The support base for Senate President aspirant Godswill Akpabio and Deputy Senate President aspirant Barau Jibrin has widened to 69 out of 109 senators-elect, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South) said yesterday.
Ndume said the 69 Senators-elect are members of the ‘Stability Group’, who had already appended their signatures for their aspiration.
Ndume, who led the Akpabio campaign team to Lagos, said the former Akwa Ibom governor will win with a clear majority.
He spoke when the Stability Group visited Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at Lagos House in Marina.
Sanwo-Olu pledged to support just as Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari, also assured Akpabio/Barau of his backing.
Eighteen former federal lawmakers from the Southsouth also expressed support for the Southsouth/Northwest zoning of Senate President/Deputy Senate President, announced by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The ex-lawmakers, under the aegis of the ‘Former National Assembly Members, Southsouth Zone’, urged the APC leadership to intensify its consultation with stakeholders to ensure a smooth election of presiding officers.
Led by John Agoda, other members of the forum include Egberedin Donald, Abubakar Momoh, Senator Clever Ikisikpo, Edet Etiebet, Abass Braimoh and Patrick Ikhariale.
However, Senator Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West), who is eyeing the Senate Presidency, rejected the zoning formula, urging the Northwest to resist the zoning of Senate President to Southsouth.
Sanwo-Olu, who received Akpabio and 40 other members of the Stability Group, said he aligned himself with the zoning decision, having read the legislative agenda being pushed forward by the Akpabio-led team to raise the bar of lawmaking and its readiness to collaborate with the incoming administration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The senators-elect’s visit to the governor came a day after House of Representatives members-elect visited him for consultation.
Sanwo-Olu said Akpabio’s and Jibrin’s nomination were in order, stressing that Akpabio’s team possessed the political credentials and leadership qualities to bring about uncommon transformation in the country.
The governor urged the nominees to make purposeful legislations their priority, while maintaining harmonious working relationships with other arms of the government without compromising the Red Chamber’s independence.
Sanwo-Olu said: “Having discussed extensively and listened to all the plans and agenda presented by Stability Group led by Senator Akpabio, I believe it is proper and appropriate that we, in Lagos, give them our official endorsement. This is a project for the stability of the country, which will benefit Nigerians, especially the people who elected these distinguished lawmakers-elect. They are committed to working harmoniously with the executive and this will bring about a win-win for all our citizens and for democracy.
“We are encouraging other lawmakers-elect who are yet to be on this team to fall in line. I will also appeal to the Stability Group to continue their consultation and collaboration, and not to take anyone for granted. They have personally assured me that they will make the senate leadership as inclusive as possible. The diversity they are preaching is reflected in the number of the senators-elect on the team; it is not one party. The membership cuts across all the parties that are represented in the National Assembly.
“I believe the incoming 10th National Assembly will be about great possibilities and shaping new course for the nation. Given the outstanding profile and experience Senator Akpabio and his team are bringing to the table, I believe there will be new standards and new legislative records will break. I will only urge the incoming senate leadership to surpass whatever achievements recorded by the 9th senate.”
Akpabio: I am confident of victory
Akpabio said he was confident of victory based on his support base across party affiliations.
He was accompanied by the 69 senators backing him.
The former Akwa Ibom State governor promised to work with President-elect Tinubu to achieve his nationalistic project in the country.
Akpabio said: “We would collaboratively work with others and the governor to ensure Lagos succeeds, bring foreign direct investment, and make sure Nigeria becomes a business-friendly destination for all, among other benefits,” he said.
He added: “Today, we about 69 and its still growing. By June, we expect this group two have risen to about 85 or 86, and all I know is that we will win.”
Group: we support zoning
A group, Progressives Foundational Movement (PFM), Tinubu and the National Working Committee (NWC) not to yield to pressure to upturn Tajudeen Abbas as the consensus candidate for the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.
PFM’s position was contained in a statement by National Coordinator, Aganaba Johnson, in Abuja.
The group noted that apart from his academic excellence and a proven leadership track record in public service, Abbas was a member of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the political parties that merged to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Johnson said: “It will amount to injustice against the defunct CPC members in the APC if other defunct parties like Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that produced the President-elect, the defunct All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) produced Vice President-elect and the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) is allowed to produce the Senate President, and Abbas who is the eyes of CPC is not allowed to represent the defunct CPC as Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
“We appeal to all the aggrieved aspirants to the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to accept the endorsement of Hon. Tajudeen Abass as the next Speaker as an act of God.
“There is no need to gang up against the anointed candidates and the party because the opposition is waiting in the wings to exploit your differences.”
Read Also: NASS: Why APC settled for Akpabio, Abbas, by Shettima
House of Representatives members-elect threw their weight behind Abbas, saying that the party is supreme.
Led by Mike Otaba, the members said: “Majority of the representatives from Cross River State, irrespective of political party affiliations, have resolved that the party is supreme and we will continue to give our unalloyed loyalty and support to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).”
Zoning is best, says group
A group, Tinubu Hope of Nigeria Vanguard urged National Assembly members-elect to accept the zoning arrangement as proposed by the leadership of the party.
It said the APC’s zoning of NASS leadership aligned with the principles of justice, fairness, inclusivity and national cohesion.
The group backed Akpabio to emerge the next Senate President.
Convener and leader of the group, Olurotimi Daudu, who spoke to reporters in Akure, said if the leadership positions at the National Assembly were not shared across the geopolitical zones, it could lead to marginalisation of some geopolitical zones.
Daudu said the whole arrangement would help to foster stronger unity among the various sections of the country.
He said: “We have an abiding trust in the capacity of Asiwaju as the President to reduce inter-ethnic tensions and deepened national unity. We advise all those who are opposed to the zoning formula to sheath their sword and cooperate with the President-elect.
“It is needless to start any form of distraction at a time when the need to renew the hope of Nigerians has become compelling.
“Senator Akpabio will provide the much needed robust and stimulating leadership. He has the pedigree, track record and experience to lead the NASS.
“People forget so easily that Senator Akpabio as a seasoned statesman has made profound and criticism sacrifices for the unity, stability and progress of our country. He was the first aspirant to step down for the President-elect at the presidential primary of the APC. He was very forthright and statesmanlike on the night. He is well equipped and positioned to work with Asiwaju to turn around paradigm of leadership for the benefit of Nigerians.”
‘Don’t jeopardise Northwest interest’
A group, Northern Business Roundtable said ethnicity and religion should not be the criteria for electing the president of the 10th Senate.
Its leader, Hajia Larai Kolo, urged the 21 senators-elect from the seven states in the Northwest to close ranks and “defend the position of the zone”.
The pro-Yari group said the Northwest zone was in the forefront of the agitation for the APC to zone its presidential ticket to the South, stressing that it is time for the South to reciprocate the gesture by supporting the Northwest for the position.
Kolo said: “We are, however, not saying that the Northwest is superior to any other part or zone in the federation. Our desire is the country’s development and the peaceful coexistence of all.
“Just as the South insisted that they must have the presidency, that is how the Northwest is also insisting that they should have the Senate presidency and there is nothing wrong with that.
“What is right is right, and what is fair is fair for justice, fairness, and equity so that together, everybody will live peacefully and happily in the country.
“The issue of religion should not be brought to play in this regard, as Nigerians are one, whether Christian or Muslim. We must not be denied what is ours on account of our faith and belief.”
Coalition cautions APC
Two groups, Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizen Awareness and Generation Next Collective (GNC) warned APC against handpicking the leadership of the National Assembly to avoid shooting itself in the foot.
While the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizen Awareness urged the APC and the President-elect to allow the lawmakers choose their leaders in line with constitutional provisions, the GNC said those aspiring to the positions should be allowed to go ahead with their aspirations.
‘Southeast will speak with one voice’
Labour Party (LP) House of Representatives member-elect for Aba South/Aba North Constituency, Emeka Nnamani, said the Southeast will speak with one voice during the election of the Speaker of the House.
Nnamani told reporters in Abuja that in spite of being elected on different platforms, the zone would speak with one voice and provide bloc votes.
He said: “People will ordinary think the 10th National Assembly is going to be chaotic and dramatic, but I can assure you that it is going to be interesting and the legislature is not going to be a rubber stamp.
“And it will not lose its independence. The 10th Assembly is going to be quite interesting and intriguing because of the mixture of people from different parties and platforms that have arrived for the legislative business.”