Ahead of the inauguration of the national Assembly next week, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi has met with lawmakers elected on the platform of the party in Abuja.
It is however not clear whether Obi and his running mate, Sen Yusuf Datti Baba -Ahmed rallied support for House of Representatives speakership aspirant, Muktar Betara and the Senate President aspirant Sen Abdul’aziz Yari as claimed by supporters of the adopted candidates of the ruling All progressives Congress (APC), Dr Tajudeen Abass and Sen Godswill Akpabio for the seats of the Speaker and Senate President respectively.
An LP member who was privy to the meeting held separately at the Wuse and Maitama districts of Abuja during the week insist that they were asked to vote against Abass and Akpabio.
The LP member who asked not to be named gave a vivid account how they were persuaded to vote for both Akpabio and Betara thus: “First, we met with Datti before now, and he said unequivocally that we can’t vote Tajudeen Abbas, Akpabio or any other candidates the APC is supporting
“He told us that Abbas was endorsed by the APC to suppress him and Benjamin Kalu was endorsed to suppress Alex Otti in Abia state. The meeting ended in stalemate. Chopsticks was the venue.
“Another meeting held on Monday around Zone 5. Obi was present. He said he was endorsing Yari for Senate President and Betara for Speaker, and compelled all LP members-elect to vote Betara and Yari.
“Ideologically, he’s forcing us. If that is the case, there’s nothing new about LP. He’s able to get one person away from the Abbas project among us. It’s a female.
He wants to force us to do what he wants, but no way.
“They plan to call us for another meeting this coming weekend, I think on Sunday. It will be to say that LP has decided to vote for Yari and Betara. He’s telling us that the party is supreme, but how do we support someone that is rebellious against his party?
“If he calls for division, we’ll have the majority, but he won’t do that. At the meeting we held, some of us said we are adults and we should be allowed to make our choices. So, we won’t back down. How can Peter Obi that people are shouting his name up and down as a democrat now turn to be undemocratic?”
But a leading member of the LP and spokesperson of the House minority caucus, Mr Victor Ogene described the the claim as baseless adding it was a figment of the imagination of adversaries of the minority caucus.
He noted:”The insinuation that Mr. Peter Obi, National Leader and Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party(LP) is coercing Members-Elect of the House of Representatives to vote for a particular candidate in the Speakership race is a lie from the pit of hell.
“Yes, as a Caucus, we met last night, but not at Mr. Obi’s behest. The notice of meeting was sent out by the National Chairman of Labour Party, Barrister Julius Abure, and Mr. Obi was only invited as National Leader of the Party.
“After virtually all 27 Members-Elect present at the meeting had taken turns to speak, Mr. Obi, who was the first to leave because of another engagement, advised members to ensure, as much as possible, that they are united in arriving at a decision regarding who to vote for as Presiding Officers.
“Contending that Nigerians place huge expectations on the Labour Party, he lauded the suggestion by a member, to the effect that the Members-Elect would be making an important statement if they decide to nominate one of them for Speakership, and all 35 members vote in that regard.
“Everything must not be about what you can gain as individuals, but rather your place in history as you begin your sojourn in the National Assembly,” Obi said.
“Not once, throughout his about 15-minute speech, did Mr. Obi mention any aspirant by name. On the contrary, he urged the members to continue talking amongst themselves, under the guidance of the National Chairman and the Caucus Leader.
“In fact, for the records, Mr. Obi had in his first official interaction with the LP Members-Elect – soon after they collected their certificates of return – urged them to decide for themselves who to vote for,” Hon. Afam Ogene, leader of the LP House of Representatives caucus, said.
“In his words at the time: “You are the ones elected, so the onus rests with all of you, to interface with others to choose your leaders. As for me, several aspirants, both in the Senate and the House have been trying to reach me, but I prefer to allow you people take your fate in your own hands.”