President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu has reportedly settled for the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio as the next President of the Senate while Senator Jibrin Barau will be the Deputy Senate President.
Akpabio and Barau are among the nine contenders for the Senate presidency of the 10th assembly, expected to be inaugurated on June 13.
According to Daily Trust sources, the president-elect, who returned to the country on Monday after 34 days abroad, communicated his decision to Akpabio and Barau during a meeting held in Abuja.
The former Lagos State governor had on Tuesday met with Akpabio, Barau, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) and the Ekiti State governor, Biodun Oyebanji.
Sources said during the meeting, which they said was at the instance of the president-elect, Barau was asked to drop his bid for the Senate presidency in the interest of national cohesion, fairness and religious balancing.
A lawmaker from the South said Barau was prevailed upon to sacrifice his ambition in the interest of peace and tranquility in the country.
“He was told to drop his ambition for the emergence of a Christian as the president of the next Senate.
“The president-elect told Barau that he is extremely qualified for the job but that he should drop his ambition for the emergence of a Christian to enable his administration to commence on a good footing.
“He said since he (Tinubu) and Senator Kashim Shettima (the vice president-elect) are Muslims, the right thing to do is to support a Christian.
“It was after the pleas that the president-elect told Barau that he would want him to work with Akpabio as deputy Senate president,” the senator said, pleading not to be named.
Corroborating this, another source, a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told this paper that the president-elect has contacted Akpabio and Barau on his decision to pair them for the Senate presidency.
“I was not there when the meeting was held, but two people who attended it have told me of the decision by Asiwaju. It is a fact that he has settled for Akpabio and Barau for the Senate president and deputy,” he said.
An ally of Tinubu from the North had previously told our correspondent of the preference of Tinubu for Akpabio. However, he was not reachable yesterday when attempts were made to speak with him on the nomination of the former Akwa Ibom governor by his associate.
When contacted yesterday, Akpabio simply said, “I don’t know.” However, Barau could not be reached last night.
Aside from Akpabio and Barau, seven other senators have indicated interest in the Senate presidency including Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North); Sen Abdul-Aziz Yari (APC, Zamfara West); Sen Sani Musa (Niger East); Sen Ali Ndume (Borno South), Sen Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi South) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North).
Efforts to get the reactions of Sen Kalu, Sen Ndume, and Sen Musa yielded no results as they were unreachable via phones. A report claiming that Tinubu had endorsed Kalu for the Senate presidency went viral on social media last night.
Asiwaju to convey the decision on Akpabio, and Barau to NWC, other contenders
It was gathered that the president-elect would meet other contenders for the Senate presidency to formally inform them of the decision on Akpabio and Barau soon. After that, Tinubu would also meet all the senators-elect who are members of the APC in furtherance of the consultation.
It could be recalled that at a meeting on Wednesday, which had in attendance the president-elect, the vice president-elect, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and the leadership of the APC led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, it was resolved that Tinubu anchors the efforts of identifying and selecting the leadership of the National Assembly.
In the 109-seat Senate, the APC has 59 senators, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 36; Labour Party (LP) eight, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) two, Social Democratic Party (SDP) two, Young Progressives Party (YPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one seat each.
Akpabio and Barau require a simple majority of votes to clinch the two positions when the parliament is inaugurated in June after the transmission of a letter of the proclamation by the president to the Clerk of the National Assembly.