With just about 72 hours to the inauguration of the Eighth Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, fresh intrigues are threatening the delivery of a consensually agreed leadership for the upper house of the parliament.
This reality might indeed have contributed to the decision by the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to defer its earlier proposed interactive session with parliamentarians-elect, originally scheduled for Thursday June 4, 2015, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The parley was shifted by 48 hours and will now hold today, Saturday June 6, 2015.
Following the formal enunciation of a template which will guide the emergence of the Senate President and his Deputy by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC during the body’s maiden post inauguration visit to President Muhammadu Buhari early in the week, the challenge of the geo-political zones to produce both leaders was believed to have been streamlined.
Among others, the criteria listed for the eventual emergence of the Senate President included the fact that such a person:
Must come from the zone which contributed the largest block of votes to the birth of the new dispensation, outside the North West, which has already produced the President;
Must be free of all encumbrances and entanglements of corruption and similar scandals and controversies; and
The choice of such a person must respect ranking and seniority, consistent with the extant rules and regulations of the National Assembly. Arising from this, it was clear the incoming Senate President will have to come from the North East geo-political zone which produced the second largest harvest of votes for the APC during the March 28, 2015 presidential and national assembly elections.
And Ahmed Lawan, re-elected for the third time to the Senate to represent Yobe North and an aspirant for the Senate Presidency, fitted the bill. Lawan and George Akume, representing Benue North West in the Eighth Senate, also for the third term, had earlier been thrown up as the ideal prospective Senate leadership pairing, by a group of Senators-elect, better known as the Unity Group, at their May 22, 2015 retreat.
Akume, an erstwhile frontrunner for the Senate Presidency had been persuaded by the leadership of the APC, in the light of socio-political realities and dynamics, to subsume his ambition and collapse his structures into that of Lawan, to make for a Lawan/Akume ticket, which he did.
The proposed pairing has been generally applauded as perfect. This is against the backdrop that it respects the nation’s secularity as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic and also passes the ranking and seniority test of the National Assembly, without compromising the qualities of both legislators, who are very highly regarded by their colleagues.
It emerged after the conclusion of the Seventh Senate last Thursday, however, that Bukola Saraki, another aspirant for the Senate Presidency, however, will stop at nothing to be accommodated in the emerging leadership structure of the Eight Senate, even if this runs against the grain.
With the criteria set for the prospective leadership of the upper chambers gradually eroding his chances, Saraki has been reportedly hatching a fall-back plan to emerge as Deputy to Lawan and has been in talks with his allies and select members of the NWC.
While the group of ‘Like Minds’ which had hitherto powered his project with former House of Representatives Member and Senator-elect, Dino Melaye leading the charge, another group anchored by Abu Ibrahim, Deputy Minority Leader to Akume has discreetly joined the fray. Ibrahim, who will be representing Katsina South Senatorial Zone in the Eighth Senate, has since drafted APC stalwarts like Farouk Aliyu, Adamu Adamu and Hadi Sirika into the new scheme, to help liaise with senators from their respective states and zones.
While Saraki had hitherto laid claims to support from the majority of APC Senators for his presidential bid, 35 out of the 59 APC Senators-elect last Thursday endorsed a five-point resolution in support of the Lawan/Akume ticket. The number is expected to rise to 40. And this has definitely left the erstwhile ranks of Saraki’s supporters massively depleted, which explains his reported resort to ‘Plan B.’
Saraki, however, is facing strident objection from several quarters, particularly his home state of Kwara. A release titled: Kwara Deserves Salvation, Not Senate Presidency, jointly signed by Emmanuel Folusho Olaosebikan, Abdullahi Alhaji Yaru, Ibrahim Oladimeji Baba Agba and Makun Aliyu Manko, published in Thisday of June 5, 2015, is instructive.
The statement notes inter-alia:
‘If Senators make the mistake of voting this candidate as their President, Nigerians will witness the institution of a parallel structure of governance, just as he used the Nigerian Governors’ Forum as base of power between 2007 and 2011… He is merely going to use the Senate Presidency as stepping stone to the Presidency in 2019.’
Political observers have also lampooned what they describe as the Saraki’s desperation and inordinate ambition which if allowed to fester, could upset the national confidence which the new administration is trying to build.
According to a dependable source at the National Headquarters of the APC in Abuja, ‘Nigerians invested their collective hopes and emotions in the party, despite the profound hate campaign mounted by the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, that it was an Islamic party. The APC will not sacrifice that confidence on the altar of anybody’s egoistic ambition.’
Speaking further, the source noted: ‘At the onset of the APC, names like Muhammadu Buhari, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Bisi Akande, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Lai Mohammed, Kashim Imam Ibrahim, Nasir El Rufai, Aliyu Wamakko, Abubakar Audu and the like, constituted the more prominent front liners. The movement later gained cross-national appeal, but every attempt was made by the opposition to stigmatise the party along religious lines. Thank God for the belief by Nigerians that our party holds the key to socio-economic change. We cherish this and everything will be done to sustain this belief in us.’ The source assured that Nigerians apprehensions will be assuaged when the leadership of the National Assembly eventually emerges.
‘Ours is a party of progressives, don’t forget. We are bound by the Constitution of the Federal Republic, particularly on the sensitive matters of religion and creed. It is indeed for this reason you must also allow Mr President settle down to ensure balance also geo-ethnic and religious lines in his appointments.’
As at press time, Senators Barnabas Gemade and Solomon Ewuga, were at the head of a North Central delegation to hold meetings APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and former Vice – President, Atiku Abubakar, ahead of today’s rescheduled parley of APC National Assembly members.
Source: This Day