Efforts to resolve the crisis over the choice of principal officers of All Progressives Congress (APC) ran into a stalemate Thursday night, even as Senator Ali Ndume defeated Senator Ahmad Lawan in a mock poll.
At the end of marathon meetings, party members from the North-East caucus of the party insisted on pushing forward their choice of Senator Ndume over the party’s preferred Senator Lawan as Senate Leader, which was zoned to the North-East.
The insistence of APC North-East senators was despite efforts, including an intervention by the immediate-past Senate President David Mark, to break the logjam in the ruling party, which had seen senators aligned to Senate President Bukola Saraki reject the party’s list of candidates for the four principal offices on offer to the party.
The list of the names of four senators chosen by the party, which had been with the Senate President, would have been announced alongside those of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators on Thursday, but for the last minute rejection of Lawan by APC North-East caucus.
APC, being the party with majority senators in the Red Chamber, is expected to produce Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip while the opposition PDP on the other hand, would produce Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.
At a mock poll conducted by senators of the North-East APC, Senator Ndume, representing Borno South led Lawan (APC, Yobe North) with nine votes to two.
Mock poll fall-out
However, the poll was quickly dismissed by Lawan who said he was not part of it as he had no knowledge of the purported exercise.
The strong insistence by Senators Lawan and George Akume, who were not at the mock poll, not to recognise the outcome of the exercise and subsequent protest by his supporters against it, as well as reported personal phone call to Saraki by Senator Mark to handle the situation with caution, forced Senator Saraki, to immediately convene another meeting of APC senators.
Also at the mock election earlier, Senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Professor Olusola Adeyeye, was unanimously endorsed by the South-West caucus of APC in the Red Chamber as the Chief Whip of the eighth Senate.
The need to have a senator from the South-South geopolitical zone among the principal officers had also led to the emergence of the Senator representing Edo North Francis Alimikhena, as the Deputy Whip, during the mock poll.
His emergence was against the view of the APC national leadership, which had initially nominated the senator representing Katsina South Abu Ibrahim as Deputy whip.
It was resolved at an enlarged meeting with the governors, Monday night, that the only senator from the South-South should have the position.
Abu Ibrahim’s emergence as Deputy Whip would have automatically disenfranchised the South-South geo-political zone from having representation in the Senate leadership.
Adeyeye’s name was on the list of principal officers approved by APC leadership in a letter addressed to the Senate President and signed by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Tuesday.
Eleven out of the 13 senators from the North-East, during their caucus meeting, voted in favour of Senator Ali Ndume as the Senate Leader.
The party had zoned the position to the North-East, but named Senator Lawan who lost out in the race for Senate President as its preferred candidate.
Also, the party’s choice for the post of Deputy Senate Leader, Senator George Akume, was said to have been rejected by the North-Central caucus of the party, who claimed that since one of them had emerged as the Senate President, it would be fair and just to allow another zone to take up the position.
Consequently, the North-West caucus also met, Wednesday and endorsed the candidature of Senator Ahmed Sani-Yerima, APC, Zamfara West, as the Deputy Leader.
I am not aware of any election – Lawan
But Senator Lawan dissociated himself from the election conducted by the North-East caucus, stressing that he would align himself with the position of the party.
He said: “I am not aware of any election. The party had spoken, it is now left for the Senate President to make the announcement.”
Earlier, on the floor of the Senate during plenary session, the move by the leadership of APC to nominate party men for the remaining four leadership positions of the Senate reserved for the party was rebuffed by the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun on Monday, June 22, after a series of meetings with the entire 59 APC senators in the Senate, forwarded a written letter to the Senate President in which Senators Ahmad Lawan, Yobe North, was nominated to be given the position of Senate Leader, while George Akume, Benue North-West, was recommended for the post of Deputy Senate Leader.
Others were Senator Olushola Adeyeye, Osun Central, nominated for Chief Whip and Abu Ibrahim, Katsina South, as Deputy Chief Whip.