An attempt by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress to elect a consensus candidate for the leadership of the Senate at a retreat organised for Senators-elect in Abuja was frustrated on Saturday as two factions emerged from the camp, endorsing two separate candidates.
The party leadership had planned to conduct a primary election for the 59 senators elected on the ticket of the party in order to produce a consensus candidate that would emerge as the next Senate President during the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly in June.
However, few hours into the retreat, a group, which identified itself as Senate Unity Forum, walked out of the event and addressed a news conference where they declared that they had resolved to support the joint ticket of Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume for the Senate top posts.
They circulated a resolution signed by Lawan (Yobe North), Akume (Benue North West) and the group’s spokesperson, Senator Barnabas Gemade, (Benue North East) wherein the senators-elect explained that their decision was in the best interest of the party and Nigeria.
The group, which did not disclose its membership strength said, “We, the Senate Unity Forum comprising senators-elect from various states and various zones of Nigeria, have met, held extensive discussions and resolved to support Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Senator George Akume, as the Deputy Senate President of the eighth Senate.”
But some hours later, no fewer than 24 senators-elect, under the aegis of, “The Like-minds,” filed out of the retreat and announced that 35 members of the group had adopted Saraki (Kwara Central) as their next Senate President.
They also said each of the 35 members of the group, had signed a document which indicated their commitment to Saraki and had followed it up by jointly signing a letter, which they would present to the National Chairman of the party, Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun.
The Senators, in their resolution, read by Dino Melaye (Kogi West) noted: “Senators of ‘The Like-minds’ are here today at the retreat organised by our dear party, All Progressive Congress, which is meant to equip and empower senators-elect of the eighth Assembly to prepare them for the challenges ahead.
“We commend the leadership of our party for this timely and well-focused exercise. The issue of National Assembly leadership is about integrity, competence, discipline and leadership skills and not about fixing of candidates just for mere horse-trading.
“Our stand is about electing a senator who eventually becomes the chairman of National Assembly and relates with the executive on behalf of Nigerians, fellow senators and the National Assembly as an institution.
“Furthermore, the leadership of National Assembly is about the senator that has the wherewithal to stabilise the legislative institution, working with the executive and judicial arm of government to be effective and perform to their optimal capacity.
“In addition, we are aware of the fact that all senators from the North Central zone have taken a firm position that they are only interested in the office of the Senate President which has been earlier zoned by the National Working Committee of our party to the zone.
“We are also aware that North Central senators have resolved to abide by the resolution of the zone on a single candidate and anything short of this is an attempt to jeopardise the collective interest of the zone.
“Of the 59 senators of the APC, 35 of us present here today hereby reaffirm our collective commitment and resolution to ensure that the candidature of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of eighth Assembly.
“We have also resolved that the office of the Deputy Senate President be zoned to the North East.”
Our correspondent observed that the South-West APC senators-elect, except Tayo Alasoadura, were conspicuously absent at the briefing, while members of the Like-minds senators who were present, cut across the North-Central, North-West, and the North-East geopolitical zones.
The latest development has therefore pruned down the numbers of aspirants contesting the senate presidency from four to two because while Akume had accepted to be Lawan’s deputy, Ali Ndume (Borno South), was among the senators that endorsed Saraki on Saturday.