Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima has disclosed that the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, picked Godswill Akpabio as his preferred candidate for the position of senate president to avoid the “negative narrative of Islamization”.
Mr Shettima spoke Friday during a meeting with some elected lawmakers including Tajudeen Abbas, whose ambition to be House Speaker has been endorsed by Mr Tinubu and the ruling party, APC.
Mr Shettima said Mr Tinubu wants to prevent a situation where the President, Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives would all be Muslims.
Messrs Tinubu, Shettima and Abbas are all Muslims while Mr Akpabio is a Christian.
The same faith ticket of Messrs Tinubu and Shettima already created a situation where the president and vice president are Muslims. There have, therefore, been calls by many Nigerians for the APC to ensure religious balance in its choice of presiding officers of the parliament.
Mr Tinubu and the APC picked Mr Akpabio (South-south) and Barau Jibrin (North-west) as preferred senate president and deputy senate president respectively. They also picked Mr Abbas (North-west) and Ben Kalu (South-east) as speaker and deputy speaker.
However, the decision has been criticised by some lawmakers and members of the party for various reasons including the fact that the North-central was excluded from the arrangement.
Three aspirants for the senate president’s seat, Abdulaziz Yari (APC-Zamfara), Sani Musa (APC-Niger) and Orji Kalu (APC-Abia) have been very vocal in speaking against the arrangement.
In the House of Representatives, ranking APC lawmakers like Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and House Leader Alhassan Doguwa have also rejected the zoning arrangement and have vowed to continue with their ambition to be the speaker.
Explaining the rationale for the zoning arrangement, Mr Shettima said “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 validate the negative narrative of the Islamization of Nigeria.
“That is why my principal, a fair-minded individual, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu insists the number three citizen must come from the South-south (Christian). The stability of the nation is more important than any other consideration. We are talking about inclusivity,” he said.
Mr Shettima did not explain why other APC ranking senators who are also Christians were not considered despite seeking the position of senate president. These include Mr Kalu and Osita Izunaso. However, unlike Mr Akpabio, Messrs Kalu and Izunaso are from the South-east, the region where Mr Tinubu scored his least number of votes in the presidential election.
Mr Shettima, a former Borno governor, did not also speak on the ongoing corruption probe of Mr Akpabio.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the ongoing probe of Mr Akpabio by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, for allegedly stealing state funds while he was Akwa Ibom governor. Mr Akpabio is, however, not the only aspirant with a tainted past. Mr Kalu was psoecuted and convicted of stealing public funds while he was Abia governor. However, the Supreme Court ordered his retrial based on technicalities.
Mr Shettima, who is a senator in the current assembly, promised to intervene to prevent a situation that will lead to rebellion by APC lawmakers ahead of the 13 June inauguration of the National Assembly.