National Coordinator Think Nigeria Initiative (TNI) Omogbolahan L. A. Babawale has stated that no one in Nigeria has more money to spend in politics than a former governor of a South-south state.
Babawale was reacting to a statement credited to Senator Ali Ndume that Senator Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar’s only claim to the Senate presidency was money.
“For someone like Yari to put a price on me and others and the fact that you hear that Yari is giving out money and you should consider doing that… That is the most disgusting thing… Please, we are senators of the federal republic,” Ndume had said Thursday.
Countering the lawmaker, however, Babawale in a statement said: “Ndume might have read the handwriting on the wall that majority of the senators are deserting Akpabio and shifting their support to our good-natured candidate, Abdulaziz, and is therefore in a panic mood, which brought about that preposterous statement.”
He said: “That careless outburst has further brightened the chances of distinguished Senator Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar to clinch the presidency of the Senate.
“Already, there are strong indications that the presidency has been influenced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to withdraw its tacit approval of the Akpabio aspiration. The ex-Minority Whip is said to have multiple questions to answer before the financial crimes commission and fears that such a personality would be more of a liability than an asset to the Tinubu presidency.
“The EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdul Rasheed Bawa, had reportedly compounded the woes of the former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Senator Godswill Akpabio who is running for the Presidency of the Senate.
“The EFCC Czar was said to have opened a can of worms on the series of alleged financial crimes being investigated by the commission which had necessitated the commission to invite Senator Akpabio twice, but failed to honour the invitations on both occasions,” he added.
Competent security sources told Blueprint in Abuja last night that the EFCC boss was upbeat on the Akpabio’s alleged financial crime when he discussed them with his crack team in their office.
The source, who declined to give details of the directives given to the crack team on the matter, hinted that Senator Akpabio may soon be invited to the EFCC again.
The source said the EFCC boss was in the villa, ostensibly to brief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the rumpus between the commission and the DSS which led to the storming of the Ikoyi EFCC office, during which he also briefed Tinubu on Akpabio’s “inordinate ambition to lead the Senate.”
“But Akpabio is no respecter of institutions. He showed the same disdain to the Senate many times when it invited him to discuss certain urgent issues rearing their ugly heads at the NDDC where he was minister but he shunned the Senate.
“How can someone who, even as a principal officer of the Senate, disgraced the red chamber and its most sublime symbol of authority, now be allowed to preside over it, after openly disrespecting the institution,” the source further added.
Going down memory lane, the TNI boss further said Akpabio has a chequered history with the Senate.
“As Minister, he threw several of his colleague-senators as well as those in the Green Chamber under the bus. Mr Akpabio had released the names of some federal lawmakers involved with contracts when he presided at the Ministry for Niger Delta.
“With this toxic relationship between Akpabio and the National Assembly, Akpabio is more likely to polarize the 10th assembly and take its eye off the ball when it comes to its constitutional duties and obligations to the people.
“Among other allegations, Akpabio himself has been alleged of perpetrating a N40 billion fraud when he headed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“In 2020, the Senate and the House of Representatives resolved to probe the alleged N40 billion financial recklessness of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC being supervised by Akpabio. Heading the 10th assembly would give him the opportunity to be vindictive to retaliate and get back at those who fell afoul of his expectations.
“These infractions are coming to haunt Akpabio’s aspiration to lead the 10th assembly and tilt the victory pendulum towards Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, that is why Senator Ndume is panicking,” Babawale said.
It was also reliably learnt over the weekend that senators-elect from Ekiti state were reconsidering their collective endorsement of Akpabio after learning of his poor relationship with the NASS.
The Central Working Committee (CWC) of the APC has since also resorted to a wait-and-see posture, but many of its members have shown their preference for Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar to become president of the Senate.
Mere campaign of calumny – Akpabio
Although, Blueprint couldn’t immediately reach the Akpabio camp for comment, a source within the campaign team, said: “Yari is only chasing shadow and embarking on campaign of calumny. The senators-elect know where integrity and competence lie, and that’s why Akpabio has won their hearts.”
On the alleged N40billion fraud, the former minister had at different forums dismissed the claim.
One of such denials was contained in a statement by his media aide, Anietie Ekong, who had said: The statement said: “The attention of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has been drawn to sensational headlines about an alleged N40 billion corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“We wish to state categorically that under the supervision of Senator Akpabio, there has been no corruption in the NDDC.
“It is obvious that there have been an upsurge in attacks on the Commission, the Interim Management Committee and the Honourable Minister through spurious and unsubstantiated allegations since the commencement of forensic audit of the Commission.”
Tinubu’s meeting with opposition Reps-elect
In a related development, the meeting between President Tinubu and opposition party members-elect of the House of Representatives has been shifted to Thursday, Blueprint has reliably gathered.
The meeting was initially scheduled for Monday.
The president’s meeting with the minority members-elect in the Senate will, however, hold as scheduled.
The president’s notice of invitation to the lawmakers-elect Saturday was signed by the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijani Umar, on behalf of the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The invitation, dated June 2, 2023 and addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly, read, “I write to inform you that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will hold a meeting with members of the opposition Senators-elect and opposition House of Representatives members-elect in the State House Conference Centre, Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday, 5th June 2023 at 1500 hours and 1700 hours respectively.
“In this regard, you are kindly requested to inform all concerned members to attend and forward their list early for security clearance. Please, accept the assurances of the President’s highest consideration.”
Also, the notice to members-elect, read: “This is to inform members-elect that the meeting with the President has been postponed till Thursday. Proper communication will be sent subsequently. Regards.”
The meetings are coming ahead of the inauguration of the 10th Assembly June 13, 2023, when the preferred candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress would either be adopted or slug it out with others.