Olusola Fabiyi, Sunday Aborisade and Leke Baiyewu
Members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Senate may have dumped their plan to adopt and support any “friendly” member of the All Progressives Congress that is interested in contesting the position of the senate president in the 9th National Assembly
Investigations by one of our correspondents at the upper legislative chamber on Thursday revealed that the PDP senators, numbering 41 at the moment, were determined to present a candidate that would contest against the candidate of the 65-member APC caucus in the red chamber.
A senator from the South -East geopolitical zone, told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Thursday, that his colleagues were considering taking the advantage of the crack in the APC Senate caucus to present a candidate.
The ranking senator said, “It is glaring that Senator Ali Ndume will contest the Senate president seat on the day of inauguration because he is obviously dissatisfied with the position of the party.
“Rather than pacify him, the APC leadership seems not to care about the trauma and emotional pains they have subjected Ndume to by saying that the decision to pick Ahmad lawan was final.”
The senator hinted the leaders of the PDP might soon come up with a decision to adopt one of their ranking senators that would contest the Senate president position on June 9 that the 9th Senate would be inaugurated.
But another senator from the South-South geopolitical zone told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Thursday that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu); Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia); and Senator James Manager (Delta) were being considered as the PDP candidate for the Senate president position.
He said, “We already have ranking senators who have shown capacity to lead the Senate. Senator Ekweremadu has been Deputy Senate President on three occasions while Abaribe and Manager have been in the Senate since 2003.”
Not all senators-elect are happy with Lawan’s choice by APC leaders – Kalu
However, indications that the PDP may spring up a surprise on the day of inauguration, however, manifested on Thursday when an APC senator-elect, Orji Uzor Kalu, said he might be forced to contest against Lawan.
He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the decision of the APC to deny the South-East of producing the deputy senate president could force him to challenge Lawan.
He said, “It is not all the senators-elect that are happy with what they (APC leaders) did (by endorsing Lawan). As it stands now, Ndume and Goje are still insisting that they will contest and if I also contest, that means we have denied our party the right to produce the Senate President.”
When contacted, Senator Abaribe said the PDP members would vote as a group on the day of inauguration.
He said, “The PDP leadership had not met yet to decide our position. We are simply watching the APC as they continue to make a fool of themselves. We still have enough time to reach a consensus on what to do.
“However, what we have agreed to do in the PDP is that we are going to keep all our votes intact.”
Attempts to speak with Ekweremadu through his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, failed on Thursday as he did not pick calls put across to him neither did he respond to the text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Similarly, Manager could not be reached as calls made to his phone indicated that it had been switched off.
We’ll produce next Senate president, APC caucus insists
However, the spokesperson for the APC caucus in the Senate, Sabi Abdullahi, has reiterated that the party will produce the Senate President, no matter scheming.
He said, “We are engaging our colleagues in the PDP and the majority of them are actually working for us to see that we have a harmonious, rancour-free, non-tumultuous Senate.
“They are right by doing so because they are mandated by their people to come and represent them and to take dividend of democracy home not to take victories of fight on the floor home.”
Aggrieved APC senators, Reps reach out to PDP lawmakers
However, there were indications on Thursday that aggrieved senators-elect and newly-elected members of the House of Representatives from the APC had reached out to their counterparts in the PDP in their quest to clinch the leadership positions in the ninth National Assembly.
The PUNCH gathered that some national officers of the PDP had been contacted secretly by agents of those who had signified interest in the ninth National Assembly positions.
A national officer of the former ruling party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that he had been approached by agents of some of those campaigning to lead both chambers of the National Assembly.
He noted that if the PDP members cooperated they would be able to overwhelm the APC with a few aggrieved members of the ruling party.
Though he said the PDP might not negotiate for any particular position, including the deputy senate presidency, the party would “have a say in who will lead the two chambers, especially the Senate.”
The PDP national officer, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the party and the nation would not want the 9th National Assembly to be a rubber stamp for the actions of the executive.
He said, “We are watching them from afar. Some of those planning to lead the National Assembly have started reaching out to us. We are being careful because we know some may want to know our minds.
“The day we sealed our support for Saraki was just a few hours to his election. This time round, we are watching. You know the APC has less than two-thirds in the Senate. Out of this number, about 15 of them have disagreed with their party. So, you can see that those who were running their mouths that we have no role to play are not politicians. They do not know what they are saying.
“Senators are not men and women you can bully. Some of them had been two-time governors, ministers and so forth. So, for someone to be talking to them as if he is addressing schoolboys and girls, that shows political naivity on the part of the person.”
It’s difficult running a parliament without opposition – Secondus
Speaking on the move to woo members of the PDP, the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, said it would be difficult to have a smooth legislature if the views of the opposition were discarded.
Secondus told one of our correspondents that anywhere in the world, the views of opposition were needed and important for the growth of democracy.
Though he would neither deny nor confirm that members of his party were being wooed by their counterparts in both Senate and the House of Representatives, Secondus said that the two parties needed to work together for the progress of the country.
He said, “Yes, the APC members in the Senate and the House of Representatives are free to talk to us and their counterparts on the need to work together for a smooth 9th National Assembly.
“Some have said it informally while lobbying in another level is ongoing. That is politics. All those who are going to be in the two chambers are Nigerians after all.
“It is wrong to assume that about more than one-third of the legislature will not be asked to support the emergence of its leadership. Yes, majority will win and have their way, but the views of the minority are also needed to be heard. That is the beauty of democracy.”
On those the party was considering for roles in the Assembly as officers, Secondus said, “That is for the party and the lawmakers to decide. It is not for outsiders to look into for now.”
Egwu, Abaribe, Manager eye Senate Minority position
Meanwhile, three members of the PDP in the Senate are eyeing the position of the Minority Leader.
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the three men had started reaching out to their colleagues.
They are a former governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu; a former deputy governor of Abia State, Eyinaya Abaribe; and a fourth-time member of the Senate, James Manager.
Manager, who is from Delta State, was meant to occupy the position in the 8th Senate, but the leadership of the PDP appealed to him and other members of the party caucus to allow a first-time member, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to occupy the position.
The former governor of Akwa Ibom State later betrayed the party by his defection to the APC and subsequent resignation as the minority leader.
Akpabio, who currently represents Akwa Ibom North-West in the Senate, lost in his bid to return to the Senate during the last election.