Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima yesterday explained why the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) endorsed a Christian, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as Senate President.
He said religious tolerance, stability, cohesion and unity of Nigeria were considered before the former Akwa Ibom State governor was tipped as the next National Assembly Chairman.
Apparently echoing the party’s position, Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma said any plot to frustrate the decision will fail.
Lagos Central APC Senator-elect Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sani and other groups also hailed the APC’s decision to nominate Akpabio, who they described as an experienced and competent candidate.
Shettima, who endorsed Akpabio for Senate President and Barau Jibrin for the Deputy Senate President addressed over 70 senators-elect, who are members of the Ali Ndume-led Stability Group rooting for their emergence at his campaign office in Abuja.
He said Akpabio’s choice was the best decision made by the party leadership and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, in the interest of a stable polity.
Shettima said: “Politics shouldn’t be a means of disuniting our people. It should rather be a means of uniting us. The President-elect and the Vice-President-elect are both Muslims.
“It is in the interest of the stability and unity of this country that the next position be given to the Christian faith. If not, it would further validate the alleged islamisation agenda of the APC-led administration.
“It would be perceived as a gratuitous insult on our Christian brothers and sisters who stuck out their necks to support us.
“That was why I was quite pleased with the choice of the party leadership that my uncommon brother and leader in the person of Senator Godswill Akpabio should be the number three citizen of this country.”
He added: “The stability of this nation is much more important than whatever political considerations we may think of.
“We need to have a stable and united nation before we can talk about politics and positions. This is what our leader could do to unite this country in the current circumstances.”
Shettima said Akpabio “has the exposure, competence and experience to occupy the office of the Senate President in the 10th Senate; ditto Senator Jibrin, who has been endorsed as his deputy. Apart from the need for religious balancing, competence and experience also came into play in our choices.”
The vice president-elect also spoke on the ambition of Senator Abdulaziz Yari for the position.
He said: “Senator Abdulaziz Yari, is my brother and friend. We became governors together in 2011-2019 on the same political platform, but the nation is superior to other personal considerations.
“I am quite happy with what I see here today. It is a reflection of those who crave for the stability and unity of this country in a bi-partisan manner.”
Shettima thanked Rivers State Governors Nyesom Wike and his Ebonyi State counterpart, David Umahi for their contributions and support for the party.
He said: “The Governor-General of the Southsouth is a man of honour and integrity. Whatever you see is what you get as far as Wike is concerned.
“These are people that have contributed immensely to the stability of this country. Umahi is the best performing governor in the Southeast. He’s a man of honour and integrity.
He wanted to contest for the Senate Leadership but he had to drop it in reverence to the party’s decison.”
Shettima promised to get in touch with APC senators-elect, who are yet to come on board with the choices of the party.
He added: “I have seen the names of those who are yet to join us. Be rest assured that we will positively engage them and make them see reasons why they have to come on board.
“My Principal, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is a veteran politician. He knows how to go about bringing them into the fold before the
inauguration of the National Assembly.”
Akpabio, on behalf of the Solidarity Group, congratulated the vice president-elect on his election, describing his choice as the right step in the right direction.
He said: “Your choice is putting a square peg in a square hole.”
He also thanked the vice president-elect for hosting the group in his campaign office.
The former Senate Minority Leader, informed Shettima that members of the Group were drawn from all political parties who have decided to come together to produce the leadership for the 10th Senate in order to stabilise Nigeria, not on the basis of political party, religion or tribe but on the basis of conviction based on integrity.
He said the Stability Group believes that the success of the Tinubu-Shettima administration would be the success of Nigeria.
Akpabio stressed: “We know very well that once somebody crosses the door into the Red Chambers, you are no longer a senator of a political party but a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Stability Group members are going to work with the incoming administration to evaluate the policies and ensure the stability of the country.
“We are not here because the party zoned the position to the most ranked Senator from the South South, Senator Godswll Akpabio. We came together to ensure national cohesion and the stability of the polity and to ensure that NIGERIA moves forward in the right direction.”
Why a Christian from SouthSouth, by senator-elect Eshinlokun-Sanni hailed the APC leadership for its sensitivity and wisdom to balance the Muslim/Muslim ticket of the executive arm.
The outgoing Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly spoke during an award presentation to him in his office.
Eshinlokun-Sanni said the APC leadership should also consider the three Senate presidential aspirants based on their contributions to the electoral success of the party in the last election.
He said: “For the 10th Assembly, I believe the party should play a prominent role. There are so many factors that must be considered.
“He or she must come from the South and must be a Christian, so that the noise about Muslim/Muslim ticket can be nipped in the bud.
“As we speak, there are three senators that are qualified for the Senate President seat – Senators Godswill Akpabio, Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunazo.
“So, we have to consider the aspirants based on the contributions of each region to the electoral success of the party in the last election,” he said.
The senator-elect who said the Northcentral has a right to complain, adding that there were other positions that they could take.
He said the government and the party would have to find some positions to give them since it was not rocket science.
Niger Delta group hails Tinubu
The Niger Delta Youth Movement (NDYM) hailed Tinubu over his endorsement of Akpabio.
In a release by the NDYM Acting National President, Amutadi Uba Tega, and National Secretary, Ediagbonya Joshua Osamuiyi, the group said Akpabio is most qualified for the position.
It added: “We make bold to say that Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio is a fit and proper person to lead the 10th senate and properly guide the National Assembly to the actualisation of the ‘Renewed Hope’ of the Tinubu led administration upon her inauguration.
“He understands the workings of the legislature since he had a direct relationship with it as a commissioner in the state executive council for 6 years, as an Executive Governor for 8 years, as a senator of the Federal Republic for 4 years and as a Minister of government for about 3 years.
“As an executive governor, he was an achiever par excellence, earning the sobriquet as the uncommon governor. His landmark achievement as a governor are too numerous to mention”, the group said.
‘Uzodimma not against Akpabio’
Uzodimma said he was not part of the plot to scuttle the APC’s decision on Akpabio.
The governor described himself as a loyal party man to the core.
He spoke through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba.
In a statement in Owerri, Emelumba said: “At no time did Uzodimma contemplate working against the choice of APC and the President-elect, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the leadership of the 10th Senate.
“As a loyal party man, the governor will stand firmly behind the choice of any person or persons chosen by the APC and the President-elect to lead the 10th Senate, and will in fact work assiduously for their emergence.”
Emelumba said that “the governor as a loyal party man would never work against the choices of the party, talkless of supporting another candidate,” adding: “Since Uzodimma joined politics over forty (40) years ago, his reputation and integrity as a loyal party man has remained unassailable.”
Group urges governors to rally senators-elect
All Progressives Congress (APC) Team Godswill Obot Akpabio (GOA) urged all governors and governors-elect to support Akpabio and Jibrin.
The group in a statement in Abuja also appealed to senators-elect to vote for the Akpabio/Jibrin ticket as announced by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
The statement signed by the national co-ordinator of the group, Michael Agbor, and Secretary, Orusoso Donpedro, said the candidacy of Akpabio and Jibrin will foster the development, progress, stability and unity of the country in the next dispensation.
‘Let democracy prevail’
The Democracy Watch Initiative (DWI) urged President-elect Tinubu to allow the democratic process to prevail when members of the 10th National Assembly elect their principal officers.
It said Tinubu should recall the incredible promises he made to the North during his electioneering campaign at the Arewa House talk show organised by the Northern leaders and elders.
DWI National Coordinator Dr. Sunusi Umar, made this know in Abuja, during a press briefing.
He said no one expected the President-elect to give to the North what it does not deserve.
Group to APC: don’t bow to pressure
A group, Ntipe Ibibio Unity Mission, called on the ruling APC not to bow to pressure from those who are against the candidacy of the “best man for the job”.
Its Convener, Okon Mkpafit, described Akpabio as the best choice.
He said: “We the kinsmen of Senator Godswill Akpabio under Ntipe Ibibio Unity Mission, unequivocally declare our unalloyed support for the zoning of the Senate Presidency to Southsouth and throw our weight behind Senator Godswill Akpabio.
“We recall that the last time the position came to our zone was in 1979, which was the Second Republic, which saw the emergence of Senator Joseph Wayas.
“We plead with all the senators-elect to join hands to ensure that our zone produces the next Senate President.”
Group backs APC, Tinubu
Another group, Amalgamated APC Support Group (AASG) urged APC senators-elect to demonstrate their loyalty to the party.
Speaking with reporters in Abuja, AASG’s Deputy Director, Hajia Mariyam Danjaki said that while it is true that the constitution confers the right on every eligible citizen to aspire to any position, loyalty to the party should be paramount.
She enjoined those jostling for positions in the senate under the banner of the party to toe the line as disciplined and loyal members.
“In our position as an arm of the party, we must identify with the interest and position of our party and the president-elect, on the choice of who emerges as the next president of the Senate and other principal officers in the next Assembly.
“We believe that the party and our incoming president have made the right choice in their preference for the exalted positions.” (Nation)