By Henry Umoru & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA — THE criteria recently announced by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on how the Senate President in the 8th Senate will emerge is generating ripples among senators.
Meanwhile, it was learnt last night that the meeting between the APC leadership and senators-elect where a consensus on the issue of the Senate President was to be resolved may have been shifted.
One of the two camps was said to have pressed for the shift because of the insufficiency of the support it was expecting to show to the party leadership.
The APC NWC, at its meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday night, had listed certain criteria which the next Senate president must possess.
Some of the criteria stipulated that the party’s candidate for the post must come from the geopolitical zone with the second highest number of votes after the North-West during the Presidential election held on March 28.
It also said that the next Senate president must not have any corruption charges hanging on his or her neck and should be one of the most ranking senators in the current Fourth Republic.
A senator privy to the meeting said the leadership of the party was mandated to, within three days, present the most eligible aspirant as consensus candidate for the post based on the listed criteria during inauguration next week.
The two leading contestants are Senators Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central) and Ahmad Lawan ( Yobe North ).
Two groups, “Like Minds Senators” and the “Senate Unity Forum” who were supporting the candidature of Saraki and Lawan respectively, had claimed to have secured the endorsement of enough numbers of senators to win the race.
While the Saraki camp compiled a list containing the names of 34 APC senators- elect, the Lawan loyalists claimed that 40 APC senators-elect had endorsed the Yobe senator as their consensus candidate.
Senators-elect express fears
The development is generating serious confusion because there are just 59 APC senators-elect expected to be inaugurated in the 8th Senate following the death of Ahmed Zannah (Borno North) last month.
Some of the Senators-elect who commented on the matter, expressed fears that the decision of the APC to use criteria, considered strange to the rules of the Senate and constitution of the country, could be counter-productive.
The party had planned to announce its preferred candidate between Lawan and Saraki during a meeting with the senators-elect today, in Abuja.
But those who reacted to the issue urged the leadership of the party to allow the most popular aspirant to emerge through a due process that would be free, fair, credible and generally acceptable to all concerned.
Melaye cautions NWC
In his reaction, Coordinator of the Like Minds Senators-elect, Dino Melaye, cautioned the NWC against too much interference in the affairs of the Senate because the upper legislative chamber is guided by rules.
Melaye said: “The NWC is there to offer advice and not to determine those who will contest leadership positions on the floor of the Senate. The constitution of Nigeria and the rules of the Senate are clear on how a Senate president could emerge.”
Further investigations revealed that the imposition of a consensus candidate on the APC senators-elect might rub the party of the position because the opposition lawmakers might take advantage of the division to present a candidate.
No candidate for Senate President, Deputy — PDP
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said yesterday that it has no candidate for the offices of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
The PDP, however, denied the allegation that as a party, it was plotting to change norms at the National Assembly where the party with the majority of elected senators or members of the House of Representatives presents the leadership at the National Assembly.
Speaking with journalists, yesterday, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, who noted that the party, which has now become the new opposition in the National Assembly, was not contemplating imposing the leadership for the Senate, however, denied that it was plotting to present the present President of the Senate, Senator David Mark as a candidate for the Presidency.
Metuh, who stressed that it was an established norm that the party with the majority presents leadership at the National Assembly, said: “That was not part of the PDP retreat for members of the National Assembly in Port Harcourt. PDP has no such plot to upstage the All Progressives Congress (APC) in presenting leadership at the National Assembly, contrary to the known norms.
“The truth is that it was not discussed at all at the Port Harcourt retreat. The truth is that we have no candidate for Senate President or Deputy Senate President. The truth is that we are ready to present a credible opposition to the All Progressives Congress as the ruling party. We wish President Muhammadu Buhari success and hope he would be able to turn around the economy.”
According to the PDP spokesperson, the Port Harcourt retreat only commended Senators David Mark and Ike Ekweremadu for stabilizing democracy and National Assembly, adding: “So, it is not true that PDP is plotting to present a candidate for the Senate President and Deputy Senate President.”
PDP not plotting to present Mark—Senators
Also ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the 8th Senate, some PDP Senators from the South-West, South-South and South-East geo political zones of the country have denied the report that the PDP was plotting to present the incumbent Senate president, David Mark as a candidate for the Senate President.
In their various comments, former chairman of the PDP in Delta State and the Senator-elect for Delta North, Peter Nwaoboshi; PDP Senator-elect for Imo State, Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu and Senator Duro Faseyi from Ekiti State, separately denied that the PDP took a decision in Port Harcourt to present David Mark as the Senate president candidate.
For Peter Nwaoboshi: “There was no truth in the report that PDP has decided to field David Mark as Senate president. We know the norms, which is that the party with the majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives should present the leadership in the National Assembly.
“So, as far as we in the PDP are concerned, the retreat in Port Harcourt is meant to re strategise and present our party as a credible opposition political party.”
Senator–elect Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu said, “We know the norms and this is that the party with the highest number of senators should present both senate president and deputy senate present. It is not true that the Port Harcourt retreat was aimed at presenting David Mark as a PDP consensus senate president candidate.”
For the returning Senator, Duro Fayesi from Ekiti state, the retreat was basically designed to among others help to re strategise and position PDP as the main opposition party, adding that there was no truth in the report that PDP was plotting to present a candidate for the office of the senate president.