Last minute rush: Akpabio, Yari fight for soul of Senate Presidency

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As the 10th National Assembly is inaugurated today, strong Indications have emerged that the aspirations of former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio and former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari for the position of the President of the Senate have sharply divided the Senators- elect.

As of yesterday, the decision of who becomes the President of the Senate and Chairman of the 10th National Assembly is shaky as the claimed numbers of supporters are clashing.

At the meeting of Akpabio’s supporter group at the Lagos Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, while the group claimed over 70 Senators- elect to their camp, only 52 Senators- elect attended the meeting and was worried by the not-too-encouraging number, Vice President Kashim Shettima had promised that he was prepared to go and beg other Senators, especially from the North to support the aspiration of Akpabio and Senator Jibrin Barau for the position of Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.

This is just as the support group led by former Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, PDP, Bauchi Central who spoke on behalf of Yari at a press briefing had said that there are at least 67 of his colleagues who have keyed into the aspiration of Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari to occupy the office of the Senate President, with more on their way.

He had said, “Our latest count was 67 as of yesterday (Tuesday) night and more are still coming.”

There are also strong feelings that the All Progressives Congress, APC may ask Yari to step down for Akpabio before the inauguration, even as the immediate past President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan may shift his support base to the preferred candidate following the intervention of President Bola Tinubu.

This, a source said may have been concluded to avoid what happened in 2015 when former President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki emerged against the candidates of the ruling party.

Meanwhile, a group under the aegis of THE INITIATIVES (an agenda-setting college of Former and Serving NASS members) and a Coalition of South-South Community for United Nigeria for Justice and Equity, yesterday urged Senators- elect to vote for the former Senate Minority Leader senators-elect to vote for Godswill Akpabio as President of the 10th Senate and Jibrin Barau as Deputy President of the Senate.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, the Dean of the Faculty, Eseme Eyibo, noted that with Akpabio as President of the Senate, the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would deliver on its campaign promises, said that the 10th Senate, under the leadership of Akpabio, will initiate many reforms that will change the fortunes of the country around.

Eyibo said: “What is going on in the National Assembly is very democratic. It has given credence to the fact that the current administration is operating on the platform of democracy.

“When the president called the senators-elect and members of the house of representatives-elect it was to simply appeal to all of them and they saw reason with him.

“Out of all the people aspiring will not be able to stand side-by-side with Akpabio.

“I have already mentioned the electricity act. Such a reform, it will lead to setting up the legal framework for its implementation. States won’t just apply to generate electricity, there has to be a standard process to which that is done because there will be FDI in that aspect.

“There will also be a need to look at the issue of ease of doing business and Nigeria enterprise promotion.”

Recall that Vice President Shettima had on Saturday that he was prepared to go and beg other Senators to support the aspiration of former Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Jibrin Barau for the position of Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.

Shettima’s meeting with and talking to Senators from the North as gathered was not be unconnected with those who are being swayed by Abdulaziz Yari’s narrative of marginalisation of the North that voted overwhelmingly for Bola Tinubu.

According to him with President Bola Tinubu as the President of the country and him being the Vice President as Muslim, Justice Equity demands that the number three person must be a Christian as Nigeria must work towards achieving inclusivity.

Shettima who spoke at the Dinner organized for supporters of the Akpabio-Barau ticket by the Stability Group, led by former Governor of Ebonyi State and Senator-elect Dave Umahi, had reiterated his commitment and strong support of President Tinubu and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) to the candidature of Senators Akpabio and Barau for the leadership of the 10th Senate.

According to the group Over 70 Senators attended the meeting alongside Shettima, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator George Akume, Senators-elect across party lines, Alhaji Kashim Imam, among others.

The Vice President had said, “We are all in support of the emergence of Senators Akpabio and Barau as President of the 10th Senate and Deputy respectively. This support is intended to further engender unity and stability in the country.

‘’Apart from the religious angle, Senator Akpabio is very competent and he has the capacity to lead the 10th National Assembly. At the same time, he is from a very important zone and he is also a man of Christian faith. So, in line with the Constitution of our country and in conformity with the plurality of our union, the party and indeed, the President, thought it fit to support him.”

Speaking on what should be done to ensure that the country would be together as one indivisible entity, Shettima said, ‘’Personally, my Chief Security Officer (CSO) is an Igbo man, who had worked with me when I was governor. He has been a dedicated and loyal officer, even in the heat of the Boko Haram attacks in Borno.

“My ADC is a Christian from the North, who has been with me for a very long time. When I appointed him, they said he is too junior by rank to be my ADC, but I insisted and even told them to make him my acting ADC pending when he would be promoted to the rank, he stressed”.

The Vice President assured the Senators-elect of his readiness to continue to work for the success and aspirations of the group by talking to those who were yet to join the group which he described as the “winning team”.

He further said, ” I have been campaigning privately for Senators Akpabio and Barau and I will continue to do that till we deliver them on Tuesday. I will be leaving this dinner for another meeting with some senators who are yet to register their support.”

Also recall that on Wednesday last week,
former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari, APC, Zamfara West had declared that as Senate President, he would support President Bola Tinubu to move Nigeria as a country forward.

Yari who is a strong contender for the position of President of the 10th Senate, Abdul Aziz Yari promised that if given the opportunity to serve as Senate President, he would ensure that Nigeria comes first while the interest of the party comes second.

Addressing Journalists in Abuja, Yari who noted that he wishes to achieve this by having a stable Senate and a stable National Assembly, said that he will listen to and pursue the yearnings of Nigerians, adding that his leadership will be democratic, open and serve the interest of the masses.

Yari had said “Under my leadership the 10th Senate will have a cordial and purposeful relationship with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to deliver his vision for a united and prosperous Nigeria”.

According to him, he and President Tinubu have come a long way and understand each other, saying, “I promise to at all times give President Tinubu helping hands in moving this country forward.

“I will aggregate opinions to ensure that Nigeria comes first and party come second,” he said.

The aspirant noted that he possesses the requisite experience and quality to lead the National Assembly to achieve cordial and complementary relationships with other arms of government, particularly, the Executive.

Speaking further on his sterling qualities, Yari said “I have strong connections across the 36 states and understand the nuances of the nation.

“I am assuring you that I have what it takes to make a difference . We will build constant synergy to unify our nation”.

He, however, said that there was an ongoing negotiation with the camps of senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Osita Izunaso and Sani Musa.

On the number of Senators- elect on the side of Yari, former Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi had said, “Our latest count was 67 as of yesterday (Tuesday) night and more are still coming.

“I’ve partaken in the 1999 political calculation; 2003; 2007; 2011 and 2015 consecutively, our latest count as of last night (Tuesday) was 67 and more are coming by the grace of God.”

Ningi who expressed optimism that Yari would lead the Senate, said, “That is why we are following him. We know the game, we know the temperament there. There is no one single individual that knows it all either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

“So he (Yari) needs experienced hands like us to be able to guide you to achieve what is required. If we make a mistake in choosing our leaders, we can at any given time remove him.”

He, however, urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allow the senators to choose whoever they wanted, saying, “Just as the nation chooses you as a president and party chairman, allow the senators to choose their own leader.”

Ningi, a PDP member who lampooned those who accuse Yari of trying to use money to get to office, said; “Those who are talking about money politics should remember how they won their party primaries about six months ago from top to bottom, using money.

“When Senator Ndume made that statement, I actually was taken aback because he is experienced to know that there is no politics that money is not involved but it is not the most critical. In this campaign, it is not about money, especially for our candidate”.

He added that the majority of the contenders for the Senate Presidency are working with Yari and that discussions were ongoing among them, adding, “Sen. Sani Musa, Senator Izunaso, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Yari are together and discussions are still ongoing. We know our strategy but we are not going to disclose that.”

On his advice to the APC which has micro-zoned the office to Senator Godswill Akpabio, Ningi said; “I don’t belong to the APC but I thought the APC would have learned a lot from the mistakes of the PDP with regards to imposing leaders on the National Assembly. They should allow for the independence of the Legislature”.

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