AHEAD of the resumption of the 10th Senate, next Tuesday, there are strong indications that the battle for Senate Majority leader has polarised Northern and Southern Senators, especially those from the South West.
This was as northern senators intensified their protests and pushed to produce the majority leader.
Stakeholders in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are also locked in internal squabbles that appear to be hurting the chances of its members eyeing the National Assembly minority slots.
With the election of Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau penultimate week, the focus has shifted to other principal officers; namely: Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Chief Whip, Minority Whip and their deputies.
Senators who spoke separately to CEOAFRICA source said the push by some South-West senators to produce the Majority Leader would create more tension in the already tensed 10th Senate, following the last election of presiding officers where the former Zamfara State governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari, from the North-West lost to Akpabio from the South-South.
Apart from Senate President, Deputy Senate President who must go through election, the principal offices are purely the affairs of the parties, which nominate members for such positions. However, the parties have been having a tough nut to crack in this regard.
After the polls, the All Progressives Congress, APC, emerged as the majority party in the Senate with 59 Senators, the PDP has 36; Labour Party, LP, 8; New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, two senators; and Social Democratic Party, SDP, 2; while the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Young Progressives Party, YPP have one senator each.
As it is, the six opposition parties have 50 senators altogether as against APC’s 59.
Since the lawmakers went on break immediately after the inauguration, there have been protests and lobbying for the position of the Majority Leader of the Senate by the senators, just as the President of the Senate, Akpabio and Barau have been engaging in series of marathon meetings, waiting for President Bola Tinubu to give the direction the process should go.
One of the senators said a precedent had been set where the campaign coordinator of the Senate President was often named as Majority Leader and expressed surprise why the status quo should not be maintained.
The senator, who argued that a senator with lesser cognitive experience should not be picked as Majority Leader, however, called on the National Working Committee, NWC, of APC to, as a matter of urgency, address what he described as an imbalance in the Senate where senators from the North are already feeling marginalised.
Ordinarily and with regard to the tradition of the Senate, geopolitical zones that have not produced the President of the Senate and the Deputy are expected to occupy the key positions, especially in the ruling party.
The four geopolitical zones expected to be locked in a battle for the positions are the North-East, North-Central, South-East and South-West.
The South-South and North-West produced the President of the Senate and the Deputy and as such may not be considered for other principal posts of the Senate, leaving the North-Central as the most favoured.
Ndume, Buhari, Bamidele in race
CEOAFRICA source gathered that former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South; immediate past Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central; and Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, APC, Oyo North are very much interested in the position of majority leader.
Ndume is from the North-East, Bamidele and Buhari are both from the South-West.
One interesting aspect of it is that while Ndume served as the Director-General of the Akpabio Campaign Council, Bamidele was his Deputy.
Speaking further, the Senator said: “Now, I learned that they are pushing for Opeyemi Bamidele to be Senate Leader. Bamidele is a junior senator. We know the Director of Akpabio’s campaign and Bamidele was the deputy.
“When Ahmad Lawan campaigned and got the Senate President, the Director General of his campaign organisation, Abdullahi Yahaya became the Senate Leader.
“When Ndume campaigned for Bukola Saraki, he became the Senate Leader. When Ndoma Egba was made the campaign coordinator for David Mark, he became Senate Leader.
“Now, they say they want to make the deputy campaign coordinator the Senate Leader. Even himself should not have started all these. It does not arise. So the only reason they are pushing him for the Senate Leadership position is because he is Yoruba. And they forgot that it was this same reason that made us stand for Akpabio.
“If not for some of us, Akpabio would have lost. Even despite the fight that we put up, we escaped with how many votes? Only 17 and Yari needed only nine votes to win. He got 46 already. And you know that at least there are more than 20 people that were in Akpabio’s camp because of some of us and not because of Akpabio. These are facts.
“Bamidele has never been in leadership. Ndume was a Minority Leader. He was a Senate Leader. He led the campaign for Akpabio and he’s older than Bamidele in the National Assembly.”
Senators fault Akpabio
It was also gathered yesterday that some senators are angry with Akpabio, complaining that a few days after his emergence as President of the Senate, he had become inaccessible to his colleagues.
A source also said senators are angry with him, following Monday’s appointment of the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate, who are both from the South and are Christians.
Buttressing the argument, a senator from the North said that in spite of existing practice, where the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate and the Deputy are chosen from the North and South and also reflect the two faiths- Christianity and Islam – Akpabio decided to snub the North.
The senator said: “He doesn’t seek advice. How can he appoint Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff from the South? The deputy should be from the North. He is creating problems for himself. If he had sought my advice, he would have taken his Chief of Staff from the South and Deputy from the North. It is wrong.”
PDP’s internal squabbles threaten the chances of candidates for N/ Assembly positions
Meanwhile, the chances of candidates aligned to the mainstream opposition PDP emerging as Senate and House of Representatives Minority Leaders appear to be under threat.
The threat which is due to the yet-to-be-resolved dispute between the former Governor Nyesom Wike- led Group of Five aggrieved governors and the party leadership is likely to come to the fore as opposition senators choose the Senate Minority Leader and other officers to lead the opposition.
Findings by CEOAFRICA source , on Monday revealed among other things that while in the House of Representatives, it will be a straight “fight” between Wale Oke, who is said to enjoy Alhaji Atiku Abubabak and by extension, the party’s support and Kingsley Chinda, Wike’s ally, the Senate is said to have four contenders. They are Aminu Tambuwal, Abdul Ningi, Abba Moro and Seriake Dickson.
Opposing PDP camps push Tambuwal, Jarigbe for Senate Minority leader
However, feelers indicate that the battle has been narrowed down to Tambuwal and Jarigbe Agom. Tambuwal is said to be favoured by the party because of his pedigree which includes his experience as former speaker of the House of Representatives, a two-term governor and immediate past chairman of the party’s Governors Forum. Those pushing Jarigbe’s cause are said to be aligned with Wike’s interests.
A source familiar with the situation told Vanguard: “The G-5 Governors have their eyes set on Jarigbe whom they see as somewhat of a new breed of politician who they can work with to help reposition the party in the long run. Once they get the buy-in of party leaders in their respective states the project is good to go.”
When contacted, however, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, said the desperation of Wike to cover his tracks after his term in office will lead him to seek to continue to undermine the PDP. He, however, expressed confidence that elected PDP Senators and House members have the moral courage to stand on their own and will do so on resumption.
G-5 remains intact — Ortom
Speaking on the issue, however, Nathaniel Ikyur, Spokesman for former Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, said: “Ex-Governor Samuel Ortom has said it severally that the G-5 remains intact because the group of governors came together to pursue a common cause which is built on equity, justice and fairness.”