Epic Battle For Senate President | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Epic Battle For Senate President

Posted: May 3, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Austin Oboh Lagos

In a sudden twist that may have jolted many observers, the North-East caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday rejected Ahmed Lawan as its choice for the position of Senate President. This emerged after the North-East Caucus addressed National Assembly correspondents. Former governor of Gombe State,



Danjuma Goje, who addressed the journalists, insisted that no one had been put forward by the Zonal Caucus yet. What was paramount to them at the moment, according to him, was how to persuade the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to accept the desire of the zone to present someone for the number three position in the country. Indeed, the development marks a climax for what appears a weeklong politics of endorsements for the much respected office. It is doubtful whether intrigues and scheming for the office of Senate President had been this heated since 1999. Commentators offer the view that the situation this time had been confounded by the inability of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which controls majority in the National Assembly, to put its foot down on the matter.

Stance of North-East

North-East Caucus leader, Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe State, said what was before the North east was how to persuade APC leadership to consider the region for the “highest position in the National Assembly.”

Besides, Goje said the caucus has opened channels of communication with five other caucuses in the chamber and outside the National Assembly as well.

His words: “The members of the North East APC Senators caucus in a meeting held in Kaduna Room of Transcorp Hilton Hotel on April 30, 2015 with the 12 of the 13 members in attendance and one apology from Ahmed Zanah, who was indisposed but was with us on telephone, also concurred, which means that he was in harmony with what we discussed yesterday.



“We resolved as follows yesterday, that I, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje, from Gombe Central senatorial district, was unanimously elected as the leader of the caucus and Senator Isa Hamamisu as the secretary of the caucus. While the party leadership is considering the zoning of the National Assembly leadership position, the caucus is appealing for the zoning of highest position in the National Assembly to the North East considering the special needs of this zone.

“In other words, we resolved to call the leadership of our party to formally zone the highest office of the National Assembly to our zone in view of our special circumstance. This caucus should be allowed in consultation with the party leadership, other caucuses, zonal leaders, other stakeholders to nominate the senator suitable to occupy such an office which is zoned to our zone.

“For this reason, the caucus urges the public and distinguished colleagues nationwide and indeed, everybody, Nigerians and non-Nigerians to completely disregard any purported endorsement of any Senator from the North East by any zone because zoning of posts by APC has not been formally done yet.

“We are waiting for our formal zoning of the various posts of the national assembly before we commence nomination and we believe that any post zoned to us must have our input as the caucus and then, we consult with other caucuses, party leadership and indeed, other stakeholders before arriving at a decision. We should completely disregard any endorsement of any of our member here or absent. We do not know anything about it, we do not support it, we disassociate ourselves completely from it.”



Senator Goje stressed that the caucus was not in support of any other caucus adopting or endorsing any senator from the North east for the Senate Presidency.

He said: “What we are saying is that we, the North East caucus, formally disassociate ourselves from any endorsement from any other zone. Other zones have the right to decide what they want but we in the North East are not associating ourselves with those so-called endorsements because the party has not zoned anything to us.

“It is after the zoning has been announced that we will sit down and nominate our candidates that we feel are capable and suitable to represent the zone. But we cannot stop others from doing what they want, all we are saying is that we are not part of it. We have nobody in mind yet, we have not decided anything because we do not know what is coming to us. We do not want to jump the gun.”



Senators-elect at the briefing, apart from Goje, were the Secretary of the caucus, Isa Ahmed Gusau; ( Bauchi Central); Ali Ndume ( Borno South); Bukar Abba Ibrahim ( Yobe Central) and Abdulaziz Murtala Nyako ( Adamawa Central. Others were Binta Garba (Adamawa North); Ahmed Abubakar ( Adamawa South); Usman Bayero Nafada ( Gombe North); Abubakar Jare ( Borno North ) and Sulyman Nazif ( Bauchi North).

The caucus’ new stance on the zoning controversy in the APC is viewed to be at variance with the earlier posture of senators Goje and Garba who had at different times indicated interest in the zone getting the deputy senate president’s slot.

North-West Endorsement

Curiously, it had been reported on Thursday, just a day earlier, that the North-West caucus of the Senate had endorsed Senator Lawan for the Senate President.

According to the report, at a meeting of the North-West caucus co-chaired by Abu Ibrahim (Katsina), Kabiru Gaya (Kano) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), which was attended by 18 of the 21 senators from the zone, in Abuja, the senators unanimously resolved to support Lawan from Yobe North in the North-East.

The South-West caucus had, on Tuesday, endorsed him.

It would seem, going by the impression created, that senators adopted Lawan because of his integrity and clean records with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Another reason cited is consistency in opposition since 1999, just as he is adjudged to be experienced.



His profile appears to have readily made him out to be just fit for the position. Lawan is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and is credited with standing his ground in holding the executive arm accountable. His legislative experience includes a stint in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, when he moved over to the Senate.

The endorsement by the South-West and North-West did place Lawan as a frontrunner in the race for who emerges president of the Eighth Senate, next month.

Earlier Permutations

Before now, the race for the number three office was considered a two-horse race between North-Central and North-East. The party was believed to have been split between Minority Leader, George Akume, and Senator Bukola Saraki as favourites.

As recently as this week, Akume was said to have begun subtle moves to get the nod ahead of Saraki and was believed to have lobbied top chieftains of the party to get their blessing. He was reported to have met with National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in Lagos, to get his support ahead of what was already seen as an intense battle, equally marked by intense intrigues.

According to reports, both Akume and Saraki were suspicious of Lawan’s ambition, and he is believed to be capable of pulling a surprise reminiscent of the well-known coup in the House of Representatives in 2011 where Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) emerged Speaker ahead of the candidate from the South West, Mulikat Akande-Adeola who was all but sure of getting the position.

Remi Tinubu

Remi Tinubu

Then came reports that the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, had withdrawn support for former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, as his preferred candidate for the Senate presidency. The report sent signals of the North-Central losing out in their bid for the exalted position. Akume was said to have been asked to accept the position of Deputy Senate President, a position he was said to have rejected.

Regardless, the party leader’s wife, Senator Remi Tinubu, did openly canvass support for Lawan during plenary. The development was said to have antagonized North-Central members of the APC, including all the elected governors, senators-elect and members-elect of the House of Representatives who were said to be planning to write a joint petition against the party’s move to zone the office of the Senate presidency to the North-East.

APC Leaders’ Dilemma

Findings by Sunday Independent, last week, indicated that the lingering crisis within the ranks of the APC over the zoning formula to be adopted in sharing the leadership positions in the National Assembly had lasted this long because one of the four power blocs within the party was feeling short-changed in the distribution of offices and was therefore holding the party by the jugular.

According to a competent source within the party, the current stalemate in the attempt to share the leadership seat in the National Assembly amicably was a result of the insistence by the last among the four “pillars that united to give life” to the APC, that it must take its own fair share of political office and is insisting on having the office of the Senate President.

The APC has four power blocs which united to form and sustain it namely; the old Congress for Progressives Change (CPC); the old All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP); the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the “new PDP” made up disgruntled members of the PDP who walked out on the ruling PDP as result of the internal crisis within the fold of the ruling party.

Among the four groups, only the “new PDP”  has not been taken care of in the sharing of tangible political offices in the yet to be formed government in the sharing arrangement adopted by the leadership of the APC.

In the current sharing formula, the CPC group produced the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari; the ACN group firmly in the grip of Bola Ahmed Tinubu produced the Vice President-elect, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the ANPP group is set to clinch the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) said aid to have been reserved for Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, while the new PDP group has not been allocated any office.

While the party leadership has agreed that the next big political office – the Senate Presidency – should be allocated to the North-Central, the struggle to produce the occupier of the office has polarised the party and caused disaffection among the power brokers.

According to investigations, the group of “new PDP” led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River State has expressed deep dissatisfaction with the attempt to edge it out completely from the scheme of things within the party as the candidate they are supporting is being openly schemed out of the race. The group is the brain behind the Senate President ambition of former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki who is a defector from the PDP and who is seen by the “new PDP” group as it’s “face” within the APC.

However, his programmed smooth sail to the office is being hindered by the strong opposition being mounted against him by the combination of the “CPC” and ACN” group who are routing for another candidate in person of former Benue State Governor, George Akume who was also from the North Central geopolitical zone.

Investigation by Sunday Independent also revealed that the attempt to push forward Saraki as the Senate President is seen by the Tinubu group as an attempt by the “new PDP group” to show might and place a big hurdle ahead of the Buhari government.

The fear within the party top echelon was that Saraki is too independent-minded and unpliable, and might constitute a big problem for the Buhari government as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

In an attempt to benefit from the logjam in the party, the ANPP group, playing the role of the “dark horse”, was rumoured to be secretly supporting a candidate from the North-East geopolitical zone in preparation for an implosion which might necessitate the re-zoning of the Senate President seat to another geopolitical zone which in this case is most likely to be North East.

At the meeting held on Wednesday, which ran through Thursday morning, last week, the attempt by the party leaders to resolve the Saraki versus Akume struggle became convoluted when the proponents of North-East candidate for Senate Presidency put forward a strong argument on why the North-Central should not have the Senate President seat.

Other possibilities

Already, there are indications that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is next in population to the APC in the NASS may be scheming to retain the position which it has held since 1999.

Current occupier of the office, David Mark, paid a widely-publicised courtesy visit to president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, recently and raised suspicion that he might be working his way through the ranks of stakeholders to retain his position in June.

Events in the coming days would support or belie this supposition. Meanwhile, observers see the current politicking over the Senate President seat as a crucial test for the APC – a test that could leave cracks on the walls of the party, depending on the decision the party takes. Of significance is the warning given by some APC lawmakers recently that they be allowed to pick their own leaders themselves. There are fears that if party leaders refuse to listen to the warning, they might, so early in the day, face the embarrassment of defiance from their lawmakers.