Despite a rancorous campaign, the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives may be picked today via consensus.
Everything points to a coronation of Senator Godswill Akpabio as Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin as Deputy Senate President, Tajudeen Abbas as House Speaker and Benjamen Kalu as Deputy Speaker.
This follows the flurry of activities and horse-trading in the last 48 hours, spearheaded by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.
Some of the major contenders, such as Orji Uzor Kalu and Ozita Izunaso, reportedly stepped down from the race for Senate President, but the duo could not be reached for confirmation.
Senator Ahmad Lawan also yesterday endorsed Akpabio for Senate President.
On Sunday, Yusuf Gagdi and Aliyu Betara ended their bid for Speaker, clearing the path for Abbas and Kalu.
The four contenders are the preferred candidates of the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President.
Yesterday, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma, hinted at the possibility of the emergence of consensus candidates.
Southsouth and Southeast senators, irrespective of party affiliations, have also endorsed the APC’s choices.
House of Representatives member Akeem Adeyemi said Southwest lawmakers-elect will not deviate from the decision of APC.
A source confirmed that more House of Representatives members had agreed to back Abbas and Kalu.
Akpabio will get it, says Uzodimma
Uzodinma told reporters after a meeting with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that Akpabio will be Senate President.
He said the committee set up by President Tinubu to resolve the controversy over the leadership race had achieved substantial progress, in collaboration with Lawan.
The governor said senators and governors have agreed that Akpabio should carry the day.
He assured that Lawan will work for the emergence of the preferred candidates of the party, adding that his team has been working to ensure that the 10th National Assembly gets the leadership that will aid the executive in achieving desired greatness for the country.
Uzodimma said: “We had a closed session with President because what is at stake is the national interest, the interest of our country and how to ensure that the new President is supported to succeed.
“All over Africa, Nigeria is being looked upon to produce a very strong President who will be bold and courageous in character, who will be able to deliver Nigeria to our usual space of being the leader of the continent.
“We don’t want to allow for any domestic distraction for him from succeeding. So, we are going to pledge our support and work in synergy with our senators-elect to ensure that the election (of today) will be free and fair.
“The President in his wisdom organised a small technical committee to help coordinate the process of the election, which I am chairing.
“We have done so much work to the extent that God has blessed our efforts that the majority of the senators-elect are now in sync with the position of the party.”
The governor assured that Akpabio will create a win-win situation for National Assembly members.
He stressed: “He is not going there to be a dictator. He is going there to work with his colleagues. He is going there to work in synergy; collectively they will reason; collectively they will plan and collectively they will deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.
“It is about Nigeria and not about the individuals. And he is a man too that has a track record of performance.
“Recall his performance as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and when he came during the 8th Senate. Even as a first-time senator, he emerged as the minority leader of the Senate. That is a show of confidence by his colleagues. And I think that he will do that which he knows how to do better this time around.”
Akpabio: we’ll protest citizens’ interests
Akpabio promised to preside over a united parliament and provide an atmosphere for robust legislative debate.
He said: “We will hold public hearings before we take any decision in the interests of Nigerians, for the betterment of Nigeria.
“We will think Nigeria first. Every senator, irrespective of political party, must come into the chambers as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“So, we have a lot to do. We must assist the President to put the right policies in place by putting the right legislation in place to make sure that businesses thrive and create employment opportunities for Nigerians.
“I assure you that every senator is important and once I’m inside there, everybody is important and all political parties shall be carried along,” he assured.
On how he will relate with his opponents, Akpabio said: “In the business of politics not everybody will be on the same page. But here, we have over 90 per cent of people supporting the choice of the party and I believe that even those that are not on board, I assure them that I will carry them on board.”
Kalu, Izunazo back Akpabio
Two leading aspirants for Senate President – Kalu and Izunaso – backed Akpabio.
Similarly, Lawan, President of the Ninth Senate, also met with President Tinubu and Akpabio, where the Yobe North senator promised to deliver the former Akwa Ibom State governor.
The Director-General of Akpabio Campaign Organisation, Ali Ndume, told reporters that 15 senators-elect from the Southeast met with Akpabio, where they endorsed his candidacy.
Ndume said former governors from the North, who have previously refused to support Akpabio, have also made a U-turn. He said the senators-elect included Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Wamakko, and Adamu Aliero, among others.
He said that Sani Musa, who had settled for the position of the Deputy President of the Senate, has also stepped down and has endorsed Barau.
Yari: they want to arrest me
An aspirant for Senate President Abdulaziz Yari said supporters of Akpabio were celebrating news of his imminent arrest.
But, in a swift reaction, a senator-elect in Akpabio’s camp denied the accusation, adding that only the guilty should be afraid.
Makinde seeks fairness, justice, equity
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde said the election of the leadership of the Senate must reflect the principles of fairness, justice and equity.
Makinde said this at a post-inauguration special thanksgiving service organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Fathers of Faith at Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan.
He noted that since the President and Vice President are of the same Islamic faith, the Senate President should be a Christian.
Makinde said: “We already have a President that is of Islamic faith, we have a Vice President that is of Islamic faith. Number three is going to be the Senate President.
“And what we are saying across party lines, I am saying it publicly: all the governors in Nigeria came together and we said we will support the choice of the president who is a Christian from the Southsouth region of Nigeria.
“We are not playing religious politics, but what is fair is fair. We stood for the southern presidency, we will stand for justice; we stood for fairness and we are going to stand for equity as well.
“So, I will be at the National Assembly tomorrow (today), even though I wasn’t elected as a Senator and I have never been elected as one. I will be there with my other colleagues.
“We will go and ensure that the principle of fairness, justice and equity prevails in the selection of the president of the Senate.”
Southsouth lawmakers-elect back Abbas
House of Representatives members-elect from the Southsouth have endorsed Abbas for Speaker and Kalu for Deputy Speaker.
The caucus is made up of about 55 members from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
Addressing Abbas and Kalu at the meeting in Abuja, the Caucus leader, Unyime Idem, said the zone decided to key into the vision and agenda of the Abbas/Kalu ticket, vigorously promoted by the Joint Task – 10th Assembly Coalition.
Idem, who is also a zonal coordinator of the Joint Task, a coalition of eight political parties that won seats in the 10th Assembly, expressed gratitude to his colleagues from the Southsouth for trusting him with the task of conveying their decision to the Joint Task.
He said: “We have 55 out 55 members of the Southsouth Caucus who have penned their signatures in support of the joint ticket.
“I, therefore, want to assure you that we will have the whole 55 as they are going to appear in the chamber on Tuesday to give you 55 votes from the Southsouth geopolitical zone.”
Co-chairman of the Joint Task, Usman Bello Kumo (APC, Gombe), thanked Idem for his leadership.
Abbas acknowledged the pivotal role of his colleagues from the Southsouth in advancing his ambition.
He said: “I have been to many regions in the country where I’ve been shown love, but that which I have experienced from the Southsouth in the course of this journey has been something else. And I want to assure you that I will not take this generosity and solidarity for granted.”
Also, Kalu expressed gratitude to the zonal caucus for believing in their struggle to institutionalise a legislature anchored on the principles of equity and inclusiveness.
He said: “What we started like a mustard seed has germinated and grown to this level of acceptance and support from our brothers and sisters across the regions of the country.”
Southwest, Southeast back Abbas
Southwest coordinator of the Abbas Tajudeen ticket, Prince Akeem Adeyemi, said the zone will vote for the duo.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Task for the Southwest, Wale Raji said the endorsement was just an affirmation of their earlier support for the Abbas/Kalu ticket.
He said: “What we have done is an affirmation of our earlier endorsement. It is my pleasure to report that out of 71 members from the Southwest, 68 are present here to append their signatures. Two others have called to say that they are on their way.”
Adeyemi said 22 of the 24 members from Lagos, nine from Ogun, 13 from Oyo, nine from Osun, six from Ekiti and nine from Ondo signed to support Abbas/Kalu.
He said: “The total number of members from Southwest that will be voting for Abbas as Speaker is 68.”
Similarly, 35 of the 43 members-elect from the Southeast endorsed Abbas and Kalu.
Leader of the Southeast caucus, Igariwey Iduma Enwo, said the 35 members signed the document to support them.
Igariwey is optimistic that the remaining eight members of the caucus who were not in Abuja at the time of the endorsement would sign the document before the inauguration of the House.
From the Northwest with 92 members-elect, 72 have reportedly signed up for the Abbas/Kalu ticket, while 32 out of the 51 members from the Northcentral and 37 of 48 members from the Northeast have also endorsed the duo.
At their separate meetings which took place at the Abuja Continental Hotel (former Abuja Sheraton) and Transcorp Hilton, the lawmakers from the Northwest and Northcentral resolved to support one of their own for the Speakership position.
The Communication Adviser to the Tajudeen-Ben Kalu group (TBK) and lawmaker-elect for Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, described the success recorded as a victory for the quest to build a stable, strong, united, harmonious and all-inclusive Parliament that will deliver on life-changing people’s legislation.
Ugochinyere described Abbas and Kalu’s legislative competence, capacity, and their door-to-door engagement with members-elect, as reasons for the across-board acceptance.
He said: “After Abbas and Kalu presented their road map to the lawmakers-elect from the two regions, they rose in their different zonal engagement with them and resolved to vote for the duo in a landslide.
“They praised the legislative competence of Abbas and Kalu, which saw them moving over 100 bills that have over 23 already signed into law, and said the 10th National Assembly should elect them because of their legislative capacity rooted in teamwork, inclusiveness, and humility.”