you press people are thinking that what happened during Saraki will happen, it will never happen again in Nigeria’s political life. Remember we cited a section of the law that there must be two thirds of the Senators before you are sworn in.
“That few people will sit somewhere and make a Senate president is no longer possible. What is possible is all of us will sit together, we will vote for those people. It’s a game; it’s a contest. We will be able to congratulate whoever wins. If we win, let people be able to congratulate us. They are our colleagues. We will be stuck together in the next four years in the chamber. We are not enemies; it’s a contest.
“We have very strong sponsors and we will unveil that on June 13. We are not going to disappoint Nigerians. We are capable of representing ourselves – Yari-Kalu, Kalu-Yari. We will not disappoint Nigerians, we will give Nigerians what they want. And we will support the Federal Government and Nigerian people will not be disappointed.
“Who is going to be the Senate President and who is going to be the Deputy Senate President? It’s what we don’t know now. This is why it is coming out in the coming days.”