Akpabio May Emerge Senate Minority Leader
Barring any last minute change, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Akpabio, will emerge as the Senate Minority Leader.
A source who did not want to be named said whereas Senator James Manager (Delta South) was popularly favoured to emerge as the next Senate Minority Leader, his chance of emerging failed following the nomination of Hon. Leo Ogor for the office of Minority Leader in the House of Representatives.
The source disclosed that Manager lost out because himself and Ogor hail from the same state, Delta. According to him, the minority leaders of both the Senate and the House could not come from the same state even though the office had been zoned to the South-south.
The source further added that following the loss of Manager, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers West), who is the next most ranking senator was expected to emerge but Akpabio showed interest and to the surprise of everyone, all dumped Sekibo and queued behind the former governor.
The source suspected that Manager, might have been a principal figure who rooted for Akpabio’s emergence in protest of the decision to deny him of the opportunity to occupy the office.
However, Akpabio’s bid to emerge as the Senate Minority Leader is in violation of Senate Standing Orders which prohibit a non-ranking senator from emerging as a principal officer of the upper legislative chamber.
The source also debunked insinuations that there was crisis in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate over the issue of principal officers, insisting that there was no crack in the caucus.
Instead, he said various zonal caucuses had been meeting to elect their preferred lawmakers for various principal offices in both the Senate and the House of Representatives zoned to them.
A media report had said former President Goodluck Jonathan and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu on one hand and Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, had disagreed over alleged Jonathan’s choice, Senator George Sekibo, for the position of Senate Minority Leader.
It was learnt that whereas the national leadership of PDP had zoned the agreed principal offices to zonal caucuses, the party had given each caucus a free hand to elect suitable candidates for onward submission to the Senate president.
The source said: “The story of any disagreement between party big wigs is false. What happened was that everybody thought that Senator James Manager would emerge the Minority Leader. However, since the PDP House of Representatives Caucus had already adopted Hon. Leo Ogor as the Minority Leader in that Chamber, some Senators from the zone argued that the position of Minority Leader for both Houses could not be given to two people from the same state.
“Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East) was, therefore, thought to be next suitable person. But Akpabio too showed interest. And at a meeting of the South-south senators’ caucus summoned by Senator James Manager, the senators signed up for Senator Godwill Akpabio”.
The source added that while it was against Senate rule for a fresh senator to be a Minority Leader, he argued that it was a choice the PDP would have to accept and deal with since it is the popular position taken by South-south senators.
“You see, the principal officer from each zone is the leader of the zonal caucus and therefore must be generally acceptable for the people of the zone. PDP cannot be seen to be making the same mistake which is rocking APC’s boat right now. But I can assure you that the story of infighting or that former President Goodluck Jonathan lobbied for Senator George Sekibo or that Governor Nyesom Wike or anyone else was against George’s emergence is all falsehood.
“As for Ekweremadu, there was no time he summoned or attended a meeting of the South-south caucus. It is not his business. Where he and PDP leadership would come in is where there is a case of imposition. But in this case, each senator not only has one vote, but signs a letter forwarding the preferred choice to the Senate President. So, each caucus is choosing the preferred candidate democratically and everything will be ready before the Senate returns from break.”
He, however, insisted that there should be no hard feeling in the PDP camp since democracy was a game of number.