• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Izunaso, Akpabio, others jostle for Senate presidency

Bills for South-East, South-West, North-Central devt commissions scale 2nd reading

Ahead of the June 13 inauguration of the National Assembly, candidates for the office of the Senate president have intensified push to achieve their ambition.

So far, about 10 Senators-elect have signified interest in the Senate presidency, including Osita Izunaso, a senator representing Imo West Senatorial District; Uzor Orji Kalu, the Senate chief whip; Godswill Akpabio, former minister of Niger Delta Affairs; Barau Jibrin, chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation; Ahmad Lawan, incumbent Senate president; Danjuma Goje, former governor of Gombe; and Adams Oshiomhole, former Edo State governor,

Others are Abdul-Aziz Yari, former Zamfara State governor; Dave Umahi, the outgoing governor of Ebonyi; and Ali Ndume, former Senate leader.

BusinessDay gathered that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to conclude arrangements on the zoning of the National Assembly leadership, and the President-elect and the party’s National Working Committee have been interfacing with candidates to avoid a replay of the 2015 experience that made the party lose the positions to the opposition.

Abdullahi Adamu, national chairman of APC, while speaking after one of those meetings, urged the candidates to be “patient with the party over the zoning of the 10th National Assembly leadership.”

“Nigerians should be patient with the party. We should wait. What is good for the country is what is good for us as a party. We are only celebrating the victory of our party now,” Adamu said.

Those who attended the meeting include Lawan; his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege; Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives; and Yusuf Zailani, speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly.

Although insider sources at the meeting said the Senate presidency may go to the South-South (a Christian), while the speakership may go to the North-West (a Muslim), some observers said that the South East was well favoured for the position.

According to them, since the South-East has not produced the president of Nigeria since Independence in 1960, except for the six months of Aguiyi Ironsi as military head of state in 1966, the intense Igbo sentiment against political exclusion and marginalisation in Nigeria is justified.

Currently, the South-East has two APC governors in Imo and Ebonyi states while South-South has only one APC governor. The status will remain the same post-May 29 with APC retaining the governorship seat in Cross-River. In the 10th National Assembly, South-East will have six senators and six will also come from the South-South too.

BusinessDay also gathered that the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, may have after several consultations and meetings with stakeholders, developed a soft spot for Akpabio, the candidate for South-South and former Akwa Ibom State governor.

But speaking with journalists recently, Izunaso said that he was the most qualified among those in the Senate presidency race, especially among those aspiring from the South-East.

Read also: Why I want to be Senate President, by Akpabio

He said: “Among those vying for the Senate presidency, especially from the South, I am the most qualified in terms of service to the party, loyalty and commitment. I was there at the beginning of APC; I am one of the people that were there at the foundation of the party.

“I was in the merger committee put together by the opposition parties that formed the APC. I have laboured hard for the party as the founding National Organising Secretary. In all party assignments, I have discharged them with commitment and unwavering loyalty.”

He said while other aspirants like Senator Kalu, Akpabio and Umahi have the right to their aspirations, his credentials put him above all others.

Izunaso said: “The other people you mentioned came to our party as joiners after we have won the 2015 presidential election against all odds. They actually worked vigorously for the PDP, their party then to win the election.

“If we didn’t fight to win the election in 2015, will APC be the ruling party today? Will they be in our party today to seek to lead the National Assembly? If the office of the Senate President is about who has served and worked faithfully for the party, I am the most qualified.”