No fewer than 75 senators-elect are backing Senator Godswill Akpabio for Senate President ahead of next week’s inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, Senator Ali Ndume said last night.
Ndume, who was re-elected from Borno South, said Akpabio, who enjoys the endorsement of President Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will succeed Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
The valedictory session in the Senate has been shifted to Saturday.
Ndume, the Director-General of Akpabio-Barau Campaign (ABC), who spoke on a Channels Television programme chided the leadership of the ninth Senate for being rubber stamp lawmakers.
Akpabio may even turn out as the consensus candidate because as talks are ongoing to convince other senators, who are still showing strong interest to contest against him.
Explaining why Akpabio was endorsed by the APC, Ndume said: “It is about justice; it is about equity; it is about the constitution. It is about doing what is right and standing for what is just for this country.
“This country belongs to all of us. We all know what has played out in this country that led to the emergence of the president being a Muslim, the vice president being a Muslim. There is a need to balance the equation.
“Section 14 of the constitution is clear on this. That section says that the country should be run in such a way that no tribe, religion, section of the country will feel marginalised. So, the natural thing to do is to get somebody from the South and particularly from the South-South. And that person happens to be Akpabio.
“This is because he is the most ranking Senator from that area.
“He has the experience and he is from the South-South. That is why I am supporting him.
“Many Nigerians and the Senators-elect, I mean my colleagues, are on our side and by God’s grace, Senator Godswill Akpabio on June 13, will emerge as the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly.”
Ndume, who acknowledged that some APC senators were opposing Akpabio’s ambition, said the party was still talking with them and the tension was dwindling by the day.
He maintained that Akpabio is the candidate to beat.
Ndume said: “When we started, we hit the ground running and in one week, we were able to get endorsement from 60 senators.
“As I am speaking to you, I have 75 senators that have signed the candidature of Senator Akpabio as the next Senate President. Those few former governors of the party who are now senators-elect opposing the candidature of Akpabio does not in any way encroach on the fact that Akpabio already has 75 senators-elect on our side. All advantages are on our side. One, we have the support of the party. Two, we have the support of the president, and three, we have the support of most of the senators, which is most important in this case.
“This campaign is not about Akpabio, it is about a fair Nigeria where equity and justice reign.”
On whether Tinubu can change his mind on Akpabio, Ndume said: “If Tinubu gives you his word, go and put it in your bag. He will not change it.
“In 2019 when I wanted to contest for the office of the Senate President, I went to Tinubu.
“He told me that he had already committed himself to Ahmad Lawan. And he didn’t change that. Tinubu is a man of his word and if you have been following his kind of politics, you’ll know that once he makes his intentions known, he does not change it.”
On the consensus option, Ndume said: “We are looking at a situation where we will have a consensus that will eventually favour Akpabio.
Ndume said Tinubu does not need a rubber stamped – National Assembly.
He said: “He is an experienced legislator, who needs a very vibrant and agile National Assembly this time around.
“This was lacking in the ninth Assembly where the executive will bring a request and they will just endorse without intense interrogation.”
Senate holds valedictory session Saturday
The outgoing Ninth Senate shifted its valedictory session earlier fixed for today (Thursday) till Saturday.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan told reporters in Abuja the shift became necessary to allow senators-elect meet with President Tinubu.
Tinubu meets APC leadership, National Assembly members-elect
Also yesterday, President Tinubu held an enlarged meeting with the Senators and House of Representatives members-elect.
They were led to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
The meeting, which held at the State House Conference Center, was called ahead the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.
Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, as the media was not permitted coverage, it was learnt that the lawmakers-elect were told to work together to ensure victory for the party’s choices in the National Assembly’s leadership race.
A source who spoke under conditions of anonymity said President Tinubu admonished the lawmakers to rise above self-interest, saying the APC has a golden opportunity to work through the government to better the lots of Nigerians.
He said the President told members going into the Senate and House of Representatives to harmonise and do so in the interest of the party and Nigerians.
“The President said there’s no need for squabbles, that if members of the same party find it difficult to agree, what impression would they be giving those in the opposition,” he said.
Lawan said the 9th Senate would find consolation in its numerous achievements.
He said: “Our partnership and collaboration with the executive helped us to achieve so much. We broke so many jinxes, we reverted the nation’s budget cycle to January to December.
“This is a kind of thing that makes us happy because we have been able to make a change.”
The Senate President noted that every achievement has a price, saying: “If you achieve what you are required to achieved, you will be given a name. If on the other hand you failed to achieve you will also be given a name.”
He added that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to over 112 bills passed by the Ninth National Assembly, thus making the outgoing parliament one of the best in terms of performance in the 4th Republic and current political dispensation.
He listed the major bills passed and assented to by Buhari to include the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act, Security and Exchange Commission Act, Electoral Act.
Lawan said some of the Acts have reformed the economy, industry, social environment and the electoral system.
The Senate President said the claim that the National Assembly is gulping substantial national resources is false.
He said because the nation’s legislature is still developing, the country must pay a price to develop its institutional capacity.
He said: “Out of the N19trillion 2023 budget, National Assembly with about eight institutions tied to it got N128billion representing 0.8 per cent of the budget.
“I believe we have to work to support our parliament to grow. Members of National Assembly are as patriotic as any Nigerian out there.”