BY HENRY UMORU
With the conduct of February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections and the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the next stage of battle and permutations would be who becomes number three citizen of the country.
The battle for who become the two Presiding officers, the Senate President and deputy Senate President would now shift to the National Assembly with intrigues, backstabbing playing out even though the present 8th Senate would elapse June 8, with the 9th Session inaugurated the next day.
Following the results released by INEC after the National Assembly election, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC has the highest number of both new and old senators, with a total number of sixty four Senators.
The opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has a total number of forty Senators, the Young Progressive Party, YPP has one Senator, bringing that to a total of one hundred and five Senators, with four yet to be declared in Imo, Taraba and Plateau States as at the time of filing in this report.
In determining who becomes the Presiding officers, the Senate Rule allows only a ranking senator to be selected for this purpose and being that the APC has the majority, the candidate will likely come from within its caucus.
Another determining factor for clinching the position of Senate President is that out of 109 Senators, the person would require fifty five votes.
Though the senators-elect have not yet stepped up campaigns for who will be Nigeria’s next number three citizen, judging from what happened in 2015 and the body language of the old Senators, the picture may be getting clearer.
The question now is, will the APC allow the 2015 scenario play out again in the choice of the Senate President and the deputy when the present Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki was able to outsmart his then party, the All Progressives Congress, APC to become the number three citizen.
Has the APC learnt its lessons from what happened then?
Recalling the 2015 Scenario, the day was June 9, 2015 and the locale was the Senate Hallowed Chamber when the then forty nine Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators led by former Senate President, David Mark, in alliance with the twenty five senators of APC, led by senator Bukola Saraki outsmarted the APC, Unity Forum senators, and their consensus candidate for the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, APC, Yobe North to elect Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PDP, Enugu West to lead the 8th Senate.
Prior to that historic day, there were issues as fifty nine APC senators were divided between Saraki and Lawan on twenty five and thirty four ratio, leaving the PDP with a bloc of forty nine senators.
Then, the Like Mind senators had projected Saraki as their preferred candidate for the position of Senate President. The APC and the Unity Forum senators on the other hand projected Ahmad Lawan as their consensus candidate for the Senate President and former minority leader from June 2011 to June 2015, Senator George Akume, Benue North West was penciled down for the position of deputy Senate President.
All is now history, as it would be recalled that prior to the inauguration, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, had issued a statement that the APC senators would be meeting with the President, Muhammadu Buhari, at the International Conference Center (ICC) by nine O’clock.
The meeting was to discuss among others, the way forward on the election and because of this many APC senators, especially those who were rooting for Ahmad Lawan were present at the proposed meeting with Buhari.
To actualize their plans, the Like Minds senators who were in Saraki’s camp boycotted the scheduled meeting with Buhari, and proceeded to the National Assembly where they actively participated in the nomination and emergence of Bukola Saraki as an unopposed Senate President.
It was gathered that while the Unity Forum senators were still waiting for the meeting, they later got the information that Saraki had been elected the Senate President.
On hearing this, they immediately rushed to the National Assembly, but unfortunately for them, before they could enter the chambers, the nomination and confirmation of Saraki as the Senate President had been concluded.
Also recall that before the election commenced, the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, in line with the Article 2 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 performed his duty of calling the Senate to order.
At the end of the day, Maikasuwa confirmed the presence of fifty seven senators, even as he said that the required forum according to the Senate Standing Rules, is thirty eight, which he said had been satisfied and directed that the election exercise should commence.
To give the process a legal backing as well as validate it, the former Clerk to the National Assembly read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, in which he directed that the election, swearing in and inauguration of the senators-elect and Honourable members-elect should be carried out on that said date by 10: AM.
Having said this, former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmed Sani, APC, Zamfara West then nominated Saraki to be elected as the Senate President, which was seconded by Senator Dino Melaye, Kogi West who was at that time a member of the APC.
Saraki was unanimously elected by 57 senators present at the session while the remaining 51 senators were at the ICC.
In continuation of the election process, Maikasuwa then called for nominations for the position of Deputy Senate President, with Senator Sekibo Thompson George, PDP, Rivers East nominating Senator Ike Ekweremadu and seconded by another Senator then from Rivers, Senator Olaka Nwogu, PDP, Rivers South East and when further nominations were asked for, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South was nominated.
Following the nomination of both Ekweremadu and Ndume, it became obvious that there would be an election and at this point, the Clerk asked that the ballot box be brought in and after the voting and counting, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was declared elected, having scored fifty four votes to defeat Ali Ndume, who polled twenty votes, while one voter was declared absent.
After the election, Senator Ali Ndume who was present during the election and satisfied with the process, congratulated Ekweremadu with a warm embrace.
With the 2019 National Assembly election over who becomes the next presiding officers come June 9th, 2019?
Top on the list from the APC for the position of Senate President are the present Senate leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North who was picked for the position by the APC caucus prior to the emergence of the Present Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Senator Lawan who is loved by his colleagues, is said to be well prepared for the position against the backdrop that in 2015, the North West Senators had adopted him as their preferred candidate for the position and the former Senate President, Senator David Mark had preferred him to Senator George Akume who was also interested then.
Of the APC Senators, Senator Lawan who holds a doctorate degree and a former lecturer, is the most ranking having come to the National Assembly in 1999, first as a member of the Federal House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007 and got elected senate in 2007.
Another thing that would work in his favour is that in Yobe State where he comes from, other Senators are coming as fresh ones and age is also on his side. He has the vigour, he is resourceful, he is diligent and articulate in his presentation, just as a former contender, Akume is out of the Senate.
Lawan’s Legislative Interest include Public Finance,Education And Appropriation.
Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan was born in 1959. He received a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Maiduguri, a master’s degree in remote sensing from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a doctorate degree in remote sensing/GIS from Cranfield University, UK, just as he had at different times, chaired the House Committees on education and Agriculture.
Lawan was elected to the Senate in 2007. In 2008, he was a member of the National Assembly’s Joint Committee on Constitution Review. In 2009, as chairman of the Senate committee on Public Accounts, Lawan initiated and sponsored the Desertification Control Commission Bill and in August 2009, Senator Lawan spoke against the proposed Kafin Zaki Dam where he said that the Tiga Dam and Challawa GorgeDam had already reduced water flow drastically, and the Jama’are River was now the main source of water in the Yobe River.
According to him, the Dams caused intense poverty, increased desert encroachment, migration and conflicts between arable farmers and herdsmen. His target achievement is to work with his colleagues to create an egalitarian society in the country.
Another Senator who has been interested and may still be showing interest is former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa West who is now seventy two years and came to the Senate in 2011.
The former Senate leader, Senator Ali Ndume, Borno South is also said to be eying the position. Ndume first came to the National Assembly in 2003 as a member of the House of Representatives and came to the Senate in 2011.
Ndume is the most Senior among the Senators from his State. While Senator Abubakar Kyari, Borno North is coming the second time, the other Senator Kassim Shettima who is presently the governor is coming as a fresher to represent Borno Central.
It was gathered that the South South would produce the Deputy Senate President and with the calculations, the present deputy Chief Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North is most suitable for the position following his experience, age and having served as a principal officer, he is already equipped for the position.
Though from the South South, Senator Ovie Omo- Agege, Delta Central was reelected, he would be adequately compensated for being a very loyal supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari with a juicy committee.