• Race Narrows Down To Saraki, Ahmed
• Akume Steps Down For Ahmed
• Tough Days Ahead, Oyegun Warns Senators-elect
TENSION in the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the choice of the next President of the Senate heightened, yesterday, as APC senators failed for the umpteenth time to agree on a single candidate.
Senators Bukola Saraki, Ahmed Lawan and George Akume are vying for the plum Number Three job.
After hours of politicking behind closed doors at the Ibeto Hotel in Abuja, during a retreat organised by the APC, many senators stormed out of the conference room, sticking to their guns.
First was the group of senators, which styled itself as ‘Senate Unity Forum’. It declared that all its members had endorsed the candidature of Ahmed Lawan (Yobe) for the Presidency.
Spokesperson, for the group, Senator Barnabas Gemade, disclosed that Senator George Akume (Benue) had stepped down for Ahmed. However, he did not make open the numerical strength of the forum.
Then came the group of senators, which called itself ‘Senators Of Like Minds’. It adopted Saraki as sole candidate for Senate President.
Dino Melaye, who spoke on behalf of the group, claimed that they were 35 in number, maintaining that the North Central geopolitical zone, from where Saraki hails, deserves the seat.
Explaining why Saraki has the wherewithal to lead the 8th session of the National Assembly, he said: “The issue of National Assembly leadership is about integrity, competence, discipline and leadership skills and not about fixing of candidates just for mere horse trading. Our stand is about highlighting a senator who eventually becomes the Chairman of the National Assembly and relates with the executive on behalf of Nigerians, fellow senators and the National Assembly as an institution.
“Furthermore, leadership of the National Assembly is about the senator that has the wherewithal to stabilise the legislative institution, working with the executive and judicial arm of government to be effective and perform to optimal capacity.
“In addition, we are all aware of the fact that all senators from the North Central zone have taken a firm position that they are only interested in the office of the Senate President, which has been earlier zoned to it by the National Working Committee (NWC) of our party and we are also aware that North Central Senators have resolved to abide by the resolution of the zone on a single candidate and anything short of this is an attempt to jeopardise the collective interest of the zone.
“Of the 59 senators of the APC, 35 of us present here, today, hereby, reaffirm our collective commitment and resolution to ensure Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki succeeds as Senate President of the 8th Assembly. We have also resolved that the office of the Deputy Senate President be zoned to the North East.”
Melaye, however, failed to mention the person his group is considering for the office of Deputy Senate president, just as he brandished a sheet of paper containing all 35 senators who had signed to support Saraki.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie Oyegun, has urged APC Senators-elect to prepare for challenging times.
At the retreat, yesterday, Oyegun said: “Make no mistake about it, the days ahead will be tough, and this is not crying wolf…There is no magic wand to make our economy better overnight. Against the realities on the ground, some of which I listed earlier, reviving our economy will be a long and tortuous process. Bold decisions will need to be taken, and this can only be possible if there is a synergy among our party, the National Assembly and the President.”
Delivering his welcome address, the APC Chairman said: “From the first day of this government, a total of 4.1 trillion Naira will be required for sundry expenses, including oil subsidy payment, arrears of salaries at federal and state levels and debt servicing, just to mention a few.
“Put this against the background of the falling oil prices, the unprecedented 60-billion-dollar debt which the outgoing government has left for the incoming one, the largely depleted Excess Crude Account (ECA), the 60 billion dollars that have been lost in the last four years to crude oil theft (and which are perhaps still being lost as we speak), the need to rapidly create jobs for our teeming army of unemployed youths, enhance the security of the citizenry and improve the economy, and you will begin to understand the enormity of the challenges ahead.”
Oyegun noted that while the event is not a “lamentation forum,” it was necessary that “we tell ourselves the truth about the state of the nation, and the expectations of our people.”
According to him, “to a number of our compatriots, by May 30th, a day after the swearing-in of our President-elect, all the streets in Nigeria will be air conditioned while electricity will become stable and fuel scarcity will be a thing of the past. Yes, we will get there, but it won’t happen overnight.”
“You may be required to pass important bills at very short notices. This will not be unprecedented but will require a buy-in to the programmes of the President and the Party and a willingness to work with him and the party for the benefit of all Nigerians. The demands on you will be tasking, but you are up to the task!” Oyegun added.