As the battle for the leadership of the Senate intensifies ahead of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly in June, the camps of the senators-elect seeking to take over the leadership of the Red Chamber have shifted their attention to opposition members, LEADERSHIP Sunday can report.
Already, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has settled for one of the aspirants and current Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe) as its choice for the Senate top job. However, Senator Ali Ndume (APC,Borno), himself a former Senate leader, has vowed to go against his party and contest the position. Another senator said to be eyeing the position is Danjuma Goje who is said to be working from behind the scenes to achieve his ambition.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that with the party, APC, already in favour of Senator Lawan, the contenders are looking outside for support.
Among the camps, it was gathered that Team Lawan, Team Ndume and Team Goje are actively wooing senators-elect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and some state governors are now being contacted to lobby their home senators to support specific candidates.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that while the governing APC has majority in the 9th Assembly with 65 senators-elect, the PDP has about 41 in its fold, while Young Peoples Party has only Ifeanyi Uba for the moment, as the first-time senator-elect is perceived to be flirting with the party in power.
Of the 65 APC senators-elect, the South West have 14, South East, 2, North-West, 20, South-South, 3, North-East, 14 and North-Central,12.
Since the election for the leadership of the National Assembly would be conducted at the chambers, it was gathered that almost all the camps seeking to take over the leadership positions have now focused their attention on the opposition PDP.
It was gathered that most of the camps are banking on the fact that if they can get block votes from the main opposition political party, it would be much easier to win the in-house contest.
APC has zoned the office of the Senate President to the North East while the office of the deputy Senate president was also zoned to the South-South with Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), fully in the race.
While the alignments and realignments is taking shape, a strategist for the APC in the 2019 general elections, who is also knowledgeable about National Assembly politics, has faulted the party chairman, Adams Oshiohmole, for exposing the party’s game plan much earlier.
The strategist, who prefers to remain anonymous, said there are different camps now realigning which could be detrimental to the party’s wish to take control of the leadership of the party.
“You know, for now things are not going smoothly. A lot of snags created by the party could be detrimental,” the strategist said, adding that what happened in 2015 could repeat itself in 2019.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday, a chieftain of the APC and former minister of sport, Bala Ka’oje, said he had advised the party to zone the principal offices as early as possible but the party leadership ignored the advice.
“I advised that we should zone National Assembly positions as quickly as possible. If you zone positions, everyone knows what is coming to him. If you zoned the office of the Senate president to the North-eastern states for example, there is nothing wrong in nominating three people and forwarding their names to the zone for them to select one person,” Ka’oje said, adding that presenting one candidate in a zone with 14 senators-elect could be detrimental.
“All we heard was that the chairman of the party nominated the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House,” Ka’oje said.
According to him, when it comes to National Assembly politics, things are not done like that.
“When we were in the other party, we contributed money to assist contestants. Did he do that? Here he is telling them they most obey him. Obedience is reciprocal. You can’t appoint people to lead the Senate and the House. It’s a problem in the APC and that problem will continue to happen because the party is not doing the right thing.
“Oshiohmole is only interested on his interest. See what we faced in Rivers, Zamfara, Cross River and the rest of the states? He keeps making too many errors that are bad for the party,” Ka’oje added.
He remarked that the party’s problems are due to lack of consultation.
“The party chairman is claiming he knows everything. No one wants to consult people like us. Yes, we won election but it was a fierce contest. The PDP took some states belonging to us. I’ve been to the APC chairman’s house more than five times. I left my card but he never looked for me. They don’t care about the advice we offer even in the newspaper and that could be detrimental in the National Assembly elections,” Ka’oje added.
Weighing in on the Senate leadership race, the pioneer APC national vice chairman in charge of North East, Dr Umar Duhu, said that both Ndume and Lawan are from the same bloc of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and that both are qualified to occupy the seat of the chairman of the National Assembly.
Duhu, who expressed displeasure at the way the party leadership is treating some of its members, said there is no way the party can control its members when it did not play a major part in ensuring their election.
“You do not also expect that an elected senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who paid through his nose to be candidate of the party and spent heavily to get elected, could easily obey a party whose leadership talks from both sides of their mouths. I do not see any directive handed over to the elected legislators working; rather, the party must go begging and apologising to Nigerians for most of their lapses to get the party working again.
“Unless the APC, as a party, purges itself of disloyal and self seeking members that shamelessly worked against the interest of APC at all levels during the 2019 general election, no right thinking Nigerian will take the directives of the leadership seriously. I will not also be surprised when a repeat of the 8th assembly comes to the fore,” Duhu added.
Speaking on the contestants suitability for the job, he said: “Both Senators Ahmed Lawan and Ali Ndume are of the same Constituency, the defunct ANPP, while Sen Danjuma Goje is from a different bloc. In terms of qualifications, all of them are qualified to take the 9th Senate to the next level.”
UK Envoy Sets Agenda For 9th National Assembly
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has met with the Senate Leader and frontline candidate for the Senate President seat, Senator Ahmed Lawan, to discuss an agenda for the 9th Assembly.
The UK High Commission said on its official Facebook page that the envoy met with the Senate Leader to discuss police, oil sector and electoral reforms.
A caption which accompanied the photo read, “Good to meet Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan and discuss priorities for the 9th Assembly. The NASS has a busy legislative agenda coming up, including electoral, petroleum and police reform bills- Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria.”
The meeting between the two was seen as an endorsement of Lawan by Britain.
The senator from Yobe State has also been endorsed by the ruling All Progressives Congress .
The national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, threatened last week that any party member who was not ready to bow to the wishes of the party should get out.
We Will Abide By Party Decision – Omo-Agege
Meanwhile, Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) has said he would abide by the decision of the party in the zoning arrangement.
Omo-Agege (Delta Central) made this comment while declaring his interest to contest the office of the deputy Senate president.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that even though Sen Kabiru Gaya (Kano South) has also declared his intention to be deputy Senate president, both Omo-Agege and Gaya are rooting for Lawan.
“In the 9th Assembly, we are going to insist on party supremacy; we are not going to allow the minority party to impose a leadership on the majority party in the Senate. Unlike what obtained in the 8th Senate where the leadership was controlled by the opposition party, we are hell-bent on following the instructions of the party,” Omo-Agege said.
“That we are senators, but we are members of APC first before we became senators. The party gave us a platform to contest elections; the party has its manifesto and its agenda. The agenda is the Next Level; it is an agenda that we took across every nook and cranny of this country, headed by Mr President, and we all subscribed to that agenda. Now, we are trying to ensure that Mr President succeeds, that the agenda we all subscribed to, which was approved by majority of Nigerians, succeeds, and it is not out of place for the party to sit down with its elected senators and consult among ourselves and come up with the names of people we should support for the leadership.
“Because Mr President has said so and because the leadership of the party has said so, I will abide by it and support Ahmed Lawan to become Senate president and, likewise, I expect all the 65 APC senators, in the interest of party supremacy, to also go with that position.”
On the advice by the outgoing Senate president that members should elect the best person for the job, Omo-Agege said that Saraki was entitled to his view.
“He (Saraki) is entitled to his opinions. The senate is made up of statesmen; these are people who have left their mark in various endeavours before they came here. Nobody is here as anybody’s boy. When you say competence, there is presumption that if you are elected a senator you are competent to be Senate president; you are competent to hold any position. In this Senate, nobody is a better senator than any other senator. “
The senator-elect said that certain factors would come into play in deciding who emerges Senate president, including equity, fairness, and geographical spread .
“If the party believes that the position of Senate president or deputy Senate president should be zoned to a particular geopolitical zone, I don’t think we require the advice of Saraki to tell everybody to get into that race just to sabotage the zoning arrangement.
“We have to ensure that we are all co-equals in this Senate and in spite of whoever we elect as Senate president or deputy Senate president, everybody will be carried along. Nobody is going to be anybody’s boy. Our interest will be protected, but more importantly, we have an obligation to the Nigerian electorate. There is a reason they gave us more members in APC than they gave to other opposition parties. They gave us the presidency and they also gave us more members in the Senate and House of Representatives. They did that because they want a unified government, and they don’t want a Senate president or Speaker of the House of Reps that will be in constant opposition just for the sake of opposition against Mr President.”
Niger Elected Senators Endorse Lawan
The three Senators elected for the 9th Senate from Niger State have endorsed Senator Ahmad Lawan for the Senate president seat.
The three elected senators, Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East) and Mohammed Bima Enagi (Niger South), in a joint press statement yesterday, said that they reached the decision after due consultations.
“We the distinguished elected senators of Niger State, after due consultations and considerations, and in recognition of the supremacy of our party’s position on the matter, have unanimously thrown our support around the Senate Presidency bid of distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan.
“We believe he has the competence, charisma and integrity to preside over the affairs of the Senate.”
Senator-elect Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East) was quoted in the statement of saying: “I believe Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan has an impeccable character and undeniable wealth of experience as a lawmaker to drive the aspirations and vision of the 9th Senate towards achieving its mandate
“There is no doubt that Senator Lawan has also demonstrated stability, reliability and fidelity towards ensuring sound and people-oriented legislation at the Senate as he demonstrated in the build-up to the 2019 general elections where, despite the pressure from the opposition, remained resolute and committed towards promoting the good cause of the Senate as the apex lawmaking organ in the country.”
The statement quoted Senator-elect Sabi Abdullahi as saying: “I am optimistic that Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan would promote homogeneity of purpose at the 9th Senate and foster unity among distinguished senators as well as other arms of government, in a manner that will add value to good governance in Nigeria”.
On his part, Senator-elect Muhammad Bima Enagi said, “The business of legislation is such that affects the generality of Nigerians, whether positively or negatively. As such, the need for effective, selfless and patriotic leadership at the Senate has become imperative. I believe therefore that our party, the ruling All Progressives Congress’ decision to endorse Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan for the Presidency of the Senate is a wise and timely decision.”
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