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Senate Presidency: Tinubu Fights For Political Life

Francis Moses writes on intrigues going on in the National Assembly base over becomes Senate President with APC’s leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, holding the short end of the stick

These are hard times for Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Winning the general and local elections for his party, the APC, appears to be an easy task in comparison to the battle he is facing to sustain his interest through enthroning principal officers in choice positions. With indications emerging that the President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), may have shown his preference and support for the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan from the North-east zone for the number three position of the land, despite his public denial, Tinubu calculations and plans appear to be coming to naught.

Worse is the fact that the party leaders themselves appear immobilized by the internal scheming and intrigues to make a categorical statement about its zoning arrangement, thereby leaving the field open for contenders for the office of the Senate Presidency seat and its counterpart in the House of Representatives..

In the event, the duo of Senators Bukola Saraki and George Akume, both from the North-central zone, are yet striving to grow their support base in the contest for the position. While Ilorin elders recently threw their support behind Saraki, a group of elders, who described themselves as Leaders of Thought in North Central zone, also endorsed the candidature of Akume for the headship of the National Assembly.

Despite the emerging three-horse race, the choice of Lawan may receive inter-regional boost as the South-west bloc is said to be considering supporting Lawan’s aspiration provided Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is in turn, supported for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gbajabiamila is the candidate of one of the leaders of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu. Indeed, sources in the party confirmed that the sudden turnaround of Tinubu to throw his weight behind Lawan as against his initial choice of Senate Minority Leader Akume was based on his reading of Buhari’s preference for Lawan.

However Tinubu’s ability to effectively recognize the president-elect’s preference, and in order to avoid a collision course with Buhari on the subject of the Senate presidency, was said to have propelled his adoption of Lawan as his preferred candidate, albeit with an ulterior objective. However 65 senators-elect had a meeting in Abuja, to endorse the former Kwara State governor, Senator Saraki, for the post of Senate president. At the meeting, the senators who are backing Saraki had decided to throw their weight behind the former Kwara State governor, because they want a “Senate president who is a product of the members and not imposed by a godfather.”

The UNION gathered that the senators present at the meeting include: Senators Muhammad Adamu Aliero, Danjuma Goje, Andy Uba, Mohammed Ali Ndume, Gilbert Nnaji, Dino Melaye and Isiaka Adeleke, who are new to the senate, the three senators representing Delta State and two from Edo State, among others.

The resolve of the senators is aimed at thwarting attempts by the APC to zone the Senate presidency to the North-East geopolitical zone, and efforts by the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, to foist Senator Ahmed Lawan, his preferred candidate from Yobe State, as Senate President. Surprisingly, the, APC from the Southwest, Tinubu’s constituency are constituting themselves into a stumbling block to his ambition over the thorny issue of zoning of National Assembly positions. They are doing so in what in local political parlance is anti-party activity.

They have teamed up with their PDP counterpart to do from the geo-political zone, to compound Tinubu’s woes in his choice for candidate for the Senate Presidency. An APC senator-elect from the South-west who claim anonymity, said though they respect Tinubu as a leader of the party, they would oppose his attempt to impose a candidate on them without their inputs, a subtle reference to Tinubu sudden switch of support from Akume to Lawan in deference to Buhari. He denied that there is consensus among Southwest senators-elect to support Tinubu’s candidate.

According to him, when the APC senators met recently, therewasnoconsensustosupportSenatorLawan who Tinubu is propping up as Senate President. He also disclosed that they are working with South- West PDP senators-elect to ensure that no single individual imposes an unpopular candidate on them. His words, “Our challenge is that while we heard all these stories about our leader, Tinubu supporting Lawan and all that, none of us from the South-West could say that even he is a senator, he was put in the picture of what was going on.

“We all waited patiently for this long because no one was talking to us on the matter, so when we met recently on this media support for Lawan from South-West senators, we agreed that yes, wherever the leadership of the party zones the Senate Presidency to, we will support; we were never unanimous at the meeting that we supported Lawan. There matter divided us and that made us to defer further discussions on the matter.

“I can say that of the 18 senators from the South- West, two from Ondo State are not for Lawan, the three from Ekiti State are not for him, one from Lagos State is not him, two from Ogun State are not supporting him, one from Osun State also does not support Lawan while another one from Oyo also did not support.

“So if one may ask, where did the media get the truth from that South-West senators have all endorsed Lawan, it is not true because we are yet to agree on the matter. Even if the position is zoned to the North-East, I can assure you that we can’t be unanimous on this matter of Lawan.”

Meanwhile a PDP senator-elect from Ondo State, who opted not to be named, acknowledged that they are in regular contact with their APC counterparts from the zone and are on the same page to frustrate any attempt by anyone to impose a Senate president on them.

He emphasised that the choice of the leadership of the National Assembly is beyond any political party and the senators have the final say on who will emerge as the Senate President. However the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives recently denied endorsing any aspirant for speakership position. Speaking with newsmen recently, leader of the caucus, Hon. Leo Ogor, said out of those jostling to become the speaker of the 8th House, the caucus was yet to anoint any candidate. He said they would elect a Speaker based on transparency, accountability and impeccable integrity.

The six lawmaker vying for the country’s number four position are, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) who is currently the Minority Leader, Hon. Yakubu Dogara (APC, Bauchi); Hon. Pally Iriase (APC, Edo) and Hon. Abdulmunmin Jibrin (APC, Kano). Others are Burka Goni (APC, Yobe) and Hon. Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno). Ogor said, “There is nothing like endorsing anybody for number four citizen of the country.

He noted that, I am a returnee and I lead the caucus in the House at the moment. I will tell you that there we have not heard any meeting with Dogara neither have we start discussing anything with him. His words “We are going to elect a Speaker that is going to be based on transparency, accountability and a Speaker we know definitely well that we will speak for all of us. We cannot sit down and automatically endorse somebody. It is not done that way.

“Let me also point to one funny thing in the House. They don’t want a scenario where somebody dictates for them. You saw what happened during the Tambuwal era. It is not different. So my appeal is to allow the House chooses the candidate so that we don’t end up picking a wrong candidate out of annoyance.”

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