But as the horse trading continued ahead of the June date for inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, elected Senators on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met Friday night at the Ebonyi State Governors Lodge in Abuja, the host.
It was at the meeting that Dave Umahi announced he was stepping down for Akpabio in the race for the office of Senate President.
Governor Umahi said he was stepping down from the race in deference to President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who called him and announced the former Akwa- Ibom governor as his anointed choice.
He said: By yesterday, (Thursday) I met the president elect on his invitation. He said he is already committed and said,” please, hold on.” And I have accepted and I stepped down for Akpabio.”
Asked if Akpabio is the consensus candidate of the APC Senators, the Ebonyi state Governor said, ‘he is my consensus candidate. ”
Two other contenders for the ticket who were at the enlarged meeting: Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume and his counterpart, representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin, also announced that Senator Akpabio who won election to represent Akwa- Ibom North-West is their consensus candidate.
Governor Umahi also confirmed what is in the public domain that the deal has thrown up another leading contender Senator Barau Jibrin for the position of Deputy Senate President.
Ndume who confirmed that he would no longer be contesting said he would also be leading Akpabio’s campaign for Senate Presidency on the instruction of the President-elect.
He said: “I am not only stepping down, I will be leading the campaign for Akpabio, because he is the President’s preferred candidate and we have to surrender to the interest of the party. That’s above any other interest. Asiwaju has said I should lead this campaign. So, you can see how popular Akpabio is.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Northern Groups is insisting that the North-West should be considered for the position of the Senate President given that Tinubu got his highest votes from the zone.
It also said it would be unfair if the position was zoned to the South since Tinubu is from there.
The spokesperson for the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in an interview with The Punch on Thursday said, “Ideally and for the sake of fairness and balance, the South as a whole should not expect the senate presidential slot with the President-elect coming from there.
“I think we should reasonably be looking at functions here. The functions of the Vice-President are just nominal, which means the North might not be seen to hold a functional position just because it has the Vice-President. The next functional office after that of the president is therefore the Senate Presidency.
“In this case, since the South has the highest functional office, the next, which is the senate presidency, should legitimately remain in the North, assuming that means anything. It will then be for the North to sub-zone the position to either the North-West or the North Central.”
He, however, argued that the North-West should have it, having played a critical role in the victory of the APC in the February 25 presidential election.
“The North-West, without a doubt, was where the President-elect got the bulk of his winning votes over and above even his own region, the South-West,” he added.