New Telegraph

10th Nass: Season Of Intrigues, Lobbying, Propaganda

The jostle for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly actually commenced in earnest immediately after the 2023 general election. The tussle, however, gets hotter and more dramatic by the day. The level of interest and cut-throat competition seen among the aspirants in the two chambers of the apex legislative institution is obviously unprecedented vis-a-vis what obtained in previous assemblies since 1999. New Telegraph observed that fresh dimensions of intrigues, horse trading and propaganda, keep making incursions into the process as the frontline contenders in the race to Senate presidency and House of Representatives Speakership intensify efforts to win support of their colleagues ahead of the inauguration and when elections will hold.

It’s instructive to note that all the con- tenders started indicating interest in the race, immediately after the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections results were announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the Senate, Senators-elect, who considered themselves qualified to occupy the offices, declared their interests and started canvassing support from their colleagues, even when the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was yet to come up with a zoning arrangement for power sharing. New Telegraph can authoritatively report that there was no other dispensation when the struggle for National Assembly leadership positions was as competitive as it is in the present dispensation.

Apart from the large number of aspirants in- volved, those in the race are taking it to a level of do-or-die affair. For instance, posters of the aspirants have littered all the corners of the National Assembly legislative complex. Also, the main gate and all the other gates linking the complex have been decorated with the posters, a development that never happened in the past. Moreover, it appears that political jobbers of all stratification are taking advantage of the apparent desperation of the lawmaker-elect in the National Assembly leadership tussle to eke a living. Checks revealed that so may “support groups” have emerged across ethno-religious divides, just to get money out at all costs from the vulnerable lawmakers.

In fact, investigation has shown that this new industry of support groups is already turning to a scam as it has become an orchestrated strategy and conspiracy to earn a living. It has been observed that one group will address a press conference in the morning, pledging support for one aspirant, the next day, the same group will organise another press conference under another name and pledge its support for the opponent of the one they supported yesterday. New Telegraph also noted that some groups will deliberately orchestrate negative media attack on an aspirant and get paid by their paymaster but after some hours, they will meet the same person they attacked and negotiate with him to do a rebuttal on their previous briefing.

In this type of scenario, the groups do claim that they were misled. Speaking to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, a member of one of the “support groups” said that since the politicians could not help the youth and other Nigerians when approached in time of need, they had to devise strategies to get money from them by hook or crook. “The truth is that all these support groups you are seeing here and there are in business. It is a racket for survival and you know that it is seasonal. Very soon, it will stop. By the time Tinubu and his team are sworn in on May 29 and the 10th National Assembly is inaugurated in June, the racketeering will automatically cease to be.

“Yes, as you rightly observed, some of these groups supporting this and supporting that are just doing it to get money out of the politicians, who ordinarily will not give you a dime, even when you are in need and you approach them for help. “Some of the NGOs and CSOs you here briefing journalists all over the country and pledging their support for one politician or another, are paid to do so. So, the leadership tussle in the National Assembly is a temporary industry for people’s survival,” the source said.

It is pertinent to note that before the APC NWC came out with a zoning arrangement that ceded the Senate presidency to the South-South, and at the same time mi- cro-zoned it to Senator Godswill Akpabio, many Senators-elect were in the race and the contenders were dominantly ranking senators. They include a former governor of Abia State and Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who is representing Abia North Senatorial District. Others who declared interest are Senators Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano North); Sani Musa (APC, Niger East), Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa- Ibom North West), Osita Izunaso (APC, Imo West), Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South). Also, the incumbent President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, was mentioned to be in the race, even though he never made any public statement confirming his interest.

However, those close to his camp said that, just as he did not personally go to the Supreme Court to fight for his return ticket, he was plotting underground to re-contest. Similarly, a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West), who was elected during the February 25 National Assembly elections, also declared interest in contesting for the number three seat. While the ranking Senators-elect were campaigning and canvassing for support from their colleagues and the leadership of the APC, two non-ranking Senators-elect in the persons of the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi (APC, Ebonyi South), and a former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North), also joined the race.

As part of the intrigues and horse trading going on in the leadership tussle in the Senate in particular, the non-ranking Senators-elect, made passionate appeals to convince the Senate, to quickly amend its inhibiting ranking rule to accommodate them in the contest, arguing that they were most suitable for the plumb job. The governor of Ebonyi State in particular, addressed press conferences, pleading with the Ninth Senate leader- ship to amend the Standing Orders of the Red Chamber, to pave the way for the non-ranking Senators-elect to participate in the highly competitive office. However, after the zoning formula by the APC was released three weeks ago, many of the aspirants dropped their ambition to honour the decision of the party and the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who specifically chose Akpabio as his preferred candidate.

Expectedly, the zoning formula of the ruling party has triggered agitations within the polity, particularly across geo- ethnic lines. For instance, while the South East believes that it is the turn of the zone to produce the next President of the Senate, the North-West, protested that it was their turn, on the argument that they helped Tinubu to emerge the winner of the 2023 presidential election. Senator Kalu, being the main con- tender from the South East, had publicly argued that for the sake of equity, justice and fairness to all the geo-political zones of the country, the zone should be allowed to take the number three highest political office in the land. Initially, before the APC zoned the presiding officers’ positions, Senator Jibrin Barau was campaigning to be the next President of the Senate but after the official zoning, he paired with Akpabio to run as the Deputy President of the Senate.

In the North Central, party chieftains in the zone are also insisting that it is their turn to produce the next President of the Senate, and Senator Musa, representing Niger East, is the one in the race. However, Musa has since voluntarily relinquished his ambition to the Senate Presidency and settled for the deputy. According him, there is need to consider religion and ethnicity in the power sharing arrangement, promising that he would allow a Christian from the South to be elected President of the Senate, to redress issues over the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the APC. In the current state of things in the leadership tussle, Akpabio is paring with Barau for President and Deputy President of the Senate, while Kalu is in alliance with Yari for the Senate presidency and Deputy Senate presidency respectively.

It is interesting to note that all these aspirants have people drumming support for them. Some of the supporters claim to be Civil Society groups. They made the racketeering to linger, as they give their paymasters impression that they would win irrespective of the endorsement of certain individuals by the leadership of the APC. While all these were going on, news broke in some media platforms on Monday may 22, that the President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan, might have concluded arrangements to throw his hat in the ring to retain his position in the 10th National Assembly. It was reported that the outgoing President of the Senate was planning to contest alongside Senator Osita Izunaso from Imo State as deputy president of the Senate.

According to the report, Lawan, who is said to be opposed to Senator Akpabio’s candidacy is allegedly being propped up by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra), Senator Sani Musa (APC, Niger) and Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and oil magnate, Chief Emeka Offor. However, in a swift reaction, the senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Musa, described as false and malicious, saying that the story was sponsored by political detractors. He said that the concocted publication was aimed at causing confusion to pitch the APC Senators-elect against Tinubu and the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima. Musa urged the Senators-elect and the general public to disregard what he described as false information in the media space, which he said was a figment of the imagination of rumour mongers.

He stressed that he stood by the position of his colleagues in the North Central, who had endorsed him as their candidate for the position of deputy president of the Senate in the 10th National Assembly. In the face of all the intrigues, propaganda, lobbying and racketeering in the build up to the inauguration and election of leaders in the 10th National Assembly, Nigerians have been clamouring for emergence of a leadership that will ensure the independence of the apex legislative organ in the country, so as to guarantee checks and balances in governance and engender rapid development in Nigeria.

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