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Tension As PDP, LP Plot Against Tinubu’s Candidates In NASS Leadership Tussle

• Tinubu meets all lawmakers-elect, seeks support for Akpabio, Barau, Abbas, Kalu

• Drop party colours, fly national colour of progress, Tinubu begs lawmakers-elect

• Wase vows to take race to the wire

• Christian leaders seek support for Yari

• Governors forum solidly behind Akpabio, Abbas, says Abiodun

• We’re collaborating with other opposition parties, keeping our plans secret – PDP

• LP to vote en bloc, announce choice soon as Otti meets lawmakers-elect

Ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, met with 109 Senators-elect and 360 House of Representatives members-elect at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the meeting, coming a day after Tinubu’s parley with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) federal lawmakers-elect, the President urged them to close ranks and support the APC consensus candidates for the 10th National Assembly leadership positions.

The APC preferred candidates are Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Jibrin Barau, Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu for Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

The President, who was accompanied to the meeting by the Vice President, Kassim Shettima; outgoing Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; incumbent Speaker and Chief of Staff-designate, Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, and other key leaders, said Tinubu’s position was in the interest of delivering a working country and ensuring a smooth take-off of his government with the seamless election of National Assembly presiding officers.

According to Tinubu, the four chosen ranking lawmakers for the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, have the capacity, competence, experience and inclusive spirit and humility to deliver on a stable and progressive parliament that understands the urgency and need to solve critical national problems with parliamentary instruments.

While begging aggrieved aspirants to bury the hatchet, the President and Vice President assured lawmakers that the administration would ensure that Nigeria’s potential is turned into reality, if they all drop their party colours and fly the national colour of progress.

Thereafter, messages focusing on the need for corroboration and joint task of working to deliver on the Nigeria project were delivered.

The lawmakers-elect, who responded via Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, thanked the President for taking off on a good note by building the bridges of cohesion, inclusion and stability and assured the President that his message was well delivered and received by them.

Speaking to journalists after the parley, the Communication Adviser to Abbas and Kalu Campaign Organisation and member-elect for Ideato North/South federal constituency of Imo State, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said lawmakers have accepted the message and hand of friendship extended by the President towards having a stable and united all-inclusive parliament that will deliver on urgent national goals.

He assured that lawmakers have agreed to work harmoniously with the executive arm of government on that ground, without compromising the independence of the legislature.

But member-elect for Ningi/Warji Federal Constituency in Bauchi State, Adamu Ranga, said the President did not voice support for any of the candidates, but called for a united front.

Ranga said: “Mr. President spoke to the general assembly of both the Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that we have a solid government. Secondly, he emphasised that he will operate an open-door policy for everybody. Thirdly, he said we should put our constituency first since we are here to represent them. He mentioned that he wants the Senate and the House to cooperate to elect good leaders.”

READ ALSO : 10th NASS Leadership: Tinubu Declines To Unveil Akpabio, Abass As APC’s Candidates

On his part, member-elect for Enugu East/Isiuzo Federal Constituency, Prof. Paul Nnamchi, said Tinubu appealed to lawmakers to uphold national interest.

“He appealed that we should forget about party politics and face national interest. That was the major part of his speech. He didn’t mention anybody’s name to be voted for. Maybe, he is appealing, but I didn’t hear anybody’s name,” Nnamchi said.

Earlier on Wednesday night, Tinubu prevailed on members of the G6 to step down for Abbas, his preferred candidate for Speaker. The G6 members include the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, Muktar Aliyu Betara, Sada Soli, Aminu Sani Jaji and Miriam Onuoha. Wase and Jaji were conspicuously absent at the parley of the APC lawmakers-elect.

The Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Tambawal, announced yesterday that the 10th National Assembly would be inaugurated on Tuesday, June 13, at 10:00a.m.

According to the announcement, senators-elect and members-elect of the House of Representatives are to visit the Senate conference room 231 and the House of Representatives conference room 301, respectively, with copies of their code of conduct clearance, certificates of return and valid identity cards for registration on Monday, June 12.

“Due to the ongoing renovation of the two chambers, senators-elect and members-elect are to come along with only one guest for the ceremony, who will be seated at the arcade,” the statement added.

However, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has said his colleagues at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) are solidly in support of the choice of Akpabio, Jibrin, Abbas and Kalu for NASS leadership.

Abiodun claimed that he, alongside his colleagues, irrespective of political parties affiliations, took the decision after their meeting with President Tinubu on Tuesday. He spoke when he received a delegation of the Abbas/Kalu Campaign Team in Abuja on Thursday.

“We (governors) met with the president two days ago. During our meeting, he told us that campaigns are over. He said that he’d be president for all. So, he sought our understanding and collaboration.

“It is within the right of the president to seek those that will make his job easier. He has decided in collaboration with the party that these are the people that he wants to work with. All of us across party lines keyed into what the president told us. We had our meeting after meeting him and decided that we should support the president,” the governor said.

IT was, however, a discordant tune from the opposition parties to the endorsement of APC’s preferred candidates. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, said it was keeping the specifics about its plans for the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly a secret for strategic reasons.

It stated that it has concluded work with other opposition parties to vote for common candidates in both chambers when the election of Presiding Officers is conducted on Tuesday, vowing to maximise the majority status of all opposition parties.

READ ALSO : 10th NASS Leadership: Akpabio, Abass Fate Uncertain As Tinubu Breaks Speakership Impasse

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, said: “With regards to the current race for Presiding Officers of the National Assembly, it is instructive to note that the opposition parties put together form a strong majority in the National Assembly and we are very mindful of that. PDP leadership is working together with our members-elect and opposition parties in the two chambers.

“Irrespective of the on-going and claims in the media, I want to inform you that PDP has a clear direction, which we hold close to our chest. Our members are united in that direction and it will show on the floor of both Houses of the National Assembly on Tuesday.”

The PDP spokesman equally explained that the party remains focused on its ongoing quest to reclaim its stolen presidential mandate.

He said: “We are not taking our eyes off the fact that the process of the 2023 presidential election is still ongoing at the Presidential Election Petition Court and other election petition tribunals across the country.”

Similarly, Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, the only Labour Party (LP) governor, yesterday, met behind closed doors with senators and House of Representatives-elect to deliberate on the choice of the National Assembly leadership.

The parley held in Abuja came barely three hours after President Tinubu held a meeting with members of the opposition political parties to canvass support for his preferred candidates.

LP National Chairman, Julius Abure, who spoke at the start of the meeting, acknowledged that there had been a series of consultations on the issue relating to the choice of the NASS leadership, adding that the party plans to vote en bloc on Tuesday.

Abure disclosed that the lawmakers-elect would decide on their preferred choice for the leadership of the National Assembly either today or tomorrow.

He expressed gratitude to the governor over the consultative meeting, adding that it behooves them to live up to the expectations of the electorate.

Victor Ogene, LP leader in the House, said the party had yet to decide on a particular aspirant, but once that decision is made, it would be a bloc vote.

“The LP has yet to decide on a particular candidate, but I can assure you that we are going to vote en bloc, the consultation is on. I do not know those we will vote for yet, but I know those we will not vote for,” he said.

Ogene said that at the end of the day, one candidate would emerge and it was going to be from the ruling APC.

“I just want to tell you that we will not be railroaded into choosing anybody; it will be a conscious decision. While we would be opposed to any undue interference or influence in choosing our leaders, we will go for a Speaker that would be accountable to all members of the 10th Assembly,” he declared.

READ ALSO : NASS leadership: Peter Obi Rally support For Betara, Yari As A Section Of LP Lawmakers-elect kick

THE contest for NASS leadership experienced a twist yesterday as Christian leaders rose from a meeting in Abuja and advised Senators-elect to consider what promotes the socio-economic development of Nigeria before voting on Tuesday. They also cautioned against exhibition of regional and religious sentiments during voting.

The Christian leaders, who met under the umbrella of the Christian Organisation of Nigeria (CON), said having considered factors of competence, patriotism, character and humility in service, the former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari, is the best person for the position of the Senate president.

They commended the decision of many senators-elect to reject the APC endorsement and vote according to their conscience.

Led by Bishop Prophet Blessing Fashola of the Celestial Church, the Christian leaders said: “We are calling on the Senators-elect to discountenance enemies of democracy trying to use politics of divide-and-rule to discourage PDP Senators-elect from voting Yari.

“The hallowed chamber of the Senate is where Nigeria must speak as one united and indivisible entity hence every religious, ethnic and racial divisions must be highly discouraged.

“After a critical assessment of all the contestants, irrespective of their religious divide, we have chosen to endorse Yari because he is the most capable.”

Concerned Political Leaders, made up of persons across political parties, groups and associations in Abuja have given reasons why a Northerner should emerge President of the 10th Senate.

The group also advised all those in the race for the position of Senate President from the Southern part of the country to step down for a Northern aspirant. The body narrowed down their candidate to Yari, whom they said is the most competent

Addressing a press conference at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, two times (2015 and 2019) presidential candidate of the Green Party, Chief. Charles Eke, said the North cannot be dispensed with in the political equation of Nigeria having secured about 80 per cent of the above eight million votes scored by President Tinubu to win the election.

“It is not rocket science to understand that Nigeria is seriously divided, the magnitude of mistrust and fear has reached its crescendo. The 2023 election has gone, the fallout has been very troubling and there remains the question of national acceptance with over 15 million Nigerians voting against our President while our President was able to garner eight million plus votes with over 80 per cent coming from the Northern states.”

Ahead of the inauguration, a pro-democracy group, the Natives, has warned against the emergence of any of the aspirants of the Muslim faith as the Senate President.

Supreme Leader of the Natives, Olalekan Edwards, called on Muslim aspirants jostling for the Senate Presidency seat to be wary of the dangers posed by the dominance of adherence to the Islamic religion in the leadership positions of the country.

Edwards threw his weight behind the decision by the ruling APC to adopt the joint ticket of Akpabio and Barau.

Arguing that the decision was in the best interest of the country, the group enjoined Senator Abdul’aziz Yari to step down for Akpabio based on his pedigree and performance in the affairs of governance of the country.

According to the group: “Nigeria is a secular state and the Akpabio/ Barau ticket represents the consideration of the mood of the country, an evidence of healing rather than the braggadocious display of strength or the coronation of religious dominance of the other contestants.”

Outgoing Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, has urged the incoming lawmakers to take another look at the bill aimed at creating special seats for women in the National Assembly. Onyejeocha, who represented Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, said the ninth assembly made history, as it was the first time such an ambitious bill was presented before the National Assembly.

The Bill titled, “A Bill for An Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to create additional special seats for Women in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly,” was sponsored by Onyejeocha as part of efforts to increase women participation in politics.

Though the bill didn’t pass through the House, if passed into law, it will create an additional 34 seats in the Senate and 74 seats in the House of Representatives.

She lamented the low number of women who won legislative seats during the 2023 general elections.

Onyejeocha, however, applauded Gbajabiamila for standing by her in advocating for the Special Seats bill and other key bills of national importance.

Also, a women rights movement under the aegis of 100 Women Lobby Group, on Thursday, urged President Tinubu not to renege on his promise in ensuring that women get enough space in appointive positions.

The organisation, therefore, demanded 35 per cent women representation in appointive positions across all strata to ensure gender equity.

National Coordinator of the group, Felicia Onibon, made the appeal at a media briefing on the close-up of the Electoral Integrity and Accountability in Nigeria project supported by the MacArthur Foundation in Abuja.

Some members of the women’s lobby group included: Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), The Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), ElectHER, among others.

Onibon urged the president to take the five gender bills, which was rejected by the ninth Assembly as an executive bill to the 10th Assembly, adding that Nigeria needs to take her pride of place in the committee of nations.

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