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10TH NASS: How Akpabio, Abbas floored rebels

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Anointed candidates of the All Progressives Congress for the National Assembly leadership positions emerged victorious during elections at the federal parliament on Tuesday in Abuja.

All the candidates, who received the backing of President Bola Tinubu and the APC, defeated aspirants, who contested the positions contrary to the zoning arrangement of the party.

Senator Godswill Akpabio emerged as the President of the Senate, while Senator Jibrin Barau won the position of the Deputy President of the upper legislative chambers. At the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas won the election for the position of Speaker, while Benjamin Kalu emerged as the Deputy Speaker.

The ruling party zoned the Senate presidency to the South-South and endorsed Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) for the position, while the deputy Senate presidency was zoned to the North-West. Barau,from Kano State, was tipped for the position.

The positions of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker were zoned to the North-West and South-East respectively, while Abbas (from Kano State) and Kalu (from Abia State) were endorsed for the seats.

The APC senators, who were mindful of the 2015 experience, when Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, shunned the party’s zoning arrangement to emerge as the Senate president and the Speaker respectively, started arriving at the National Assembly as early as 7 am.

At the Senate, the voting process started at 8 am with the nomination of candidates for the position of Senate president.

Akpabio was nominated by Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume ( APC Borno South), after the call for nomination

was made by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Tambawal.

His nomination was seconded by Senator Solomon Adeola ( APC Ogun West ).

Drama, however, ensued when the clerk asked if there was any other nomination, and Senator Elisha Abbo (APC Adamawa North)

signified his readiness to nominate another candidate.

But as Abbo attempted to nominate Senator Abdulaziz Yari, Senator Mohammed Mongono (APC Borno North), kicked against it by describing Yari as a non-ranking Senator.

Mongono in kicking against Yari’s nomination by Abbo, said it contravened Order 3 of the Senate Standing Rules. His position was however rejected by senators who were in support of Yari, with shouts of “no!, no! “

But the Clerk of the National Assembly overruled Mongono by declaring that nomination of Yari was in order.

After the voting, which was done through a secret ballot, Akpabio scored 63 votes to defeat Yari, who got 46 votes.

The former Zamfara State governor embraced the new Senate president and congratulated him.

Immediately after the result was declared, the clerk called for nominations for the position of Deputy President of the Senate,

Senator David Umahi (APC Ebonyi South) nominated Barau while Saliu Mustapha (APC Kwara Central) seconded. Barau was returned unopposed.

Akpabio, in his inaugural speech, extended his hand of fellowship to all Senators of the 10th Senate, irrespective of political party membership, saying, “Having won elections and inaugurated, we should see ourselves as Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not that of political parties”.

He described the 10th Senate as an uncommon one that would collaborate with the executive arm of government in the area of improved revenue generation for the country.

He said, “I assure you that I am mindful of the enormous responsibilities that this position calls for. You will have my cooperation in all matters and our joint efforts will be one of teamwork. I extend my sincere hands of fellowship to all of us, including those who, at a time, may have had different opinions regarding the leadership of the Senate.”

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In his reaction, the Deputy Director-General of Yari’s team, Senator Abdul Ningi, said the election was free and fair.

He said, “The election was free and fair without much-anticipated drama. That is what makes the institution of the Senate different. The animosity, the fear of what happened in the last two days completely vanished. You go into the hall and you see how people are embracing themselves and that is parliament and that is democracy.”

This followed the election in the Senate which saw Akpabio beat a former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari, by 63 votes to 46.

At the House of Representatives, Abbas, who was the preferred candidate of the All Progressives Congress, polled 353 votes, beating his rival and former Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase and Aminu Jaji.

In a statement he personally signed on Tuesday, titled ‘Now, let’s get on with the business of the people,’ Tinubu also congratulated the new Deputy Senate President Jibril Barau and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, for their “well-deserved victories.”

He said, “Being elected by their peers as presiding officers and assuming the leadership of the National Assembly is a great honour that comes with a huge responsibility. I trust that you will justify the confidence reposed in you by your members and many Nigerians.

“As your President, I am prepared to transparently work with the National Assembly. Nigerians expect distinguished Senators and Honourable members to make laws and carry out oversight duties that will enhance the performance of government to achieve successful outcomes including improving their quality of life.”

He thanked Abdulaziz Yari, Idris Wase, and Aminu Jaji for enriching the process with their participation in the leadership election, wishing them the best and most successful tenure in the 10th National Assembly.

However, the President forecasted turbulence between the executive and the legislature in the days to come saying, “When we disagree it will not be out of malice, ill-will, and the quest to diminish the institution of the National Assembly or any individual member.”

He called for harmony between the two arms of government, adding that it is the only way to deliver quality service to Nigerians.

Abbas emerges Speaker

In the House of Representatives, Abbas secured his victory on Tuesday, riding on the votes of opposition members whose numbers were more than the ruling party in the chamber.

The outgoing Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, and Sani Jaji, who contested against Abbas, garnered three votes each, all from the APC members.

An analysis of the votes secured by Abbas and his two opponents showed that all the members of the seven opposition parties that form the minority caucus in the 10th House voted for the APC-endorsed candidate.

The seven minority parties are the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Social Democratic Party, African Democratic Congress, and the Youth Progressive Party.

The PDP has 117 members; LP, 35; NNPP, 19; APGA, five; SDP, two; ADC, two; and the YPP, one, totalling 181 opposition members. Those in the APC are 178.

There are 360 seats in the House, with 359 members voting in the election for the speaker, and Abbas securing 353 of the votes.

The vacant seat was to be occupied by a PDP member-elect, Ismaila Maihanci, who died on April 22, 2023, about two months after winning the election for the seat of Jalingo/Yorro/Zing Federal Constituency in Taraba State at the House, and less than two months to the inauguration of the 10th Assembly.

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The outgoing Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC/Kano), nominated Abbas for Speaker, while Nnolim Nnaji (PDP/Enugu) seconded the motion.

Tijjani Ismail nominated the outgoing Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, for the Speaker, a nomination that was seconded by Abdulmumin Mohammed from Nasarawa State.

Another member of the House, Sani Jaji, was nominated by Muhammad Ibrahim. It was seconded by Yusuf Doro.

The Clerk to the National Assembly, who supervised the election and swearing-in ceremony, read out sections of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (as amended) stating that members would openly declare the candidates they would vote for.

Abbas emerged the winner of the poll and was declared the winner by the Clerk as the duly elected Speaker of the 10th House.

Abbas candidate garnered 353 votes out of the available 359 votes to defeat Wase and Jaji, who scored three votes each.

The Director-General of Jaji’s Campaign, Olaide Akinremi, a former aspirant of the position of Speaker from Oyo State, voted for Abbas. He declined to speak when approached by our correspondent after the election.

Similarly, apart from Jaji and Wase who contested, all other members of the G-7, a group of aspirants for the position of Speaker, aggrieved with the adoption of Abbas by the APC, voted for the party’s candidate.

They include the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara; the Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; Chinedu Ogah and Miriam Onuoha.

In his inaugural speech, Abbas described his emergence as Speaker as a “momentous victory for the 10th House of Representatives.”

While thanking all those who believed in his candidacy, the lawmaker said he was “indeed humbled and honoured to be elected as your Speaker, as the Speaker of the Nigerian people.”

The Speaker especially thanked Tinubu and the APC “for finding him competent to be nominated to serve in this position for the Nigerian people,” while extending the greeting to “every other person who has directly or indirectly contributed to this journey.”

Abbas said “Under my watch, the 10th House shall sustain and even surpass the gains of the 9th House,” stating that, “that is his prayer.”

Also, the Speaker said the lower chamber would stand up against any action taken by the executive that undermines the interest of Nigerians, rather than being a rubber-stamp conclave.

“Where we feel that the executive is or wants to do something that is not in the interest of the public, they know that we’ll stand up against that,” Abass told State House Correspondents when he met President Bola Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa.

Abass who arrived alongside his deputy, Ben Kalu, insisted that he would not preside over a rubber stamp house.

He said “If you talk about rubber stamp, look at the acceptance rate, those who have elected those across party lines, almost all the whole entire PDP, SDP, ADC, and all other minority parties voted us.

“So if they felt that we are going to be rubber stamps, do you think they will elect us? No. They believe that we will safeguard the sanctity of the National Assembly, the legislature.’’

Tinubu, on Tuesday, congratulated the new Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives on their election as presiding officers of the 10th National Assembly.

In a statement he personally signed on Tuesday, titled ‘Now, let’s get on with the business of the people,’ Tinubu also congratulated Barau and Kalu, for their “well-deserved victories.”

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He said, “Being elected by their peers as presiding officers and assuming the leadership of the National Assembly is a great honour that comes with a huge responsibility. I trust that you will justify the confidence reposed in you by your members and many Nigerians.

“As your President, I am prepared to transparently work with the National Assembly. Nigerians expect distinguished Senators and Honourable members to make laws and carry out oversight duties that will enhance the performance of government to achieve successful outcomes including improving their quality of life.”

Speaking on the elections at the National Assembly, the Peoples Democratic Party, through its spokesman, Debo Ologunagba pleaded for time to put together a formal statement, saying,”We are aware of the election and the outcome. We will react appropriately when we are ready.”

On its part, the Labour Party expressed disappointment with the Presidency and the ruling party for getting a majority of Senators and House of Representatives members to do their bidding.

Speaking, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiorah Ifoh said, “The conventional thing to do is to allow members of both chambers to elect their leaders but this was not what Nigerians witnessed on Tuesday.

“The APC and Presidency did everything possible to have their way and they succeeded. Nigerians should not expect this Assembly to champion any form of legislative independence because the Senate President and the Speaker of the House were the picks of the Presidency.’’

The Spokesman for the New Nigeria Peoples Party in the 2023 Presidential Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson told one of our correspondents that the leadership of the 10th National Assembly was the creation of the ruling party and the Presidency.

“Nigerians should not expect much in terms of disagreement between the executive and the judiciary. This should be worrisome considering that a healthy disagreement is necessary between the two arms of government in a constitutional democracy.’’

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Rufus Aiyenigba, attributed the victory of Akpabio and Abbas to what he called their extensive and intensive consultations across the different party platforms that produced lawmakers in the federal parliament.

Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum has congratulated Senator Godswill Akpabio on his emergence as the President of the 10th Senate of the National Assembly.

PANDEF said the emergence of the former Akwa Ibom State governor, who hails from the South-South geo-political zone to lead the federal legislature, has provided some degree of balance in the national government.

National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Dr Ken Robinson stated this in a statement issued in Port Harcourt on Tuesday and made available to journalists.

Robinson, however, described the attempt by some groups and individuals to foist an “all-Muslim” leadership on the country as not only ‘unfortunate’ but also “incendiary’.

The Deputy Director-General of the Akpabio/Barau campaign, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, revealed that Senators in the camp of Akpabio, arrived at the National Assembly Complex early to avert what happened in 2015.

Speaking at the reception of his swearing-in in Abuja, Senator Bamidele, said, “ I have not been able to sleep for the last 48 hours in order to ensure that Senator Godswill Akpabio emerged as Senate President. We entered the National Assembly Complex around 4 am in order to avert what happened in 2015. The victory wouldn’t have been possible if not for the efforts of the immediate past Senate President.”

He, therefore, thanked the royal fathers that came from the Ekiti Central Senatorial districts for their presence at the reception.

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