Abuja – The race for Senate presidency in the 9th National Assembly is becoming interesting by the day, and even more interesting than the 8th Senate that produced Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate, against the wishes of the leadership of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
As it stands, it is not clear who will emerge between Ahmed Lawan, Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje, less than 60 days to the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
Even though the leadership of the APC has anointed Lawan, it was gathered that not all the APC senators supported the ambition and choice of the lawmaker from Yobe state.
It was also gathered that the presidency is divided over the choice of Lawan, as prominent stakeholders of the party and the Villa are of the view that Lawan is the candidate of the former governor of Lagos State and APC leader from South West, Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The Villa, it was learnt is not happy that Tinubu wants to hijack the National Assembly by producing the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Recall that in the 8th National Assembly, Lawan was the choice of President Muhammadu Buhari who Tinubu tried to impose on the lawmakers, while Femi Gbajabiamila was his choice for the Speaker in the House of Representatives, before Saraki and Yakubu Dogara played a fast one on him and his party.
Lawmakers, who spoke on this development had warned that since 1999 when the nation transmuted to democracy, candidates endorsed by political parties are usually rejected.
Even though it was gathered that some lawmakers are already grumbling against the endorsement of Lawan, the speed at which he’s going round senators, governors and other stakeholders in the party, the coveted position might eventually be his.
Aside the party leaders selling his candidateship and telling lawmakers that Lawan is their anointed, the lawmaker himself has not relented, but going the whole length to consult with governors and other party stakeholders to influence their senators, so that he would be elected as President in the 9th Senate.
However, Lawan would find a serious opposition in the PDP lawmakers, even though it was reported that he’s already reaching out to some of them. This is because of the alleged ignoble role he played during the period APC lawmakers plotted to impeach Saraki.
Lawan, it was alleged was one of the arrow heads scheming with the presidency, the party leadership and APC lawmakers to remove Saraki to pave way for the party to control the National Assembly since Saraki had decamped to PDP.
The crisis generated by this development polarised the 8th Senate and it would continue to hurt it till it expired in less than 60 days to come.
Because of this alleged conspiracy to remove Saraki, it was gathered that PDP senators and other sympathisers from APC have taken position against the emergence of Lawan. And Ndume in the race is another stumbling block to Lawan’s smooth sail.
The perceived threat pose by the ambition of Ndume may have prompted the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo to invite the Borno state politician for a meeting on Monday.
Some political watchers have attested to this development that the meeting between Ndume and Vice President Osibanjo on Monday was not unconnected with the intrigues playing out in the buildup to the inauguration of the 9th Senate.
Osibanjo is Tinubu’s man and the meeting, it was learnt would not be far from an appeal to Ndume to reconsider his position to make way for the emergence of Lawan.
Even though Ndume refused to disclose the outcome of the meeting with the Vice President to journalists, but the few responses from him, confirmed what some political analysts have already concluded that the Borno lawmaker would fight to the end.
Ndume, who recently denied an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was reported to have vowed not to step down for any opponent
A Senator-elect, who spoke on the condition of anonymity during the induction exercise of elected lawmakers at Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja on Tuesday, said, “there are about 36 senators-elect who are rooting for Ndume and that is because we are angry about how they are going about this Senate presidency thing.
“How will Lawan suggest that APC have donated their senators-elect for him to realise his Senate presidency bid. They have gone ahead to share committees already excluding us. Things are not done that way.”
The lawmaker disclosed that those supporting Ndume are angry over the “bullying” by the APC National Chairman, Oshiomhole.
But the spokesman of Senate and a strong ally of Lawan, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, on Wednesday boasted that the Senate Leader would garner not less than 73 votes from both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators to clinch the coveted seat.
He said: “I can confirm to you that on the day of inauguration, Senator Ahmad Lawan will garner more than two third of the votes.
“Not less than 73 from both the APC and the PDP. It is a matter of engagement. We don’t need to flaunt those who are with us. We have to respect our colleagues. We are engaging them one-on-one. We want to work together with the executive because we have just one federal government in Nigeria and we must move the country forward.”
Speaking further, Abdullahi said “Senator Ahmad Lawan is leaving no stone unturned in talking to his colleagues across party lines. Let me say very clearly that the nature of parliament is such that you cannot shut anybody out. It is not possible. I want Nigerians to look at those of us who are the actors and take note of what we say. That is the most important thing.
“I want to submit and assure Nigerians that by the special grace of God, if Senator Ahmad Lawan gets there, he will run an all inclusive government because the Senate is the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The 109 senators are individual senators representing the various senatorial districts in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They have inalienable rights to be heard and listened to for government to work for them no matter our differences and no matter the sentiments that we share.”
While Goje is working behind closed doors to realise his ambition of becoming the President of the Senate, it was also gathered that he may have teamed up with Ndume to defeat Lawan.
Watching from the sideline, the opposition PDP had made its position known that it senators can contest any position in the National Assembly. That automatically means that any senator can be voted for or vote members of their choice from the ruling party.
However, against the decision of APC leaders that Lawan is their choice for the President of the Senate, the lawmakers at their orientation in Abuja had vowed to protect the sanctity and independence of the legislature by ensuring that they elect the leaders of their choice.
Those who spoke kicked against imposition and endorsement of any candidate, noting that in the history of the legislature, any candidate endorsed by political parties as presiding officer, was usually rejected by lawmakers.
Former governor of Benue State, who is a senator-elect, Gabriel Suswan, warned that APC should have learnt from their past experience, adding that since 1999, it has always been an issue when names are thrown up, as those names are usually rejected even if the candidates are well qualified members of the National Assembly.
He said: “It is even too early for the APC to bring up names. When subterranean moves are made from outside and produced presiding officers, there is likelihood and tendencies that some members would stoutly object to it.
“There might likely be surprises even within the APC because there are lots of resistances. We are talking to a lot of them. They are just keeping quiet but what will happen on the floor would be different because we are going to vote on that day.
“People who are bringing up names will not vote. So, you should expect anything but that is not to say that the people whose names have been bandied are not qualified.
“Ahmad Lawan has been a federal lawmaker since 1999, he is very vast and experienced. I wouldn’t mind him as a senate president but because he is appearing as if there is an imposition. People are beginning to question him.
“Ordinarily, Lawan is a complete gentleman who should be Senate President but the fact that people are feeling that he is the party’s choice is a factor.
“The same thing is affecting Femi Gbajabiamila who has been in the House for a long time. He is a very experienced lawmaker who will make a very good speaker but the fact that members believe that he is the party’s choice will lead to resistance.
“The three people who are contesting the senate presidency are all APC members and whoever that emerges will be loyal to the party. It is the impression of an imposition that is a problem.
“I was in the House of Representatives for eight years and there was no time that the person nominated by the party became the presiding officer. We are all matured and people want to freely express themselves. After, all we are equal.”
Responding to the intrigues playing out in the build up to the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, APC chieftain, Mr. Sunny Moniedafe said, elected members must be accorded respect by not seeming to impose the choice of the party on them.
Moniedafe, who is a member of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of APC Caucus said, “It is normal democratic process worldwide for the party with majority to have leadership of the National Assembly, but elected members must be accorded respect by not seeming to impose the choice of the party on them.
“My thinking also is that the positions should have been zoned to the various zones. Having said that, Sen Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajamiala are eminently qualified for the positions they are linked with.”
Also speaking with our correspondent on the issue, a PDP stakeholder from Adamawa state, Dr. Umar Ardo, said that the choice of the party for the 9th Senate must be respected, adding that the lawmakers cannot go against the decision of the party.
Citing relevant sections in the Constitution, Ardo said that the Constitution of Nigeria clearly outlined the roles of political parties in the formation of government for the country.
He said: “No person can be elected to any office of the two arms of government that is the legislature and the executive except they belong to a political party and are sponsored by that political party. This therefore means that all members of the legislature and the executive are products of a political party which have two key implications for our national politics.
“First, as products of political parties, the party establishes the supremacy, the Constitution establishes the supremacy of the party over the elected officials and two, as members of the political parties, the Constitution defines the position of the political parties,” he said.
On the development that some APC lawmakers are already kicking against the choice of Lawan, the PDP stakeholder said, “Where members of the party refuse to take rules from the position of the party then the party has a remedy in disciplining them. I don’t see in anyway how the party will take a position and then members will go against that position. I cannot see it.
“I don’t see where the lawmakers will go against the Constitution of the party because the consequences are too much for the lawmakers to bear. I can assure you of that.”
Reacting to the decision of Ndume not to step down, Dr. Ardo said that when party has taken decision that this is the person we should support “if they say it is Lawal we should support, he (Ndume) has no other option but to step down because he himself is a product of the party, if he refuses then the party will take disciplinary action against him.”
Source: independent nigeria