Following the February 23, Presidential and National Assembly elections, there have been intense horse-trading by Returning Senators, especially those of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for the seat of Senate President.
Those vying for the position have since upped their game in the past few weeks, trying to lobby their colleagues, and those that matter in the party, to get their support.
So far, four notable APC Senators have indicated interest for the coveted seat. They are Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, (APC, Yobe), Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe), and Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa).
The four contenders have been trying to outdo one another, in an attempt to clinch the seat.
Though Goje and Adamu, both former two-term Governors of Gombe and Nasarawa States, respectively, have not been visible in the Media about their ambition, Lawan and Ndume have attracted much attention in the contest.
The two former Governors, appeared to be doing their underground work silently, but Lawan and Ndume are believed to have adopted both open and secret tactics, in getting the support of their colleagues.
For example, Lawan had eight days ago, publicly declared his intention to contest for the seat, during an interaction with Journalists, in Abuja, while Ndume has since granted different interviews expressing his readiness to contest.
However, Goje and Adamu are keeping theirs under wraps, limiting their campaigns to only a few powerful Senators-elect, and others that matter. The duo are said to be calculating very well, before coming out publicly in full force.
The APC has so far garnered comfortable majority in both Chambers of the National Assembly, with 65 Senators-elect, and over 211 Reps-elect.
While both Lawan and Ndume were going about their campaigns openly, a new twist was added to the contest on Monday night, when the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, told President Muhammadu Buhari during a dinner, that the party has recommended the Senate Leader for the job.
Lawan was APC’s Candidate for the seat, in 2015, when the party got majority of the seats in the Red Chamber. However, he could not make it, as the current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, got it after going into an alliance with the opposition PDP.
The recommendation of Lawan seemed to have bolstered him, but it apparently did not go down well with Ndume and his likes, who said that Oshiomhole’s position did not receive Buhari’s blessing, and that it was unconstitutional to impose a Candidate on the Senators.
Ndume, a former Senate Leader, while briefing Journalists in Abuja, pointed out that he believes the right thing was not done in taking that decision, noting that, majority of the APC Senators were “shocked”, and not happy with the decision.
He revealed that he had consulted both with Buhari and the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, who gave him the go ahead to contest for the position.
“What took place at the Presidential dinner, in Aso Rock, where Oshiomhole as party Chairman, announced Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President, was very shocking to me and many of my colleagues.
“Oshiomhole in making the announcement or endorsement, did not even allow myself or Senators Danjuma Goje and Abdullahi Adamu, widely known to be in the race for the position, to say anything .
“More disturbing was the fact that even Senator Lawan, endorsed for the position, was not allowed to make any comment in form of acceptance speech, or soliciting for support from other interested Senators.
“I expected that since all of us have indicated interest to contest, they should have called the four of us and told us that we were all qualified, but that they preferred so and so person. That was not done. Or they should have asked us to go and agree among ourselves, and produce one person, but that was not done.
“But I want to say I am not desperate at all, and I remain committed to the ideals and principles of President Muhammadu. I will stick to him, and I do not have a godfather. I am a party loyalist, and I will not change. I have been standing for what is right, and I will continue to do that.”
However, in a reaction, a staunch supporter of Lawan for Senate President, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger), who got re-elected, said that Ndume’s claim was untrue, and that majority of the APC and PDP Senators are behind Lawan’s Candidature.
“Our National Chairman told us that they arrived at the recommendation, after wide consultations with the relevant Stakeholders, including Governors of APC, some of whom were present at the meeting.
“Immediately he said so, there was an applause among all the Senators present. When I said all, I mean almost everybody among us there clapped in support. For someone to now say most of us were shocked, that did not happen.
“Let me tell you, majority of those in the opposition, are working for us to ensure that we have a smooth and non-tumultuous Senate”, he said.
The Senator maintained that Ndume is a ‘lone ranger’ on the matter, as majority of the APC Senators are ready to respect the party, and avoid a repeat of what happened in 2015, when Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, defied their then party, APC, to emerge Number 3 and Number 4 citizens, respectively.
However, others were of the opinion that APC’s decision to zone the position to an individual, rather than allowing its Senators-elect from the North-East to select among themselves, may deal a big blow to the party.
They fear that if the situation is not well managed, a recipe for a repeat of the 2015 scenario, has just been initiated.
The APC itself came out to defend Lawan’s recommendation, saying that, the decision was taken after wide consultations across the country. The party said that both Buhari and its Governors, were consulted before the decision was reached.
This is amidst threats by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the effect that it would field Candidates for the various Leadership positions in the Federal Legislature, which are Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President, and Deputy Speaker.
Despite the threat, it is believed that the PDP as a party, is just trying to form an alliance with a willing APC Senator, to upturn the ruling party’s plan to have Lawan as Senate President.
In turn, the PDP intends to benefit from the alliance, by having the seat of the Deputy Senate President, just the way it did in 2015, when it aligned with Saraki and got the DSP seat, on what some described as a platter of gold.
That alliance this time around, it was learnt, may come through a former Governor, now Senator, who used to be a member of the PDP.
Some APC Senators-elect, even expressed fears that should the APC go to the floor with a divided house, on the day of the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, the PDP may end up getting the two top Offices, since the APC would be fielding four contenders, while the PDP would give block votes to just an individual among them.
Elsewhere, sources at the National Assembly disclosed that what Oshiomhole did by recommending Lawan, “without inputs” from the Senators is wrong, but that it was not too late for the party to bring the heads of its Lawmakers together, ahead of the Senate Leadership election, in June.
A new dimension was added to the contest on Wednesday, when a former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who won election to the Senate under the APC, threatened that he will go for the top job, should the APC not make him the Deputy Senate President.
In essence, Kalu wants the position of the Deputy Senate President to be zoned to the South-East, and zeroed down to him as an individual, just the way the party recommended Lawan for the Senate President seat.
Kalu noted that in the interest of equity and justice, the Deputy Senate President position should be zoned to the South-East.
It remains to be seen, what action the APC as a party and the President would take in the coming weeks, with a view to bringing the heads of its Senators-elect together, ahead of the contest.