Senate presidency: How senators may vote
This week, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will chose its leadership. The race has witnessed a lot of intrigues. In this report, Assistant Editor, Onyedi Ojiabor and Sanni Onogu in Abuja report on how the senators are likely to vote for the senate president’s position
The race for the President of the Eight Senate in Nigeria, which has witnessed a lot of intrigues, entered the final curve on Thursday with the adjournment of the Seventh Senate sine die.
Maneuvering and horse-trading for the exalted position heightened even at the valedictory session that the upper chamber conducted to mark the end of the Seventh Senate.
The out-going Senate President, David Mark, however ruled out Senators from the fold of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the race.
Mark tactically reminded PDP Senators that the leadership of the Eight Senate would be composed mainly of Senators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform as members of the majority party in the Senate.
Mark’s remarks may have foreclosed the clandestine moves by some PDP Senators to form part of the Body of Principal Officers in the Eight Senate.
PDP Senators angling for prominent positions in the Eight Senate are said to have been unhappy with the unexpected pronouncement by Mark that they should perish the idea of becoming part of the leadership of the Eight Senate.
Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan who represents Yobe North Senatorial District and Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki of Kwara Central Senatorial District have already emerged as front runners for the plum position of President of the Senate.
Two groups, Senate Unity Forum, led by Senator Barnabas Gemade and Like Minds Senators with Senator-elect Dino Melaye as its spokesperson, have also emerged to champion the aspiration of Lawan and Saraki respectively.
While Gemade’s Senate Unity Forum has thrown its weight behind Lawan’s aspiration, Melaye’s Like Minds Senators proclaimed Saraki as its choice for Senate President.
With the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government on May 29, the question in political circles across the country is who will succeed David Mark as President of the Eight Senate?
There have been claims and counter claims by the Senate Unity Forum and the Like Minds Senators about who, between Lawan and Sakari, has greater number of APC senators backing him.
While the Senate Unity Forum projected the necessity for unity in the upper chamber even after the election of principal officers of the Eight Senate and to ensure that the rising standard of the Senate is sustained, Like Minds Senators on the other hand have been harping on being independent minded in choosing the presiding officers of the Senate.
Gemade made bold to state in Abuja that the Senate Unity Forum is made up of many Senators from all geo-political zones of the country united in one common course to actualise the Senate Presidency of Senator Ahmed Lawan and Deputy Senate Presidency of Senator George Akume.
Like Minds Senators on the other hand, claimed to be prepared to fight what they called “imposition from outside” and vowed to ensure the actualisation of Saraki’s Senate Presidency with an unnamed Deputy Senate President from the North-East geopolitical zone.
What is not clear is whether the group of Like Minds Senators wanted to go it all alone without the slightest input from the party that gave them the platform to emerge as Senators.
It is also not obvious what the relationship of the APC senators and their party would look like if the lawmakers are left to completely dictate what happens in the Senate chamber without the party’s guidance.
An insider source, apparently worried by the development, wondered aloud, “Where in the world, maybe in a wonder land like ours, will the parliament work without contribution from the ruling party?”
PDP senators-elect are also not left out of the unfolding frenzy. The opposition lawmakers are known to have been working covertly to actualise the election of their preferred candidate.
Top on the agenda of PDP senators-elect retreat in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, was said to be how to ensure that the opposition lawmakers voted as a bloc during the election of the Senate President.
Observers believe that with 49 Senators in its fold, PDP senators are determined to play a pivotal role in deciding who will be the next President of the Senate.
The unpredictable scenario may have informed the covert and overt scheming by the front runners in the Senate Presidency race to gain the support of greater number of PDP lawmakers.
Although PDP Senators are considered the beautiful brides in the race, APC senators with their simple majority of 59 senators, have the ace.
APC as a political party is also fully aware of the scheming and is not sleeping over the matter. The leadership has therefore been meeting with the contestants or their supporters within the party.
Parts of the outcome of such meetings are the arguments of both the Lawan group and that of Saraki. For example, the Lawan group is believed to have convinced the APC leadership that the choice of the next Senate President should be primarily based on the highest ranking senator amongst the contestants. They also argued that the zone that garnered the highest number of votes for APC, aside the North-West, which has already produced the country’s president, should be favoured to produce the Senate President. Added to these, they argued, is the need to compensate the North-East, which has never produced a top legislative officer like Senate President since 1999.
If these issues are finally adopted as the deciding factors, Lawan will emerge the Senate President.
However, supporters of Senator Saraki, are arguing that if the issue of ranking was such a primary factor, where was Lawan when Senator George Akume became the Minority Leader in the out-going senate? A source however confided to The Nation that when that question was asked in one of the crucial meetings with the party leadership, the Saraki group was informed that Akume emerged the Minority Leader then because he was an ACN senator as his party (ACN) has more senators in the Red Chamber than Lawan’s ANPP.
Also, the Lawan and Saraki’s groups are not agreed on the mode of the primary election that should be adopted. While Saraki’s group wanted secret balloting, Lawan’s group preferred open balloting.
Besides the mode of the primaries and other areas of disagreement, the Saraki supporters are said to have demanded that the Kwara State senator should be preferred as a way of compensating the New-PDP members that merged with others to form APC. That suggestion, according to our source, was roundly criticized when it got to the hearing of the APC leadership. It was said that the leaders of the party unanimously frowned at such suggestions, as they admonished and pointed out to the canvassers that APC is now a family, a single political party and not one made up of segments.
While these debates are ongoing and supporters of the two leading contestants are wooing senators to file behind their candidates, we gathered that one of the groups has been spending money lavishly with the hope of inducing senators to vote for their candidate.
We gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari is not happy with the monetary dimension of this contest. Our source said the president’s attitude is that the contest for the Senate President is an intra-party affair; “so he wondered why people should go to that length in such a family affair.”
State-by-state findings of the likely voting pattern of the senators showed that the race for the position of senate president is still too close-to-call.
In the South-East geopolitical zone, Abia State with three PDP senators, only one, Senator-elect, Mao Ohuabunwa, is said to have decided to back Saraki.
The other two Senators, Theodore Orji and Enyinnaya Abaribe are said to be undecided. Observers however say that Abaribe’s closeness to Lawan may push him to vote for the Yobe lawmaker.
In Imo State also with three PDP Senators, Senators Hope Uzodinma, Samuel Anyanwu and Achonu Athanasius Nneji are said to be undecided and may vote according to their party’s dictate.
In Enugu State with three PDP Senators, Ike Ekweremadu, Gilbert Nnaji and Utazi Chukwuka are said to be undecided but Ekweremadu is said to have sympathy for Saraki.
Anambra State with three PDP senators, Andy Uba, Uche Ekwunife and Stella Adaeze Oduah; only Andy Uba is likely to vote for Saraki due to his closeness to the Kwara Central Senator.
Senators Ekwunife and Oduah are said to be undecided and may vote according to PDP’s dictate.
In Ebonyi State also with three PDP Senators: Samuel Egwu, Ogba Joseph Obinna and Sunday Ogbuoji, only Egwu is likely to vote for Saraki while the other two are said to be undecided.
In the South-South geopolitical zone, Akwa Ibom State with three PDP Senators, namely Godswill Akpabio, Nelson Effiong and Bassey Albert Akpan are said to be undecided on who to vote for.
Akpabio who played a major role in the election of the other two senators from Akwa Ibom State is likely to decide how they will vote.
Bayelsa State senators, Emmanuel Paulker, Murray Bruce Ben and Ogola Foster, all PDP senators, are said to be for Lawan.
In Rivers State with three PDP senators.
In Edo State with two PDP senators and one APC senator, Clifford Ordia (PDP), Mathew Urhoghide (PDP) and Francis Alimikhena (APC), the two PDP Senators are said to be undecided while the only APC senator is likely to vote for Lawan. However, Alimikhena is said to be close to Saraki, closeness which may inform how he votes.
In Cross River State with three PDP senators, John Owan Enoh, Rose Okoji Oko and Gershom Henry Bassey, the senators are said to be undecided.
In Delta State with three PDP Senators, while Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Delta North Senatorial District, has openly opted to vote for Saraki, the other two senators, James Manager and Ighoyota Amori are said to be undecided.
Majority of senators from the South-West geopolitical zone are overtly rooting for Lawan as Senate President.
In Lagos State, the three APC Senators, Oluremi Tinubu, Olugbenga Ashafa and Senator-elect Adeola Solomon Olamilekan have not hidden their preference and support for Lawan.
The same scenario is also playing out in Osun State where the three APC Senators, Olusola Adeyeye, Babajide Christopher Omoworare and Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke are said to have decided to vote for Lawan.
In Ogun State with two APC senators, Olanrewaju Tejuose and Joseph Dada and one PDP Senator, Buruji Kashamu, the votes are likely to be divided.
The two APC Senators are likely to vote for Lawan while the PDP Senator may go for Saraki.
In Ondo State, the coast is not quite clear though Senator Robert Ajayi Borofice (APC) has openly shown support for Lawan’s Senate Presidency.
The other two senators from the state, Senator Donald Alasoadura (APC)was seen in company with Saraki supporters while the only PDP senator from the state, Yele Omogunwa, is said to be undecided.
In Oyo State with three APC senators, Monsurat Sunmonu, Buhari Adulfatai and Rilwan Akanbi, the coast is also not quite clear. The senators are said to be undecided.
In Ekiti State with three PDP Senators, Duro Samuel Faseyi, Fatimat Olufunke Raji-Rasaki and Biodun Olujimi, the three senators are likely to vote according to the position of PDP.
North-West geopolitical zone with APC senators will play a major role in who becomes the Senate President if the zone decides to vote in bloc.
In Sokoto State with three APC senators, Ibrahim Gobir, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and Ibrahim Abdullahi, the three senators are said to have identified with Saraki.
In Kano State with three APC senators, Barau Jibrin, Mohammed Rabiu Musa and Kabiru Gaya, are likely to vote for Lawan.
Kabiru Gaya, a former governor of Kano State and Jibrin Barau were among the senators who met APC leaders to push for the use of the principle of ranking as one the major criteria for the election of the Senate President.
In Katsina State with three APC senators, Mustapher Bukar, Abu Ibrahim and Umaru Ibrahim Kurfi, the three senators are also likely to vote for Lawan. Abu Ibrahim for instance is one of those who are pushing that the principle of ranking should be embraced as one of the criteria for the election of the Senate President.
The vote in Kebbi State with three APC senators is likely to be divided. Former governor of the state, Senator Mohammed Adamu Aliero, has been fully identified as ready to vote for Lawan. Senator-elect Bala Ibn Na’Allah is also said to be for Lawan but the other Senator-elect, Yahaya Abdullahi, is said to be undecided.
In Zamfara State with three APC senators, Kabiru Marafa is likely to vote for Lawan while former governor, Ahmed Yerima Sani, is one of the campaign directors of Saraki. The third senator from the state, Senator-elect Tajjani Yahaya Kaura, is said to be undecided.
In Jigawa State with three APC senators, Muhammad Ubali Shitu, Sabo Mohammed and Abdullahi Gumel, the senators are said to be undecided.
Gumel is one of the senators-elect who met APC leaders to canvass the use of the principle of ranking for the election of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President.
In Kaduna State with two APC senators, Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, Shehu Sani and one PDP Senator Danjuma La’ah, only Senator Sani is known to have openly identified with Saraki. The other two senators are said to have been undecided.
North Central geopolitical zone with a mixed bag of senators will be a battle ground for the two top contenders.
In Kogi State with three APC senators, two, Dino Melaye and Abdulrahman Abubakar, are openly supporting Saraki while the third senator, Mohammed Abdulsalami Ohiare is said to be undecided.
In Kwara State there are three APC senators. The two remaining senators apart from Saraki, Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi and Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim are likely to vote for Saraki.
In Plateau State with three PDP Senators, Jeremiah Useni, Joshua Dariye and Jonah David Jang, the coast is not quite clear but insiders said that Jang and Useni may go for Lawan.
In Benue State with two APC senators, George Akume and Gemade and one PDP Senator, David Mark, Lawan is sure of securing the three vital votes.
Akume has been slated as the Deputy Senate President if Lawan wins. Mark and Lawan are said to be close. Gemade on the other hand is the arrow head of Lawan’s Senate Presidency.
In Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu is also one of those insisting that the principle of ranking should be the basis for the election of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President. Adamu is one of the front campaigners for Lawan’s Senate Presidency. On the other hand, Senators Philip Aruwa Oyunka (PDP) and Salihu Hussain Egye (APC) are said to be undecided on who to vote for.
In Niger State with three APC Senators, Senator David Umaru (Niger-East) is known to have identified with Saraki. The other two senators, Mohammed Garba and Aliyu Abdullahi are said to be rooting for Lawan.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Philip Aduda, the only FCT Senator is likely to vote for Saraki.
The North East geopolitical zone is another interesting case. Senator Lawan comes from the zone. Ordinarily one would have concluded that the zone is a done deal for Lawan but that is far from the situation on the ground. Senators from the zone are sharply divided between Lawan and Saraki.
Insiders attributed this development to the alleged influence of a money bag politician who has been spending lavishly to favour one of the two leading contestants.
In Borno State for instance with two APC senators, while Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume is solidly backing Saraki, Senator Abubakar Kyari is said to be for Lawan.
The third elected senator from the state, Ahmed Zannah, gave the ghost recently.
In Gombe State with two APC senators, former Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Senator Bayero Usman Nafada and former governor of the state, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje, have not hidden their support for Saraki.
The third Senator from the state, Joshua Lidani (PDP), is said to be undecided and may likely vote in line with the party’s dictate.
In Taraba State with three PDP Senators, Lawan may likel secure two vital votes from Senators Emmanuel Bwacha and Marafa Bashir Abba while Saraki may receive the remaining one.
In Adamawa State, Senator Binta Masi Garba has openly indicated resolve to vote for Saraki while the two other APC senators, Ahmadu Abubakar and Abdul Azziz Murtala Nyoko, are said to be undecided.
In Bauchi State, Suleiman Mohammed Nazif (APC) is one of the strong backers of of Lawan while Malam Ali Wakili (APC) and Isa Hamma Misau are said to be waiting on the wings.
In Yobe State, it is certain that Lawan will receive the three vital votes at stake from Senators Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Mohammed Hassan of the PDP and his own vote.
The remaining days before the election are crucial. The gladiators for the plum job are on the move to swing the senators to their side. Money is also said to be changing hands in a manner that will shame even money bags outside the National Assembly. That influence notwithstanding, it seems the lawmakers will answer their names this week when the senators will finally decide who leads them.
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