Written by Turaki A. Hassan & Balarabe Alkassim
Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s chances of clinching the Senate Presidency brightened last night when the National Working Committee [NWC] of the soon-to-be ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] reaffirmed its earlier decision to zone the position to the North Central Zone.
Saraki, who is a former two-term governor of Kwara State, has also wrapped up the support of 35 incoming APC senators including all the former state governors who were elected senators, Daily Trust learnt last night.
APC’s NWC has decided last month to zone the National Assembly leadership positions with the Senate Presidency zoned to North Central while Speaker of the House of Representatives was zoned to the South West. Last night’s decision to reaffirm the zoning of the Senate Presidency to the North Central throws a spanner in the works for Senator Ahmed Lawan of Yobe, who has also garnered the support of many APC senators for his aspiration. His group declared at the weekend that it has got the support of 35 APC senators-elect but a source told Daily Trust that they are less than that.
Sources familiar with last night’s NWC meeting said it took the decision in line with President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s stance that the party should sort out the matter of leadership of the two National Assembly chambers in consultation with the party’s elected legislators. While Saraki has lined up the support of majority of the senators, the sources said APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is pushing very hard the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan. Former Benue State governor Senator George Akume, who also vied for the position, has now stepped down and has teamed up with Lawan. Akume is touted by the group as prospective Deputy Senate President.
However, highly informed party sources said APC’s powerful nPDP faction, made up of the five PDP governors and their supporters that defected to the party last year, are strongly rooting for Saraki. They say that Saraki was a major promoter of nPDP’s defection to APC which contributed enormously to the party’s victory in this year’s elections. The former PDP chieftains also say that their group does not occupy any major position in APC. They argue that since the old CPC has got the president, old ACN has vice president and party chairman and old ANPP has the national secretary, then the old nPDP must get the Senate Presidency through Bukola Saraki.
According to the sources, Tinubu not only seeks to get Lawan in as Senate President but will also determine who becomes Speaker of the House of Representatives since it has been zoned to his South West power base. This is in addition to Vice President-elect Yomi Osinbajo and party chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, both of them seen as Tinubu’s men. Daily Trust learnt that Tinubu was in Sokoto yesterday trying to persuade Governor Aliyu Wamakko, who is an incoming senator, to prevail on Saraki to withdraw from the race. Tinubu has also contacted Kano State governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, another elected senator, to persuade him to withdraw his support for Saraki and switch over to Lawan. It was not clear if Tinubu’s pitch with the two men made any headway. Senator Lawan’s group also visited former vice president Atiku Abubakar at the weekend to line up his support, though Atiku joined APC along with nPDP.
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