As the 7th Senate winds up ahead of the inauguration of the 8th Senate on June 4, the upper legislative chambers is at the moment caught up in a high-level of intrigues, horse-trading and lobbying, backstabbing, in a bid to outwit one another or zone on who becomes the next president of the Senate.
However, this was even as facts have emerged that the President- elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, rtd, is not willing to support any Senator or member of the House of Representatives who has had or still has any corruption case or matter with the anti-corruption agencies or police for the leadership position in the National Assembly.
Buhari, it was gathered is said to be uncomfortable with most of the aspirants currently fighting for the National Assembly, as they have one case or the other to answer with the anti- corruption agencies especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Apart from corruption, the president-elect was also said not be interested in working with those alleged to have links with insurgents like Boko Haram.
It was not known which zone would produce the Senate Presidency but sources said yesterday in Abuja that the Senator Bola Tinubu bloc in the All Progressives Congress, APC, was allegedly working to ensure that the former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, emerged. The party had already zoned the position to North Central.
The search for who heads the Senate would have been sealed if Senator Chris Ngige from Anambra State had won the election as the position would have just gone to South East geo- political zone of the country without any stress.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the Tinubu group was backing Akume for the singular reason that the former governor of Benue State is the oldest in the opposition camp who came to the Senate on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, thereby making the party popular in his area.
The North East geopolitical zone of the country also angled for the position of the Senate President saying that such position would placate them after Boko Haram insurgency ravaged the zone. The zone also argued that it produced the second highest number of votes after the North West, for the APC, adding that with this singular contribution to the success of the party, the position of Senate President should go to them. But they have to succumb to party decision Thursday morning that zoned the seat to North Central. .
As the race for the position begins, Senators Bukola Saraki, Kwara Central; Senator George Akume from Benue; Senator Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State; Senator Danjuma Goje of Gombe State; Senator Ali Ndume from Borno State, among others are said to be interested in occupying the position of Senate President.
Only one or two of the candidates jostling for the Senate President had no case with the EFCC. One even has a Boko Haram related case in court.
It was learnt that Buhari would want to respect the independence of the National Assembly. However, he would not want to support anyone who has had a graft case in order to enable him have a clean break from the past and pursue his anti- corruption stance to the letter.
“The President-elect respects the rule of law and would not want to meddle into the politics of the National Assembly but he is not comfortable with anyone who has or has had a corruption case being the Senate President,” a top party source said Friday.
Interestingly, of all the aspirants into the Senate Presidency, one of the two said to be very transparent has questions about his social life.
The aspirant was said to have a lot of things going in his favour except his drinking habit, even as he was alleged to have undergone some transformation in his behaviour and thus could prove his critics wrong.
Those working for this particular aspirant told Saturday Vanguard that ‘’a personal habit which may affect an individual character is better and manageable than an alleged corrupt person.’’
The change in the position of the Senate President and other leadership positions had became imminent following the woeful defeat of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, by the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
The PDP which ruled the country for 16 years, controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate, hence it produced both the Speaker of the House and Senate President throughout the period it controlled power.
However, under the APC’s dispensation, the PDP now has 49 senators against APC’s majority of 60 Senators. The Senate is made up of 109 Senators.
With this development in the Senate, the PDP has lost its power to produce the Senate President or the Deputy Senate President as well as the Senate Leader currently being occupied by Senators David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu and Victor Ndoma- Egba respectively. The PDP will also lose the position of the Senate Chief Whip now being held by Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo as all the four top positions will go to the APC.
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.
Interestingly, the North Central zone, especially Benue State had been lucky in producing Senate Presidents. The state has produced Dr Iyorchia Ayu as Senate President from 1992– 1993; Senator Ameh Ebute as Senate President from 1993 till the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha took over power after the palace coup that ousted Chief Ernest Shonekan as the Interim Head of State.
The outgoing Senate has Senator David Mark who hails from Benue as president since June 6, 2007 with Senator George Akume, also from Benue as Minority Leader in the same Senate.
The leadership contest in the National Assembly is capable of causing deep crack in the party if not well managed bearing in mind that the out-going PDP government never recovered from the Aminu Tambuwal-Mulikat Abiola- Akande saga at the House of Representatives which saw Tambuwal emerging as Speaker against the position of the party that Mulikat Akande should emerge.
The choice of former Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Aba that was resisted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo also, almost earned Obasanjo an impeachment.