By Umar Sa’ad Hassan –
President-Elect Bola Tinubu and his people started preparing for the 2023 elections just months after President Buhari was sworn-in for a second term in 2019.He was choosing allies, bridges and assessing strengths and weaknesses before most of the candidates had even made up their minds to contest. That speaks volumes of the man’s ability to prepare adequately for a task. That quality along with how President Buhari made a mess of the National Assembly Leadership elections in his first tenure by sitting idly and refusing to choose a path early for his party by rooting for the candidates he felt he would work best with meant no one was surprised by media reports that the Jagaban had chosen his preferred National Assembly leaders.
In 2015,a villain ex-Governor who was being stoned in his home state conned his way to the leadership of the senate and became a national hero only because he was using the senate to fight back a President who was hell bent on destroying him.Many did not see that,they only saw a brave warrior who refused to be intimidated by Buhari.The lessons of that point in time will always be available to the political class for reference.
Moreso a Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has to deal with a National Assembly where a 2/3 majority will no longer be a stroll in the park considering the amount of lawmakers from other parties.The total amount of opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives exceed the APC’s 179 members and the APC’s 60 out of an available 109 senatorial seats all but ensure the National Assembly will not be a family affair.
Below i have tried to discuss in as much detail as possible,the people Tinubu has identified to help him navigate the challenges likely to be posed by a polarized National Assembly and the politics behind his decisions.
GODSWILL AKPABIO FOR SENATE PRESIDENT,BARAU JIBRIN FOR DEPUTY SENATE PRESIDENT
The choice of former Akwa Ibom state Governor,Godswill Akpabio for Senate President all but confirms one thing-Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not bow to the North.The North West is the largest voting bloc in Nigeria and the weight the region carries has always influenced the choice of political bed mates by those from other regions.
When analysts were busy speculating on who Tinubu’s North Western VP would be,he shocked everyone by going to the North East.This is the first time since 2007 that the North West has not either produced a President or his Vice and being a man of great political acumen,Asiwaju was going to hand over the Senate Presidency to stay on friendly terms.He was going to endorse unarguably the most loved APC politician in the NNPP Kano, Sen. Barau Jibrin who would serve as not just an olive branch to the North West but also as the most viable means of opposing the NNPP with a view to recovering the largest state in Nigeria; Kano.But No.
Jagaban obviously doesn’t think anyone is entitled to anything and has chosen to carry everyone along so Akpabio from the South South is his pick.Godswill Akpabio may not be as white as snow but he is dogged and committed with the right incentive is in play.These attributes made Buhari and his people reach out to him in time for the 2019 elections and the APC ended up winning 2 LGAs in a PDP strong hold and getting over 175,000 votes.He was rewarded with Minister despite being a new member of the party.
Akpabio will be expected to not just run a senate hoping to get APC votes alone but one that will look to make a lot of friends from other parties and possibly get them to jump ship.He has the experience,clout and most importantly, political connections having being a 2 term Governor in the major opposition party and a Minister in the ruling party.We may see a lot of division created in the opposition parties to enable cross-carpeting members fulfil constitutional requirements.
In line with Jagaban’s philosophy of shedding heavy reliance on the North, Akpabio will also be required to make in-roads into the South South and make the APC a major player across all 5 states.
TAJUDEEN ABBAS FOR SPEAKER,BEN KALU FOR DEPUTY SPEAKER
The North West was a definite choice for Speaker if it didn’t get Senate President.It was only a question of who.Alhassan Ado Doguwa is a known favourite of Tinubu and he went on to indicate interest in the seat despite having accusations of murder and arson hanging on his neck but of course the optics of endorsing him have to worry any sane person.If you add the fact that Tajudeen Abbas has been in the House of Representatives since 2011 to the fact that he represents Zaria Federal Constituency; primarily consisting of Zaria Local Government Area; the LGA famous for giving Buhari 111,082 votes in 2019 in Kaduna state which is the 2nd largest state in the North West after the Deputy Senate President’s Kano,his choice is a no-brainer.
Abbas may not be reputed to be a mobilizer or outstanding leader of men but he provides the North West its consolatory slot.The one thing analysts doubt he has the ability to do unlike Akpabio in the senate,is protect efficiently the interests of the APC amidst 181 opposition members.
Unlike President Buhari’s 2019 choices which had a North Westerner as President and Deputy Speaker and a South Westerner as Vice President and Speaker,Tinubu’s choice of Ben Kalu from the South East means Tinubu’s government if all goes how he intends,will have a national outlook.Every region is represented in the top heirachy of government.Personally i think Rep.Miriam Onuoha from Imo state would have been a better choice for Deputy Speaker considering the fact that she is a woman.That would have added a little something extra to the nationality of his government but either way,the intentions of Jagaban have been noted.He wants to run a Nigeria that will carry everyone along.
Though there have been reports of several aggrieved candidates in both houses forming alliances to sabotage the President-Elect’s choices as endorsed by the APC, it is left to be seen how things will play out. But going by antecedents, is never safe to bet against Jagaban in a game of politics so barring a miracle of humongous proportions, these men are all but in already.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano