Barely 24 hours to inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, the candidacy of Senator Ahmad Lawan for Senate presidency Sunday received a boost with no fewer than 37 senators belonging to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) endorsing him for the top job.
Lawan, an All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker from Yobe state, was the Senate leader in the immediate past Senate.
He is to be squaring it up with a Borno state lawmaker, Senator Ali Ndume, who has vowed not to stand down his aspiration for the Senate’s plum seat.
Another major contender, Senator Danjuma Goje, recently withdrew from the race to beef up Lawan’s chances in the contest.
And in what appears a further boost to Lawan’s aspiration, lawmakers of PDP extraction endorsed his candidature.
Our correspondent gathered that the decision was reached following a meeting at the residence of former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu in the early hours of Sunday.
Prominent among PDP lawmakers who attended the meeting were: Senators Ekeweremadu, Eyinnaya Abaribe, Emmanuel Bwacha, Dino Melaye, Theordore Orji, Philip Aduda, and James Manager among others.
The support came some 24 hours after 62 APC senators openly declared their support for Senator Lawan.
Speaking to our correspondent on the telephone, spokesman of Senator Ahmad Lawan Camgain Group, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, attributed the feat to the senators’ desire to serve Nigerians.
He said the ninth Senate “is poised to deliver on the expectations of Nigerians, without taking them for granted.”
He added that come Tuesday, Senator Ahmad Lawan will emerge unopposed to clinch the Senate presidency position.
Another lawmaker, who was present at the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity, told Blueprint that the decision by PDP senators-elect to throw their weight behind Lawan stemmed from the “urgent need to bring stability to the National Assembly.”
The lawmaker said a total number of 99 Senators had agreed to vote in favour of Lawan on June 11, 2019 as Senate President of the ninth National Assembly.
“So far, 37 PDP senators have agreed to support Senator Lawan. If you take that number in addition to the 62 from APC, that gives you 99. What that tells you is that he will emerge unopposed on June 11, 2019, which is the day of inauguration of the ninth assembly.”
“The number is a clear message sent that senators-elect believe in the ability and competence of Senator Lawan to stir the affairs of the ninth National Assembly.
“This time around, we believe this collective decision by APC and PDP senators is an indicator to the fact that the welfare of Nigerians comes first. It also tells you that we are prepared to serve Nigerians differently this time around,” the source said.
Also, the speakership bid of outgoing Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has yet received a boost with the endorsement by a good number of newly elected members of the incoming ninth assembly.
At an event over the weekend, the members under the aegis of Forum of Fresh Members-elect of the Ninth Assembly of the House of Representatives, led by Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, said membership of the group cut across the six geopolitical zones.
They took turns to declare their support for Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase as speaker and deputy speaker respectively.
It was also declared at the event that not less than 183 members-elect had signed to elect Gbajabiamila as speaker and Wase as his deputy Tuesday when the new House is billed to be inaugurated in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclamation.
…Opposition shows maturity
Meanwhile, the Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan Media Support Group (SALMG) has commended PDP senators-elect for supporting Lawan’s candidature.
In a statement Sunday by its coordinator, Abdul Danladi Abuh, the group said the decision by majority PDP lawmakers-elect, including Ekweremadu was “an exhibition of maturity” by the opposition lawmakers.
It said despite party differences, the opposition demonstrated the traits of genuine elder statesmen “which demands the need for selfless disposition to personal ambitions towards engendering a polity that works for stability and in the interest of larger good.
“By their actions, the PDP senators of the ninth Senate have laid a solid foundation for a stable Senate. They have proven to be true leaders that are more interested in stability of the institution of the Senate in the interest of moving the country forward.”
The group said Ekweremadu and other ranking senators played a great role in stabilising the polity since their elections into the Senate.
“They have again demonstrated their readiness to contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s democracy irrespective of personal ambitions.”
The group also called on the remaining aspirant in the race for Senate presidency, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume to emulate his colleagues.
“Ndume, as a respected senior lawmaker is expected to toe the line of other ranking senators towards ensuring the smooth take-off of the incoming Senate slated for Tuesday, June 11.
“It is never too late to do the right thing. As brothers from the North-east, Ndume should look forward to playing a critical role in the success of the Lawan Senate. They should by now be working on creating legislations that would improve the general living conditions of people in their region and the country at large.
“We call on Ndume to consider stepping down for Lawan as a mark of respect for President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which has since endorsed Lawan as preferred candidate for president of the 9th Senate,” the statement said.
The group said as the most experienced lawmaker in the 9th National Assembly, Lawan will surely carry all his colleagues along, when he emerges president of the incoming Senate.
“With his wealth of experience in the minority and majority sides, Lawan will guarantee cohesion, fairness and teamwork in the conduct of all affairs of the 9th Senate.”
It congratulated all members of the National Assembly since 1999 on the attainment of two decades of uninterrupted legislative process, while calling on the incoming 9th National Assembly to sustain the development of democracy through effective legislative processes.
…CUPP seeks balancing
However, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has called on members of the incoming House to consider religious balance, as they settle down to elect its principal officers.
Addressing newsmen Sunday in Abuja, deputy national spokesman of the group, Comrade Mark Adebayo, said while it was not against zoning of leadership of the coming National Assembly, it was of its considered opinion that the parliament should be guided on the need for religious balance in the 9th National Assembly, “so that mistakes capable of throwing the country into avoidable crises are not made.”
He said: “The zoning of the leadership by the ruling party; (All Progressives Congress (APC) may be acceptable, but what is of concern to us is the micro zoning of positions to individuals.”
On the need for religious balance, the CUPP argued that with the zoning arrangement of the APC at the moment, the Speaker of the incoming House, as expected from the south west should be a Christian.
“The delicate religious inclinations in the country must be balanced so as to allay the fears of alleged plot of the ruling party to Islamise Nigeria”, the spokesman said.