One of the favoured candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress for the post of Deputy Speaker in House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, has denied they were handpicked by the camp of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
This was even as Kalu, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, promised to accept defeat and return to the floor of the chamber if he loses at the election.
His rebuttal is coming in the wake of allegations of nepotism by aggrieved aspirants, who also have their eyes fixated on the seat of Speaker in the 10th National Assembly.
The group of seven aggrieved aspirants in the race for the speakership, otherwise known as G-7, believed that Kalu was among the few unpopular candidates favoured by both the party and the President-elect for the leadership of the two chambers.
Reacting to the allegation, the Abia State lawmaker who featured on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ debunked the claims, saying Tinubu neither handpicked them nor made any demand of them.
He said, “The President-elect and VP-elect are also among major stakeholders of the party too. If a (major) decision is to be taken, it will be done in consultation with the stakeholders. But for you to say ‘handpicked’, I disagree. Bola Tinubu did not handpick anybody.
“They are not making any demand from us. We know our mandate. The Constitutional mandate is clear on the responsibility of the legislature. Nobody will tell us what to do. We understand the borderlines of the doctrine of separation of powers. And we will know that, though we understand that we are three arms of government, we are pursuing one objective.”
When asked what he would do if he loses at the National Assembly election, he hesitated.
When he eventually spoke, he admitted that though he was optimistic of clinching the seat, he would not be afraid of returning as floor members, if he loses.
He said, “What will I do if I lose? Honestly, I’ll continue being a parliamentarian. I’m already here. But I know I will not lose because the people are with us.”
While stating that they didn’t take the APC micro-zoning of the leadership positions for granted, Kalu announced that they have begun the process of consultation to woo the support of colleagues regardless of their political affiliations.
According to him, they already have the reassurances of over 250 lawmakers from the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party and other platforms in the House.
This is even as he boasted that his emergence and that of Kaduna lawmaker, Tajudeen Abbas, as consensus Speaker have further weakened the base of the coalition of members-elect otherwise known as the Greater Majority.
“We will not take it for granted that the ruling party has anointed us. What we are doing is deliberately taking steps towards making these lawmakers buy into the party’s position and ask them to look at what is being presented and the agitation from the people. I can assure you that we have the support of well over 250 Rep members across the major political parties.
“Forget about those that call themselves the ‘Greater Majority.’ Their strength has been weakened. This is because after the pronouncement, many of their members have seen reasons to align with the ruling party’s position. I can assure you that, in the next coming days, we will be witnessing the effect of the negotiations that we are having.
“Also, I will like to let you know that we have reached out to the aspirants who are agitating that they were shortchanged. They were 15 aspirants before they were later reduced to 10. From 10 aspirants to seven and now only about five remaining, which means we have been reaching out to them. But it is not by force. As I said, they have every right to aspire too. On the North Central (marginalization) question you raised, I am sure my party has a plan to accommodate them.”