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Battle For Leadership Of 9th Senate

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A successful competition is often measured by the determination and commitment of the competitors who are expected to put in everything they have got into achieving the desired result. As in war and love all is fair including subterfuge, mudslinging, warts and all. By the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23, the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing legal challenge by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has already retained power at the centre. The party has also won majority of the seats in the National Assembly to guarantee an effective control of the leadership of the 9th Session of that august body. All the party needs do now is to put its acts together so as to consolidate on these successes. The Presidency in particular, must be interested in who emerges as leaders of the 9th Session of the Assembly. What this entails is that the mistake of the 8th Session must be avoided at all cost.

The APC has the highest number of both new and old senators, with a total number of 64 Senators. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has a total of 40 Senators, the Young Progressive Party, YPP has 1 Senator, bringing the total to105 Senators, with four more seats to be declared this Saturday.

If the party must avert crisis in the National Assembly, it is important that it displays a high level of maturity and fairness in the distribution of the offices especially in the Senate. This it can achieve by ensuring that its members elect a competent and worthy President for the 9th Senate. The party can’t afford another four years of unnecessary internal bickering and squabbles which almost impeded the smooth operation of government affairs and, by extension, the development of the country because of parochial interests of just a few. There is fierce competition in politics of today. Opposition is not resting on its oars. Having that in mind, APC cannot afford another round of battle with opposition within in addition to its main opposition outside.

Already, the battle for the top job at the Senate, that is, who becomes the next Senate President come June 8, 2019, the day of the inauguration has begun in earnest. The gladiators from all the geopolitical zones have started underground moves to aid them in their quest. The various regions in the country have also commenced scheming to be represented in the highest position in the Senate. There are indications that some senators are already being prodded for the Senate Presidency position while the APC leadership is yet to come up with a zoning formula to guide the election of the presiding and principal officers of the 9th Senate. It is important for APC to get its act together, ensure party supremacy and discipline.

The ranking Senators in the race from the North include Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North); former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South); Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West).

The 60-year-old Lawan bagged a PhD in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS), from the University of Cranfield, United Kingdom. He has been a member of the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999. He is unarguably one of the most experienced APC lawmakers returning to the 9th Senate. He has also served in the two chambers.

Ndume represents Borno South senatorial district. He is returning to the upper legislative chamber for a third term. A two-time governor of Gombe State, Goje has been representing Gombe Central in the senate since 2011. Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa state who will be serving his third term in the senate, would have been a possible candidate for the job if no that he is from the North Central same as Senator Bukola Saraki, the out-going President of the 8th Session.

In the South-west, some ranking APC Senators eying the position include Teslim Folarin (Oyo Central); chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who is also returning to the Senate for a third term and Senator Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North).

From the South-east, there are indications that some interests are clamouring that the region should be considered for the position. The South-east region had occupied the position four times since 1999, but this time round, the two senators from the region on the APC platform- Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo North) are fresh senators and may not be eligible to vie for the position, going by the rules of the Senate that its leadership must be made up of ranking members.

In fact, the result of the election on the basis of which Kalu is laying claims to membership of the senate is currently in serious contention. It was reported that the total number of cancelled votes at the election was over 38,000. The position of the law concerning elections where the total number of cancelled votes is more than the margin of win is not ambiguous. According to the Electoral Act, a re-run should be rescheduled in the affected polling units. Fully aware of the provisions of the law, the Returning Officer merely announced the figures scored by the various political parties that participated in the contest without declaring any candidate returned.

The concerns of people of Abia North senatorial district is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should, as a matter of urgency, arrange for a re-run in the district to determine the winner of the contest.  They believe that any attempt to circumvent the will of the people should be vigorously resisted by the relevant institutions in the interest of democracy.

Kalu’s opponent and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, currently representing Abia North senatorial district in the 8th Senate, at a news conference in Abuja alleged that the returning officer only announced figures substantially different from results collated at the various polling units across Abia North. Another reason why pundits believe Kalu cannot emerge the senate president now is that he is battling with an alleged case of corruption. There is a pending Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suit against him.

Also, the leadership of APC in the South-South zone has expressed its interest in producing the next senate president in the incoming National Assembly. Earlier in the week, the National Vice Chairman of APC (South-south) zone, Ntufam Hilliard Etta, in a statement, said that zoning the coveted position of the senate president to the geo political zone will rejuvenate the goodwill the government is currently enjoying from the people and help ensure political stability.

However, there are feelers that the South-South would produce the Deputy Senate President. The present deputy Chief Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North is being considered most suitable for the position. Alimikhena has served as a principal officer. He appears to be very matured and equipped for the position. Another South-South candidate, Senator Ovie Omo- Agege, Delta Central who was re-elected is also interested in the position. He has been a loyal party member.

I believe the APC should not allow the lawlessness that happened in 2015 to repeat itself. Unlike before, the decision of the party should be supreme in the process that will eventually lead to the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly.

– Sanni wrote from Lagos

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