High-level talks begin over Senate President, Speaker

resident-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Asokoro residence was a hive of activities yesterday, the day after his return from over a one-month vacation in France.
His return raised the tempo in the battle for the position of Senate President.

Among those who visited the President-elect were two of the leading aspirants – Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom Northwest) and Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano Central).

Akpabio and Jibrin were believed to have lobbied Asiwaju Tinubu for support.

Other leading aspirants for the position are Senator Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Senator Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West) and Senate President Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North). Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, who was newly elected, has also indicated interest.

All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu, who also visited the President-elect, is believed to have held exploratory talks with Tinubu on when the party organs will meet to decide on the zoning of the National Assembly principal offices.

Adamu, who was also on a three-week vacation, resumed work yesterday. He held a four-hour meeting with some party officials at the secretariat in Abuja before driving to Tinubu’s residence.

Since they collected certificates of return, senators-elect interested in becoming principal officers had been campaigning, many of them using media outlets and others lobbying quietly.

Some have also been accused of spending excessively in a bid to actualise their ambition.

The stake has now been raised because Tinubu’s return will speed up the process of zoning the offices.

It was learnt that the consensus option is being considered after the zoning formula might have been ratified.

Akpabio, a former minority leader, told reporters after meeting with the President-elect that he had a bright chance.

He expressed confidence that he will succeed Dr. Lawan as Senate President. He said: “My records will earn me the Senate Presidency.”

A party source said after the preliminary talks between the President-elect and the national chairman, an elaborate meeting of key party organs would meet to fashion out a zoning formula in accordance with the principles of equity, fairness and religion.

The source, a top member of the National Working Committee (NWC), said apart from zoning, other factors, including religion, voting patterns across the zones and the political base of the aspirants would be considered.

The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) had suggested that the party should zone the Senate President to Southeast and Southsouth, which are predominantly Christian areas that produced Christian senators-elect.

Sources close to the APC governors said since the number one and two citizens are of the same faith, they felt that the number three citizen should come from another faith for the purpose of compelling religious balancing.

However, the forum also urged the party to zone the House Speaker to Northwest and Northcentral.

In the past three weeks, Northwest stakeholders from the seven states have intensified their agitations for zoning of the top National Assembly offices to the region, hinging their clamour on the fact that the party garnered the highest number of votes from the region.

Also, last week, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), led by Chief Edwin Clark, called for the zoning of the Senate President to the Southsouth to foster inclusion and equity.

A party leader said the ruling party should speed up the process of fashioning out an acceptable zoning formula, warning that the overtures being made by federal lawmakers-elect to their opposition counterparts portend grave danger to “caucus cohesion.”

It was learnt yesterday that an expanded Southwest Caucus of the National Assembly, made up of outgoing and incoming members, is likely to meet with zonal party leaders and elders “to arrive at a joint decision on regional response.”

Prominent party chieftains who were at Tinubu residence yesterday include Ekiti State Governor Biodun Oyebanji, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Senator Emma Bwacha, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, Senator Tanko Almakura, Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Abubakar Kyari, who is deputy national chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Secretary of the recently dissolved APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) James Faleke and House of Representatives member Jimi Benson.

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