Bearly a one week to inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is stuck in a point at which a crucial decision must be made to ensure that its preferred candidates emerge presiding officers of both chambers of the federal legislature.
The governing party, it was gathered, is grappling with the exigency of having to deal with aspirants for the Senate presidency under its platform, Senators Abdulaziz Yari, Orji Kalu and Osita Isunazo, who have refused to shift ground even though the party’s zoning arrangement did not favour them.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the leadership of the APC had endorsed Akpabio as Senate President and Senator Barau Jubrin as his deputy.
Hon Tajudeen Abbass also received the blessing of Tinubu and APC as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, with Hon Benjamin Kalu as his deputy.
But some APC lawmakers under the aegis of G6 Coalition fiercely opposed the zoning arrangement, describing it as “an unconstitutional imposition of leadership of the 10th Assembly by forces outside the National Assembly.”
A crucial meeting scheduled by President Tinubu with federal lawmakers elected on the platform of opposition political parties for yesterday (Monday) at the presidential villa, Abuja, was postponed.
It was also gathered that another meeting between the president and APC lawmakers billed to hold last Sunday was also cancelled.
A source in the APC told our correspondent that the meetings were shifted following the refusal of the party’s aspirants vying for principal offices of the National Assembly to withdraw from the race to pave way for the party’s anointed candidates.
“There is no way a resolution would come out of any meeting with the lawmakers-elect who are divided among themselves. Until the APC aspirants agree to respect the zoning arrangement of the party, there cannot be any consensus ahead of the June 13 inauguration of the 10th National Assembly,” the source who did not want his name in print said.
Meanwhile, all appears not to be well in the camp of Senators Yari, Kalu and Izunaso over who to finally support for the office of the Senate president.
It was gathered that Kalu is threatening Yari’s supporters with a defection to the camp of the president.
Trouble started when the trio who are yet to decide on who to position for the office of Senate president met last night in a popular hotel (names withheld) outside the outskirts of Abuja to take a final position on who to support.
It was gathered that after heated arguments among the trio and their sponsors, including a serving presiding officer of the Senate, who has vowed never to toe the path of the president and National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, those who spoke in support of the former Governor of Zamfara State outnumbered those who spoke in support of Kalu and Izunaso.
An enraged Kalu was said to have threatened to dump the group for the president’s choices if the group refused to rescind its decision not to support him for the Senate presidency after the party had long zoned the office to the south.
The former Abia State governor and chief whip of the Senate was said to have told Yari’s sponsors that it would be the height of religious insensitivity on the path of the former Zamfara governor to want to occupy the office of the Senate president when the president and his vice are both Muslims.
It was also learnt that after very strong arguments for and against Yari’s ambition, which almost resulted in fisticuffs, Kalu threatened to walk out of the meeting.
Sensing the implications of the walkout he might stage and having threatened to dump the group, he was offered the position of the deputy Senate president and Izunaso, chairman, Senate committee on Appropriation.
It was not clear if Kalu and Izunazo accepted the offer but sources at the meeting told this paper that Kalu might eventually dump the anti-zoning group of lawmakers.
“With the way things are going on now in our camp, Kalu might dump the group because of their selfishness and insensitivity to national peace and unity,” the source told our correspondent in confidence.
Recall that Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has stopped the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related offences Commission (ICPC) from arresting and detaining Senator Abdulaziz Yari pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The court gave the order in a ruling delivered on an ex-parte motion moved by Yari’s counsel and for Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN).
The court also stopped the Department of State Services (DSS) from detaining the former Zamfara governor.
Justice Okorowo ordered the respondents, EFCC, ICPC and DSS, to show cause why the prayers sought on the motion ex-parte should not be granted on the next adjourned date.
“The respondents are however restrained from detaining the applicant until the return date for the order to show cause,” he ruled.
The case has been fixed for June 8.
Yari had through his team of lawyers filed the ex-parte motion marked: FHC/ANJ/CS/785/23.
In the motion dated and filed on June 2, 2023, Yari listed EFCC, ICPC and DSS as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
The former governor prayed the court for an order restraining the respondents, their officials, whosoever and howsoever described from arresting and/or threatening to arrest and detain him in order to prevent him from participating at the proclamation of the 10th Senate by President Tinubu on June 13.
Yari who gave 15 grounds on why the application should be granted averred that he was desirous of contesting the position of the president of the Senate of the 10th National Assembly in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and pursuant to the Senate Standing Orders 2022 (as amended).
He said his aspiration to contest the position of Senate president had received overwhelming support from the general public and among distinguished Senators-elect irrespective of party affiliations.
He said the support which the applicant has continued to garner across party lines has drawn consternation from some members of his political party, the APC, who have allegedly resorted to using the respondents and their agents to harass and threaten to arrest and detain him on trumped-up charges for the period leading to the first sitting of the Senate when nominations and election of presiding officers shall be constituted.
“The respondents and their agents have threatened to violate the applicant’s rights as enshrined in the constitution by unlawfully threatening to arrest and detain the applicant.
“The respondents and their agents are mandated to operate within the ambit of their establishment laws, and to respect the fundamental human rights of the Applicant as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
Yari said if the order was not given, his rights would have been breached by the respondents.
North Central Insists On Speakership As APC Govs Back Abbas, Benjamin Kalu
Meanwhile, stakeholders of the governing APC from the North Central geopolitical zone have asked the party to review its zoning arrangement for principal officers of the 10th National Assembly to ensure the next Speaker of the House of Representatives comes from the zone.
The stakeholders under the aegis of Concerned North Central APC Stakeholders Forum warned that the governing party risks losing the speakership position to opposition parties if it sticks to its current zoning arrangement.
Speaking when members of the forum stormed the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, convener of the forum, Rev Dominic Alancha, threatened that North Central will withdraw their support for the party in the 2027 general election if the party maintains the micro-zoning arrangement.
Alancha said, “For an election that was concluded since February 25, ordinarily, the decision to zone National Assembly leadership positions should not have taken this long if due process, respect for order and egalitarian principles have been followed.
“I say this because it is the inexplicable and bias decision of the APC to ignore this sound and time tested process by going to introduce strange and obtuse arrangements where a whole geopolitical zone was sidelined while another was given two key positions in the National Assembly hierarchy that has led to this quagmire.
“Zoning the position of Senate President in the 10th Assembly to the South-South geopolitical zone, and the position of Deputy Senate President to the North-West zone; while the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is also zoned to the North-West and the position of Deputy Speaker to the South East is unacceptable because it excluded the North Central from parliamentary leadership.
“We note the observation that the national chairman of our great party is from the North Central zone and with the appointment of George Akume as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), that the North Central has been compensated”.
Alancha described the exclusion of North Central as an aberration which is unacceptable, noting that if the people of North Central feel short-changed, there is no way they will support the party in 2027.
The stakeholders noted: “It is unfortunate that our governors are nowhere to speak, the region is looking up to them. We are telling them the feelings of our people.
“It will not be in the best interest of our party for the opposition to snatch the position because of our inability of the party to present an acceptable consensus candidate.”
But APC governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) have declared their support for the party’s endorsed candidates for the Speaker and deputy Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu.
The PGF chairman and governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma announced the resolution of the forum yesterday when he hosted the campaign team of the Abbas/Kalu joint ticket led by the Joint Task Force –10th Assembly Coalition at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge.
Uzodimma said APC has made the best choice of presiding officers for the House, and the least the governors should do is to ensure that the party’s preference and vision is actualised on June 13 when the 10th Assembly would be inaugurated.
He stated: “I congratulate you once more for the success you achieved in the last election and to commend you for coming together to form an alliance towards the speakership race. You have taken a good decision to support these two gentlemen.
“What we are practicing today is democracy and APC is the ruling party and you have a responsibility now to help the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to succeed, and we all know that the most sensitive arm of government is the legislature and if we make a mistake with it the other two arms will be affected.
“If the parliament is right, the government will be right, and I want to urge you to reach out to those who are aggrieved to persuade them to see the reason to agree with us. When you have a situation such as this, you will tell others your party is the best and in this instance, APC is in the majority and we have to demonstrate maturity by forging a common front in unity”.
The PGF chairman urged aggrieved aspirants to close ranks with the party’s preferred candidates and work together to determine a purposeful legislature capable of promoting and projecting the overall interest of Nigerians, adding that Abbas’ choice by the party was not an imposition.
“There’s no such thing as imposition, it’s for the benefit of all of us, and the synergy will help us to achieve more for our people back home. If you say that it means you’re willing and ready to disagree with the majority including the government. We know you have the power of appropriation, but when you appropriate, what about cash-backing?
“You certainly don’t want to go home after four years and tell your people you couldn’t achieve anything because you were not cooperating with the executive for their benefit, but when you work in harmony, you will reap the benefits of the cooperation and your people back home will be the better for it,” Uzodimma said.
Earlier, the anointed speakership candidate, Abbas, expressed confidence in the ability of the APC governors to ensure that the team as endorsed by the party is delivered on June 13.
On his part, the deputy speakership candidate, Benjamin Kalu, thanked Governor Uzodinma for throwing his weight behind their joint ticket, saying he trusts the governor’s love for the parliament, being a product of the legislature himself.