Goodwill Akpabio, Orji Kalu
.…Party moves to revisit zoning
By Jimmy Enyeh and Adebayo Obajemu
The battle for Senate president last week reached a feverish pitch and inched towards denouement with former governor of Akwa Ibom State Godswill Akpabio clearly emerging as the favourite among contenders likely to clinch the coveted position of number three citizen having become consensus candidate of the president-elect Bola Tinubu and the NWC of the party.
But the favourite of the National Working Committee of the party and the president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu has polarised the party threatening to shred the governing party to smithereens.
Recall that a month ago the political weather forecast favoured Orji Uzor Kalu, a ranking senator from Abia State who is also a former governor with pundits pairing him with Jibrin Barau as deputy Senate president.
Between then and now, there have been political scheming and horse trading that have altered permutations to displace Kalu from favour to the advantage of Akpabio.
Highly competent source who is privy to some of the meetings where decisions were taken in favour of the former governor of Akwa Ibom State told NATIONAL WAVES that a concatenation of factors shifted the political pendulum in favour of Akpabio.
In the last two weeks, according to sources, for the sake of fairness, the APC governors along with some powerful elements within the party prevailed on the National Working Committee in consultation with the president -elect Bola Tinubu to zone the position to the South South.
But the source hinted that Tinubu was uncomfortable with the position and wanted an arrangement where the position was zoned to the South with the southwest not participating in the contest, which would make it an open contest between South South and South East.
But last week, the hawkish governors led by Nasir El-Rrufai of Kaduna and Ganduje of Kano along with some hawkish members of the party said it should be zoned to the South South alone.
The argument of this group is that reward system should be based on contribution to the success of the party at the just concluded elections.
Aside this, the past couple of days, has seen a ricocheting call for the Senate President to be a Christian from either the Southeast or Southsouth, and this has pulled significant momentum.
NATIONAL WAVES sources hinted that the deliberations and heated discussions have been torn along those calling for the inclusion of the Southeast and those calling for reward based on the outcome of the presidential election.
Those said to be opposed to Kalu vehemently stated that his inability to deliver votes for Tinubu during the presidential election should count against him. Among them are southwest and Northwest senators among others.
Recall that Kalu garnered 30,805 votes to win the Abia North-senatorial district election; however, meanwhile the president -elect Tinubu barely managed to poll 8,914 votes in the entire Abia State.
Akpabio , according to these hardliners is the bride here who did well for Tinubu. He delivered 132,683 votes, a tally that is more than the 115,401 votes he garnered in his senatorial district election.
These hardliners were also said to have reminded Tinubu of the disloyalty of Kalu, as they told Tinubu to be realistic and not emotional given that in the presidential primary election Kalu backed Senate President Ahmad Lawan for the APC ticket, instead of Tinubu while Akpabio was the first presidential aspirant to step down and endorsed Tinubu during the primary election in June 2022.
These are the two main focal points that have shaped the discourse on the choice of the Senate President.
Recall that last week, the APC Governors recently sent a memo to the president-elect on the appropriate zoning of the offices. The governors stated that contribution to the presidential election must be a major factor in zoning.
In the memo, governors faulted the voting pattern of the southeast, noting that the region exhibited “exclusionary electoral conduct”.
“The South-east contributed the least to Asiwaju’s victory, consistently exhibited the most exclusionary electoral conduct since the advent of the Fourth Republic, and yet also feels entitled to the Senate Presidency,” it reads.
The APC governors went further to state there is a need to signal to the South-east in order to ensure “adequate deterrence for exclusionary electoral conduct.”
Many believe that the language of the Governors shows that they are leaning toward the South-south zone.
If the South-east loses out in the race for the Senate President, there is a possibility that the region will equally lose out on the Speaker and the Deputy Senate President due to zoning.
It’s in light of these developments that there have been groundswell of support for Akpabio by different groups within the party.
One of these is Concerned All Progressives Congress (APC) Members Forum, which described itself as a group of party members, lately it has backed the call for the emergence of Godswill Akpabio as the President of the 10th Senate.
The convener of the group, Okpokwu Ogenyi, while briefing journalists in Abuja two Saturdays ago also supported the call for Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano) to be the Deputy Senate President.
He said: “We are aware that zoning is not done in a vacuum, so we highly recommend Senator Godswill Akpabio for the position of Senate President and Senator Barau Jibrin as Deputy Senate President respectively”.
Mr Ogenyi said that their support was based on consideration of federal character in the zoning of the 10th senate leadership bearing in mind, competence and credibility with an understanding that the country is a secular state.
According to him, the development will go a long way in building the confidence of party members across the country in preparation for the future of the party.
“It is pertinent to note that, in the South, South-south contributed the second highest votes after South-West which houses the President-elect.
“The North-west gave the party the highest votes in the North with Kano State consistently giving APC the highest vote per state in every election since the formation of the party.
“More so, our submission is based on their legislative experience, prudent financial management, fair disposition towards national peace and unity, care for the less privileged, competence, reward for hard work, electoral value and diplomatic relations.
“In the National Assembly, Senator Akpabio is the most ranking senator from the South-south under the platform of the APC while Senator Barau Jibrin is the most ranking senator from the North-west.
Another group, The Citizens Network for Peace and Development in Nigeria (CNPDN), a support group of former President Goodluck Jonathan, three weeks ago asked the All Progressives Congress (APC) to nominate Godswill Akpabio, a former minister, as the senate president.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on , Francis Wainwei, CNPDN national secretary, said Akpabio’s choice would reduce the acrimony that follows the struggle for the position among the geo-political zones.
Wainwei said the south-south should be compensated because Bola Tinubu, the president-elect, got 25 percent votes in all the six states in the zone.
“Currently, Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom, is the only ranking senator from the south-south that is a member of the 10th national assembly,” he said.
“The electoral contribution of the south-south greatly helped the ruling party to clinch the presidency in the 2023 presidential election. It is, therefore, necessary for the party to consolidate its electoral success in the zone by zoning the senate presidency to it.
“It will also drastically reduce the usual acrimony that characterises such struggle for power among the geo-political zones, thereby, reducing unnecessary distractions for the peaceful and smooth take-off of the new dispensation under the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“In the same vein, we are calling on the ruling party to also zone all the available political positions equitably among the six geopolitical zones, to strengthen national unity and cohesion.
“As patriotic citizens, our primary interest is the unity and prosperity of the nation, hence, this clarion call to the ruling party to do the needful by promoting government of national inclusion, equity, and fairness to all the geopolitical zones.
“We are therefore, calling on all patriotic Nigerians who truly want to experience the Nigeria of our dreams to prevail on the APC to zone the position of the senate president of the 10th senate to the south-south geopolitical zone and also prevail on their senators-elect to facilitate and ensure the emergence of Akpabio as the senate president of the 10th senate and the leader of the 10th national assembly.”
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist told NATIONAL WAVES that ” the owners of the party has anointed Akpabio, it’s a politics of naked necessity not of fairness. The southeast ought to have been compensated
But not everyone is singing Akpabio lullaby.
A North West Senators Caucus has disagreed with the position of the president-elect and the NWC. According to them, the position of Senate president should naturally go to them having contributed the most in terms of votes to the victory of the party in the presidential election. Many leading senators from the zone are supporting the emergence of Abdullahi Yari , former governor of Zamfara State, while some elements say it should go to Jibrin Barau from Kano State.
Even the Arewa Consultative Forum strongly supports the emergence of a National senate president to compensate for contributing to the victory of the party.
The North Central has also bitterly expressed disappointment of the support given Akpabio who may likely emerge.
They are saying the position should be zoned to the North Central.
The same claim of marginalisation is also coming from the southeast who has felt cheated and marginalized in the 10th National Assembly.
As it’s the ominous clouds of crisis are still gathering with threats from the aggrieved parties.
Also some Northern senators elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have threatened to revolt against the party if the controversial zoning template for leadership of the 10th National Assembly was not revisited.
Former Governor of Zamfara State and Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari, said the entire North would revolt over the issue.
He spoke when some Senate presidency aspirants visited the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC, yesterday in Abuja, over the adoption of Senators Godswil Akpabio and Jibrin Barau.
In a related development, 18 senators-elect from the North-Central geo-political zone also kicked against the template and pointedly criticized the exclusion of the zone from the arrangement.
Also, seven speakership aspirants drawn from the North-West, North-East, North-Central and South-East kicked against the zoning formula and sought redress.
Apparently unsettled by the development and threats of Senators-elect and members-elect to revolt against its zoning template at the June 13 inauguration of the National Assembly, the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC of the ruling APC, yesterday, embarked on an emergency peace meeting with aggrieved Senate presidency contenders.
The contestants at the meeting with the NWC were Senators Orji Kalu and Sani Musa as well as Senator-elect, Abdulaziz Yari. The fourth aggrieved aspirant, Senator Osita Izunaso, was said to be away to his home state, Imo, where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was visiting to flag off the hydrographic survey/dredging of the sea route from Oguta Lake to the Atlantic Ocean.
At the meeting, which was at Adamu’s behest, the national chairman, who sounded conciliatory, urged the contestants to hold their fire, saying the party is waiting for the return of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in order to have further consultations on the matter.
How the president-elect and the National Working Committee of the party will address the issues raised will become clear in the coming week.