By Tunde Rahman
As the 8th National Assembly is inaugurated on Tuesday, echoes of the election of the Senate President during the rebirth of the present democratic dispensation in 1999 have filled the air.
Recalcitrant Senator Bukola Saraki, who has insisted he will contest for the office of Senate President on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday notwithstanding the adoption of Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State as the sole candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), may clinch the coveted position the way and manner late Evan(s) Enwerem emerged Senate President in 1999.
Saraki, who claims to enjoy the backing of 35 APC Senators, may carry the day with the support of most of the 49 Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), now the opposition party.
The late Enwerem, whose aspiration was powered by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, got the support of the defunct Alliance for Democracy Senators to defeat the late Oyi of Oyi, Senator Chuba Okadigbo, who was the official candidate of the PDP for the Senate President election in 1999.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, coming from the same late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua’s political tendency, forcefully backed Okadigbo’s aspiration but the then President Obasanjo had gone behind Atiku and PDP to cut a deal with the AD Senators mostly from the South-west.
As it later turned out, Enwerem did not last in office. He was impeached about six months later and succeeded by Okadigbo and thus began the rat race for the Senate presidency by South-east Senators.
WESTERN POST learnt that Saraki is enjoying massive support of the PDP Senators, though he was one of the PDP chieftains who amplified the cracks in that party by breaking away in 2013 to form the New PDP.
Sources said as of Monday night, Senate President David Mark was yet to file behind Saraki’s aspiration, though his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and most of the PDP Senators are already rooting for Saraki, the former Kwara State governor and present Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment.
Most of the PDP Senators are from the South-east and South-south, where former President Goodluck Jonathan received massive support during the March 28 presidential poll.
WESTERN POST can also reveal that most of the former governors who are now Senators are also behind Saraki’s aspiration.
At a meeting at the NICON Hilton Hotel, Abuja last week, most of the former governors now in the Senate had argued that only Saraki as Senate President could protect them in case a ‘no-nonsense’ President Muhammadu Buhari begins to move against former governors with skeletons in their cupboards.
“And most of these people soiled their hands in the way and manner they ran their states as chief executives,” said one National Assembly analyst who preferred not to be mentioned.
Also in attendance at the NICON HIlton Hotel meeting, held behind closed doors, were some newly-elected Senators who were not governors previously.
The meeting had perceived Senator Lawan as too close to President Buhari. Lawan was Buhari’s Campaign Coordinator in Yobe State during the 2007 presidential election when Buhari contested on the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) platform.
About 31 APC Senators had picked Senator Lawan at the party’s primaries for the Senate presidency on Saturday in Abuja.
The meeting with the APC leaders at which the primaries were conducted had been boycotted by Saraki and his group.
Earlier before the primaries, the APC House of Representatives members-elect had also elected Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State as the party’s sole candidate for the Speakership.
Hon. Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi, who is the main rival of Gbajabiamila, and his group had shouted blue murder, saying they were not informed there was going to be any primary election.
Gbajabiamila had polled 154 votes to Dogara’s three votes but the die is now cast between the two for the Speakership on the floor of the House on Tuesday.
It is not clear yet who may carry the day between the two because whereas a majority of APC lawmakers are backing Gbajabiamila, a majority of PDP House of Reps. members-elect are rooting for Dogara.
Meanwhile, Saraki and his group had said they boycotted Saturday’s meeting with the APC leaders at which Lawan was adopted as the party’s sole candidate for Senate Presidency because they viewed such as dictatorial and undemocratic.
The group had said in a statement: “We the Senators-elect of Like Minds today 6th of June, 2015, on the invitation of our party, attended an interactive meeting with selected five members from each group, the Unity Forum and the Like Minds Group.
“Regrettably, the Unity Forum insisted on open ballot voting which we discovered is different from the electoral process used to conduct the earlier election with the House of Representatives members elect. To us, this open ballot voting is primitive, undemocratic and against universal electoral norms and practice.
“In the light of the above, we the Senators elect of Like Minds hereby insist on our position of Open Secret voting process which we believe is in consonance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the universal electoral values.
“As responsible citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and leaders in our own right, we have resolved and hereby state that we shall not be part of a process that promotes undemocratic electoral process that may resort to rancorous and uncivil situations which inhibits the rights of individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice, as this process will further divide us than unite members of our party.
“We will only participate in the constitutional election scheduled for Tuesday, the 9th of June, 2015 in line with the rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.