By Ayo Kehinde
For the second time in the history of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Majority Leader, is facing an opposition from within the party over his adoption for the position of the President of the ninth Senate by the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Ex- Senate leader, Ali Ndume on Tuesday told journalists in Abuja during a press conference that Lawan’s adoption was unconstitutional and vowed to rally party leaders and colleagues from his North west zone against it and in support of his own aspiration for the leadership of the National Assembly. He represents Borno South in the Senate.
Lawan who represents Yobe North, was the main consensus candidate of the party hawks for the same position in 2015 whose adoption ruffled other contestants who insisted on an open contest earlier agreed upon by the party leaders. Against the run of play following intense lobby across party lines, loyalists of current Senate President Bukola Saraki who allied with the Senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party were able to rout Lawan supporters and backers, particularly, party leader Ahmed Tinubu.
The scenario is about to play out again as if the party had learnt nothing from the past.
The support for Lawan seemed to be based on his perceived loyalty to the party and calculations that he has the popularity and leadership to command the followership of his colleagues.
This is what Ndume is kicking against “All my colleagues at the occasion yesterday (Monday) were shocked when Adams Oshiomhole unilaterally announced his decision to endorse Lawan as candidate of the party.
“It is an unpopular decision because I am sure that President Buhari and other leaders of the party are not in support of that action. None of the stakeholders was also consulted.
At the party get together hosted by President Buhari for governors and National Assembly members-elect at the Presidential Villa on Monday, it was only Oshiomhole that openly canvassed and supported Lawan’s candidacy for the Senate leadership. Buhari was tight lipped about it, except urging the members to work for a consensus candidate from the ruling party for the plum job.
Tinubu who is desperate to get the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives for his ‘man’, Femi Gbajiabiamila, is unwilling to rick the boat by been openly supportive of Lawan as he had done in 2015.
To worsen matters, the party is mistaking partisanship for politics, a carry over from 2015. In that regard, Oshiomhole has boosted that the opposition PDP would get nothing including chairmanship of big committees. Quite contrary to Buhari’s post election speech that he would run an inclusive government. Is this a case of the party leader and National Chairman holding different political positions on new policy direction of the party?
In a swift reaction, though, the PDP, said the leadership of the Senate would be determined from within, meaning that when matters reach a head, the opposition parties would play a decisive role. The opposition party has 35 members as opposed to APC 65 with Youth Progressives Party, YPP, having one. Though APC has simple majority of Senators, it does not have the two- thirds majority, which is 73 out of 109, to go it alone.
Besides, the continued support for Lawan seems to personlise the issue at stake. Ndume’s reference to his decision to consult with party leaders and colleague from the North East zone, whom he said were shocked at Lawan’ s adoption, point to the fact that the party did not carry the zone along before arriving at the decision to choose Lawan.
Again, Abdullaziz Yari, outgoing governor of Zamfara is said to be eyeing the deputy Senate president position. Monday Appeal Court ruling that nullified the party primaries in his state may have weakened that clearly unviable ambition because of the need to give consideration to other geo-political zones such as the Southwest and Southeast.
As an elected Senator from Zamfara, Yari has already received his Certificate of Return, alongside other colleagues, from INEC. How the Appeal Court ruling affects his position is yet to be seen. But he does not stand a chance; Northeast and North -west taking both Senate Presidency positions? Strange things do happen in Nigerian politics, anyway.
But it would be a wrong move that may not stand the test of time as colleagues from other zones would feel cheated and alienated, a bad move in politics.
For the south west zone, things are still hazy. Tinubu is reportedly not willing to give support to his wife, Oluremi, who is also campaigning for the seat of Deputy Senate president, again because of his political calculations for the House Speakership. It slipped through his hands in 2015. He is on the watch out this time. The terrain is has become more slippery now that his party, Action Congress of Nigeria and Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CCP, are the only remaining partner in the APC. Governor Rochas Okorocha and the rump of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has faded into the background with his his defeat in Imo state both as a Senator, whom the INEC has refused to give a Certificate of Return because of the cloud surrounding his victory and the could shoulder the party has giving him.
Indeed Ndume has already complicated matters for the party by roping in President Buhari and Tinubu. He told journalists that both men have assured him of their support when he told them of his decision to contest the Senate Presidency. They have not denied it.
Investigation by THISAGE, shows that the party favours Lawn over Ndume for one reason: Ndume is seen to be independent minded and may be difficult to control. His traded tackles with the Senate leadership that led to his months long-suspension last year before an Abuja High Court ruling reinstated him is perceived to be a baggage which may force him to be more accommodating to the opposition in an attempt to pacify those hurt by his allegations.
This is what Oshiomhole does not want to hear as he has said repeatedly that the PDP would get ‘nothing’ from the Senate, a indication that the ruling party would teleguide or manipulate the envisaged leadership. This stand by the National Chairman of APC is already unsettling many Senators, even from the ruling party.
“This man shows his hand too much in everything and it bad politics”, a member confided in THISAGE.
The coming weeks would be interesting as the party tries to settle these strands, issues, personalities that continue to jostle for attention and tug at its cohesion.