Ninth National Assembly: Meet the major contenders for Senate Presidency

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SWITZERLAND, MAY 15 – With the conclusion of the national elections in February, the ninth Senate is knocking on the door, while the eight Senate is rounding up. The eight Senate President, Bukola Saraki has lost his seat in an APC invasion of Kwara State, so the upper chamber will definitely be having a new leader soon. Who will be the next Senate president? That is the question on the minds of Nigerians as President Buhari’s second term inauguration looms nearer.

With the set-up of the current government, it has been widely accepted within the APC that the next Senate President will come from the North-East. As usual, the party executive and most visible chieftains have their candidate. However, the tussle is far from over.

Moreover, a fresh suit has been filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday seeking an order upturning the APC zoning arrangement for the principal officers of the soon-to-be proclaimed 9th National Assembly. If the case is concluded in favour of the applicants, other geopolitical zones may also jostle for the Senate presidency.

Today’s Echo takes a look at the top three contenders for the post and their antecedents:

  1. Ahmed Lawan

Ahmed Lawan, who has been a senator since 2007, is the clear favourite for the national Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, as well as national leader, Bola Tinubu and the national Chairman, Adams Oshiomole. Ahmed Lawan was also Tinubu’s choice in 2015 but aggrieved APC Senators formed an alliance with the opposition PDP and made Bukola Saraki the Senate President.

 Lawan, who represents Yobe North, declared his intention to be Senate president on March 24, with the support of several APC Senators from different parts of the country, including Ifeanyi Ubah, Sabi Abdullahi, Teslim Folarin, Ahmed Kaita, Francis Alimikhena, Opeyemi Bamidele, Muhammed Isa, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, Bello Mandiya and Abdullahi Gumel.

Lawan has a lot of things going well for him right now as he is seen as someone who will be loyal to president Buhari. In his declaration speech, he said”: I have no doubt that the party will find us compliant and very supportive of the programmes of our party and our administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

The presidency cabal may also support him because he seemed like someone who will co-operate easily with the president unlike the last leader of the upper legislative chamber. However, the ghost of Saraki still haunts the APC and Lawan’s supporters are using the Saraki incidence as a case for a Senator that is loyal to the party

However, his road to the senate presidency is far from smooth as he now has challengers. One of the factors against Lawal is that the opposition seems unanimously opposed to him because they see him as a stooge of the ruling cabal and may just become a rubber stamp on every executive policy brought to the house.

2. Ali Ndume

Up till last month, Lawan was the anointed one, until Ali Ndume, an APC Senator from Borno State challenged him and protested against the decision of the party leadership to support one candidate. Ndume’s position has been made stronger by Buhari’s unclear stance on whom he has given support. While he has agreed with the party leadership to support Lawan, he has not come out publicly to endorse him. Nigerians became confused when Ndume said he has met with Buhari and also has his support.

Ndume may become a candidate of choice for those who believe they are being imposed on. He also seemed to be a radical of some sort and someone that will not obey the executive without questioning. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo had even met with him behind closed doors, apparently to convince him to drop his ambition but the rebel senator insisted on going ahead. One of his backers is the outgoing governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima.

However, the main thing against Ndume is his image as a radical, unconventional personality who may not be able to carry everyone along. This is why many of his colleagues in the APC believe he is not suited for the job. Moreover, a past allegation that he is a Boko Haram supporter is still hanging over his neck.

3. Danjuma Goje

Former Gombe State Governor and Senator since 2011, Danjuma Goje is the third leg of a three-horse race for the Senate Presidency and may end up being the wild card. He is remarkably different from the other two contenders. While he doesn’t have the iron tight party leadership support of Ahmed Lawan, he doesn’t seem like a ‘Yes Man’. Also, he seems more cool headed that the rebel Senator Ndume. Goje seems to be a more silent player as he is reportedly gathering steady support, especially in the North east.

Last week, six political groups from the North-East endorsed him for the Senate Presidency. They are; North East Consultative Forum (NESF), North East Elders Mobilisation Forum, APC National Youth Caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and North East Youth Awareness for Good Governance.

He is also believed to have considerable influence among PDP senators, haven being a governor under the PDP for 8 years before defecting to the APC.

The only thing working against him is the lack of support from the APC political leadership and the president.

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