For the first time in their eight years of leadership of the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senate President, David Mark and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu have parted ways.
The split is over who the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senators will back for the coveted position of President of the Senate between Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator Bukola Saraki.
Whereas Senator Mark is said to be rooting for Lawan, Ekweremadu is said to have thrown his weight behind Saraki.
The expectation was that PDP senators, led by Mark and Ekweremadu would vote en bloc for Lawan, so that they can be rewarded with strategic positions in the Senate, including chairmanship of choice committees.
Mark, a source close to the leadership of the Senate told Global Patriot Newspapers, had expected that Ekweremadu would mobilize the returning Senators and the Senators-elect from the South East geo-political zone to vote for Lawan but Ekweremadu has chosen to toe his own path.
According to our source, this has led to some disarray in the ranks of the PDP Senators and Senators-elect, especially as some prominent Senators-elect on the platform of the party from the zone have decided to go to either Saraki or Lawan without consulting with or waiting to be prompted by Ekweremadu or Mark.
Ekweremadu, who is said to be scheming to remain relevant in the in-coming Senate is said to be hampered by the fact that he is finding it difficult to command the following of the Senators from his zone even when ordinarily he should be the automatic leader of the zone’s Senate Caucus based on his length of stay or ranking in the upper chamber.
The Senate Presidency is hotly being contested Saraki from the North Central geo-political zone and Lawan from the North East geo-political zone. However, Senators George Akume North Central, Danjuma Goje, North East and Ali Ndume also from the North East are equally positioning themselves for the plum position.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, which commands the majority in the incoming Senate, fearing that the contest for the position could sharply polarize and fundamentally harm the party, has decided to publicly jettison the option of zoning the position either to the North East or North Central, the two zones that it clearly favours to produce the incoming Senate President.
President- elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has also refused to be drawn into the maneuvers, stating in a press release that he would work with whoever the Senators elect as their leader.
The initial calculation within the leadership of the APC had been that the position of Senate President would go to Senator Chris Ngige, South East zone, if he won his re-election bid. Since after the election, intense pressure is said to have been mounted on Hon. Uche Ekwunife of the PDP who defeated him to step aside for Ngige so that he and the South East zone could clinch the position, but she has stoutly resisted all the pressures.
Intense horse-trading is still on-going, to ensure that the incoming Senate President is chosen without rancor.
Some of the legislators are insisting that leaders of the APC are plotting to impose leaders on them, vowing that they would resist such moves. This group is insisting that the 109 members of the red chamber would, without external manipulation, decide who would lead them.
Others, however, contend that the party, being supreme, should have a significant say in the choice of leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The PDP Senators, led by Mark, had been hoping to play the winning card when the APC splits down the middle on the issue, but the division between Mark and Ekweremadu has clearly dashed that hope as the potency of a united PDP front has been significantly diluted.