President-elect Bola Tinubu has concluded plans to pair the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, with Senator Jibrin Barau as Senate president and deputy respectively, Daily Trust has exclusively gathered.
Akpabio and Barau are among the nine contenders for the Senate presidency of the 10th assembly, expected to be inaugurated on June 13.
Credible sources told this paper that the president-elect, who returned to the country on Monday after 34 days abroad, communicated his decision to Akpabio and Barau during a meeting held in Abuja.
The former Lagos State governor had on Tuesday met with Akpabio, Barau, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) and the Ekiti State governor, Biodun Oyebanji.
Sources said during the meeting, which they said was at the instance of the president-elect, Barau was asked to drop his bid for the Senate presidency in the interest of national cohesion, fairness and religious balancing.
A lawmaker from the South said Barau was prevailed upon to sacrifice his ambition in the interest of peace and tranquility in the country.
“He was told to drop his ambition for the emergence of a Christian as the president of the next Senate.
“The president-elect told Barau that he is extremely qualified for the job but that he should drop his ambition for the emergence of a Christian to enable his administration to commence on a good footing.
“He said since he (Tinubu) and Senator Kashim Shettima (the vice president-elect) are Muslims, the right thing to do is to support a Christian.
“It was after the pleas that the president-elect told Barau that he would want him to work with Akpabio as deputy Senate president,” the senator said, pleading not to be named.
Corroborating this, another source, a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told this paper that the president-elect has contacted Akpabio and Barau on his decision to pair them for the Senate presidency.
“I was not there when the meeting was held, but two people who attended it have told me of the decision by Asiwaju. It is a fact that he has settled for Akpabio and Barau for the Senate president and deputy,” he said.
An ally of Tinubu from the North had previously told our correspondent of the preference of Tinubu for Akpabio. However, he was not reachable yesterday when attempts were made to speak with him on the nomination of the former Akwa Ibom governor by his associate.
When contacted yesterday, Akpabio simply said, “I don’t know.” However, Barau could not be reached last night.
Daily Trust reports that aside from Akpabio and Barau, seven other senators have indicated interest in the Senate presidency including Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North); Sen Abdul-Aziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West); Sen Sani Musa (Niger East); Sen Ali Ndume (Borno South), Sen Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi South) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North).
Efforts to get the reactions of Sen Kalu, Sen Ndume and Sen Musa yielded no results as they were unreachable via phones. A report claiming that Tinubu had endorsed Kalu for the Senate presidency went viral on social media last night.
Asiwaju to convey decision on Akpabio, Barau to NWC, other contenders
It was gathered that the president-elect would meet other contenders for the Senate presidency to formally inform them of the decision on Akpabio and Barau soon. After that, Tinubu would also meet all the senators-elect who are members of the APC in furtherance of the consultation.
It could be recalled that at a meeting on Wednesday, which had in attendance the president-elect, the vice president-elect, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and the leadership of the APC led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, it was resolved that Tinubu anchors the efforts of identifying and selecting the leadership of the National Assembly.
Daily Trust reports that in the 109-seat Senate, the APC has 59 senators, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 36; Labour Party (LP) eight, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) two, Social Democratic Party (SDP) two, Young Progressives Party (YPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one seat each.
Akpabio and Barau require a simple majority of votes to clinch the two positions when the parliament is inaugurated in June after the transmission of a letter of proclamation by the president to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
North can’t be second fiddle – former governor
But an influential former governor faulted the decision of the president-elect to settle for Akpabio for religious balancing.
In an interview, the former governor, said, “Yes, there is a need for sacrifice, but the North should not be second fiddle because of the need to placate some people who contributed almost nothing to the table.
“If there is something called sacrifice, it should go across the board; all the zones should be made to do the same,” he said.
“After sacrificing the presidency to promote national unity and peace, now they want to treat us as second fiddle. We won’t take this. We have made the first sacrifice. Let other regions do the same. The North gave Tinubu the party ticket and gave him the winning votes, so it is the turn of other zones to make sacrifices,” the former governor said.
When told that the president-elect has consulted Senator Barau, he said, “Who told Barau that he should take it? First, he is a lawmaker from Kano State and a northerner. He is the northern candidate and cannot make a decision by himself. It is beyond him.
“We sacrificed the number one position and now they want us to let this go; it won’t happen. Yes, Asiwaju is a primary stakeholder, but there are people who lost their lives for him to win the presidency, especially in the North.”
Consultations ongoing for speaker, deputy
Meanwhile, consultations for the speaker and deputy positions in the House of Representatives are also yet to be concluded.
Ten lawmakers-elect have shown interest in the speaker’s position, including the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau); Mukhtar Betara (Borno); Abubakar Makki Yelleman (Jigawa); Yusuf Gagdi (Plateau); Sada Soli Jibia (Katsina); Abdulraheem Olawuyi (Kwara); Abbas Tajudeen (Kaduna), Aminu Sani Jaji (Zamfara), Benjamin Kalu (Abia), and Mariam Odinaka Onuoha (Imo).
In the 360-member House, APC has 175 seats; PDP 118, Labour Party 35, NNPP 19, APGA five, while SDP and ADC have two seats each. YPP has a single seat with 3 seats still pending.
However, because of the composition of the Green Chamber, it was gathered that a final decision has not been taken on the speaker and deputy speaker’s positions.
Meets APC govs, says let’s work together on NASS leadership
Meanwhile, Tinubu met with the APC governors who paid him a courtesy visit yesterday and urged them to work with the party leadership and lawmakers on the election of principal officers of the National Assembly.
The president-elect said, “We thank God Almighty for our electoral victory. It was tough and turbulent. The challenge before us is working in unison with the party leadership and the National Assembly over the election of their principal officers. And I charge you to unite in spirit and faith and work in line with the party,” he said.
Tinubu told the governors and former governorship candidates of the party that “whether you return or not, this is our government. Once we know what we are doing and communicating as elected leaders and loyal party men, we will conquer the challenge.”
He reiterated his earlier admonitions that, as leaders, they were elected to serve the people and humanity with fairness and justice.
Sounding emotional, he expressed gratitude to God that he, “the first Muslim minority from the South-West got the blessing of Allah to be elected president.”
The Chairman of the Progressive Governors who is also the governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, led his colleagues to Tinubu’s residence.
Among those in attendance were Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima and Governors Simon Lalong (Plateau), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Babajide Sanwo-olu (Lagos), Ben Ayade (CrossRivers), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti).
There were also the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe and the APC governorship candidate in Kano State, Alhaji Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna.
Governor Bagudu said the visit was to congratulate Tinubu on the victory.
He also said, however, that the governors were ready for any assignment the President-elect may give them.