Crisis yesterday hit the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senate caucus as two camps emerged after the two-day retreat in Abuja to adopt two different candidates as President of the eighth Senate.
First was Senator Barnabas Gemade who led some of his colleagues to announce the endorsement of Yobe Senator, Ahmad Lawan as the next Senate President with Minority Leader, George Akume as his deputy. Less than 30 minutes later, Senator-elect Dino Melaye, from Kogi State led 23 colleagues to endorse Kwara Senator, Bukola Saraki as the preferred candidate.
It was gathered that the open adoption of Lawan and Akume as consensus candidates for the office of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, was as a result of a directive from party leaders.
Gemade, speaking on behalf of the Unity Forum announced the adoption of Lawan and Akume for the Senate Presidency. “We, the Senate Unity Forum comprising Senators-elect from various zones of Nigeria, have met, held extensive discussions and resolved to support Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Senator George Akume as the Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate”.
“Kindly take this to be our collective decision in the best interest of our party, APC and our dear nation, Nigeria” the statement read.
But hardly had senators of the Unity Forum departed the venue of the retreat than a team of Saraki’s loyalists among the APC ranks gathered and denounced the adoption of Lawan and Akume.
In the address read by Melaye, on behalf of a group of Senators called The Like Minds, he said the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had zoned the position of Senate President to the North Central zone and their group, based on that, had adopted Saraki, who is from the zone, as their sole candidate.
“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, leadership of the National Assembly is about the Senator that has the wherewithal to stabilize 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 and 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 jeopardize 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 on the candidature of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the Eighth Assembly.
“We have also resolved that the office of the Deputy Senate President be zoned to the North East” he said.
But APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed, who was at the venue of the retreat denied any involvement of the party hierarchy in the choice of Lawan and Akume as made public by the Unity Forum.
He insisted that the senators made their own choice and it is left to them to see it through on the floor of the Senate on the day of the inauguration.