By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
After the National Assembly elections that took place on March 28, alongside the presidential election, there have been intrigues among some of the ranking senators over the leadership of the 8th Senate expected to start by the first week of June.
Some senators vying for the office of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President have embarked on secret consultations to canvass for support as the leadership of the current 7th Senate, headed by Senator David Mark, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, expires at the end of the 7th Assembly.
With the result of the National Assembly elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has the majority of senators. The party, for now, has 60sSenators-elect, while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which, in the 7th Senate has the majority will now be in the minority in the 8th Senate as it has 49 senators including Mark and Ekweremadu.
The party with the majority number of senators will produce the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President. But it must also be emphasised that this is not anywhere in the rules guiding the composition or election of the Senate leadership.
The Senate rule has it that once you are a senator, you are entitled to vote according to your conscience, but it should also be noted that party influence is also considered, but it is not all the time that members succumb to the external influence as was witnessed in the case of the serving Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha respectively.
There are some considerations that may play in determining the zone or state that will produce the presiding officers of the Senate. Such considerations include ranking of senators, the state that has produced more senators for the party, the character of the person and ability to carry others along.
Some have argued that in considering the states or zones that will produce the Senate President and the deputy, the South-East zone is completely out because there is no single APC senator from the zone and that the best the zone can get is the Minority Leader as all the senators from the zone are of the PDP. Also technically knocked out is the South-South. Although the zone has one APC senator from Edo State, the member is a first time senator and not a ranking member. Besides, there is the argument that the National Chairman of the APC is from the zone, and that the Director-General of the Gen. Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, who is likely going to occupy a prominent position in the government, is also from the zone.
Also not to be considered in the zone that will produce the Senate President is the the North-West where the president-elect is from. So, the contest will be between North-Central, North East and possibly South-West.
In the build-up to the inauguration of the 8th Senate in June, about seven senators from the APC are said to be in the race for the presiding officers. The senators, who are returning, and ranking Senators are Abubakar Saraki from Kwara Central, who was among the senators who defected from the PDP to the APC; the Senate Minority Leader, George Akum,e from Benue North-West and Mohammed Danjuma Goje, Gombe Central. Interestingly all the three are former governors.
Also said to be in the race is a former National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Barnabas Gemade, from Benue North-East who dumped the PDP for APC after allegedly being denied the return ticket by his state governor, Gabriel Suswan, but defeated the governor in the election; Senator Ahmad Lawan, from Yobe North, and Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, from Borno South.
There is the argument that the position of the Senate President may likely go to North-East where Goje, Lawan and Ndume come from; North Central, which holds the position presently and where Saraki, Akume and Gemade hail from or even the South-West. However, it is going to be the decision of the leadership of the political parties in contention according to their zoning arrangement that will determine where to zone the position.
Already, there are insinuations that the battle for the Senate President may be between the former governors who are likely to engage in fierce maneuvering to grab it. But also it has to be mentioned that nothing stops the senators from the PDP, including the current occupant, Mark, from contesting for the post, everything will depend on how they play their game.
Saraki has been described as a foremost contender as he is said to have been interested in the position even in the 7th Senate. He has the charisma to lead the Senate, but it appears that certain factors may likely work against him, which include his relationship with the present occupant of the seat. It was insinuated that if Mark is not going to contest, he will not be comfortable with Saraki as the Senate President going by the intrigues that played up in the Senate.
Besides,some have alleged that the core North will not also surrender the post to Saraki because of his parental background as he is seen by some as of Yoruba stock than the North.
Goje is said to possess credentials like the former Kwara State chief executive. It was gathered that the former Gombe governor has sponsored some senators to the Senate who would likely work for him, but he also appears not to be having that cordial relationship with the present leadership of the Senate which may likely be a force to reckon with in determining who emerges irrespective of party affiliation.
For Akume, he has been described as one that is intellectually sound and articulate like some of his colleagues in the contest, but it was not certain whether other states will be comfortable allowing the seat to remain in Benue as the present occupant of the seat, is from the state.
Gemade, apart from the three former governors said to be the strongest contenders, may not also be a push over in the race if he throws his weight into it. But he has his colleagues from Benue to contend with and also the decision of the APC as he is just a new entrant who may have not contributed much to the party.
Lawan is one of the senators that is always passionate on issues concerning the North and this may likely affect him as some look at him as a northern irredentist. However, he has the intellectual acumen and capability to pilot the affairs of the Senate if handed the leadership of the red chamber.
Ndume is another senator that may be considered for the position of Senate President. Though he may not be among the topmost contenders, a Senator from the North-Central, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the senator has the qualities to be the Senate President.
He also has good relationship with Mark which, if the PDP senators decide to surrender the position for the APC, they will be comfortable with one that seems to be cool headed and who will also give respect to the present presiding officers who may be ordinary senators in the 8th Senate unless there is a dramatic turn of events.
It should also be noted that there is the possibility of Mark retaining his position depending on how he manages the situation. Whereas the PDP has 49 members against 60 from the APC, internal disagreement may likely affect the APC senators, especially the three most contending ones: Saraki, Goje and Akume. Even if the APC decides to cede the position to one person without allowing any contest, there may likely be a disagreement that may not favour the party.
But whatever may be the situation, new Senate President and Deputy Senate President must emerge by the first week of June.