The battle for the position of Senate President is getting hotter as the June 4 date for the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly draws nearer.
The horse-trading has become so intense that a mock primary is said to be slated for Friday, May 22, in Abuja at a meeting between the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Senators elected on the platform of the party.
APC chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, a source told Global Patriot Newspapers, will lead other party chiefs to the meeting where there would be an attempt to arrive at a consensus concerning who would become the nation’s number 3 citizen.
Expected at the meeting is the APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi.
Frontrunners for the position of Senate President are Senators Bukola Saraki, Ahmed Lawan, George Akume and Danjuma Goje.
According to our source, “the battle is tough, especially as it will pitch the leader of the party, Asiwaju Tinubu against the apparent favourite of the ex-governors in the Senate, Bukola Saraki.”
The source said that Asiwaju Tinubu has already endorsed Lawan but Saraki has been the one networking, spending money and reaching out to his colleagues. The decision will be a tough one for the party he said, because if the mock primary does not favour Saraki, the decision might not be binding as rthe Saraki group would see whoever else is chosen as an imposition and the scenario that played out in the House of Representatives during the election of the present Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, may be replayed where members would go against the decision of the party leadership.
“Bukola has gotten almost everybody with him, but the party is still supreme,” the source said, arguing that if the pro-Lawan camp succeeds in getting Akume to step down for the North East geo-political zone senator and settles for deputy senate president, the battle would then be fought and won among the PDP senators who, unlike initial calculations, have split down the line, instead of entering the voting hall as a united front.
Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu are said to be on different sides with Mark tacitly supporting Lawan and Ekweremadu throwing his weight behind Saraki.
Leaders of the APC have given the impression that they would not mind who emerges the Senate President but another highly placed source within the APC insists that the leaders do not want to gamble with who holds the strategic position.
President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, has said that he would work with whoever the senators elect, former acting chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande said that zoning would not be applied in the choice of the leadership of the National Assembly, while Asiwaju Tinubu has said that merit would be the deciding factor.
However, many believe that the party leaders are not entirely comfortable with Senator Saraki who is seen as independent minded, strong willed and capable of rocking the boat.
Though June 4 is still close to two weeks away, it is believed that the outcome of tonight’s meeting would point the way that the Senators’ votes would go when the die is cast.