By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Tony Edike & Inalegwu Shaibu
LAGOS – The battle for the presidency of the seventh Senate is shifting into a higher gear with members of the outgoing sixth Senate resuming their final days of sitting today.
While a significant proportion of the 27 returning Senators are canvassing retention of the status quo, they are increasingly being opposed by new Senators mostly from the North-East contending for the prime position on the basis of geo-political equity.
Meanwhile, there were reports yesterday of pressures on Senator David Mark to bow out handsomely from the race after a successful four-year stint for the purpose of upholding religious and ethnic balancing. That report was immediately dismissed by sources in the Mark camp which is already sensitising fresh and returning Senators for support.
Mark is in pole position within the Senate and also reportedly in favour with the presidency on account of his past efforts in upholding the polity during the trying days of the Jonathan presidency.
S-East demands 2 major positions
Meanwhile, the South-East caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in both chambers of the National Assembly has asked the party’s leadership to reserve two major positions, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Senate Presidency for the zone under the new power sharing formula within the ruling party.
The caucus said it was totally opposed to the ongoing plans to zone the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the South-East in order to retain the Speakership of the House of Representatives in South-West.
Opposition from N-Central and N-East
The opposition to Mark for the office of Senate President, Vanguard gathered, is essentially a two-fanged operation from within his North-Central zone and from the North-East zone. Senator-elect Adamu Abdullahi, the immediate past Governor of Nasarawa State, has been reportedly touted as being interested for the position. He had, however, prior to his election in an interview with Vanguard affirmed that he would not contend with Senator Mark for the office of Senate President if elected as a Senator.
The pressure from the North-East geopolitical zone, Vanguard further gathered, is presently being mounted by the 15 Senators-elect from the region who are agitating the zone to have a bigger cut in the polity. The major offices presently occupied by the zone are that of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
While agitators from the group have sought to act as a group, speculations of the group’s agenda have continued to hover around Senator-elect Danjuma Goje, the outgoing Governor of Gombe State.
Goje, Adamu 1st term members
Goje and Adamu are both first term members who would ordinarily be barred from contending for principal officer position on the basis of the Senate’s adoption of ranking.
They are, however, comforted by the fact that that clause was observed in the breach during the leadership election in 2007 when the former Clerk of the Senate, Alhaji Nasir Arab allowed the nomination of Senator-elect George Akume, then a first timer in the leadership contest.
Akume is not in contention this time having won his re-election on the platform of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Those canvassing the agenda of the North-East group, Vanguard learnt yesterday, are seeking to play on insinuations that the core North has become disadvantaged in the power calculus having lost the presidency to the South-South.
That insinuation seeks to dismiss the fact that the Vice-President is from Kaduna State and that Senator Mark is also from the North, but a Christian from Benue State.
The advocates are also canvassing that the Senate presidency should rotate to the core north after eight years in the South-East and four years in the North Central.
Those arguments were yesterday pooh-poohed by advocates of Senator Mark.
“The Senate presidency must not be reduced to such play on ethnicity and religion,” one associate of Senator Mark told Vanguard yesterday evening, asserting that the Mark camp was waiting for the PDP to unveil its zoning policy.
PDP to unveil zoning policy at a retreat
The party is expected to unveil the zoning policy at a retreat for freshly elected federal lawmakers holding between May 15 and 22.
But ahead of the party’s resolution, interested groups including the North-East group have been strategizing to push forward their cases.
A strategic meeting of one of the groups, Vanguard learnt is holding tomorrow.
S-East demands speakership
Meanwhile, outgoing federal lawmakers from the South-East are also canvassing to add the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the office of Deputy Senate President currently held by Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
Vanguard learnt that the lawmakers including elected Senators and members of the lower chamber took the decision at a closed door meeting in Abuja yesterday.