10th NASS ELECTION: Contenders dread two-horse race

  • Lobby state governors to woo colleagues
  • Lawmakers torn between ethnicity, pocket gains
  • Why North West is adamant – Lasun Yusuf
  • Betara, Gagdi allegedly step down for Abbas


Uba Group

As the 360 members of the House of Representatives and the 109 members of the Senate prepare to elect the leadership of Nigeria’s 10th National Assembly tomorrow, candidates with better horse trading tricks, financial war chest and lobbying magic may be favoured to emerge as leaders of the parliament, findings by The Point have shown.

Ordinarily, the ruling All Progressives Congress should have left the choice of National Assembly leadership to the members to express their freewill.

However, arising from its experience in 2015 when the outcome of the National Assembly elections failed to reflect the desire of its leadership, the party has been making frantic efforts to ensure a united front this time around.

President Bola Tinubu is still battling to settle rifts amid strong opposition to Godswill Akpabio, a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and his preferred candidate for Senate President.

While the President has been working behind the scenes to create a soft ground for Akpabio’s emergence, opposition continues to grow from Orji Kalu, a former Governor of Abia State; Abdulaziz Yari, a former Governor of Zamfara State, and Osita Izunaso, a ranking senator from the South East, who believes that the position is due his region in the spirit of equity and fairness.

In the Green Chamber, a group of dissenting members known as the G7 aspirants emerged, comprising the Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Idris Wase; Chairman, Committee on Appropriation, Mukhtar Aliyu Betara; Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; member from Katsina, Sada Soli; another from Zamfara, Sani Jaji; an Imo lawmaker, Miriam Onuoha and Ado Doguwa.

But, lawmakers, especially in APC, have been divided and refused to reckon with the decision of President Tinubu and their leadership.

Some notable politicians, in their separate interviews with The Point, said that a situation where former Senate President Bukola Saraki emerged from the backdoor might repeat itself this time around should the ruling party fail to consult widely and get its house united.

Investigation by The Point revealed that some of the contenders had been secretly touring states of the federation to meet with state governors to urge them to prevail on their lawmakers to vote for them. Other aspirants were said to have been parting with huge cash in order to have their ways.

The Point gathered that Tuesday’s election is between Akpabio and Yari.

In the last two weeks, there have been discussions amongst the aggrieved aspirants to form a coalition against Akpabio.

Checks further revealed that the angry aspirants are mulling an arrangement to jointly pronounce Yari as aspirant for the office and Kalu as Deputy Senate President.

The former Zamfara State governor has remained adamant that he will run the race to a logical conclusion, despite persuasions and subtle threats.

The Senator-elect for Zamfara West believes that the North is being offered the short end of the stick in the Tinubu Presidency, despite its support for him in the last presidential election.

He has also argued that the zoning template is in breach of the country’s 1999 Constitution and violates the Federal Character Principle enshrined in the same document.

He said, “I am a loyal party man. Nobody has told me that any position has been zoned to anywhere as far as the 10th National Assembly is concerned.

“The position of Senate President is first among equals among the 109 senators. Any senator-elect who wants to occupy the position must seek the support of others which I am doing.”


Checks by The Point revealed that the narrative that the North is about to be marginalised is resonating well among the senators from the region.

Yari has also faulted the argument that the Presidency is disposed to a Christian as Senate President to create religious balancing.

He further submitted that an arrangement which would ensure that all the heads of arms of government would be from the Southern part of the country was skewed against the North.

The former Zamfara State governor is banking on the support of lawmakers from the People’s Democratic Party, the New Nigerian People’s Party, and Labour Party to supplant the Akpabio- Barau ticket.

Yari has visited the national secretariats of the opposition parties to seek their blessing for his aspiration.

Apart from the fact that there is discontent within the rank of APC senators over micro-zoning of the offices to favoured choices, the party lacks the number to push its agenda through seamlessly.

The list of senators to vote on Tuesday is revealing: the APC has 59 lawmakers as against PDP’s 36, while the other opposition parties have 14.

The Senator-elect, Kano North, Suleiman Kawu Sumaila, has openly declared that the opposition party will not support the Akpabio- Barau ticket for leadership of the Senate.

Sumalia, an ardent supporter of Yari, said that the APC had no comfortable majority to guarantee its victory.

He said, “This 10th National Assembly is entirely different from the previous Assembly. The margin between the ruling party and the minority parties in the Senate is 52 per cent to 48 per cent of the minorities. The minority is 50 while the ruling party has 59. When you go to the House, the minority parties are 183 and the majority 177.

“What I am saying is that if you have a clear majority, you can do zoning, select your candidates without consultation but in a situation like this where you don’t have the majority and there are so many interests in Nigeria now.

“Some are there to ask for fiscal federalism, some are there to promote true federalism, some are there to ask for State police and so many other agitations. “The best way is to allow the members of the National Assembly to decide who will be their Speaker or the President of the Senate. Then at the end, the President as a politician will invite the leadership and work with them.”

“The former Zamfara State governor is banking on the support of lawmakers from the People’s Democratic Party, the New Nigerian People’s Party, and Labour Party to supplant the Akpabio- Barau ticket”

“Let us meet on June 13, 2023 in the chamber. We will tell Nigerians who we are. By God’s grace on June 13, the new Senate President of the 10th Senate is Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari from Zamfara State,” he boasted.

However, for a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, the National Assembly may not escape the crisis that rocked it in 2015 if it doesn’t embark on wide consultation before the lawmakers go into their election.

Yusuf said but for the intervention of former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, APC would have been enmeshed in serious problems that would have been worse than the 2015 scenario.

On the decision of the APC to anoint Akpabio, the former gubernatorial candidate said, “If we are following party supremacy, I believe that a party that has the highest number of lawmakers should have the privilege, not the right to produce the Senate President and Speaker. When the supremacy of the party is fair, then a political party is right to anoint a candidate for NASS leadership. What APC is doing now is the right thing, the party never anointed Femi Gbajabiamila, it was an individual hand picking. I think APC learnt from the 2015 saga.”

When asked about who the cap fits in the Green Chamber, Yusuf said, “T. J. Abass is like my friend, although younger than me, he came here a few days ago and we spoke. Aliyu Betara is my very close friend too, although younger than me. Unless a miracle happens between now and June 13 and unless the APC structure will be able to properly consult very well, in the two chambers, anything can go wrong. If Abass becomes the Speaker, it’s okay by me; if Betara becomes the Speaker, it’s okay by me; if Wase becomes the Speaker, it’s still okay by me, all these people are my friends.”

Explaining what gave rise to the crisis during the 2015 election of the National Assembly, Yusuf stated, “The politics is that in 2015, there was no consultation, but by 2019, APC rose and heavily used Buhari, because no matter what Buhari must have done, his government was a failure but Buhari still had credibility in talking to people. If Buhari, having failed as a President, still comes and talks to the people, people will listen to him. So, Buhari was used heavily in 2019 to make sure that nothing went wrong. This time around, anything can go wrong if there is no solid talk.

“The North West is so critical to the politics of Nigeria. North West with seven states, North West with Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, those three States, you know what they do when it comes to electing the President in Nigeria. These states have just exited the President of Nigeria and you are easily forming another government where they return the highest number of votes for the person who is sitting today as President and they are currently not the President, they are not the Vice President and you are telling them not to be Senate President.

“Why Yari is going on is because they know that the choice of Abass in the House of Representatives is not a settled matter, so, they don’t want to be caught unawares so that on the day of inauguration, the North West will not clinch the Speakership of the House and they are not in the Senate. They pay attention to their own politics more than the rest in the country. So, the only reason one of them can step down is when they are so sure that they will get one of those two seats. If it is sure that when Abass goes into the House on June 13, he’s going to be Speaker, he can argue for Yari to mellow down, but, if it’s still as dicey as it is today, then you can’t beg Betara, you can’t beg Wase, these people are still insisting.

“And of course, what goes around comes around. When Osinbajo became the Vice President of Nigeria, it took you and I, even as Yorubas to know that Osinbajo was not actually claiming Lagos State, he voted in Lagos twice but to ensure that people don’t start saying that Lagos has produced the Vice President, Osinbajo quietly went to Ogun State and voted in this last election.”

“The connection here is that Betara is from Borno State where the Vice President Shettima comes from but the people are now saying that they didn’t know that Osinbajo was not from Lagos when Gbajabiamila was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. So, you can see the deceits in us and that’s what is also playing out now,” he said.

Betara, Gagdi allegedly step down speakership ambition for Abbas after meeting Tinubu
However, aspirants for the House of Representatives Speaker, Aliyu Betara and Yusuf Gagdi, have both allegedly agreed to step down for Tajuddeen Abbas after a meeting with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

In a statement on Sunday, the Tajudeen Abbas/Benjamin Kalu Joint Task Campaign Office noted that the aspirants alongside others had formally stepped down for Abbas, thereby dismantling the Group 7 aspirants who were initially opposed to his candidacy.

The campaign office also dismissed speculations that the Abbas candidacy was not known to President Tinubu.

With the alleged withdrawal, Abbas and the deputy speaker nominee, Benjamin Kalu have conquered most of the hurdles in their path to victory.

Apparently, the only person still existing in the aggrieved group of 7 opposed to the candidacy of Abass is the immediate past Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase.

In his remarks, another grounded politician, Niyi Owolade, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, lamented that issues of competence and character had been missing in the build up to the election of the leadership of the 10th Assembly, saying that more woes awaited Nigerians should the next leadership of the parliament becomes a rubber stamp.

Owolade, a lawyer, said, “The legislature is the third arm of government as enshrined in Section 4 of our constitution. The competence, capacity and the persons we intend to make the heads of both chambers are very crucial. We want somebody who knows his onions for starters, somebody who is accessible and knows the true plights of Nigerians and would want to see them being addressed. I wonder why people are not paying attention to merits and competence. Why we shy away from that is what I don’t know.

“If Barack Obama had not been competent intellectually, he wouldn’t have been President. So, that should be our starting point and not the ethnicity, religion and money we banter around. We should be asking whether these aspirants are knowledgeable, competent, rational and even merit the positions. We need people who can make laws and are also objective and clearly independent minded. We need people who are objective and not those who will go and be doing ‘Yes Sir’. Also, we need somebody who is not corrupt because we have a lot of corrupt people in Nigeria today. Once they go around and share money, they say that’s the right man for the job. It’s very sad.”

Justifying APC’s decision to zone the Senate Presidency to the South, the Director, Research, Strategy and Programming at the Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, Kolawole Johnson, faulted the ruling party for picking Akpabio, arguing that it would have been better if the party had left the election to its members.

He stated, “The major problem we have in our politics is the conundrum of ethnicity. The manifest reality in our system is Nigeria owing allegiance, first to their identity whether in tribe or religion before seeing themselves as Nigerian and that’s unfortunate. That’s why we are now at a point where you can talk of ethnicization of politics and politicisation of ethnicism.

“If the North is raising questions about the leadership of the Judiciary, then what do we say about how the North overshadowed the security architecture of the country in terms of leadership all through. People complained but nothing happened. In the Judiciary, you have been having the North overtime and there was no question about that. I think we should save some systems and institutions from our politics.

“We have had the Senate presidency staying in the North Central from 2015 to 2019, before then, we had David Mark, eight good years from the North Central too. The North has been having this; again, you have the North East having the Senate President for four years. For 20 solid years, we have had the Senate presidency staying back in the North. If it now shifts to the South, it’s only asking for fairness but unfortunately, we have the people who think their interest matters always. Let’s promote fairness and equity and I think the APC got it right by saying that the South should produce the next Senate President but the problem is putting a name to it.”

A political analyst, Oluyemi Omotosho-Junior, decried what he termed the money bag politics currently trailing the NASS election, claiming that contenders were already throwing money around to get support.

Omotosho-Junior said, “The APC is learning from its mistakes; the major mistake they made in 2015 was that the party had a candidate and then, before they knew it, the National Assembly members felt it was their prerogative to elect their leaders, first among equals. Saraki emerged and you could remember the instability that followed in the National Assembly and the noise that prevented them to some certain extent from doing their job. I think they don’t want that to repeat itself. I believe they have learnt their lessons because President Tinubu has made it clear to those who are contesting now that they want it to go to the South South and that it should go to a Christian.

“They are working on that but a good number of them are strategising because they feel that the National Assembly should be left alone to exercise its independence by picking its own leaders, that’s why Yari is out saying you can’t have a Southern President and have a Southern Senate President.

“Why Yari is going on is because they know that the choice of Abass in the House of Representatives is not a settled matter, so, they don’t want to be caught unawares so that on the day of inauguration, the North West will not clinch the Speakership of the House and they are not in the Senate”

“It’s unfortunate for the development of our politics that money is a major factor. They are now spending money, bribing each other and everybody is strategising one way or the other and contenders like Akpabio had been Governor before and they have enough money to spend around. I don’t think it should be a matter of money; it should be a matter of competence, somebody who has the legislative experience, somebody who can move Nigeria to the next level, somebody who can work collaboratively with the Executive without violating the existing laws that set up the National Assembly.

“That’s the type of person we want and I hope the National Assembly will be able to take that decision squarely without confronting the Executive.”

The Pan Niger Delta Forum has, however, called for the next Senate President to emerge from the South South, as it urged other aspirants from other regions to step down for the former Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio.

PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson disclosed this to The Point.

Robinson said, “We call on all senators-elect, irrespective of their parties, to uphold the tenets of fairness, equity and consider national unity and stability above parochial party interests.

“We also call on Senator Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and other persons from the South East, to shelve their desire, step down, and adopt Akpabio as the consensus candidate for the senate presidency, in the interest of national unity.”

The Founder, Nigeria’s Legislature focus newspaper, OrderPaper, Oke Epia, said those aspiring for leadership positions of the parliament should be assessed from the point of capacity rather than zoning or party anointing.

He said, “We believe that the contests for the presiding and principal officers of the 10th National Assembly should be viewed from the broader and more objective perspective of performance, capacity and character. While zoning is a credible criterion, given the context of Nigeria’s diversity and the necessary requirement for inclusion and power-balancing, it is in the overriding national interest to also prioritise track record.

“Citizens have a right to know and make valid judgements on the suitability or otherwise of those seeking to become leaders of the Legislature, which is the most critical arm of government in a democracy.

“We have been able to offer performance appraisals of the National Assembly and provide a valid and objective basis for citizens to determine the suitability or otherwise of incumbent legislators seeking to become Speaker, Deputy Speaker, President of the Senate and Deputy President of the Senate as well as principal officers in both chambers. We must move the conversation beyond zoning, political party patronage, and entitlement mentality.”

David Adebayo, an Abuja based public affairs analyst, said it would be in the interest of all Nigerians for the legislators of the 10th Assembly to work in harmony with the Executive.

He added that while he was a strong believer in the argument of the independence of the parliament in the choice of the leadership and internal affairs, collaboration between the executive and legislative arms would facilitate faster development.

“There is a need for compromise, the choice of Senator Godswill Akpabio as Senate President and Tajudeen Abbas as Speaker of the House of Representative as being canvassed by the APC should be given every necessary support by the elective parliamentarian for stability.

“I am of the view that the party’s position is in the best interest of Nigeria. Therefore, I charge NASS members to focus on electing the preferred choice,” he said.

A political analyst, Kizito Opara, said he was of the view that the Senate Presidency had to go to the South, specifically the South South region.

He said Akpabio was the front-runner in the region and that any fear of the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State being a stooge for the Executive should be dispelled.

On equity and fairness, which candidates from the South East have always emphasised, Opara said if it came to that, the South South voted more for the APC than the South East, and deserved the slot by virtue of that.

He also called Kalu and Yari “opportunists” who didn’t leave any outstanding legacy in their respective states as former governors.