9TH NASS: Epic Battle Brews in Senate

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The battle for the Senate Presidency is gaining momentum by the day.

With certificates of return issued to senators-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, the battle for the nation’s number three seat has shifted to the geo-political zones.

Impeccable sources listed North East, South South and South East geo-political zones as the front runners in the jostle for the exalted seat of the Senate President.

While the three zones are said to have stepped up their bid for the Senate President slot, the North West zone is also said to be interested in the position of Deputy Senate President.

The zones, it was gathered, are reaching out to the Presidency and the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC) to make case for themselves in the zoning arrangements of APC.

With APC’s majority of 65 members, PDP 42 and YPP 1, APC is expected to produce the President of the Ninth Senate.

Findings showed that sitting senators and others newly elected were positioning themselves to grab available leadership positions in the Ninth Senate, which may be inaugurated on June 8.

Inside sources believe that until the APC rolls out its zoning formula, the intrigue, scheming by aspirants for the coveted seat would not abate.

Front runners in the race for Senate Presidency include Senators Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South), Mohammed Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central) all from North East.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), who is also said to have indicated interest in the Senate top job, hails from the North Central geo-political zone.

New entrants for the exalted position are said to include Senators Benjamin Uwajimogu, Francis Alimikhena and Senator-elect Orji Uzor Kalu.

But some of them are regarded as mere pretenders for the top job.

Lawan, a sitting senator and Senate Leader, was highly favoured by the APC in 2015 for the position of Senate President.

Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, however, upstaged Lawan in what is widely regarded as an “unholy alliance” with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators, to become the Senate President in 2015.

It is however generally believed that the Yobe North Senator looks good to become the Senate President this time around if the APC zones the position to the North East.

Lawan is said to have already stepped up his bid to clinch the Senate top job.

He appears the candidate to beat in the contest, going by his track record and standing in the APC.

Senator Ndume contested the position of Deputy Senate President in 2015 but lost to Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

Ndume, a former Senate leader, has never hidden his desire to become the Senate President.

Those close to him say the Borno South Senator is networking in and out of APC to actualise his ambition.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu, leader of the Legislative Support Group for President Muhammadu Buhari, is also said to have oiled his machinery to give the Senate top job a shot.

Adamu, it was gathered, is leveraging on his unalloyed support for Buhari and his loyalty to APC to make a case for occupying the Senate President’s seat.

The dark horse in the race is said to be Mohammed Danjuma Goje.

Close watchers of the tussle for the seat say Saraki’s loyalists and PDP Senators may back Goje in the contest for Senate presidency.

The Gombe Central Senator, though a strong APC member, is considered “a moderate who is likely to protect the interest of PDP members in the chamber.”

PDP insiders say the permutations as to how to cast their net would be directed by the party’s leadership.

Those positioning themselves for the Senate top job from the South South are said to include the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena and the Delta Central Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege.

Observers say Alimikhena (Edo North) and Omo-Agege may be banking on the influence of APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to ensure zoning the slot of either the Senate President or Deputy Senate President to the South-South geo-political zone.

If that happens, the duo would be in a better position to clinch one of the positions.

In the South East, Senators Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North) and Benjamin Uwajimogu (Imo North) are said to have their eyes on the Senate Presidency if the slot is allotted to the zone.

Kalu, described as a “go getter” by those close to him, and Uwajimogu are the only APC senators from the South East.

The duo are said to be selling their aspiration on the plank that the South East geo-political zone would be out of the scheme of things if the Senate Presidency eludes the zone.

Senator Kabiru Gaya has made case for the slot of Deputy Senate President to be zoned to North West to enable him go for it.

Gaya, Kano South and Chairman Senate Committee on Works, has already declared his aspiration and claimed that his colleagues in the red chamber are behind him.

Gaya said: “I thank the Almighty Allah who granted me the grace of being elected into the Senate for the fourth time.

“As regards the leadership composition of the 9th Senate, majority of my colleagues are mounting pressure on me to run for the position of Deputy Senate President.

“I want to use this opportunity to announce that I’m running for the position, being one of the most ranking Senators in the 9th Senate.”

His ambition, according to the Kano South senator, is however subject to the determination and approval of the APC leadership and the Presidency.

The aspiration of Gaya, who hails from the North West geo-political zone, may alter the permutations being made for the Senate leadership positions

Observers say if Gaya emerges Deputy Senate President, it may be difficult to also retain the Senate Presidency in the North.

The South West geo-political zone is not left out in the scheming for Senate leadership positions.

Feelers from the zone show that the South West senators are waiting for the APC zoning arrangements to decide on their next line of action.

A source close to one of the Senators-elect from the South West, Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi, said that the Ekiti North Senator is eligible to aspire for any position in the Senate zoned to the South West.

“The truth of the matter is that APC still has to come up with its zoning arrangements, and depending on what is zoned to the South West, Adetunbi, as a ranking senator, is eligible and will show more than a passing interest in the slots,” the source said.

But aspirants banking on the support of the Presidency to secure Senate top jobs may be disappointed.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Affairs (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said that President Buhari believes strongly in the principle of separation of power and may not interfere in the selection process of the leadership of the National Assembly

“President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of high principles. His stand on this matter is that each arm of government should function according to what the constitution says, and that every person in government should do the right thing, and that he will not go beyond what the constitution allows him and that every other arm of government should stick to their constitutional responsibilities,” Enang told reporters in Abuja yesterday.

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