There are indications that the battle for the senate presidency for the 10th National Assembly has been reduced to a three-horse race, involving former Governor Godswill Akpabio, Senator Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Osita Izunaso.
Impeccable sources at the National Assembly told our correspondent that this development has led to three power blocs, headed by Akpabio, Yari and Izunaso, dividing the senators-elect along these lines.
Since the All Progressives Congress made its zoning in a consensus list known, some members have disagreed with the arrangement.
A chieftain of the party, Olujonwo Obasanjo, had said the party remained supreme and as such all aggrieved members should align with the party’s decision.
Others have made a case for their region, especially the North-Central, which has become very vocal about its position since the zoning list came out.
But, one of the sources close to the matter, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said an extraordinary meeting of the APC All Progressives Congress Senators and Senators-Elect was held on Friday.
The source stated that Akpabio’s candidacy was only ‘sustained’ by the endorsement of the President-Elect, Bola Tinubu.
Akpabio’s bloc, according to the source, is largely dominated by South-West senators and ‘a few from the South-South, South-East and North-Central’.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that there are about 54 senators in this fold.
It is not clear if the bloc enjoys the support of the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who has been consistent in his call for “further and better” consultations on the zoning arrangement.
The source said, “He (Adamu) told Akpabio’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, to stop parading or seeing himself as the Speaker of the 10th Assembly.
“Most of the senators do not have a personal conviction on the cause of the bloc; they are acting only on what they were asked to do as publicly disclosed by the outgoing governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, and Senator Ali Ndume when they spoke on national television that it was the President-elect that directed them to support Senator Akpabio.”
The second bloc, spearheaded by a former governor of Zamfara State, Yari, was formed as a response to the announcement of Akpabio by the APC as the consensus candidate for the position, our correspondent gathered.
Another source who attended Friday’s meeting said, “They (Yari’s bloc) were angered by the unilateral selection of Akpabio by the President-Elect and are dominantly from the entire North, with a majority of South East, South-South and two or three from South West.
“Their grouse is mainly against Akpabio who is generally resented by the northern senators.”
While stressing that the Yari group is formidable, the source noted that it believed that ‘northern interest would suffer in the hands of Akpabio’.
The third bloc, which is the Izunaso group, Sunday PUNCH gathered has its members spread across all the geo-political zones.
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Sunday PUNCH findings revealed that they are made up of former members of the House of Representatives, serving senators and new senators ‘rooting for a change’.
A returning senator, who did not want his name mentioned, told this report that the Izunaso group met regularly.
“Their vision is a rebranded senate for the fruition of a new Nigeria. The group is growing daily,” the source added.
The senator, however, noted that there was only a thin line between the Yari and Izunaso group, as ‘apart from both having similar goals of sanctity and independence of the senate, members of the Izunaso’s attend Yari’s meetings and vice versa’.
Meanwhile, Sunday PUNCH reliably learnt that there are serious talks between the two blocs to work together with the two leaders sharing the positions of Senate President and Deputy Senate president.
If the talks which are already at an advanced stage are consummated, the combined group would have an overwhelming majority in the senate.
Another senator loyal to the Yari faction noted that the core loyalists of the President-Elect were putting pressure on him to withdraw his support for the former governor of Akwa Ibom State for the position.
The senator, who did not want to be mentioned because he was not permitted to speak on the matter, said, “The loyalists have concluded that Akpabio is not the right person to lead the National Assembly at this critical period.
“The image of an Akpabio leading the legislative arm with his baggage of criminal cases of corruption would send wrong signals to the world, the global business community where the president-elect is already relating with for economic activities that would boost the Nigerian economy.
“The loyalists have become worried and uncomfortable with the daily growing concerns being raised by Nigerians, individually, pressure groups, the media and influential stakeholders.
“The latest of which was the cries by the South-South Women Compatriots threatening to protest naked.”
The senator stressed that Tinubu’s loyalists hold that the government they have tagged ‘Renewed Hope’ should not begin on ‘a hopelessness note for an important issue such as the fight against corruption’.
The senator said, “All the protesters and commentators saw the endorsement of Senator Akpabio as an affront to Nigerians and the annihilation of the little success achieved by the outgoing government in the fight against sleaze.
“The loyalists both within and outside Nigeria are advising the President to look for a corruption-free, clean, experienced and competent ranking senator from the South-South or South-east to support for the position.
“In both the South-South and South-East, there are only two ranking senators apart from Senator Godswill Akpabio. They are Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, a former Governor of Abia State; and Senator Osita Izunaso, the pioneer National Organising Secretary of the APC from Imo State.
“Out of these two senators, it is only Izunaso that does not have any case with the EFCC or any criminal case at all. If the President-elect listened to the pleas by Nigerians and the advice of his core loyalists, Osita Izunaso is the man to support.”