Senate Presidency Race Too Close To Call



• APC Chieftains Meet To Resolve Deadlock
• Female Reps Jostle For Principal Offices
• 8th NASS Warned To Reduce Emoluments 
THAT Senator Bukola Saraki or Senator Ahmed Lawan would clinch the presidency of the upper legislative chamber depends on who the question is put to. Going by some calculations, Saraki looks set for victory.

But a Lawan triumph, according to a source, is nothing short of the expected scenario, what in popular parlance could be described as ‘end of discussion’.

Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), meanwhile, held a meeting, yesterday night, with a view to resolving the stalemate.

Pointers that Tuesday’s election would favour Saraki are hinged on perception that in the South-South geo-political zone, he could get three votes from Akwa Ibom, two from Edo, three from Rivers, three from Cross River, three from Delta, and equally three from Bayelsa State.

Coming to the South East, investigations showed that Abia State could give him two votes, Imo three, Enugu three, Ebonyi three, and three also from Anambra State.   Saraki may also clinch two votes from Ogun State, two from Oyo, three from Ekiti and two from Ondo States.

There is no likelihood that he will get any vote from Lagos and Osun States.

The North West may equally favour him more except there is a sudden change of event; otherwise, he should be getting as many as 12 votes against nine for his opponent. In the zone, three votes could come from Sokoto State, two from Kebbi, two from Zamfara, three from Jigawa and two from Kaduna State.

Kano and Katsina States so far remain the stronghold of Lawan.   From his own geo-political zone, Saraki is expected to clinch nothing less than 11 votes as follows: Kogi two, Kwara three, Plateau three, Nasarawa one, Niger one and FCT, one.

The controversial Benue State is the home base of his opponent, Senator George Akume, who is contesting the Deputy Senate President slot in Lawan’s camp, as well as the spokesperson of the Lawan group, Barnabas Gemade.   It is not certain if the former Senate President, David Mark would want to vote.

Although North East is home to Lawan, some lawmakers from the zone may have since abandoned him for getting endorsed by ‘external forces’.   Senators and Senators-elect from the zone were the first to address the press, denying alleged endorsement of Lawan.

Their grouse was that it was their responsibility to select who leads the zone if and when the party decides to zone the position to the North East.

Also, there is likelihood that Saraki may pair with either Senator Ali Ndume or Danjuma Goje.    With this division, Saraki could grab some votes from the zone. For instance, he is likely to get one vote from Taraba, two from Adamawa, two from Gombe and one from Borno, totalling only six votes.

Lawan is expected to corner all the votes from Bauchi States as well as his home state, Yobe.   A Senator representing Borno State, Ahmed Zanna, who died recently is yet to be replaced.

Going by this calculation, Saraki may gather as many as between 69 and 71 votes out of the 108 members, which suggests a simple majority. Not so, said an analyst who is close to the Lawan camp.

“Although, I came short of suggesting that Akume and Lawan should agree to step down for each other, so that one would pick the position of Senate President and the other Deputy Senate President simply because I did not want to offend the sensibilities of either of these solid candidates, it was gratifying when the APC Senators Unity Forum, a group comprising 37 out of the 60 members-elect, got Akume to step down for Lawan so that Lawan would emerge as Senate President and Akume as Deputy Senate President,” said the source.

Accordingly, “That move gave birth to a very solid APC bloc in the emergent 8th Senate, leaving Saraki with the support of 23 senators to search for support in the PDP caucus to shore up his dwindling fortunes.  Knowing the senate politics and politicking as one does, the acclaimed 23-member Saraki Like Minds group cannot remain intact between now and the day of inauguration.

Saraki will steadily lose some of his supporters, who would not want to miss out in the chairmanship of standing committees, to the Lawan-Akume group, which looks good to clinch the presiding officers’ slots. “Indeed, Lawan and Akume have played the smartest politics and made the fastest move in the race for the senate plum positions.

It was clear that both might have been defeated by Saraki if they had stuck to their guns of going into the planned primaries in the APC senate caucus individually.

Having sat back to consider all the indices on ground, it was clear that the only way to breeze past Saraki was for Lawan and Akume to present a tag team or joint ticket.  That worked perfectly for them.

It also bolstered the support for the ticket among senators of the PDP caucus.  Lawan is believed to enjoy the solid support of the outgoing Senate President, David Mark.

Mark is very influential and would be instrumental to securing the support of a majority of 49-member PDP senate caucus for Lawan-Akume ticket. Saraki will get his share of support from the PDP caucus, no doubt.  “That is the scenario to expect.

The coast appears very clear for the emergence of Lawan-Akume tag team as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.  In fact, the conversation has ended as far as the race for the senate presidency is concerned; yes, what, in popular parlance, could be captured in the following words: “end of discussion!”

Meanwhile, as the nation awaits the emergence of Principal Officers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, female members of the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have begun moves to grab the Chambers’ minority ‎ positions.

It was gathered last week that a returning member and chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nkiriuka Onyejeocha (representing Isiuochi/Umunneochi federal constituency of Abia State) is favoured for the position of Deputy Minority Whip.

It was also learnt that Onyejeocha, who is returning to the House for the third time, has the support of some party leaders who feel that women should also be given a chance in leadership positions.

A source who participated in the just concluded PDP retreat in Port Harcourt told newsmen that the position of Minority Leader has been ceded to the South South and the current Deputy Leader, Leo Ogor, from Delta, is favoured to assume the position. “The PDP will at any moment release it’s zoning arrangement.

And if nothing changes, the position of Minority Leader will go to the South South, while the South East will have the Deputy. “

And majority of the people are of the view that the Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, be given the opportunity to lead the opposition as Minority Leader. But for Deputy Minority Leader, Nkiriuka Onyejeocha, from Abia State, is primed to take it.”

According to the source, the PDP, in its bid to encourage more women participation in politics is favourably disposed to having a female deputise for the Minority Leader.

He said the choice of Onyejeocha is predicated on her quality representation in the past eight years and her running of the aviation committee as chairman in the last four years.

“Onyejeocha is seen as a credible candidate for Deputy Minority Leader because she is experienced and exposed. Many party leaders also feel she has acquitted herself well in the House particularly as chairman of the House Committee on Aviation,” the source said.

But it was learnt that Onyejeocha will have to contend with Nkem Abonta, also a third-timer from Abia State. The other ranking female lawmaker from Abia is Nnenna Ukeje, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and has also been in the House since 2007.

It was also learnt yesterday that Ukeje is angling for chairmanship of the House Committee on Public Accounts, a position reserved for the opposition.

Meanwhile, another female returning member, Betty Apiafi, from Rivers State, may have been positioned for the office of Minority Whip or Deputy Minority Whip. Apiafi also came to the House in 2007 and has been an active lawmaker.

She was a staunch supporter of former President Jonathan and had refused to defect to the APC with former Governor Chibuike Amaechi. “ I can confirm to you that Betty Apiafi is also on the cards. She may be given the slot of Deputy Minority Whip if all goes well.

The PDP is a gender friendly party and you can see that in the number of positions given to women during the Jonathan regime. Remember the outgoing House Leader (Mulikat Akande-Adeola) is also a woman. So, the party wants to continue ‎in this light.”

Also favoured for a principal role is Beni Lar, daughter of the former national chairman of the PDP, Late Solomon Lar. She may also get Deputy Whip position if it is eventually zoned to the North Central. Beni Lar has been chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights for the past eight years and was first elected to the parliament in 2007.

In a related development, an environmental development expert, Architect Bongo Brown Igboegwu, has called on members-elect to the 8th National Assembly to consider reduction of their salaries and allowances as a matter of urgent national importance and a patriotic gesture.

Igboegwu, who is also the President of Brown and Brown Incorporated, spoke to The Guardian exclusively on Friday in Enugu.

He said that in view of the continuous slide in the price of oil and the deplorable social conditions of most Nigerians, “a drastic cut in the emoluments of members of National Assembly will be a step in the right direction.”

He regretted that the cost of governance is weighing heavily on the nation’s economy, stressing that even in advanced countries, the stipends paid to politicians do not serve as source of prodigious wealth but defray the cost of the immediate needs of the officials.

He said: “If what I hear about the salaries and allowances of the National Assembly is true, it should be in the interest of the legislators and Nigeria’s economy that it be drastically reduced and made public. As it stands, they earn several times more than the President of the United States of America, the richest nation on earth.

That is ridiculous.” Igboegwu, who conceived, designed and constructed the Michael Okpara Square in Enugu; lamented the rate of looting and stealing going on in government offices pointing out that the development calls for a new hash tag #BringBackOurMoney to raise awareness on the export of Nigeria’s money to other countries.

He added that corruption including over invoicing, outright stealing and insider trading in commercial banks have made it near impossible for Nigeria to have functional health institutions that could deliver quality and affordable medical care to the people.

He urged Nigerians to eschew indifference and laxity by confronting their leaders since the essence of democracy is popular participation, stressing that effective battle against corruption could only be waged with the collaboration of the citizens as whistle blowers.

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