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Monday, 4 March 2019

South-East, North-East battle for Senate Presidency

READ ALSO :  Amaechi particularly worked against my re-election, so as to maintain his Leadership of the APC, in South South, — Says Godswill Akpabio

There are strong indications that the battle for the Senate Presidency has begun, with the South-East and the North-East geopolitical zones striving to produce the next President of the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

Although the All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to announce a zoning arrangement for the sharing of offices, the party has a clear majority in the Senate and there are feelers that the party might adopt 2015 formula, which gave the Senate Presidency to the North-East.

However, there are moves by some interest groups within the party to expand the search for a Senate President to the South-East as a way of further boosting the acceptance of the APC in that region.

We learnt that most of the senatorselect who emerged from the February 23 National Assembly election are currently in Abuja, holding series of meetings and negotiating for the various leadership offices in the Senate.

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“We have started the process of producing the leadership of the Ninth Senate. Most of the senators- elect, both returning and fresh ones, have been holding series of meetings on the leadership of the next Senate.

“Many interested parties have been holding consultations. The battle for the Senate Presidency has been narrowed to North- East while the South-East is also making a case. It is almost settled that the South-West will produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” a senator told New Telegraph.

Investigations carried out by New Telegraph revealed that three senatorselect from the North-East, one from the South-East and another one from the North-Central are already positioning themselves to contend for the nation’s number three political office.

The senators-elect include Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), Ali Ndume (Borno South), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central) and Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North).

These prospective contenders in the race are all chieftains of the ruling party, and are qualified to contest for the office as ranking members of the nation’s highest lawmaking chamber. Apart from Adamu, who is from the North-Central, and Kalu from the South- East, the other three senators are from the North- East.

In 2015, following the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari from the North-West and the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, from the South- West, the APC had zoned the Senate Presidency to the North-East and Speaker, to the South-West. At that time, the APC did not produce anybody either as a fresh senator or in the ranking category from the South-East, thereby automatically excluding the zone from the sharing formula.

However, in the coming dispensation, the ruling party has produced Kalu from the zone, who is also a ranking lawmaker, having served in the House of Representatives between 1992 and 1993 during the nation’s transition period, and therefore, qualifies to hold the office of Senate President.

The Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) stipulates that presiding officers’ positions in the Senate should be contested by only ranking members of the Chamber, a rule that automatically excludes fresh members from seeking to occupy the highly coveted office of the apex Assembly.

However, in the definition of ranking, it is stated in the Senate’s rule book, that a ranking member is a member of the Senate, who has been a member of the Senate before or has been a member of a state assembly or a member of the House of Representatives, before being elected to the Senate.

 Meanwhile, Senator Lawan has been in the National Assembly since the nation’s return to civil rule, beginning from the House of Representatives, where he served for two terms, spanning 1999 and 2007 before joining the Red Chamber after winning the Yobe North Senatorial seat in 2007.

A source told our correspondent that Lawan was being considered as the choice of the APC because of the unalloyed loyalty he has demonstrated to the party leadership and President Buhari since the party assumed office in 2015.

However, it was further learnt from sources within the APC fold that though Lawan is the Senate Leader, as well as the most ranking lawmaker in the next Assembly, former governors who are coming to the Senate from across party lines, might prefer one of their own to preside over the Red Chamber.

So far, more than 13 exgovernors will be members of the 9th Senate. Some of them are: Abdullahi Adamu, Danjuma Goje, Sam Egwu, Orji Uzor Kalu, Ibikunle Amosun, Gabriel Suswam, Ibrahim Shekarau, Kabiru Gaya, Rochas Okorocha, Chimaroke Nnamani, Abdulaziz Yari, Adamu Aliero, Tanko Al-makura, and Ibrahim Geidam.

A source within the Senate told New Telegraph that Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State, who has been elected to represent Yobe East in the 9th Senate, might be uncomfortable with Lawan becoming his boss if the latter emerges as the Senate President.

It was further learnt that ranking senators like Ndume and Adamu are also eyeing the juicy office because of their experience in the legislative business, consequent upon their long membership of the National Assembly.

Ndume served two terms in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011, and then moved to the Senate in 2011, where he is completing his two terms and has won re-election into the 9th Senate.Adamu, who is also a contender in the next Senate Presidency, joined the Red Chamber in 2007, after serving out his two terms as executive governor of Nasarawa State.

It was, however, learnt that the party leadership might not give him any serious consideration because the Senate Presidency has been in the North- Central in the last 12 years – David Mark (2007 – 2015) and Bukola Saraki (2015 – 2019).

On his part, Goje came to the Senate after leaving office as Governor of Gombe State in 2011. Although he has never indicated interest in the plum job for the coming Senate, the party might go for him if they finally settle for North-East if Lawan is not favoured.

In the same vein, New Telegraph learnt that Senator Oluremi Tinubu is angling to be Deputy President of the Senate, having been elected to the Senate for the third time. However, New Telegraph learnt that it might be difficult for her to emerge as number two citizen in the Senate if Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is going to emerge as the Speaker because two of them are from Lagos.

Gbajabiamila, who is the current majority leader in the House of Representatives, is being tipped by the APC leadership as the next Speaker of the House. It will be recalled that Gbajabiamila was the preferred candidate of the APC for the position in 2015, but lost it to the emergence of Dogara.

The source argued that if Mrs. Tinubu would emerge as Deputy President of the Senate, then another state from the South-West would be asked to produce the Speaker because it would be improper for one state – Lagos – to hold two presiding positions in the national parliament.

READ ALSO :  Amaechi particularly worked against my re-election, so as to maintain his Leadership of the APC, in South South, — Says Godswill Akpabio

According to the source, the next office that Tinubu might be considered to occupy is the office of majority leader in the apex legislative chamber. Our correspondent learnt that the South- West Caucus of the APC in the Senate might not be favourably disposed to having Senator Tinubu becoming either the Senate leader or the Deputy President of the Senate in the next dispensation.

According to the source, the lawmakers might be somewhat uncomfortable to have her in the leadership position of the Upper Chamber, in addition to her husband calling the shots in the political dynamics in the South-West.

But another source dismissed the insinuation, insisting that Mrs. Tinubu is in the Senate on her record and that she is eminently qualified for the office. He, however, admitted that Lagos couldn’t produce the Deputy Senate President and Speaker. There are 10 principal offices in each of the chambers.

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