One of the Challenges facing the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the moment is the election of principal officers, especially Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Though the party has on various occasions stated that it has not zoned the position of Senate President or Speaker to any particular zone, or interested in who become leaders of the 8th National Assembly, many doubt the sincerity of that statement. Many people believe that the anxiety and tension generated so far could be attributed to the clandestine moves by some leaders of the party to ensure that their preferred candidates emerge as Senate President and Speaker respectively.
Although President Muhammdu Buhari has stated severally that he has no preferred candidate among those contesting for the position of Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives, some analysts expressed doubt if that expression represent the true positions of other leaders of the party. The party has on some occasions in the past stated that it does not believe in zoning only to give waiver as was the case of last Lagos State governorship election. The party claimed it does not believe in zoning but ceded the position to Lagos-east senatorial district because the zone is yet to produce the governor of the state. The party went further to explain that it would not adopt such option in future.
As the race for Senate President of 8th National Assembly gathers momentum, it is believed that the party may risk implosion if it fails to handle the matter the way it should be. It is alleged though not officially stated that the leadership of the party is disposed to Lawan/Akume ticket as President and Deputy President of the senate while Femi Gbajabiamila is most favoured to clinch the position of speaker. Two senators regarded as serious contenders in the Senate President position are Senator Ahmad Lawan and Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Ahmad Lawan a senator from Yobe State was the Chairman Senate Committee on Public Accounts. He is one of the longest serving APC legislators in the National Assembly, having been there since 1999. If ever there is a reward for experience in the promulgation and act of lawmaking he should be granted that reward.
Lawan has remained in the opposition ANPP despite several pressure mounted on him between 2007 to 2010, until the merger that gave birth to APC in 2013. He appears to enjoy the support of APC leaders though it has not been openly expressed. Some people believe he should be rewarded for his consistent in remain an opposition politician despite all entreaties made to him to change boat. Lawan has also enjoyed the support of some people in the north.
A group under the aegis of Concerned Northern Elders and Youths has expressed its support for Senator Ahmed Lawan for the position of Senate President of the 8th Assembly. According to a statement by its interim coordinator, Mohammed Idris, the group said it was throwing its weight behind Lawan because he is most suited for the job.
Part of the statement read, “After careful consideration of all the candidates vying for the Senate Presidency, we’ve come to the conclusion that Senator Ahmed Lawan is the right candidate in view of his pedigree and antecedents.”We’ve taken stock of the leading candidates and the statement of President Buhari on the need to have a corrupt free leadership in the Senate and have come to the conclusion that in view of the antecedents of the other contender and his covert issues with the authorities over allegations of corruption while he was Governor, it will be inimical to the anti-corruption stance of President Buhari to have him as Senate President.”
The group urged all Senators-elect, especially those from the North, not to betray President Buhari’s desire for change, accountability and transparency by voting for a man that does not have any skeleton in his cupboard.
Bukola Saraki was two time governor of Kwara State during which he served as Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum in 2007. In 2011 he was elected a senator under the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) before he defected to All Progressives Congress (APC). He played a prominent role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in the March 28 presidential elections. He promised to consolidate on the leadership of the senate if elected as President of the upper chamber. Until recently, Saraki appears to enjoy the support of PDP senators who see him as somebody who may be able to checkmate the excesses of the president and Bola Tinubu. But Daily independent gathers that senators like Godswill Akpabio and Theodore Orji former governors of Abia State nay have met other PDP senators and urged them not to support anybody and wait for how APC will handle the matter before they declare their position. One thing that may cause Saraki’s rejection may be his corruption case with anti-graft agency EFCC.
APC which has accused the former administration of corruption on several occasions may not want to support or appoint anybody that has corruption case attached to him in order to maintain it dignity. Saraki the son of the late Kwara politician, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, is also seen among party leadership as too ambitious. Saraki who contested the presidential primary in 2010, is seen in many quarters as too ambitions to be trusted with such exalted position like Senate President.
Another dimension to the race is the PDP’s position. The party which has said that it has no interest in the race may not be trusted to honour such claims. By Saturday there were already reports that the party had adopted Gbajabiamila for the position of Speaker.
The party has about 49 senators in the 8th National Assembly while APC that won 60 senatorial seats in the March National Assembly election has lost one of the senators recently through death. Many are positing that though PDP has stated that it is not interested in the position, it may decide to come in to the race depending on how APC handle the issue.
A member of PDP caucus from Lagos who would not want his name mentioned in the print told Daily Independent, “There is, however, a high risk for the APC in throwing open the contest for the leadership positions in the Senate as a united PDP with 49 members can still produce the Senate President supporting a single candidate, if the 60 APC Senators split their votes along two or more members contesting for the position”. With their number, it is argued that whoever may enjoy the block vote of PDP senators may likely emerge the Senate President.