The change that APC preaches will not be limited to activities at the Nigerian presidency. It will be tested in President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list, in the selection of leaders of the National Assembly and in governance itself.
Buhari does not want to have a hand in the selection of leaders of the 8th Senate or House of Representatives. Nor has the APC “zoned” the office of Senate president to any region of the country. In the quest for fairness in the Nigerian federation, however, the party ought to select the next Senate president from the south-east: The majority ethnic groups in the country — Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba – almost always occupy the topmost three positions.
But the south-east and its kith and kin in the south-south have no APC senator in the Senate, thus throwing the door open to senators from other zones to vie for the seat of Senate president. Fairness demands that the north-west and south-west be excluded from the race because they have the president and vice-president already.
The north-central wants to cling to the position, which it has occupied for eight years now through David Mark. Contenders from the zone have included senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade of Benue State as well as Bukola Saraki of Kwara.
The north-east wants it too. Senators Aliyu Ndume of Borno, Ahmed Lawan of Yobe, and Danjuma Goje of Yobe have indicated interest.
Fortune in the race will favour one without excess baggage: Buhari would prefer one that has no case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Other party leaders are not comfortable with a habitual drunk or a terror suspect. Most people, however, prefer someone that has been in the opposition from 1999.
Only two contestants, both from the north-east, are free from such suspicions: Ahmed Lawan and Danjuma Goje. Between the two, Lawan stands taller because Goje was once a state governor. Also, Lawan is not Hausa or Fulani but from a minority tribe.
North-west, south-west for Lawan
Following in the footsteps of the south-west caucus, the north-west caucus of the Senate has endorsed the candidacy of Lawan for president of the 8th Nigerian Senate.
At a meeting of the north-west caucus co-chaired by Abu Ibrahim (Katsina), Kabiru Gaya (Kano) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), which was attended by 18 of the 21 senators from the zone, in Abuja, the senators unanimously resolved to support Lawan from Yobe North in the north-east.
The South-West caucus had endorsed him earlier.
A source at the north-west meeting told Eyeway that the senators adopted Lawan because of his integrity: he has no case with the EFCC, he has been consistent in opposition from 1999, and therefore experienced. “We feel he is the right person that can drive the change agenda of the incoming Buhari administration,” the source said. “Moreover, he has never held any executive position.”
Senator Lawan is currently chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and credited with standing his ground in holding the executive arm accountable. He was in the House of Reps from 1999 to 2007 and has been in the Senate since 2007. Before 1999, he was a lecturer.
His home zone (north-east) has not endorsed anybody yet. Nor have PDP senators spoken with one voice. But, with his endorsement by the south-west and north-West, Lawan is almost certain to emerge Senate president in June.
The struggle for Senate president will eventually end at the Senate chambers where the senators will elect their leaders themselves through voting. Before then, however, Lawan would have got the backing of a majority. The PDP, already broken in pieces, is not likely to gang up against a popular APC candidate like Lawan and support one of its own (a former member of the PDP). Senators from the south-east may also back a candidate from the north-east because both regions have cried out against marginalisation.