Former governors who are ranking senators in the incoming 9th Session of the National Assembly are resolved to ensure that one of them emerges the next Senate president.
Some of the ex-governors said to be eyeing the Senate top job include Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), while Senators Ahmed Lawan (Yobe), Aliyu Ndume (Borno) and Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo) are also in the race. Expectedly, the delay by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to initiate a power sharing formula among the geopolitical regions has led to all manner of groupings and re-groupings in the race for the seat of president of the 9th Senate.
When the seat of Senate president was zoned to the South East and North Central geopolitical zones during the Obasanjo and Yar’Adua presidency respectively, only senators from those regions stepped forward to contest the leadership of the Third Arm of government. But at the moment, it is a free for all.
The campaign is chaotic and multi-pronged in nature, a situation that may be difficult for the APC leadership to manage. A senator who does not want to be named said some members may feel dissatisfied with APC’s late hour settlement and decide to negotiate with the opposition senators the way outgoing Senate president Bukola Saraki did four years ago.
While senators from the North East, North Central and the South West are flexing their political muscles based on how APC fared in the last elections in their zones, the South East is calling for an all-inclusive APC government. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that former governors newly elected as senators want one of them to be elected the next Senate president.
However, some high ranking senators who have been re-elected have published their curriculum vitae to let Nigerians know how prepared they are to provide good leadership at the Senate. According to the senator, the only possibility for the APC to avoid the manner Saraki, Ike Ekweremadu and Yakubu Dogara emerged as National Assembly leaders on June 9, 2015 against the wishes of the ruling party is for the governing party to come up with a power sharing framework as a matter of urgency.
He said such framework must be all-inclusive and devoid of sentiment against regions that voted for the party or not. “Exclusion and non-appreciation of the Nigerian diversity stood firmly as some of the major faults of the Buhari administration between 2015 and 2019.
‘’I have no doubt that President Buhari can put an end to the continued alienation of South East, for instance, by being the statesman we all want him to be. This he can do using his powers as national leader of APC to ensure that the South East, the third leg of the nation’s tripod, is brought within leadership circles by making sure the president of the 9th Senate is selected from the South East’’, the senator said.
The former governors and deputy governors in the Senate have vowed that one of them will become the Senate president in the 9th Senate, LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt from trusted sources. The governors-turned-senators say it would be wrong for them to come to the Senate and be subservient to their former subjects who used to prostrate before ‘His Excellency’’.
The 15 former governors coming to the 9th Senate include Orji Kalu (Abia North), Theodore Orji (Abia Central), Kashim Shettima (Borno Central), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi North), Gabriel Suswan (Benue East), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun Central), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano Central), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa South), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa North), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto North), Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe East), Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara West) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central).
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the ex-governors had collectively resolved that, irrespective of party affiliation and their individual ranking, they will rally round one of them to be elected as the next Senate president. It is also believed that the current Senate leadership is chairing this group and rooting for a high ranking senator who is an ex-governor.
It was learnt that the ex-governor is being favoured because he was rather non-aligned or did at no time work against the interest of the Senate leadership all the while it was facing pressure from the APC and the presidency. The senator was said to have been tutored not to talk to the press about his aspiration, and not to discuss it with anybody except highly trusted APC senators. A senator from the North Central is said to be coordinating the campaign for the emergence of the ex-governor as the Senate president.
According to a senator who is in the know of the plot, after their inauguration on Monday, June 10, 2019, a member of their group would get up to nominate him irrespective of APC’s choice candidate. He said, ‘’The block vote of opposition senators which would not be fewer than 40 will be given to him; and with pliable APC senators we shall mobilise, he would certainly emerge. One of us shall emerge, by the Grace of God, as his deputy. ‘
’You know, President Buhari does not usually care about the fate that befalls his supporters; hence by the time we promise some APC senators juicy committee chairmanship, they would readily prefer it to the so-called adherence to APC party directives.” He remarked that the former state governors of those in the forefront for the Senate presidency were elected senators on February 23. They are Ibrahim Geidam who comes from the same state as Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan (Yobe), and Kashmir Shettima, from Senator Mohammed Ndume’s Borno State. ‘
’Do you expect them to come here and be answering ‘Yes sir, Your Excellency’ to these senators in case one of them emerges as Senate president? That is why all the governors have agreed to team up for one of them to emerge,’’ he said. Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that Senators Ahmed Lawan, Aliyu Ndume, Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta), Abdullahi Adamu, Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North) are vigorously campaigning for the number three position in the country.
Over a week ago, a group known as ‘’National Committee for Legislative Development and Good Governance’’ has published the curriculum vitae of Senator Ahmed Lawan under the banner of ‘’The Senate Leadership Question: Why Senator Ahmad Lawan is the option’’. The group, which is being coordinated by one Iniobong Ukeme John, stated that the last four years had been the worst years of executive/legislative relationship since the return of democracy due to unnecessary bickering, power struggle and selfish agenda to the detriment of national unity and development. ‘
’We must not allow enemies of Nigeria’s progress block and sabotage President Buhari from fighting corruption, developing the economy and providing security to lives and property of Nigerians. ‘’It is time to search, sieve, support and encourage capable hands to lead the National Assembly for a purposeful and robust executive/legislative relationship. ‘’Senator Lawan possesses unequal qualification and is most qualified to lead the 9th Senate in the interest of a robust and purposeful executive/legislative relationship to build an enduring democracy that will effectively and efficiently deliver democratic dividends to Nigerians’’, the group stated.
It is widely speculated that the APC would like to have Ahmed Lawan as the Senate president and Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives as the party had planned, and failed, in 2015. It would be recalled that the party’s decision to throw up Lawan and Gbajabiamila then led to a schism among APC lawmakers, enabling the PDP to capitalise on the division and determine the outcome of the June 9, 2015 elections in the National Assembly.
In what could be described as a parliamentary coup d’etat, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara defied their then party, APC, by emerging Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives in a contest that was characterised by subterfuge and guile. That set the tone for the cancerous executive-legislative bickering that slowed down governance in the last four years. But the party is said to be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to forestall a repeat of such outcome. Despite his purported interest, Senator Ndume has not publicly declared his ambition to be Senate president and no group has backed him in the media, but he is said to be fraternising with the henchmen in the presidency and believes he would be compensated for his role in the high turnover of votes cast for the president in the North East on February 23, 2019.
He was the APC Presidential Campaign Council North East zonal director. Curiously, Senator Omo-Agege, who said last week that President Buhari would give direction to APC on the subject of Senate leadership, has suddenly declared support for Senator Ahmed Lawan’s quest for the job. One would have expected that he would be pairing with Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Two of them and eight other senators staged a walk-out on their Senate on February 14, 2018 in protest against the adoption of the report by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act The ten pro-Buhari senators led by Senator Abdullahi had kicked against the new sequence of elections adopted by the apex legislative chamber following the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act. The provision in the bill that irked them was the proposal for the presidential election to come last, rather than first.
The eight other aggrieved APC senators at the time included Binta Garba (Adamawa), the late Ali Wakili (Bauchi), Kurfi Umaru (Katsina), Andrew Uchendu (Rivers), Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto), Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi), Abu Ibrahim (Katsina), and Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo). Some groups from the North Central where Senator Abdullahi comes from insist that the zone should be allowed to retain the position of the Senate president since the North West and South West are retaining the positions of president and vice president respectively.
And despite being the zone that gave the APC the least votes in the general elections, the South East is also angling for the Senate top job. In a statement released to newsmen by a socio-political group known as South East Youths and Elders’ Forum to congratulate President Buhari on February 28, the group urged the president and the APC to zone the post of the Senate president to South East geo-political zone since the president and vice president came from the North and South West regions.
The group also noted that since the party maintained its early zoning arrangements, which zoned the post of president to the North, the vice president to the South West and Senate president to the South East, before the party could not produce any senator from the region in 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections, the party should therefore make a categorical statement reaffirming its commitment to the zoning of the Senate presidency to the South East region since the party now has two APC senators from the zone.
It is on this premise that the likes of Benjamin Uwajumogu, who was formerly Imo State Assembly speaker, is latching on to canvass for the seat. Orji Kalu is also said to be arguing that he is also a ranking senator by virtue of his three-month sojourn at the National Assembly during the ill-fated Third Republic during General Babangida’s era. LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that the APC leadership is expected to meet in Abuja next week to agree on a zoning formula for the six presiding and principal officers of the Senate ahead of its inauguration on June 10. The APC won 65 senatorial seats as against 40 seats secured by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 National Assembly polls.
Apart from the post of Senate president and deputy Senate president, the other offices include Senate leader, deputy Senate leader, Senate chief whip and Senate deputy whip. In line with tradition, the clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Omolori, would on June 10, 2019, read the proclamation letter of President Buhari at the plenary to order the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.
After the inauguration, which also signifies the end of the 8th National Assembly, the clerk will call for nominations from senators. By the senate rules, only 38 senators need to be present to form a quorum. The newly elected senators will then elect both the Senate president and the deputy Senate president. At the same time, the House of Representatives members will elect the Speaker and the deputy Speaker.