The National Assembly turned a new page yesterday with the election of Godswill Obot Akpabio (Akwa Ibom Northwest) as President of the Senate and Tajudeen Abbas (Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State) as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Also elected are Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) unopposed as Deputy President of the Senate and Benajmen Okezie Kalu (Bende Federal Constituency, Abia State) as Deputy Speaker. He was also unopposed.
Many Nigerians woke up to a live telecast of the election process on the floor of the two chambers as early as 8:00 am against the expected 10:00 am commencement time.
It was learnt that the time change was communicated to the lawmakers by the National Assembly bureaucracy but was unknown to many Nigerians.
Akpabio, who was nominated by Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South) and seconded by Senator Adeola Olamilekan (Ogun West) got 63 votes to Senator Abdulaziz Yari’s 46. All 109 senators were present.
Following the collapse of last-minute efforts to agree on a consensus around Akpabio, Yari (Zamfara West), contrary to the All Progressives Congress (APC) zoning arrangement, was nominated by Senator Elisha Aboh (Adamawa South) and seconded by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South), two APC senators.
Following Yari’s defeat, Barau sailed through without a contest because the Yari camp knew they did not have the number.
Senator Dave Umahi nominated Barau, seconded by Senator Salihu Mustapha (Kwara Central).
Proceedings at the House of Representatives were held simultaneously with that of the Senate.
But the election in the Senate ended ahead because of the fewer senators compared to the House of Representatives with 360 members. One seat is vacant because of disruption of election in a an Akwa Ibom constituency.
Abbas was nominated by Ninth House leader Ado Doguwa (Kano State), seconded by Nnolim Nnaji (Enugu).
Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano) was elected unopposed as Deputy Senate President.
There was no other nomination after Jibrin was nominated for Deputy Senate President.
Following the nominations, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Magaji Tambuwal, called for additional nominations.
Since there was none, Tambuwal declared nominations closed and called for the division to enable senators-elect to cast their votes for their preferred candidate.
After the votes were sorted, Akpabio’s supporters began to jubilate as it was obvious that he had won.
Tambuwal declared the winner. Akpabio was then led to take the chair as Senate President.
After taking his oath of office and the oath of allegiance administered by the Clerk, Akpabio signed the oaths and used the gavel for the first time.
The Clerk thereafter called for nominations for the position of Deputy Senate President.
Since there were no other nominations, Tambuwal declared nominations closed for the position and thereafter declared Jibrin as Deputy Senate President.
There was a mild drama when Senator Mohammed Tahir Monguno opposed the nomination of Yari, citing Order Three, Rule Three, which he said, spells out conditions for eligibility for the position of the Senate President.
He described Yari’s nomination as an academic exercise, saying the Senate cannot waste its time on it.
However, Clerk to the National Assembly overruled him and sustained the nomination.
All the Senators from the states voted in alphabetical order.
The proceedings were observed from the gallery by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Senator George Akume; Governors Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), former Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, former Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Edo State Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu.
Read Also: Akpabio, Yari and triumph of democracy
After Akpabio was declared winner, he went to where Yari was sitting to embrace him. Other senators cheered them.
Speaking with reporters, the Chairman of the Media Committee of the Yari Campaign team, Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central), described the election as free and fair.
He said that the minority caucus was pleased with the process that led to Akpabio’s emergence, saying it was devoid of untoward drama.
Ningi said: “The election was free and fair without the much-anticipated drama. That is what makes the institution of the Senate different.
“The animosity, the fear of what happened in the last two days completely vanished. You go into the hall and you see how people are embracing themselves and that is parliament and that is democracy.
“We have refused to be intimidated by any law enforcement agency and that is why we said there must be an election.
“The sitting government had the day. We have no problem. We know we are in the minority, we are in total agreement. The election was free and fair and to be honest, I was expecting it to be so.”
Ningi who was elected on the platform of the PDP, added: “The position I took was not the position of my party, but that of the minority caucus and you could see that not all of us actually voted on the same page.”
How Abbas, Kalu became Speaker, Deputy
Abbas, who scored 353 votes of the 359 votes, was declared the winner at exactly 11.44 am by the Clerk.
Also, the immediate past spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu, emerged unopposed as the Deputy Speaker.
The election of the Speaker was through the open ballot system, with members calling out the name of the person they intended to vote for.
Order Two, Rule 2 sub-rule 3(F)(iii) provides that “every member voting shall name clearly and in the open the candidate of their choice”.
The immediate past Majority Leader, AlHassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) nominated Abbas. The nomination was seconded by Nnolim Nnaji (PDP, Enugu).
Also, Tijani Kayode Ibrahim (APC, Kwara) nominated Ahmed Idris Wase to contest against Abbas and it was seconded by Ali Mohammed Abdulmumin (APC, Nasarawa).
Aminu Sani Jaji was nominated by Ahmed Idris Doro (Katsina) and it was seconded by Mohammed Ibrahim (Katsina).
The member who died immediately after the election, Isma’ila Yushua Maihanchi, was the only member that did not vote. He was from Taraba State.
Kalu, who emerged unopposed as the Deputy Speaker, was nominated by Babajimi Benson from Lagos State and seconded by Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim from Yobe State.
Benson said the nomination has fostered inclusion and addressed perceived marginalisation.
In the absence of another nomination, the Clerk to the National Assembly declared Kalu elected as Deputy Speaker.
Read Also: NASS Leadership: Gov. Sanwo-Olu congratulates Akpabio, Jibrin
Immediate past Speaker and Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, who took part in the election, handed over his notes to Abbas.
Gbajabiamila said Abbas will be a good Speaker.
There was heavy security around the National Assembly as the senators-elect and members-elect were inaugurated.
Security operatives drawn from the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, as well as National Assembly security, ensured no incident in and outside the Assembly complex.
The National Assembly entrance from the Federal Secretariat junctions was blocked by heavily armed security personnel.
Staff and others accredited to the National Assembly could only gain access to the premises by using the gate at the SGF axis.
Many of the lawmakers were ferried to the National Assembly in coaster buses, while others preferred to drive themselves to the venue.
There was traffic gridlock at the only entrance into the complex.
Many of the Assembly staff, who were not accredited, were not allowed into the premises.
The ongoing construction work in the Complex was also put on hold.
Many supporters came to felicitate the lawmakers on their inauguration.
Two huge white tents were set up at the National Assembly arcade.
We contested to protect Democracy, say Wase, Jaji
Wase and Jaji said they contested in the true spirit of democracy.
While Wase said democracy should be allowed to thrive, Jaji said he contested to protect democracy.
Wase said democracy should not be truncated and the hands of members should not be tied.
In accepting his nomination, Wase said: “I hereby submit myself to be the voice of the voiceless, to be the true representatives of the Nigerian populace, to be a co-partner in the Nigerian development project. I hereby accept the nomination.
“We stand to believe power is from God. It is only God that will give power to whoever he wishes and if given the opportunity, we will do the needful.”
Lawmakers from Plateau (where Wase comes from) and Zamfara (where Jaji comes from) voted against the two candidates.
Tijani Kayode from Kwara and Abdulmumin Mohammed Ari from Nasarawa, who nominated and seconded the nomination of Wase, as well as Yusuf Ahmed Doro and Muhammad Aminu Ibrahim, both from Katsina, who nominated and seconded Jaji’s nomination, voted for the two aspirants.