Former governor of Akwa Ibom State and the choice of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for President of the 10th Senate, Godswill Akpabio, will  tomorrow slug it out with Abdulaziz Yari, former Zamfara State governor, who has refused to respect the party's choice.

Respite still seems far from Akpabio, as contenders for the top seat in the Red Chamber, Senators Abdulaziz Yari, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Osita Izunaso, are pushing on with their campaigns. 

This is in spite of their meeting with President Bola Tinubu last Thursday over the leadership impasse.

However,  the coast has become clearer for APC preferred speakership candidate, Hon Tajudeen Abbas,  as two key aspirants yesterday withdrew from the race and pledged support for him.

The two contenders who stepped down for Abbas ahead of tomorrow's much-anticipated inauguration of the 10th National Assembly are Hon Aliyu Betara and Hon Yusuf Gagdi.

Other members of the group are former deputy Speaker, Hon Idris Wase; Aminu Sani Jaji (Zamfara); Miriam Onuoha (Imo) and Sada Soli (Katsina). As of the time of this report, the other members of the G-6 were yet to publicly withdraw from the race.

However, Betara and Gagdi publicly withdrew from the race after a meeting with Vice President Kassim Shettima. The chief of staff to the president and former speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, was also present at the meeting. 

Others present at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday are governor of Niger State, Umar Bago, and the APC Deputy National Vice Chairman – North, Sen. Abubakar Kyari.

In a viral video, Vice President Shettima, flanked by Betara and Gagdi, commended the role played by Gbajabiamila, Bago, and Kyari in arriving at the resolution.

Gbajabiamila is alleged to have solely chosen Abbas for the position and helped him secure the endorsement of the APC leadership, a situation which set the G-6 on a collision course with the party. 

Reacting to the development, the Tajudeen Abbas/Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu Joint Task Campaign Office stated that the aspirants had formally stepped down for Abbas, thereby dismantling the Group 7 (G7) aspirants who were initially opposed to his candidacy.

The office, in a statement, said Abbas and Kalu are ready to compete on the floor of the House and take the mantle of leadership of the 10th House on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

The statement reads in part: "It is pertinent to mention that the so-called G7 no longer exists as key members of the forum such as Rt. Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Rt. Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara, Rt. Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, Rt. Hon. Makki Yalleman and Rt. Hon. Raheem Tunji Olawuyi, among others, have since dropped their speakership ambitions and declared support for the Abbas/Kalu ticket. It is worthy to note that Betara and Gagdi announced that they stepped down for Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas today, Sunday June 11, 2023 after a meeting with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

"As of Sunday June 11, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas (PhD) has secured the endorsement of the overwhelming majority of members-elect across the eight political parties in the six geopolitical zones, and he is ready to compete on the floor of the House and take the mantle of leadership of the 10th House come Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

A source said, "The last 72 hours are very crucial and from what we are seeing, a lot of things are changing and many things have actually changed. Some are pleasant while some are so painful."

There's Plot to Prevent Yari from Accessing Chamber – Lawmaker-elect  

Meanwhile, a lawmaker-elect, who is part of Yari's campaign, has alleged plots to stop the contender from accessing the chamber during the National Assembly inauguration on Tuesday. 

This allegation comes barely hours after the opposition PDP raised the same concerns.

The lawmaker-elect claimed that there is an upswing in senators backing Yari, adding that no fewer than 65 senators-elect are backing the former Zamfara State governor.

He said the situation is causing panic in Akpabio's camp. 

He, however, alleged plots to stop Yari by ensuring that he is not nominated for the office of the Senate President. The source said the plot is to ensure that Yari does not participate in the election on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

Sources alleged that the opposing camp is now convinced that if Yari is nominated on the floor of the Senate to contest for the office of Senate President, he would win because of the number of senators that are currently backing him. 

"So they want to stop him from contesting. They don't want Yari to be a candidate for Senate President on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday," a source said.  

"Presently, they are trying extremely hard to cajole, intimidate, blackmail and threaten Yari to withdraw from the Senate Presidency race. They are using every arsenal at their disposal to blackmail Yari. 

"They are also frantically reaching out to individual senators-elect who are supporting Yari to pull out. The carrot and stick approach is being used to get the senators to pull out from Yari's camp and back Akpabio."

Yari has two federal High Court orders preventing and stopping security and anti-corruption agencies from inviting or detaining him until after the 10th National Assembly leadership elections tomorrow. 

'One specifically stops the Nigerian Police, while the other one stops the anti-corruption agencies -EFCC, ICPC and the DSS – from inviting, detaining or arresting Sen Yari. 

"Also, one of the options being explored to stop Sen. Yari is to prevent some senators-elect supporting Yari from getting to the Senate chambers for the voting. They believe it will reduce the number of senators that would vote for Sen Yari," the source alleged. 

Northern Groups Raise The Alarm Over Plans To Arrest Yari, Others

Ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly tomorrow, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged plan to  arrest key northern aspirants for the House of Representatives speakership position,  as well as the aspirants for the position of Senate Presidency.

The northern groups also alleged that former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, and some of his strong supporters were being threatened with arrest in order to intimidate him to back out of the contest for insisting on due process.

CNG spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in a statement, asked President Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to respect the rule of law by stopping the plan to intimidate anyone from exercising their rights to vote and be voted for.

He noted that these elements were hatching these evil plans without the consent of President Bola Tinubu, with the sole aim of pitching him against the larger northern interest.

Suleiman stated: "We understand too that the sinister plot also extends to aspirants to positions in the House of Representatives who are targeted for undue harassment and intimidation.

"This plot, as widely speculated, involves the introduction of a suspicious electronic voting system in the process meant to track the pattern of voting in the National Assembly."

He expressed conviction that by Tinubu's democratic antecedents and abiding faith in the rule of law and sanctity, he would never be party to any conduct that tends to impede anybody's right to personal liberty and freedom from harassment. 

It went on:  "As concerned northerners and well-wishers of Mr. President, we feel duty bound to once again draw his attention to this brewing plot and to call on him to move quickly and reassert his commitment to good, impartial governance to halt this sinister plot that potentially aims to set him up against particularly the North."

He said it would be difficult not to remember that northern votes overwhelmingly went to Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to comprehensively ensure their victory at the polls.

Akpabio Represents Nigeria's Unity – Clark 

Elder Statesman and convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has urged the 10th Senate to work towards the unity of Nigeria by electing Senator Godswll Akpabio as the next president of the Senate. 

The Ijaw leader made the call when senators-elect and members of the Stability Group paid him a birthday visit at his residence in Abuja and to also seek his blessings for the aspiration of Senator Akpabio as the president of the 10th Senate as part of consultations of critical stakeholders by the group. 

According to Chief Clark, "The North cannot do it alone and we, the South, cannot do it alone. We should be equal partners. If all the positions are taken by Muslims, then we don't have a country and the division continues.  

"The president of Nigeria is a Muslim, the Vice President of Nigeria is a Muslim, the Chief Justice of Nigeria is a Muslim, the Chief of Staff to the President is a Muslim, the Speaker of the House of Representatives they are going to elect is a Muslim; so what kind of country are we going to have?" he asked.

"It is time to heal our land and, in so doing, what I expect of the 10th Senate to do is to give the position of the Senate president to a Christian senator from the South South. 

"Therefore the president of the Senate should be supported to emerge from the South South,  a  South South senator, who is a Christian. So I am happy you are here and you have my blessings to become the next Senate president," he told Senator Akpabio and his entourage.  

In his response, Senator Akpabio assured the Ijaw leader that under his leadership in the Senate, a greater attention would be paid to the Niger Delta Region as the zone which lays the golden eggs for the nation. 

"One of the problems we have in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is revenue generation. The law says the oil companies should pay three percent of their yearly budget to the Commission, but unfortunately, there was no sanction. So the three percent is just there. If you don't pay, what happens? Nothing. 

"So as it is, we have to beg the oil companies before they can comply with the law. As of now, the oil companies owe the NDDC $5.6bn in the last 20 years. The National Assembly can take steps to enforce the law because the goose that lays the golden eggs deserves some kind of rewards. 

"If such a law comes into being then measures can be put in place to develop the region and stop people from dying every year through flooding like it happened in Bayelsa. It would also take care of the environment which has been ravaged through illegal oil bunkering, oil pollution and acid rain," he said.  


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