Tinubu Meets Senators, Members-elect, Charges Them to Work Together, Choose Own Leaders

  • Urges them to put nation’s interest above other considerations
  • PDP moves to back Yari’s faction to create upset, says opposition parties will maximise their numbers  
  • Abiodun: Governors across parties have accepted APC’s candidates 

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Udora Orizu in Abuja

President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, met members-elect of the 10th National Assembly across the different political parties and charged them to work together to choose good leaders for both chambers after their inauguration on June 13.

Although Tinubu met the lawmakers behind closed doors, THISDAY gathered that the president also told the gathering to go into the next session of the National Assembly with the single resolve of putting the nation ahead of partisanship in the discharge of their duties.

But legislators elected on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were said to have hatched a plot to support Abdul-Aziz Yari, a leading contender for the presidency of the 10th Senate. Besides Yari (Zamfara West), other members of the faction, which is opposed to the choice of presiding officers made by the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), are Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), and Sani Musa (Niger East).

APC has anointed Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom (South-south) and Senator Jibrin Barau from Kano (North-west) for Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively. In the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas from Kaduna (North-west) and Hon. Benjamin Kalu from Abia State (South-east) are the ruling party’s preferred candidates for Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively.

However, PDP seems to be planning a repeat of the 2015 scenario, when Senator Bukola Saraki of APC and Senator Ike Ekweremadu of PDP emerged Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively, against the ruling APC’s nominated candidates, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Senator George Akume.

In the House, current Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, had also lost to Hon. Yakubu Dogara by just eight votes, while Hon. Yussuff Lasun emerged at the expense of Hon. Mohammed Monguno, who was APC’s preferred candidate for Deputy Speaker.

House member-elect, representing Ningi/Warji Federal Constituency, Adamu Ranga, who shared some of Tinubu’s messages to them, said he called for a united front, irrespective of political party affiliation.

Ranga said, “Mr President spoke to the National Assembly, both Senate and the House of Representatives, in order to ensure that we have a solid government.

“Second, he emphasised that he would perform an open-door policy for everybody. 

“Whoever wants to see him can see him without any hindrance and whatever you want to discuss with him, he will give you that privilege to discuss. 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.” 

Corroborating Ranga’s account, another member-elect from Ondo State, who preferred not to be named, said the president appealed to both senators and members-elect to leave partisanship aside and make national interest their focus.

“He generally appealed to everyone to put Nigeria first, be focused on the purpose of legislature. He didn’t need to tell us who to vote for because we all know what to do,” he said.

Tinubu, who was accompanied to the meeting by the vice president, Kashim Shettima, incumbent Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker and Chief of Staff, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, and other key leaders, said he was keen on a smooth take-off of the government with a seamless election of presiding officers for the federal legislature.

Gbajabiamila, who also spoke, commended Tinubu for initiating the gathering, saying it would further strengthen the mutual relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government.

Similarly, Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun said governors across party lines had keyed into the APC choices for presiding officers of the incoming 10th National Assembly.

But the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the party and other opposition political parties in the National Assembly had the numbers to decide the elections of the presiding officers for the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives and would maximise their numbers. 

The National Working Committee (NWC) of APC had in May zoned the senate presidency of the 10th National Assembly to the South-south and speaker of the House of Representatives to the North-west. The party also zoned the deputy senate president to the North-west and deputy speaker to the South-east.

Specifically, the party adopted the zoning template and candidates of its president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and settled for Akpabio/ Jubrin for senate leadership and Tajudeen/ Kalu for House of Representatives leadership.

But the move elicited immediate response from North-central and North-west stakeholders of the party and some senators-elect, who rejected what they described as imposition of candidates. They insisted on producing their leaders, independently, raising fears that the 2015 scenario might recur in the National Assembly.

However, speaking to the lawmakers, Tinubu said the four chosen ranking lawmakers for Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker positions had the capacity, competence, experience to deliver on a stable and progressive parliament that understood the urgency and need to solve critical national problems with parliamentary instruments.

While begging the aggrieved aspirants to bury the hatchet, the president assured lawmakers that he would ensure that Nigeria’s potentials were turned into reality, if they all dropped their 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 Abaribe Enyinnaya, 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 received.

Speaking to the media after the Presidential parley, the Communication Adviser to Tajudeen Abbas, Benjamin Kalu campaign organisation and member-elect for Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, Imo State, Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, said lawmakers had accepted the message and hand of friendship extended to them by the President to have a stable, united and all-inclusive parliament that would deliver on urgent national goals.

Ugochinyere said the president’s decision to invite members of the opposition alongside lawmakers of the ruling party in his quest for seamless take-off of government was a positive development that has been accepted on the grounds of people’s interest and need for courageous decisions in solving huge national problems.

Abiodun: Governors Have Accepted APC’s Consensus Candidates

Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State said governors across party lines had keyed into the choice of Senator Godswill Akpabio, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, Senator Barau Jibrin and Hon. Benjamin Kalu as the Presiding Officers of the incoming 10th Assembly, 

Abiodun, who said the governors took the decision after their meeting with Tinubu, spoke when he received a delegation of the Tajudeen Abass/Benjamin Kalu Campaign Team under the Joint Task – 10th Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.

The governor said, “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.”

He said he met with the members-elect of Ogun State and told them “you’re standing solidly with Mr. President and the party. I, as governor of Ogun State, I am standing solidly behind you (Tajudeen Abass).” 

According to him, “God gives power to whom He wishes at the time hence, the array of members-elect that have aligned with Abbas and Kalu. I want to thank all those that have keyed into your leadership. Like the president reminded us yesterday (during meeting with APC lawmakers-elect), these are positions for the party with the majority.

“But that party must seek the partnership of other political parties. You should carry along all members or most members to ensure that you succeed. Your success will be measured by the way your members take dividends of democracy to their people. I believe Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abass will provide meaningful, purposeful, meticulous, people-oriented leadership.”

Opposition Shall Maximise Their Numbers, Says PDP

PDP claimed that it and other opposition political parties at the National Assembly had the numbers to decide the elections of the presiding officers for the Senate and the House of Representatives.

PDP also said it was worried that the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) was rejecting all documents earlier certified during the pre-conference trial of the presidential election tribunal petition at the Court of Appeal.

Three former PDP chieftains such as Godswill Akpabio, Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunaso are contesting for the office of the Senate President

In the House of Representatives, the APC has 179 candidates, while the opposition political parties have 181 members.

Addressing a press conference yesterday at the party secretariat, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba said, the PDP and the opposition parties have the numbers to determine, who becomes the presiding officers of the National Assembly.

He claimed that the opposition political parties were united to ensure a leadership of their choice on June 13.

“We the PDP and other minority political parties are united and we shall maximally decide the presiding officers of the National Assembly. With regard to the current race for the 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.

“The 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 the 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, June 13, 2023.

“In all, we do not discountenance the fact that put together, the opposition parties have the majority in the National Assembly which we are ready to deploy maximally,” he stated.

On the presidential tribunal, Ologunagba said, “We are not taking our eyes off the fact that the process of the 2023 Presidential election is still on-going at the Presidential Election Petition Court and other Election Petition Tribunals across the country.”

He accused the APC and INEC of plots to derail the cause of justice in the various Election Petition Tribunals across the country, saying INEC’s objection to its evidence in court was indicative.

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