By Obute James
- Godfatherism Splits Lawmakers As Last Minute Battle Intensified
The All Progressive Congress (APC) is expected to produce the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 8th National Assembly for winning majority seats in the two chambers but the task of producing these principal officers has become a major challenge to the party even as President Muhammad Buhari has withdrawn his hands from the process that will lead to their emergence.
In two separate press statements, President Buhari reiterated his willingness to work with any leader of the National Assembly that the process throws up, irrespective of what part of the country he or she originates from.
Observations by universalreporters247.com showed that President Buhari decided not to pitch tenth with any Senate Presidential aspirant to avoid having a National Assembly leadership that will be considered a rebellious one.
The four major contenders for Senate Presidency included Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe), Senator Ali Ndume (Borno) and Senator George Akume (Benue). The number of contenders was pruned down to two since Saturday May 23. Akume stepped down for Lawan while Ndume identified with Saraki’s group.
Unlike Senator Akume who stepped down which made Saraki as the sole candidate from the North Central, Ndume only identified with Saraki’s group but did not announce his withdrawal from the race.
The initial arrangement of the Like Mind group, the group supporting Saraki/Ndume candidacy was that if APC reaffirms its initial arrangement of zoning the office of the Senate Presidency to North Central, then Ndume will support Saraki but if the position is zoned to North East, Saraki will support Ndume candidature.
A source said to avoid the mistake made by Unity Forum, a group supporting Lawan candidacy where Akume formally withdrew from the race, Ndume was advised to be on standby in case APC leadership decides to zone the position of Senate President to the North East. But if the status quo is maintained, he will go for Deputy Senate President.
A senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, said “Let me tell you that there is zoning and the issue of zoning is not dead. If we kill the issue of zoning, there will be a serious controversy which we will find difficult to address.
“President Buhari is a beneficiary of zoning. Vice President, Osibanjo and APC National Chairman, John Oyegun all emerged as a result of zoning.
“How many Senators are on the race for Senate Presidency from other parts of the country apart from North Central and North East? This is because the position of Senate President was zoned to the North Central and the position of Deputy Senate President was zoned to the North East. But because of the issue of godfatherism and anointed candidate which emerged, that is why we are having this problem today.”
It was also alleged that the former governor of Lagos State and chieftain of APC, Ahmed Tinubu decided to work against the emergence of Saraki as Senate President because of 2019. Apart from the issue of ambition, Senator Saraki and Ndume are seen as independent minded senators. These are the only sins of Saraki and Ndume in the sight of Tinubu as alleged.
However, the idea sold to the people in the North West is that a Yoruba cannot be a Senate President at the same time be the Speaker of the House of Representatives hence the need to support Lawan.
Apart from Tinubu, this medium observed that there is no other strong APC leader that is against Saraki/Ndume candidacy. The body language of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, APC National Chairman, John Oyegun and Chief Audu Ogbe do not show that they are against the emergence of Saraki as Senate President and Ndume as Deputy Senate President.
A source who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said the whole idea about an anointed candidate is to seek for way in order to control Buhari.
“National Assembly is the symbol of democracy. There are three arms of government namely, the Executive, the Legislature and Judiciary. The Legislative arm of government is the only arm of government that does not exit during the military era.
“Some individuals who are not fully in government but felt they spent much in the election of President Buhari decided to anoint candidates which they can use to control him ( Buhari),” a source said.
According to the source, the only structure that can be used to checkmate Buhari if he decides to ignore some powerful individuals that helped in his election is National Assembly.
“Any lawmaker that supports an anointed candidate with the belief that he is helping Buhari government should have a rethink. This is because the “godfathers” will run to the “anointed” presiding officers of National Assembly to intimidate Buhari when they are offended,” a source said.
President Buhari on his own made it clear that he does not support or anoint any aspirant in the race for Senate Presidency. In the first press statement in respect of emergence of National Assembly leadership on May 13, 2015, President Buhari described as false, insinuations in the media that he was in support of any particular Senator’s emergence as Senate President or that he belonged to any camp pushing for the emergence of a leader from a particular part of the country.
“I am prepared to work with any leaders that the House or Senate selects.
“It doesn’t matter who the person is or where he or she is from,” Buhari said.
He added that these insinuations were probably born out of people’s expectations based on the way things had happened in the past, but reminded Nigerians that CHANGE had truly come.
“There is due process for the selection of leaders of the National Assembly,” Buhari said, “and I will not interfere in that process.”
Buhari added that the media and the public should begin to get used to no more “business as usual.”
“Nigeria has indeed entered a new dispensation,” he said. “My administration does not intend to repeat the same mistakes made by previous governments.”
Few hours after Senator Lawan/Akume group addressed journalists in National Assembly on Wednesday May 27, claiming their group enjoys the support of majority of APC Senators-elect, Buhari issued another statement reaffirming his earlier position on the issue of emergence of National Assembly leadership.
In the statement issued on Wednesday 27, he reiterated his willingness to work with any leader of the National Assembly that the process throws up, irrespective of what part of the country he or she originates from.
Buhari said that this has become necessary in view of the continued name-dropping in some circles linking his name to some candidates.
He added that there is due process for the selection of leaders of the National Assembly and that he will not interfere in that process.
Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe), Senator George Akume (Benue) and about 7 other Senators while addressing journalists covering Senate last Wednesday without any evidence said 40 APC Senators-elect identified with their group for Senate Presidency.
Senator Abu Ibrahim (Katsina), Senate Deputy Minority Whip who was allegedly canvassing support for Senator Lawan from North West suddenly went underground when President Buhari issued statement disclaiming his purported endorsement of any aspirant.
A source said some Senators from North West who are pushing for the emergence of Lawan as Senate President are creating impression that Buhari is supporting the candidacy of Lawan but it is very untrue.
A Senator who does not want his name on print said the claim that 40 APC Senators-elect have identified with Lawan/Akume is a mere propaganda.
According to the Senator, APC Senators-elect are 59 and 35 had already identified with The Likes Minds group.
“To me this claim is just a mere propaganda. 35 APC Senators had already identified with The Like Minds group, the group supporting Saraki/Ndume candidature for Senate Presidency. Out of these 35 Senators-elect, 24 who are bold enough formally presented themselves to the media during the press conference last Saturday. Even if you add 24 to 40 you will get 64 and not 59,” the source affirmed.
Speaking on why President Buhari decided to distance himself from the aspirants contesting for Senate Presidency, the Senator said President Buhari decided to distance himself from any particular aspirants because atmosphere is not very clear on who will emerge as the next Senate President.
“With the way things are going on now it is very clear that Buhari will not support any unpopular candidate. The emergence of Buhari as President of Nigeria was because of his popularity based on his record.
“For instance, do you think if his people in Katsina and North West Geo-Political Zone did not vote for him during the last presidential election, he would have won the election? In fact, North West produced the highest votes for him.
“How do you now think President Buhari will support an aspirant who does not get up to 10% support of his people in his zone. This is completely opposite of what led to the success of APC during the last election.”
The source alleged that Lawan and Akume do not have up to 10% support of Senators from North East and North Central.
“Most of the candidates that succeeded during the last general election, did not succeed because they were imposed on the electorate by godfathers but they succeeded because of their popularity.
“Any attempt to impose anybody on the lawmakers whether it is in the Senate or House of Representatives will lead to a lot of controversies in the 8th National Assembly and this will mark the beginning of APC crisis,” the Senator said.
On whether Senate President David Mark will rock the boat by contesting the election, a source said Mark body language does not indicate that he will contest but this cannot be immediately ruled out because in politics anything can happened.
The Legislature observed that most of the official vehicles of Senate President Mark and his Deputy Ike Ekweremandu have been converted to private cars. Most of the vehicles are now with private number plates.
The source said Mark would have preferred to continue as Senate President but the failure of PDP dwarfed his ambition.
“I don’t think Mark will contest election for Senate Presidency again. But we cannot rule out the possibilities of him contesting the election. If the crisis over the anointed candidate and godfatherism degenerates, then you should expect anything. But if APC Senators can coordinate themselves and there is no external influence, I don’t think Mark will contest.
Last Minute Battle
Last Tuesday the Chairmen of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the North-Central adopted Senator Bukola Saraki as their sole candidate for the position of Senate President in the 8th National Assembly.
The party chairmen announced this decision in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting in Abuja.
According to the chairmen, the decision to adopt Saraki was sequel to the withdrawal of the other contender for the position from the zone, Senator George Akume, from the race.
The zonal chairmen said they were unanimous in their decision that the zone was only interested in the office of the Senate President, which they claimed had earlier been zoned to it by the party’s National Working Committee.
National Secretary of the party, Mai Mala Buni(Yobe State) however denied the existence of any zoning arrangement in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
The communiqué noted that since Akume had withdrawn from the race, the zone had no other option but reach the conclusion that Senator Bukola Saraki should be adopted as the sole candidate from the zone.
Signatories to the communiqué are Letep M. Dabang (Plateau State); Alhaji Haddy A. Ametuo (Kogi State), Philips Shekwo (Nasarawa State), Alhaji Usman Malik, (Federal Capital Territory), Jibrin Mohammed (Niger State) and Ishola Fulani (Kwara State).
The communiqué read in part, “That we are resolute in our collective decision to produce a single candidate from the zone to the office of the Senate Presidency and we abide with same, considering the fact that all our distinguished senators from the zone had equally maintained similar position in their earlier meetings.”
Similarly, Senate Unity Forum, the group supporting Ahmed Lawan for Senate President and George Akume as deputy, said it has the support of 40 senators-elect of All Progressives Congress APC.
Leader of the group, Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC Benue North-East), stated this last Wednesday, in Abuja.
Gemade also claimed that the group has the support of the majority of the 49 senators of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
He said that the group has found Lawan and Akume most qualified for the jobs which is why the Senators decided to support them.
Gemade said that their candidacy will ensure stability and improvement which has been enshrined in the conduct of activities at the Senate in the last eight years.
“We are happy to unveil to you that this is the plan that the Unity Forum and the 8th Senate have, and by the Grace of God, we will actualise the plan.
“We have 40 APC senators-elect that have keyed into this project. Other PDP senators-elect have also keyed in to this project.
Earlier, on May 23, during the All Progressive Congress (APC) retreat for Senators elected under its platform, 35 out of 59 APC Senators declared support for Saraki as consensus candidate for the Senate Presidency
The Senators, in their resolution read by Dino Melaye (Kogi West) said, “Senators of the Like Minds are here today at the retreat organised by our dear party, the All Progressives Congress, which is meant to equip and empower Senators-elect of the 8th Assembly to prepare them toward the challenges ahead.
“We commend the leadership of our party for this timely and well-focused exercise. The issue of National Assembly leadership is about integrity, competence, discipline and leadership skills and not about fixing of candidates just for mere horse-trading.
“Our stand is about electing a senator, who eventually becomes the chairman of National Assembly and relates with the executive on behalf of Nigerians, fellow Senators and the National Assembly as an institution.
“Furthermore, leadership of National Assembly is about the Senator, who has the wherewithal to stabilise the legislative institution, working with the executive and judicial arm of government to be effective and perform to their optimal capacity.
“In addition, we are aware of the fact that all senators from the North-Central zone have taken a firm position that they are only interested in the office of the Senate President, which has been earlier zoned by the National Working Committee of our party to the zone.
“We are also aware that the North-Central Senators have resolved to abide by the resolution of the zone on a single candidate and anything short of this is an attempt to jeopardise the collective interest of the zone.
“Of the 59 Senators of the APC, 35 of us present here today hereby reaffirm our collective commitment and resolution to ensure the candidacy of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of 8th Assembly.
“We have also resolved that the office of the Deputy Senate President be zoned to the North-East.”