Aspirants gunning for the position of speaker of the 10th Assembly are moving against the anointed candidate of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rep Tajudeen Abbas (APC, Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State).
Emerging from a meeting at the weekend, Tinubu, it was gathered, had settled for Abbas and Ben Kalu (APC, Bende Federal Constituency, Abia State) as speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.
Daily Trust penultimate Friday, exclusively reported the decision of the president-elect to settle for Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa Ibom) and Senator Jibrin I. Barau, as Senate president and deputy, respectively.
An ally of Tinubu, yesterday further confirmed the decision of the president-elect to pair Abbas and Kalu as the presiding officers of the next House of Representatives.
“The speaker’s position has been zoned to Kaduna and Abbas has been picked, while the position of the deputy speaker is going to the South East and Rep. Kalu has been named for it,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.
Top sources said Abbas’s candidature was being promoted by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
Those who spoke to Daily Trust from the camps of some of the top contenders, including Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau); Muktar Betara Aliyu (Borno) and Yusuf Adamu Gagdi (Plateau), kicked against the endorsement of Abbas and Kalu.
Aside from Abbas, Kalu, Wase, Betara and Gagdi, there are five other contenders for the speaker’s seat. They are Abubakar Makki Yelleman (Jigawa); Sada Soli Jibia (Katsina); Abdulraheem Olawuyi (Kwara); Aminu Sani Jaji (Zamfara) and Mariam Odinaka Onuoha (Imo).
Despite the endorsement of Tinubu, Betara has fixed his official declaration for today. A statement by the Director-General of his campaign organisation, Dickson Tarkighir, said the declaration would be made at the Lagos/Osun Hall, Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Daily Trust reports that the opposition parties have the majority in the Green Chamber with 180 representatives, while the APC has 178. Two seats; one in Akwa Ibom and one in Ondo states are pending.
What attracted me to president-elect – Abbas
Abbas has said his endorsement by Tinubu is not wrong and will be ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
He said this in a Channels TV interview on Sunday, monitored in Abuja.
“I visited the president-elect like other contestants to present myself and to inform him of my aspiration to become the Speaker of the 10th Assembly.” He was very happy with my candidature and said that if it was zoned to the North West, he would do his best to ensure that justice was done to all contestants,” he said.
When prodded further on the qualities Tinubu saw in him to offer him prayers and support, he said, “I want to believe he (Tinubu) is impressed with my legislative disposition, credentials, places I have worked, and my contribution in the National Assembly.”
He, however, said the party has yet to announce a formal position on the zoning of the National Assembly leadership.
We were not consulted – Wase’s camp
A member of Wase’s camp, Rep. Olufemi Bamisile (APC, Ekiti), said it was strange that there was an endorsement of an aspirant without consultations.
He said the Wase camp was not consulted, adding that they only read the information in the newspapers and through social media.
According to him, the tradition has always been that the president would invite lawmakers from the ruling party and talk to them about the direction he would want things to go after due consultations, saying there has been nothing like that so far.
“The truth of the matter is that nobody was consulted on the matter, and I don’t understand what you mean by endorsement when we are not consulted. We are talking about a national party, and the leadership cuts across the six geopolitical zones.
“If you are going to endorse a person, which obviously is the right of the party, you have to do consultations across the various zones. I don’t think I can remember any meeting that was called to endorse anyone.
“I remember when, in 2011, the ACN then, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, our very good leader and president-elect, called all the members of the party in ACN to the state house in Lagos and gave a directive on the pattern of votes.
“Equally, in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, when he came into office, requested that all members be brought into the Villa and it was collectively told to us who he wanted.
“I remember in 2019, we were called to the villa and asked to support the person of Femi Gbajabiamila, which we all did unanimously. This time, too, we are not going to be spoken to by proxy. The president-elect will have to speak to everybody, or else the leadership of every zone should talk to us.
“That is what I think is the right way. I don’t think that such a meeting will be cornered somewhere and for us to be told that someone has been endorsed. That is not the way to go,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.
Endorsement mere speculation – Gagdi
Reacting, the Yusuf Gagdi Campaign Team said, “The purported endorsement of Abbas by the president-elect or the APC is mere speculation as no information has been transmitted either by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, our respected president-elect, or our great party, the APC, to that effect.
“While we await the decision of the party on zoning, we wish to echo Hon. Gagdi’s statement during his manifesto presentation ceremony, that the North Central should be given the opportunity to produce the next Speaker in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.
“Hon. Gagdi is not seeking endorsement but the provision of a level playing ground for all contestants.”
Daily Trust reports that the camp of Betara is also not in agreement with the endorsement of Abbas and Kalu.
While Daily Trust could not get the reaction of Betara’s campaign, one of the groups rooting for him has since kicked against the endorsement.
The group described the move as “an affront to the parliamentarians and the National Assembly as an institution.”
The group’s coordinator, Dr Williams Martins, said “We are most jolted and sincerely betrayed, especially when we got the hint that the preferred aspirant was taken by hand to be introduced to the president-elect.”
N/Central spoils for ‘fight’
Meanwhile, some All Progressives stakeholders and former lawmakers from the North Central geopolitical zone have also kicked against the endorsement of Abbas and Kalu, saying it was against justice, fairness and equity.
A group, North Central APC stakeholders yesterday urged Tinubu and the leadership of the ruling party to resist the temptation of excluding the North Central geopolitical zone from the speakership race, as doing so would not augur well for democracy and the unity of the country.
The convener of the group, Dominic Alancha, said at a press conference in Abuja that the reported move to favour the North West geopolitical zone for the position of Speaker to the exclusion of the North Central zone is against the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.
He said it would be unfair to allow the North West geopolitical zone to produce the deputy Senate president and also the Speaker of the House while the North Central zone, which also contributed immensely to the party, is left with nothing.
According to him, it would be in the best interest of Tinubu to allow the speakership slot to be ceded to the North Central to ensure balance and equity, saying such would engender the needed unity and cohesion for the smooth running of his administration.
“We are constrained to register our disappointment and to protest the decision of the APC leadership to zone the two presiding positions; deputy Senate president and Speaker of the 10th National Assembly in favour of the North West to the total exclusion of the North Central and other zones in the country.
“Having won the 2023 presidential election fair and square, we had expected the leadership of APC to be guided by the principle of justice and fairness in zoning leadership positions in the parliament and had thought that factors like commitment to the success of the party, level of contributions, and the need for fairness, equity, and justice to all would guide the decision,” the stakeholders stated.
Selfish individuals misleading Tinubu – N/Central ex-Reps
Rising from its extraordinary emergency meeting, yesterday, the forum of former members of the House of Representatives from the North Central Zone stated that Tinubu must have allowed himself to be misled by those they described as “selfish” individuals within the party.
The group, in a 7-point demand in their communiqué, read by Hon. Idris Yakubu, a member of the 4th Assembly, lamented that the North Central zone was being unfairly treated by the party despite having kept faith in it since 2015.
“We wish to state without equivocation that the issue we are addressing here has been carefully considered and treated with all sense of responsibility, while the position we have taken on the matter is in the best interest of the incoming administration of H.E. Sen Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and for the greater good of our dear country, Nigeria.
“Rather than dwell on a template to promote unity and fairness for national cohesion, the forum observed that what is emerging is an odious stench of bias and lop-sidedness that should not even be contemplated in a democracy.
“While the position of Senate president can be given to the South for religious balancing and the North West the deputy Senate president; the North Central must be given its due share in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
“We ask that since the North Central gave the president-elect the highest percentage number of votes apart from the South West, that it should be given the Speakership of the 10th Assembly,” the forum stated.