10th NASS: Senate President, Speaker Must Not Be Muslims, Shetima Warns Northern Aspirants
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is griped with fears that it could be accused of floating islamisation agenda if those opposed to the party’s zoning formula are allowed to have their ways by allowing for Muslims Senate President and Speaker for the House of Representatives in the next assembly.
The Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima revealed these fears on Friday night while hosting the party’s candidates for the principal positions in the upcoming 10th Assembly.
Since the zoning of the principal offices to the Southsouth and Northwest, there have been protests against the choice of former Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas, both for the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
While Akpabio is a Christian, Abbas is a Muslim.
The Chief Justice of the Federation, Olukayode Ariwoola, is also a Muslim.
Religion was said to have played a huge role in deciding the zoning as the president-elect is a Muslim like Shettima.
During the emergence of both Tinubu and Shettima as presidential candidate and Vice Presidential Candidate in 2022, the issue of flying a single faith ticket was condemned and was the topic of discussion and condemnation by critics of same faith ticket.
Yet, despite the consideration which informed the selection of Akpabio and Abbas, other aspirants mostly Muslims from the Northern region have continued to protest against the choices of the ruling party.
The aspirants were joined on Friday in Kaduna in a one-day workshop by stakeholders and political leaders from the three geopolitical zones in the North to make a case for the North to control the national assembly.
In the communique signed by Prof.Tukur Muhammad- Baba, Chairman of the Communique Committee and Dr.Benjamin Izra Dikki, Secretary, “the Northerners emphasised that because the North was not in control of both the Executive and the Judiciary arms of government, their demand was non-negotiable.”
They made further justification that, “In a table that was contained in the communique that showed the percentage of votes across the 6 geo- political zones, the Northwest zone gave a total vote of 2,652235,the North Central 1,742,993 while the North East gave 1,185,458. The total contributions of the North was 63.5%.”
They also, “Demand the leadership of the National Assembly in consonance with the provisions of section 14 and sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. This is necessary because the North is not in control of both the Executive and the Judiciary arms of government. This demand is non negotiable.”
The North also “demands fair share of ministerial and other appointments. Such appointments should take cognisance of competence, integrity and track record, otherwise, the region is left with no option than to de-invest its support for the government and the party in subsequent elections,” according to the communique issued after the workshop.
But Shettima, who has moved to pacify other aspirants said allowing for a Muslim Senate President could “validate the negative narrative of the Islamisation agenda of Nigeria”.
According to him, the next National Assembly leadership must be inclusive because the “stability of the nation is much more important than any other consideration.
“What we are trying to avoid is a situation whereby the number one citizen, number two citizen, the number three citizen, and the number four citizen are all of the same faith.
“That will lend credence, and validate the negative narrative of the Islamisation agenda of Nigeria.
“This is why my principal, a fair-minded leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is more inclined towards having the number three citizen from the South/south or the south-east.
“Even in the current circumstance that we find ourselves in, the stability of the nation is much more important than any other consideration.
“All other considerations have to be relegated to the background because we are talking about the stability of the nation.
“We are talking about inclusivity, we are talking about togetherness because nation-building is a continuous work in progress and politics is about perception, it is about optics.
“I am quite glad that Benjamin Kalu will emerge as the deputy speaker. The hope for the black man rests with the people of this country.”
To balance the religious configuration, the APC has also nominated Barau Jibrin, senator representing Kano north, as deputy senate president, and Benjamin Kalu, a lawmaker from Abia and current house spokesperson, as deputy speaker.