Senate Presidency: Amid Akpabio, Yari battle, Tinubu set to meet lawmakers-elect


As Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator-elect Abdulazeez Abubakar Yari intensify strategies to outdo each other in the battle for the top job in the 10th Senate, President Bola Tinubu will meet the 109 Senators-elect and 360-Member of House of Representatives – elect across political parties at the State House Abuja Thursday.  

Also at the Green Chamber, Tajudeen Abbass and some other lawmakers-elect, including Mukhtar Betara, are also in strong contention for the Speaker’s seat, a development that has remained a huge challenge before the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Akpabio and Abass are the anointed choices of the APC for the 10th National Assembly top jobs.

Tinubu’s invitation came as 67 out of the 109 Senators-elect, are believed to have thrown their weights behind Yari’s aspiration.

The scheduled interactive session between President Tinubu and the 469 federal lawmakers-elect, fixed for 2:00pm at the Banquet Hall, State House was contained in a letter to that effect and read on the floor of the Senate by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided at the plenary session.

Although the agenda of the meeting was not indicated in the letter, but Blueprint gathered that it might not be unconnected with the election of the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, scheduled for June 13.

In line with the party’s position, Tinubu is supporting the joint ticket of Akpabio Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) for the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, as well as the Abass/ Ben Kalu ticket for speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

But some of the aspirants in the two chambers have rejected the president’s choices and insisted they will not withdraw from the race.

For instance, at the Senate chamber, Yari and  Senate Chief Whip Orji Kalu are forging a partnership to run against Akpabio and Jibrin.

Yari soldiers on 

Earlier, before Senate’s plenary session Wednesday, Senator- elect Yari (APC Zamfara West), had an interactive session with journalists, claiming that as at Tuesday night, 67 Senators-elect across party lines were in support of his aspiration.

The number, he further added, had jumped to not less than 75, based on the commitment from others, ahead inauguration Tuesday next week.

He said: “My aspiration is a very popular one among the Senators – elect across political parties.

“I assure Nigerians that the Senate, under my leadership, will be firm, transparent, purposeful and ensure a cordial working relationship with the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led Executive to deliver his vision for a secure, united and prosperous Nigeria.

“The 10th Senate under my leadership shall by the Grace of God and leave of my colleagues and bosses, be the Senate of all Nigerians and Senate for all Nigerians. The voice and aspirations of Nigerians shall always prevail.”

Ningi speaks

Also speaking, Senator Abdul Ningi, a lawmaker-elect (PDP-Bauchi) said 67 senators were in support of Yari’s aspiration.

“I did a political calculation; 2003; 2007; 2011 and 2015 consecutively, our latest count as of last night (Tuesday) was 67 and more are coming by the grace of God,” he said.

He expressed optimism that Yari would lead the Senate to the Promised Land.

“That is why we are following him. We know the game; we know the temperament there. There is no one single individual that knows it all either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

“So, he needs experienced hands like us to be able to guide him to achieve what is required.

“If we make a mistake in choosing our leaders, we can at any given time remove him,” said Ningi, a returnee lawmaker.

He urged the leadership of the APC to allow senators to freely choose their leaders.

“Just as the nation chooses you as a president and party chairman, allow the senators to choose their own leader,” he said.

Ningi said Sani Musa (APC-Niger), Senate Chief Whip Kalu and Senator-elect Osita Izunaso were still in alliance talks.

“Musa, Kalu, Izunaso, Yari are in one camp. Discussions are still ongoing. In the politics of the National Assembly, everything is possible,” he said.

On his part, Samaila Kaila (APC-Bauchi) said he was in support of Yari’s aspiration.

“We are supporting Yari to win, but anyone that emerges, we will support Tinubu’s administration; he will not work against democracy and against the democratic process,” Kaila said.

We remain in the lead – Akpabio group

But the Akpabio camp appears unperturbed, saying the Yari group is not on ground as it is making the people to believe.

A source close to the campaign team told Blueprint that the Akpabio group is in majority, even as it continues with its consultation with necessary stakeholders.

“The claim by His Excellency Yari that he has the support of 67 senators-elect is just a ploy to give false hope. The Akpabio/Barau group is never perturbed or worried by this media propaganda.  The real battle comes up on the floor of the Senate. The Distinguished Senators-elect are credible individuals who can identify good product when they see one. In His Excellency Akpabio, they have seen one and there is no need dissipating energy over this divine mission that God has completed.

“We are in majority and won’t join issue with any paper tiger aspirant for the Senate’s number one seat. Senator Akpabio is a tested politician with his base across party line in this aspiration. The group is not leaving anything to chances and taking anybody for granted, the reason it keeps engaging with major stakeholders in this project,” explained a pro-Akpabio lawmaker-elect who craved anonymity.

Valedictory session holds Saturday

Meanwhile, the Senate has postponed its valedictory session from Thursday to Saturday on account of scheduled meeting of the 469 federal lawmakers – elect with President Tinubu.

President of the Senate Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, who announced the postponement, said the scheduled meeting between Tinubu with and the 469 federal lawmakers – elect necessitated the postponement.