15th June, 2019
The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), recorded a huge victory last Tuesday, when lawmakers of its choice were elected as presiding officers of the 9th National Assembly. In the red chamber, Senators Ahmed Lawan of Yobe North and Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta Central, were elected as Senate and Deputy Senate President respectively. At the end of the roll-call of Senators during inauguration, 107 out of the 109 senators-elect were present at the chamber.
At the close of voting, Lawan who was unanimously adopted by the APC, polled 79 votes to defeat his rival, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno South, who polled with 28 votes. Ndume had defiantly contested for the position against the decision of the leadership of the APC. In the Deputy Senate President contest, Senator Omo-Agege polled 68 votes to defeat ambitious senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, who scored 37.
Not even the last minute endorsement of Ali Ndume by the PDP could stop the emergence of Lawan as Senate President. It was reliably gathered that less than 24 hours to the inauguration of the Assembly, governors, lawmakers and chieftains of the PDP held series of meetings in Abuja in a bid to influence the emergence of new leaders of the two chambers. At the end of their meetings which lasted till the early hours of Tuesday, in an apparent move to deny the emergence of the annointed candidate of the APC, Lawan as Senate President, the leadership of the PDP allegedly issued a statement urging its lawmakers to vote Ndume as Senate President.
A chieftain of the PDP who asked not to be named, noted that the endorsement of Ndume came a little bit too late. According to him, the party was all along rooting for former Gombe state governor, Danjuma Goje, but he bowed out of the race a few days to the election. The development, it was gathered, left the party’s Senators with little choice order than to support whoever they felt comfortable with.
In his acceptance speech, the newly elected Senate President pledged to be fair to his colleagues, irrespective of their political, ethnic or religious affiliation, while Omo-Agege promised to assist him to actualise his dreams.
Lawan said, “Elections are over. It shows that we voted for a united Senate and it is clear that the outcome is bipartisan. All parties, including the PDP and the Young Peoples Party voted for me, and with the outcome, the 9th Senate is ready to take off as a united Senate.”
The APC also recorded another victory at the lower chamber, following the election of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. Both men were the anointed candidates of their party.
The emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly contrasts sharply with that of the 8th Assembly, wherein the leadership of the ruling party, the APC, apparently lost control of the upper and lower chambers to opposition party. The party which had the majority of the 109 lawmakers, failed to oversee the election that culminated in the emergence of overly ambitious Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate.
His emergence could best be described as a palace coup against the interest of the APC, which he then belonged to. In connivance with the then Clerk of the National Assembly, Saraki secretly led a few lawmakers of the APC who were loyal to his parochial interest, with those of opposition PDP, to form a quorum, and conducted an election that simply affirmed him as President of the Senate and Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP as his Deputy.
The then leadership of the APC also contributed in no small measure for the emergence of Saraki as Senate President. The party unwittingly gave Saraki the leeway to enthrone himself as the Lord of the Senate. While it knew that plenary at the national assembly was to begin at 10 am, the party scheduled a meeting of its lawmakers with its leadership at the same time. So, while the loyal party lawmakers were strategizing somewhere at an hotel in Abuja, Saraki led other renegade APC Senators to the Assembly, and, with support of more experienced PDP in political scheming and calculation, rushed to the red chamber, and with the number on his side, they formed a quorum, and they went ahead with the ‘election’ and he eventually emerged Senate President. Of course, the rest is history.
This singular act hunted the APC for the four years Saraki and his kitchen cabinet held sway at the National Assembly, and could be described as a problem for the smooth running of the government of Muhammadu Buhari. His inglorious tenure frustrated the approval of several appointments made by President Buhari, and also supervised the worst budget appropriation consideration and approval, that lasted for over six months.
Of course, a leopard will always remain a leopard. Many people believed that Saraki who later decamped to the PDP at the twilight of the 8th Assembly, was APC only on his membership card, but PDP in his entire being. It was just a matter of time. And he did not disappoint.
Once beaten, twice shy, they say. Perhaps, that was the reason why the incumbent national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, did not take things for granted, in the build-up to the election of the Senate leadership. Oshiomhole did not mince words on who the party’s choices were, for the positions of Senate President, the Deputy and also of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. Till the last seconds, inside both chambers, Oshiomhole did not cease mobilising for his candidates; and it paid off, in view of the margin of votes polled by the eventual winner and his challenger.
The emergence of Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC could be said to have put paid to Saraki’s political career and relevance, both in Kwara state, his constituency and at national level, and has finally retired the Saraki political empire that held Kwara state by the jugular for several decades.
With the elections now over, it’s now left for the leaderships of the two chambers of the national assembly to hit the ground running and contribute to the nation’s development.