AHEAD of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, there are strong indications that President Bola Tinubu may have changed his mind over the choice of Senator Godswill Akpabio and Mr Tajudeen Abass as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Vanguard was reliably informed that barring any last-minute changes, the President may also pick the next Speaker from the North-West and announce his choice on Thursday.
It was further gathered that Tinubu had sent emissaries to notable aspirants among the G-6 to placate them.
A member of the G-6, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tinubu had to “bend backwards a bit by appeasing the G-6 because he wants to have a stable administration once he kicks off with his cabinet.”
The source said: “As of Monday night, the President was still sending emissaries to notable aspirants among the G-6 but it appeared that they were still very angry with the way they were treated by those who presented the proposal to the president before his inauguration.
“Quite honestly, the President is greatly disturbed that the impasse had to drag on for too long. He thought it was a mere protest that would fizzle out with time.
“But having realised that there is more to it, he had to bend back a bit by appeasing the G-6 because he wants to have a stable administration once he kicks off with his cabinet.
Akpabio’s fate uncertain
Speaking on Akpabio’s aspiration for the Senate Presidency, the source said: “In all these, the issue of the Senate Presidency is paramount because that is the most important. To be honest with you, Akpabio still has a lot of issues around the bid to be Senate president.
The President sent independent hands to secretly find out the strength and weaknesses of each of the aspirants, including the G-6 and the Yari group.
“It will shock you that the outcome is negative because if we don’t break the G-6 by appeasement, we will not go anywhere; so also the Yari and Orji Kalu alliance.”
Dark Horse to be unveiled on Thursday
A Reps-elect, who spoke on the possibility of a dark horse being unveiled, also disclosed that the current deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Idris Wase and Tajudeen Abass, may be given ministerial slots to represent their states.“The source said:
For the G-6, I think we have made tremendous progress because the president has conceded to drop the choice put forward by the outgoing speaker, I mean Abass, but he still insisted that the northwest must produce the speaker.”
“So, what he has personally proposed that will be unveiled on Thursday is that he would return to his original plan of Sani Jaji because that was his choice initially and originally before the surprise recommendation came from Femi Gbajabiamila.
“His argument is that Jaji is well known to him, he belongs to the G-6 and since they have resolved to support one of them, he presents him and that may be announced on Thursday evening. And by way of having an inclusive arrangement, Abass and Wase are likely to come on board as ministers to represent their states.”
Meanwhile, Akpabio’s aspiration to be Senate president appears threatened, following concerns yesterday that some senators-elect may have withdrawn their support for the APC-backed candidate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The development came as a senator-elect from Kano State, Sumaila Kawu, cautioned President Bola Tinubu against interfering in the election of presiding officers of the two chambers of the 10th National Assembly.
There were indications that senators-elect who were hitherto expressing support for Akpabio, are reportedly withdrawing on account of issues connected with his relationship with the National Assembly when he held sway as Minister of the Niger Delta.
Three years ago, at a public hearing of an investigative panel in the House of Representatives, which was set up to probe corruption allegations at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Akpabio reportedly fingered the lawmakers as major beneficiaries of contracts.
Some of the senators-elect hinted that they were having a rethink on Akpabio’s bid over accusations that he was disrespectful to the institution of the legislature when he, as the Minister of Niger Delta, openly accused National Assembly members of hugely benefiting from large contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, without proof.
“It is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.
”I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly,” the then-minister had said.
His utterances before the panel have now come back to haunt him.
Deputy Director-General of Akpabio/ Barau Campaign Organisation, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), had on Monday, appealed to senators-elect to support Akpabio’s bid.
A senator-elect who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the withdrawal of support for Akpabio, querying how he could preside over a National Assembly he once despised.
He said: “I have withdrawn support for Senator Akpabio. It is not only me. Many of us have withdrawn our support and it will show on the floor.
“I used to have very high regard for Senator Akpabio as a person but I cannot support him to be the Senate President.
“How can he (Akpabio) come and preside over an institution which he once described as a cesspit of corruption after benefitting from the same institution?”
On his part, Kawu said: “The constitution is explicit about how the president and deputy president of the Senate shall be elected. For instance, Chapter 2 of the 9th Standing Orders of the Senate 2022 (as amended) stipulates the procedures for the selection of presiding officers of the Senate.
“Similarly, Section 50(1)a of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) states that, ‘there shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“Also, section 50(1)b stipulates that, ‘A Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“It is therefore clear that the election of these Presiding Officers is purely an internal affair that concerns only members of the National Assembly and therefore, they should be allowed to decide who among them would occupy the positions in order to avoid repetition of the past mistakes – we may all recall the incidences of the 7th and 8th National Assembly.”