•Senate Presidency race narrowed to Kalu, Akpabio
• Tinubu’s absence stalls zoning
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Ahead of the June 13, 2023 inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, top contenders for various positions have intensified lobbying, while waiting for the pronouncement on the zoning of offices by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Four key positions are up for grabs at the National Assembly. They include, President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Three of the four current holders of the offices were re-elected, including Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Femi Gbajabiamila (Speaker of the House of Representatives), and Idris Wase (Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives). Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy President of the Senate, lost his election to replace Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as governor.
With the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president-elect, plans by Gbajabiamila to retain his position as Speaker have been punctured. He hails from Lagos State, which is also the home state of the president-elect.
It was gathered that a ranking senator from the North West plotting to replace Lawan has reached out to top emirs from the North.
He has also met with first time senators-elect, with claims of alleged financial inducements during the hasty meeting held in Abuja.
The senator who heads a juicy committee in the Red Chamber, has been reportedly told by his governor to drop the bid and allow a Christian from the South to occupy the position.
“He’s not ready to listen to his governor,” a source familiar with the development told Saturday Sun.
Also, the current Deputy Speaker, Wase, a Muslim from Plateau State, who wants to replace Gbajabiamila as Speaker, is believed to have met with key governors from the South West and North Central. He has also met some powerful emirs from the North to support his bid, though the aforementioned have no voting rights in the National Assembly.
On the position of Senate President, an APC chieftain and member of the National Working Committee (NWC) told Saturday Sun that the race has been narrowed to the Chief Whip of the Senate and former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Godswill Akpabio, ex-governor of Akwa Ibom State and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
He said as soon as Tinubu returns from his trip to Europe, there may likely be an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC, where key decisions are expected to be taken.
He said Tinubu’s men are already short-listing names of possible candidates for the top National Assembly positions, but added that no decision has been taken yet.
“Those names people are circulating as having been endorsed are false. APC and Tinubu are yet to take a position on the issue of zoning. That will be done as soon as Tinubu returns from Europe and Saudi Arabia.
“To be frank, I don’t know who will be endorsed. But I know that the race is between Kalu and Akpabio. Every other contender is pretending and they know it.”
The source revealed that more people, however, favour South East in the calculation since the zone, in the current dispensation, does not occupy any presiding office in the National Assembly.
According to him, there is the talk about giving the South East a sense of belonging, as a measure of goodwill. He revealed that instead of employing the President Muhammadu Buhari method of excluding the South East, the incoming Tinubu government may rather embrace them.
“South East is tops in the thinking. Many people are favourably disposed to wooing the zone. We suspect that if the region is fully integrated, APC could gain more ground there and win more parliamentary and governorship seats in the coming years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule, has endorsed Wase’s bid. This is coming despite strong indications that the position may be zoned to the North West
Governor Sule had said: “I’m not just in support of the North Central for speakership; I’m fully behind you in your quest to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives. I’m leading and in the forefront of your campaign.
“We know of course, that the conversation about the next National Assembly leadership has been on for sometime, even though informally. For me as an individual, you do not need to visit to inform me formally because I’m the one leading your campaign to be Speaker and for the North-Central to have the slot.
“If my counsel is considered, the issue of speaker should be a matter that must be treated based on merit and experience. Both are on your side. Apart from the fact that you have been in the National Assembly for some time, your consistency, tenacity of purpose and humility stand you out. As for me and Nasarawa State, rest assured that we are solidly behind you.”