10th N’Assembly Speakership: Will Odds Favour Abass, Kalu?

Udora Orizu writes that the aspiration of Hon. Tajudeen Abbas and Hon. Benjamin Kalu to lead the 10th House of Representatives may be on course as many members-elect, Governors, CSOs, other stakeholders are endorsing the duo as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively

With about two weeks to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the aspiration of the All Progressive Congress, APC consensus candidates for Speaker, Deputy Speaker positions is garnering the needed support as many members-elect, Governors, CSOs, and other stakeholders are endorsing them.

The ruling party’s National Working Committee, NWC had on May 8 released their list of consensus candidates for the four parliamentary slots. The APC in the zoning plans, endorsed Senator Godswill Akpabio from the South-South geo-political zone as the President of the 10th Senate while Senator Barau Jibrin from the North-West was picked as his Deputy.

Also in the House of Representatives, the party endorsed Tajudeen Abass from the North-West as the Speaker and Benjamin Kalu from the South-East as Deputy Speaker.

Since the announcement, other aspirants for the office of the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, several members-elect, and some key stakeholders have been simmering with resentment.

The anger was more evident in the green chamber particularly, as the aggrieved aspirants formed a group known as the G-7, with a plan to rebel against the party’s choice and select their own consensus candidates.

But despite their decision to forge ahead, it appears Abass/Kalu are favoured in the eyes of their colleagues and party stakeholders, as endorsements have been flying in from all corners.

Honour by Parliamentary Monitoring Organisation

Long before campaigns for National Assembly leadership began a Parliamentary Monitoring Organisation, OrderPaper Nigeria, and its partners through their annual performance appraisals beamed light on the importance of performance, capacity and character as a criteria into the race for National Assembly leadership.

The MVP Hall of Fame initiative, which is in furtherance of OrderPaper’s contributions to legislative strengthening and promotion of improved service delivery in the National Assembly, aims at identifying and sustaining a distinct class of legislators who are performance-driven, excellence-inspired, and public-spirited.

The annual appraisals focused exclusively on the core legislative function of law-making, and consideration for the MVP nomination and subsequent shortlisting essentially applied the criteria of Value, Impact, and Productivity in rating the contributions of those shortlisted.

The team of panelists that conducted the selection had Prof. Ladi Hamalai, a former director general of NILDS, as the head with Prof. Ali Ahmad, a former lawmaker, Ikechukwu Uwanna, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Amos Dunia, Kemi Yesufu as members, while Oke Epia is the founder.

Endorsement By Members-elect

On the campaign side, the number of members-elect, that accompanied the duo on visit to the APC national headquarters, and Vice President Kassim Shettima is a testament that Abass and Kalu are loved.

While the aggrieved aspirants were describing Abass in particular as “unpopular”, members-elect showed up in solidarity with five full coaster buses, as they accompanied Abass and Kalu to visit the Vice President and most recently the Party’s National Chairman.

During the visit to APC national secretariat, the large number of members-elect that attended the session were too many to count as, despite the large size of the NWC conference room, many members-elect couldn’t find seats.

Probably not believing that majority of the people present are all members-elect, the APC Chairman Abdullahi Adamu had to insist that all members-elect should introduce themselves individually, which they did.

He was shocked to see that even members of PDP, NNPP, LP, APGA etc were part of the delegation. It took members of the team close to 30 minutes to introduce themselves.

At the meeting, Abass and Kalu informed the party’s NWC that over 250 members-elect are currently working with them ahead of the June 13 inauguration.

Also, recently, one of the speakership aspirants and former member of the G-7, Hon. Ado Doguwa, withdrew from the race to join the campaign trail of Abbas and Kalu.

Declaring his support, Doguwa said he and two other aspirants Hon. Makki Yalleman and Hon. Abdulraheem Olawuyi had seen reasons to join the APC preferred candidates.

According to him: “I have benefited from party arrangements, this kind of arrangement. I’m majority leader courtesy of my party. So, it’s only fair to stand beside my party’s decision. Time has come for me to pay back. We are here individually and collectively to support Tajudeen. We are surrendering our speakership ambition. The selection process of Abass is not biased and he and Kalu are qualified to be speaker and deputy”.

The most recent and momentous endorsement came from the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP and member-elect representing Ideato North South Federal Constituency, Hon. Ikenga Ugochinyere.

He and 62 other members-elect who announced that they are backing Abass and Kalu as Speaker, Deputy Speaker of the incoming 10th Assembly called on the other candidates in the race who were banking on opposition votes to stage a rebellion against the Tajudeen Abbas/ Benjamin Kalu ticket to withdraw from the race as the opposition votes they were banking on would no longer be available for them.

While describing Abass and Kalu as men of integrity, and competence to preside over the affairs of the 10th House of Representatives, Ugochinyere said it is time for national development, growth and stability and not the time for party politics.

Governors Endorsement

Aside CSOs and lawmakers, declaring support for the duo, they have also gotten the blessing of some outgoing and incoming governors.

During courtesy visits, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, said  he and his counterparts from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the North would not go against the choice of the president-elect regarding the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

Sule said as a governor, he also has preferred candidates for the leadership of his State Assembly and that nobody would disagree with him on such decision.

According to him, they are loyal party members who would want the new Tinubu administration to succeed.

On his part, Governor of Plateau State, Hon Simon Lalong, urged the Speaker and Deputy Speakership candidates to remain true to the attributes that endeared them to the party’s leadership which informed their selection and endorsement.

Lalong also appealed to the duo not to forget North-Central if they emerge after the inaugurationof the National Assembly Inn June.

Also, Governor of Borno State,  Babagana Zulum tasked the duo on inclusive leadership, stressing that it’s very important.

Another Governor, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State stressed the importance of showing respect for constituted authority.

He said while it’s not in his place to assess the candidates who already enjoy the support of the ruling party and the President and Vice President-elect, he will sit with members-elect from his State to discuss on the need to be on “the winning team.

The most recent endorsement came from former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who while declaring his support promised, he would work assiduously to make sure that the duo emerge victorious.

Wike also said that the 2015 scenario where members that went against their party emerged as leaders of the National Assembly would not repeat itself.

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