Battle for Senate Presidency Heats Up as Ex-Governors Akpabio and Yari Clash Over Lawmaker Support
As the eagerly anticipated inauguration of the 10th National Assembly on June 13, 2023 approaches, the competition for the Senate Presidency has intensified, with two former governors, Godswill Akpabio and Abdulaziz Yari, finding themselves at odds over the support of lawmakers in their respective camps.Insiders report that the Yari camp claims to have garnered the loyalty of approximately 65 senators following the unexpected departure of lawmakers from the opposition. This shift has provided a boost to Yari’s aspirations, strengthening his bid for the Senate Presidency.Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, the Deputy Director-General of the Akpabio/Barau Campaign Organisation and representative of APC, Ekiti Central, expressed the campaign’s appeal to senators-elect to throw their weight behind Akpabio’s candidacy. However, some senators-elect have expressed reservations about supporting Akpabio due to accusations of disrespect towards the legislative institution. The allegations stem from Akpabio’s previous role as the Minister of Niger Delta, where he openly accused National Assembly members of benefiting from large contracts in the NDDC without providing evidence.Suleiman Kawu, a senator-elect representing the New Nigeria People’s Party in Kano South, highlighted the Northern caucus’s backing of Senator Yari, led by the current Senate President, Ahmad Lawan. Kawu emphasized the unique nature of the 10th Assembly, noting that lawmakers would have the autonomy to choose their leaders, making the support of influential figures like Lawan crucial for Yari’s prospects.Furthermore, an anonymous senator-elect disclosed a withdrawal of support for Akpabio, citing a personal dispute with the lawmakers. The senator-elect questioned how Akpabio could preside over an institution he had previously described as a “cesspit of corruption” when he himself had benefited from it. This dissenting voice further underscores the challenges facing Akpabio’s bid for the Senate Presidency.In response, the Akpabio camp has embarked on a significant mobilization effort, targeting senators-elect from the three major parties: the All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Labour Party. A recent newspaper publication listed the names of 71 senators aligned with the Akpabio campaign. Notably, the support includes 25 pro-Akpabio governors, including those from Kwara, Nasarawa, Benue, Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Kaduna, Borno, Ebonyi, and Ondo States. These governors emphasize their adherence to the unanimous decision of the National Working Committee of the APC, highlighting the importance of promoting institutional stability and peaceful legislative proceedings for the upcoming four-year term.During a visit to Kogi State, Akpabio’s aspirations received an endorsement from Governor Yahaya Bello, who referred to the Senate Presidency and Deputy positions as his personal project. Bello praised Akpabio’s governance style during his tenure as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and expressed his desire for stability during President Bola Tinubu’s presidency.Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State also voiced support for Akpabio’s candidacy, emphasizing that senators-elect and stakeholders in the state were united in their backing of Akpabio. Oyebanji stressed the commitment to the party’s zoning decision and appealed to all contenders to heed the advice of the National Working Committee.In a similar vein, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State confirmed that APC governors from the North had resolved to support President-elect Bola Tinubu’s selection of National Assembly presiding officers. Sule underscored the party’s unity and affirmed their acceptance of Tinubu’s choices.Governor Babajide Sanwo of Lagos State expressed optimism for the 10th Assembly, envisioning it as a platform for shaping a new course and breaking records, surpassing the achievements of its predecessor. Sanwo characterized the senators-elect across party lines as a well-considered group.A reliable source close to APC governors emphasized their desire for a peaceful, stable, result-oriented, and highly productive Senate during the 10th Assembly. The source emphasized the need for a harmonious relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, stating that rapid development and economic stability could only be achieved through shared vision and cordiality. The source pointed out the undesirable situation that arose between 2015 and 2019 when the Saraki-led Senate frequently clashed with the Buhari-led Federal Executive Council, causing delays and hindering policy proposals.With the battle for the Senate Presidency unfolding, it remains to be seen which contender will secure the support of the majority of senators-elect during the highly anticipated inauguration on June 13th. The outcome of this contest will shape the leadership and legislative direction of the 10th National Assembly for the next four years, carrying significant implications for Nigeria’s political landscape.