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Protest as North-West backs Akpabio for Senate presidency



Stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress in the North-Central have protested against an alleged exclusion of the zone from the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, which will be inaugurated on June 5.

The stakeholders, including lawmakers, said this on Sunday as the APC state chairmen in the North-West supported the decision of the national leadership of the party to adopt Senator Godswill Akpabio (South-South) and Senator Barau Jibrin (North-West) as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.

But North-Central stakeholders, in separate press conferences in Abuja on Sunday, were unanimous in faulting the reported decision of the APC leadership on the Senate presidency and the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) and Barau (Kano) were said to have been adopted for the Senate positions, while Tajudeen Abbas (Kaduna) and Benjamin Kalu (Abia) would become the next leaders of the House.

But the Convener of the North Central APC Stakeholders, Dominic Alancha, in his address titled ‘10th National Assembly: We Demand Justice, Equity and Fairness for North Central Zone’, in Abuja on Sunday, said, “We are constrained to register our disappointment and to protest the decision of the APC leadership to zone two presiding positions, Deputy Senate President and Speaker in 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 elections fair and square, we expect the leadership of the 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 said it opposed the plan to zone the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North-West z because that would imply undue favouritism, lack of fairness and the marginalisation of other zones.”

Later on Sunday, the Forum of North-Central Former House of Representatives Members in APC, in a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency meeting, faulted the exclusion of the North-Central.

Stakeholders protest exclusion

In the communiqué titled ‘Need for Justice and Equity in Allocating Key Offices in the National Assembly,’ the group that the position it had taken on the matter was in the best interest of the incoming Tinubu-led administration and for the greater good of Nigeria.

When asked if aspirants from the North-Central should abide by the APC zoning plan or fight for the right of the zone, Idris Yakubu, a member of the fourth Assembly who spoke on behalf of others, stated that the stakeholders had the responsibility of alerting the party and Tinubu to the “dangers ahead if they decide to continue in their folly of doing what we heard they are thinking of doing.”

But the APC chairmen in the North-West described the choice of Akpabio and Barau as a clear testimony of the President-Elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the APC national leadership’s readiness to salvage the country from its socio-economic woes.

The APC chairmen who threw their weight behind the Akpabio-Barau ticket, also described the President-Elect as unbiased and detribalised as he prepared to take the mantle of leadership on May 29.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues in Kano on Sunday, the Jigawa State Chairman of the APC, Alhaji Aminu Sani, said the President-Elect had done a wonderful job of maturity and patriotism that would change the narrative of ethnoreligious politics in the country.

Of the seven states in the zone, only the Zamfara State APC chairman was absent. Those present were from Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto states.

Sani said that he and his colleagues felt that the Akpabio-Barau ticket would produce good leadership for the 10th National Assembly that would work assiduously for the betterment of Nigeria.

“Barau Jibrin for example is a man of integrity who has never been found wanting in all his national life and he is somebody who is focused, that is why his decision to withdraw his ambition and accept to be Deputy Senate President clearly shows that he is a level-headed person and as such, he deserves commendation,” Sani said.

The North-West APC chairmen, therefore urged the newly-elected Senators to, without rancour or disagreement, rally around the choice of the President-Elect and indeed the APC national leadership so that Nigeria would have Leaders who understand themselves and be ready to forego their sentiments for national growth.

Another group, Defenders of Constitutional Democracy, commended Tinubu and the leadership of the APC for endorsing Abbas for the Speaker of the 10th House, saying the North-West deserves to be rewarded for its loyalty to the party.

Convener of the DCD, Aliyu Abdullahi, and the Director of Contact and Mobilisation, Chukwuma Okoro, gave the commendation in a statement issued on Sunday and titled ‘10th NASS Speakership: Group Hails Tinubu, APC’s Choice of Abass Tajudeen…Says North-West Deserves Reward for Loyalty, Hard Work.’

The DCD claimed that the North-West where Abbas hails from delivered the highest number of votes to the APC in the presidential election and it was only proper that the zone “be rewarded with the Number Four position in the country.”

But a group, North-West Progressives Forum, on Sunday, insisted on the candidacy of a former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, as the next President of the Senate.

The forum argued that neither the APC nor Tinubu had made any official pronouncements on the party’s zoning plan, saying the reported plan remained null and void.

Convener of the group, Nasir Dambatta, while addressing a press conference in Kaduna on Sunday, said there was no justification in allowing the South-South zone to claim Senate Presidency when the presidency had gone to the South-West.

However, another pressure group in the APC, Renewed Hope Professionals, on Sunday called on Tinubu to maintain neutrality during the election for leadership positions in the 10th Assembly to avoid the mistakes of 2015.

The National Coordinator of RHP, Kinu Kabirwa, who issued the warning in a statement obtained by The PUNCH in Abuja, said the President-elect’s neutrality became necessary because “the very cornerstone of a healthy democracy is the freedom of choice,” adding that “the imposition of candidates by those in positions of authority has led to a legitimacy crisis in the country since the return to democracy in 1999.”

Meanwhile, a leading contestant for the post of Speaker of the House, Aliyu Betara (APC/Borno), is scheduled to officially declare his speakership bid on Monday (today) despite reports of zoning plan by the APC.

Yusuf Gagdi from Plateau State in the North-Central had gone ahead to declare for Speaker on Friday amidst reports of zoning against the North-Central where he represents.

NWC meets

In a related development, it was learnt on Sunday that the National Working Committee of the APC would hold a crucial meeting on Monday to conclude discussions on the National Assembly leadership positions.

Multiple sources who spoke to our correspondent disclosed that the decision was a fallout of a closed-door meeting between the party leadership and the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Friday.

A source in the party said, “The Friday’s meeting between Asiwaju and the party leadership was held at the Defence House. Aside from Adamu, there were the two deputy chairmen for North (Senator Abubakar Kyari) and South (Emma Enekwu) and the national secretary (Iyiola Omisore) in attendance.

“Arising from that meeting, we understand the president-elect has given them (NWC) the green light to ratify both the zoning and the consensus candidates for the six available seats in both Red and Green Chambers. I have a strong belief that position will be taken on Monday,” one of the sources said.

When contacted, the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the APC, Nze Chidi Duru, confirmed that the NWC would meet on Monday (today).

Duru also said the party would not sanction any aspirant, who failed to support the party’s position until the consensus arrangement had been concluded.

He said, “Yes, it is true the president-elect met with the leadership of the NWC. By that, I mean Kyari, Enekwu and Omisore. My understanding is that a decision was made to zone the positions. That being the case, they will now report back to us. Once that is done and the party accepts the position, I will be surprised if any party member discusses otherwise.

“There is this need to have a united seamlessly party position. It doesn’t stop anybody who wants to go against the party position. It doesn’t stop anybody who wants to go against the party’s decision from doing so. But if you have a party, there will be consequences for behaviour like that.”

The Director of Publicity for the APC, Bala Ibrahim, also supported his position.

According to him, every senator-elect has the right to consult or lobby for the position, saying it is left for his colleagues to decide who will best serve the interest of the masses.

“There is nothing wrong with that. It is the beauty of democracy. It allows everyone to try his luck, popularity and will of the people over his own ambition. Every aspirant is going to be given a level playing field to advertise and woo members to his side. It is for the senators-elect to decide who think will be able to champion their cause,” he stated.

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