*Tinubu returns to drive implementation of zoning
*Against APC’s arrangements, North-central caucus moves to produce DSP
*House speakership: G-7 meets 182 members-elect, set to unveil candidate
Adedayo Akinwale, Udora Orizu, Sunday Aborisade and Juliet Akoje in Abuja
Barring any last-minute shifting of grounds, the election of the President of the 10th Senate may witness three nominations from members on the floor of the red chamber on the day of inauguration as the former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; and the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, have vowed not to step down for the preferred candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godswill Akpabio.
This is as the President-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu, yesterday returned to Nigeria eight days before the inauguration of his administration to drive the implementation of the zoning of the National Assembly leadership by the ruling APC.
The North-central senators-elect have, however, been making serious moves to woo other senators from other geopolitical zones for one of their own to emerge as the Deputy Senate President.
The APC had micro-zoned the position to Senator Barau Jibrin from the North-west state of Kano.
In a related development, the G7 aspirants for the position of the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives have met with Greater Minority with a resolution to present a consensus candidate for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker positions.
Investigation revealed that barring the outcome of further negotiations, the Senators-elect might nominate Senators Akpabio, Kalu, and Yari as their candidates for the position of Senate President on the day of their inauguration.
It was further learnt that Yari might choose to step down for Kalu before the commencement of voting so that he could contest the deputy Senate President position.
But at the moment, the race is too close to call as each of the three contenders is laying claims to having enough members that could give them victory.
Sources close to Yari and Kalu told THISDAY that the two candidates would challenge Akpabio on the day of their inauguration.
There are also strong indications that the senators-elect would also nominate three contestants for the position of Deputy Senate President.
The top contenders are Senators Barau Jibrin, who is the party’s preferred choice, Sani Musa, and Yari, who would have stepped down for Kalu during the Senate presidency race.
Akpabio and the other anointed candidates of the APC are not resting on their oars as they were going after the members of the opposition political parties last week for their support.
A Senator-elect from the North-west geopolitical zone told THISDAY yesterday that no candidate can boast of having 69 loyal members.
He said: “The highest each of them could boast of is between 40 and 45 committed members”.
Some of the aspirants are spending hard currencies to realise their ambition with most of the rooms in some five-star hotels in Abuja fully booked by the aspirants.
The aspirants ensured that some of the elected members of the 10th Senate had relocated to the hotels for easy accessibility and meetings.
Tinubu Returns to Drive Implementation of Zoning
Meanwhile, the incoming President, Tinubu returned to the country yesterday after a week in Europe.
While abroad, Tinubu met with Kwankwaso, and the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi.
The meeting has generated tension, with some Kano APC chieftains kicking against any attempt by Tinubu to appoint Kwankwaso into his cabinet.
Governor Ganduje of Kano had also expressed reservations over the meeting as was heard in a leaked audio conversation.
Ganduje was, however, among the dignitaries who went to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja airport to welcome Tinubu back home.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Vice-President-elect, Kashim Shettima, and Akpabio, were among those who welcomed Tinubu.
The president-elect returned amid the storm generated by the endorsement of some lawmakers as leaders of the 10th National Assembly by the APC.
During a protest by the aggrieved aspirants, the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu had said the zoning of the National Assembly leadership positions would be reviewed.
However, the review could not be carried out in Tinubu’s absence.
Tinubu’s strategists have however insisted that the current zoning would stand.
They argued that any attempt to tinker with the present zoning arrangements would create more controversies and expose the ruling party to ridicule,
With Tinubu’s return, he is expected to rein in dissident members and drive the final zoning arrangements by the party to ensure a stable National Assembly that would not destablise his administration.
North-central Caucus Vows to Produce DSP
In a related development, the North-central senators-elect have been making serious moves to woo other like-minds from other geopolitical zones for their candidate to emerge as the Deputy Senate President (DSP).
A ranking member among the caucus, who will represent Nasarawa West in the 10th National Assembly, Aliyu Wadada, told THISDAY that his colleagues from the North-central geopolitical zone are determined to clinch the position of the Deputy Senate President.
Wadada, who was elected on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said the fact that he and some of his colleagues have been following Akpabio, does not mean that the North-central is not interested in the position of DSP.
Wadada said: “The North-central will not, and cannot be left out with a representative like us. We will always strive to get what belongs to us or what we deserve.
“We already had a press briefing where we clearly stated our position. After the press briefing, when the zoning arrangements had been announced, we also took a stand and our governors supported us.
“The governors met with the aspirants from the North-central and efforts are really on to ensure that North-central gets what it deserves.
“As senators-elect from the North-central geopolitical zone, our position has not changed. We stand for the Deputy Senate President,” he added.
House Speakership: G-7 Meets Greater Minority, Set to Unveil Candidate
Meanwhile, the candidates of Group 7 (G7) for the position of the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives have met with another group of 182 members-elect from the opposition parties better known as Greater Minority with a resolved to present a consensus candidate for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker positions.
The candidates of G7 include Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase; Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi; Chairman of House Committee on Appropriations, Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara; Hon. Sada Soli; Hon. Mariam Onuoha and Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji.
Recall that the Greater Minority is made up of 182 members-elect across minority parties including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
In a statement signed by Gagdi after the meeting which was held in Abuja yesterday, the incoming lawmakers agreed on consensus candidates for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker positions and decided to wait for a later date to unveil the candidates.
Speaking on the development, Gagdi said the members-elect settled for candidates that will be acceptable to the majority of them.
“The G7 met with Greater Minority and agreed on consensus candidates for Speaker and Deputy Speaker but we will not mention the names yet. We reached an agreement based on the best choice of people that will be acceptable to the majority of all parties involved.
“We have formed this alliance to resist all attempts by external forces to impose leadership on the 10″ House of Representatives. Be rest assured that the next leader of the House will emerge from us,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the minority caucus for the incoming 10th House of Representatives has said it has not endorsed any aspirant for the office of speaker as reported in some media outfits.
The caucus also known as ‘Greater Majority’ going by its collective number of 182 member-elect across minority parties said this in a statement signed by the secretary of the group, Ali Isa, yesterday.
The lawmakers had last week met with the House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
But Isa in a statement said the caucus only met with Gbajabiamila, and the APC consensus speakership candidate, Tajudeen Abbas, who also engaged the group and made his presentation to solicit the support of its members to work with him just like the other aspirants did.
Constitution will Prevail over Party’s Zoning, Says Jimoh Ibrahim
On his part, a Senator-elect from the Ondo South senatorial district, Jimoh Ibrahim, has said his colleagues would follow the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, and not zoning arrangements, to elect their presiding officers.
Ibrahim said: “The leadership of the 10th National Assembly is about constitutional provisions. We were elected to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Section 50 of the constitution says “Senators-Elect shall select one, among them to preside over the affairs of the Senate.
“Any other thing contrary to the provisions of the Constitution is to the extent of its contradiction, inconsistency, void, and of no effect. That’s where we stand.
“Once the constitutional provisions are obeyed, it is the bedrock of democracy. It is the ground norm of what we need to do.
“The presiding officers’ positions could be zoned to anybody but the Constitution in Section 50 says, ‘one among the senators-elect shall be elected among them to preside over the affairs of the Senate.”
“We cannot do anything beyond the provisions of the constitution. That is what we would do.
“Section 1(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria establishes the supremacy of the Constitution above any other Act of Parliament that is inconsistent with the Constitution shall be declared void,” Ibrahim explained.