Worried by fears of reduction in the number of lawmakers backing the Senate presidency ambition of former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, Vice President Kashim Shettima has promised to woo more supporters, ahead of tomorrow’s National Assembly leadership election.
Only 52 senators attended a crucial pre-election meeting between Shettima and all senators-elect supporting Akpabio, which lasted till the early hours of yesterday, at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The meeting was convened by the Stability Group, which is working for the actualisation of Akpabio’s aspiration, with a view to testing his popularity against former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari.
The immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, also explained that many could not attend the meeting due to what he called “short notice”.
Of the 109 senators-elect who will pick the next president, Akpabio requires at least 55 votes to win.
The meeting, which also had Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume, in attendance, deliberated on measures to attract support for Akpabio.
Shettima said: “We are talking about sustainability of the nation. The country is at a threshold. I am ready to be on my knees to beg my colleagues. I don’t want to mention their names but I am sure I will bring about five to join this group.
“My friend, Ibrahim Geidam, will give us all the senators from Yobe State. I am working on Taraba. Let me leave it here. I don’t want to expose all my strategies. This is about survival of the nation.”
He added: “Here we are with a Moslem President and Vice President in a multi-ethnic country, like Nigeria. Justice and equity demand that the Number Three Person must be a Christian. We must strive for inclusivity. This is a young nation, where every community will like to be given a sense of belonging.”
Akume, in his own remarks, said even before he was appointed SGF, he had already identified with the ambition of Akpabio. He said Akpabio’s experience in executive and legislative branches of government has made him appreciate the need to build a virile country where every part belongs.
Responding, Akpabio was full of thanks to the party, the President, Vice President and all his colleagues for their support. He said he was sure of the support of 80 senators when the vote is taken tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) raised the alarm over alleged plan to arrest key northern aspirants for the position of House of Representatives Speaker and Senate President.
The group alleged that Yari and some of his supporters were being threatened with arrest, to intimidate him out of the contest.
Spokesperson of the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in a statement, said: “This plot, as widely speculated, involves the introduction of a suspicious electronic voting system in the process, meant to track the pattern of voting in the National Assembly.
“As concerned northerners and well wishers of Mr. President, we feel duty bound to, once again, draw his attention to this brewing plot and call on him to move quickly and reassert his commitment to good, impartial governance, to halt this sinister plot that potentially aims to set him up against, particularly, the north.”