Photo: Sen Godswill Akpabio, Senate President
Why PDP senators voted for Akpabio to emerge Senate President
A lot of political intrigues played out within the last 48 hours prior to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly which convinced opposition PDP Senators to vote for Sen Godswill Akpabio, as President of 10th Senate.
Prior to the inauguration on Tuesday, June 13, many Nigerians, especially members of the opposition political parties, were working together to recast the event of 2015, that led to the emergence of Sen Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kwara state, as president of the 8th Senate, against the choice of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But, shockingly, the result of the election and the emergence of Sen Godswill Akpabio, who was the choice of President Bola Tinubu and his party, the APC, totally changed the political climate before the inauguration of the 10th Senate.
Due to last minute realignment of interest, blackmail and other pecuniary interest, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and ex- Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, emerged Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly.
It was further revealed that the underground intrigues was full of blackmail and the betrayal by some members of opposition across party and religious lines.
Money from a former governor played a substantial impact and thus left many people pondering about the future of democracy in Nigeria due to the influence of money.
The main opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had moved against Akpabio because of self interest to safe guard the unity of the party in the South South geo-political zone.
PDP had also boasted that it had the numerical strength to ensure that the former governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari, emerge Senate President.
The PDP’s position hours to inauguration of 10th N’Assembly had said it all.
PDP boasted of the numerical strength of the opposition in the Senate, thus: the PDP has 36 Senators, APGA has one, YPP has one, NNPP has three, Labour has eight and the SDP two. Out of this, Yari was banking on 42 senators.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, “We the PDP and other minority political parties are united and we shall maximally decide how the presiding officers of the National Assembly.
“With regard to the current race for the Presiding Officers of the National Assembly, it is instructive to note that the opposition parties put together form a strong majority in the National Assembly and we are very mindful of that.
“The PDP leadership is working together with our members-elect and opposition parties in the two chambers.
“Irrespective of the on-going and claims in the media, I want to inform you that the PDP has a clear direction which we hold close to our chest, our members are united in that direction and it will show on the floor of both Houses of the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
“In all, we do not discountenance the fact that put the opposition parties in the majority in the National Assembly which we are ready to deploy maximally”, he stated.
But this confidence was deflated by series of WhatsApp messages by an APC governor from the Southeast using pseudo name with various inciting messages.
One of such messages was asking how can Nigeria be termed a secular state with a President and Vice President being muslim and the same religion scheming to take over Senate leadership.
The argument marshalled was that with Yari as the Senate President Nigeria would have almost been turned to an Islamic state.
This position was followed by quotes by Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, who commented on the implication of having a Moslem elected as Senate President, the number three office in the country.
For Vice President Shettima, the Senate President had to be Godswill Akpabio or no one else.
24 hours before the election, Shettima at a meeting with APC chieftains which included Abdulaziz Yari, offered to go on his kneels to prevail on them to allow Akpabio emerge victorious without a contest.
He told them that another round of debate concerning Muslim-Muslim ticket must be clearly avoided.
Describing himself as a child of circumstance, the former Borno State Governor argued that in the event of Yari emerging as Senate President, it would be very difficult to defend the fact that the choice of muslims in the leadership of the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government was not deliberate.
It was a persuasive argument that cracked the pro-Yari campaigners who left the venue of the meeting weakened than they came.
To the PDP, their support for Yari was simply based on political self interest.
According to the calculation of the PDP, with an Akpabio Senate Presidency, it would amount to reducing the number of states in the hands of the PDP in the South South.
Currently, only Cross River state in the SouthSouth is under the control of the APC.
A source from the PDP said, “the powers of the Senate President, especially an Akpabio is enormous and this could be dangerous to the unity of the party in the zone. “
This is coupled with the ravaging moves of the former governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike. To the PDP, a combination of Akpabio and Wike will wrath a fatal danger to the unity of the PDP in the zone.
Another inside factor that facilitated victory was the Wike-led G5 Integrity group. The group led by the former governor of Rivers state, ably supported by the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, rallied Senators of the PDP to support the Akpabio Senate Presidency.
From these two vantage positions, the ego of the PDP was deflated as the position of the party boasting of having the numerical strength to make a difference failed in less than 48 hours to the inauguration to the 10th National Assembly.
Wike, it was learnt, conveyed a special meeting of the PDP senators where he was able to extract a promise that they will vote Akpabio as Senate President.
The argument was of what value would it be to have a national parliament that would antagonise Tinubu’s presidency.
Multiple sources at the meeting said Wike and his team severally asked, “What is the essence of having a President from the South and allowing to be wedged with a hostile Senate President?”
The Senators were said to have bought the idea and it became a fait accompli.
The last minute intervention by President Tinubu, when he met with the President of the 9th National Assembly, Dr Ahmad Lawan and his team was the last blow that tore apart the support base of Yari.