Sunday Aborisade and Leke Baiyewu
An aspirant for the position of the President of the Senate in the ninth National Assembly, Senator Ali Ndume, said on Thursday that he was open to consensus even as he restated his opposition to the imposition of a leader by his party, the All Progressives Party, on the Senate.
While vowing not to step down for Ahmad Lawan, the APC-favoured contender, Ndume accused his party of imposition, saying he could only reconsider his Senate presidential bid if there was a consensus among the aspirants.
The three contenders, who are all from the North-East geopolitical zone, where the ruling party zoned the seat, are Lawan (Yobe State), Ndume (Borno State) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe State).
Asked if he would consider working with Goje against Lawan on the Senate presidential bid, Ndume said he would rather opt for a consensus among the three aspirants.
The former majority leader said, “The three of us are eminently qualified. If the leadership is to be determined by consensus, I am open to consensus but I am up against imposition or asking anybody to step down. We have left our door open because all of us cannot be Senate President; one must be. And if one must be, there are two ways that can happen: one is that we can agree within ourselves and the other is for us to go for election. As for me, that was supposed to be the first thing the party should have done.”
Speaking for Goje, the convener of the North-East Consultative Forum, Mr Muslim Maigari, stated that the lawmaker would not quit the Senate presidential race.
“No, he will not. We, his supporters and admirers, are not in support of any move under whatever name calling on him to step down. We are not in support of that move, we are urging and encouraging him to remain firm in this race,” Maigari stated.
The lawyer accused the APC of trying to impose Lawan on the Senate while harassing members of the party into backing the party’s candidate.
Meanwhile, investigations by our correspondents have revealed that Senators Danjuma Goje and Ali Ndume have started wooing the newly elected and re-elected governors of the Peoples Democratic Party to boost their chances.
A senator-elect from the North-East who is close to one of the aspirants told our correspondents on condition of anonymity that the talks were ongoing and that it had yielded positive results.
He said, “We are achieving progress with our interactions with the senators-elect across party lines. We are also talking to the governors, especially those from the opposition because of their influence.
“The governors know we have genuine intention and they have assured us of their cooperation. We have also told them that all senators from their states will be effectively engaged at the leadership and committee levels.”
An associate of Goje, who is an outgoing senator, told Saturday Punch on condition of anonymity that the former Gombe State governor would formally declare his ambition before May 29.
He said, “There is no doubt that he (Goje) will contest for the position of Senate President on the day of inauguration. He already has a solid support base that would guarantee his victory.
“He will declare his ambition publicly before May 29. It would surprise you to know that President Muhammadu Buhari will not raise any eyebrow because he believes in the independence of the federal legislature.”
In a related development, the lobby by the campaign team of Senator Ahmad Lawan appeared to have yielded positive results as more senators-elect, who were initially against his emergence, have reportedly promised to support his bid to become the President of the Ninth Senate in June.
The senators-elect, who are members of the All Progressives Congress, had earlier told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity in April that they would resist any attempt by the leadership of the party to impose candidates on the federal legislature.
One of them from the North-West geopolitical zone had told our correspondents then that the leadership of the party in his state was not in agreement with the national executive of the party on the choice of Ahmad Lawan as the anointed candidate.
But speaking with Saturday Punch on Thursday on telephone, the senator-elect said, “We are now settling for Ahmad Lawan. All the challenges and threats to his leadership of the National Assembly have been resolved and we have resolved to give him our support.”