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Senate Presidency: Last Minute Twists

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Senate Presidency: Last Minute Twists

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Adeboye Omoboye
Since last week Thursday, the campaign for who emerges Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives tomorrow, Tuesday June 11, has been characterised with subterfuge and skillful guile.

Of course, it has been actions and glamour of intrigues, especially as the Villa decided to openly canvass for its preferred candidates to avoid a relapse to 2015 when unintended beneficiaries assumed leadership of the 8th National Assembly.

On Thursday June 6, 2019, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Mohammed Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) announced his withdrawal from contesting senate presidency election of the 9th Senate scheduled to hold tomorrow.

Senator Goje who has never openly declared being in senate presidency race however said he was stepping down for Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe).

Goje later tweeted on his Twitter handle @mdgoje1 that he stepped down from the race for Lawan for national interest and out of respect for President Buhari. “Today, my meeting with President Buhari at the State House, Abuja led to my withdrawal from the Senate Presidency. “I took this hard decision in the interest of the country and out of my respect for the President,” Goje said.

However, unconfirmed report has it that Goje was in Gombe when he got a call from the Villa and had to fly in Wednesday night to honour the invitation on Thursday morning.

Perhaps, in appreciation of Goje’s withdrawal and declaration of support for Lawan, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday June 7, 2019 also withdrew from prosecuting him over an alleged N5 billion forgery of a resolution of the State House of Assembly to secure a N5 billion loan while he was governor. Also, there are charges in connection with another N25 billion fraud charge brought against Goje by the EFCC.

Also, on Thursday, April 20, 2017, the Police raided Goje’s Abuja residence following a tip off from an anonymous source. According to the Police, a total of $19,000 , 4,000 Saudi Riyals and N18 million cash was found during the raid.

The Federal High Court sitting in Jos, Plateau State, on March 22, 2019 dismissed 19 out of the 21 charges filed by EFCC against Goje; just as the court retained the remaining two charges preferred against him alongside three other accused persons.

At the resumed hearing of the case at the Federal High Court Jos on Friday, the Ministry of Justice lawyer, Pius Ukeyima Akutah entered an appearance and took over the case from EFCC’s counsel, Wahab Shittu.

Presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri adjourned the matter till June 21 when Ministry of Justice would Nolle Prosequi (or file for a discontinuation) of the case.

Meanwhile, by Saturday June 8, 2019, at a news briefing in Abuja, secretary of the Lawan Campaign Organization, Senator Barau Jibrin disclosed that out of 62 senators-elect of the APC, 60 had endorsed. He added that 38 PDP senators-elect have also endorsed Lawan making a total of 98 Senators that have endorsed him.

According to a PDP senator-elect who craved anonymity, the Villa is now directly involved in the campaign for Lawan, by putting up a call to respective senator and soliciting for vote for Lawan’s candidacy.

“Consequently, if virtually all the APC senators-elect have endorsed Lawan, why is the presidency, APC leadership and Lawan still soliciting for the votes of the PDP senators-elect? I think the truth is yet to be unveiled with the so-called endorsement’’, the senator said.

Former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume who is a contender for senate president position for the 9th senate, has also dismissed as unrealistic, claims by his opponent in the race for Senate Presidency, Ahmed Lawan, of having secured the endorsement of over 60 Senators – elect.

Reacting to report of Lawan’s endorsement on Saturday, Ndume noted that it was one thing to get endorsement and quite a different thing to secure actual votes.

Ndume, who spoke to journalists immediately after Lawan announced his endorsement by Senators-elect in Abuja, said Lawan laid claim to similar numbers of endorsements in 2015, and got a different result.

According to Ndume,”Well, I’ve said before that I am not looking for endorsement but looking for votes on Election Day.

“You know clearly that there is the difference between endorsement and election. You would recall too that in 2015 that story of endorsement was canvassed. He has the endorsement but what happened on the floor of the Senate was different. This kind of thing has been there all along, we have seen endorsements against several elections”

Expressing confidence about winning the election, Ndume stated: “We are there already and shall become past in question of hours from now. I believe that my colleagues shall vote according to their conscience and they shall vote for a candidate that is more suitable for the position of the Senate President. I am not bothered about endorsement rather am more worried about the election.

“As I’ve said, I shall go into the election on Tuesday and it shall have two sides which is it is either one loses or wins. I do my numbering too. But I do my numbering not by publishing my colleagues name”, Ndume added.

According to a senator close to Ndume, despite claims by Lawan to have obtained the endorsement of over 90% of the 109 senators-elect, indications abound that Ndume has instantaneously become prime bride of the oppositions amongst the APC and PDP senators-elect.

“You know so many senators have axe to grind with the APC leadership, especially the way and manner APC national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole treated some people prior to the 2019 general elections.

“Even the villa’s involvement in the campaign for Lawan is a liability and not an asset. Many would recall that immediately the President was re-elected, he left the APC governors seeking re-election and host of others on their own.

“There’s no love lost between APC and the PDP, so don’t expect the PDP senators-elect to vote for the APC preferred candidates. This is natural, the PDP senators went for Saraki in 2015 to spite the APC, and all that should be expected again and again’’, the senator said.

Perhaps, this informed the contribution of Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west, PDP) on the floor of the senate during its valedictory session on Tuesday June 6, 2019 when he rhetorically dismissed attempts of the presidency and APC leadership to impose National Assembly leadership.

Melaye said, “Going further, I want to advise us as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that once you take the oath of office, you cease to represent your political party, religious organisation, a cabal on this platform.

‘’We must know that in the Ninth Assembly, fortunately or unfortunately, some of us are going to be there. We will continue to do what we’ve been doing without fear or favour so that Nigeria shall be ahead of any political permutation, presidential or gubernatorial, party permutation. Nigeria shall come first before any selfish interest. And we will stand by that and continue to speak the truth not minding whose ox is gored.

‘’I congratulate my colleagues who are coming back. You have another opportunity to prove that you are truly a Nigerian because no Nigerian is more Nigerian than any other Nigerian. We must prove that we are here on behalf of the people. And we must continue to do only those things that will promote the unity and prosperity of Nigeria.

‘’Enough of presidential orders, enough of party directives. Any order that is contrary to the progress, unity and prosperity of Nigeria should not be entertained on the floor of the Senate’’, Melaye said.

According to a political commentator, Samuel Anufuoro, if Ndume’s courage is sustained to the end, Goje’s withdrawal shall turn-out to be of help to him. As long as senate presidency election is conducted through secret balloting, which is too late to amend now except APC want to collapse nation’s democracy, surprises are bound to happen on Tuesday’’.

The reception Ndume might have gotten from some APC and PDP senators-elect perhaps gave him the confidence he has been expressing about outcome of the senate presidency race. Shortly after the news of Goje’s withdrawal circulated, Senator Ndume told newsmen that he has no intention to step down for anybody, saying he is in the senate presidency race and highly sure of winning it.

Senator Ndume who fielded questions with journalists at the National Assembly shortly after he alighted from the senate chamber on Thursday said nobody has ever invited him from the Villa ostensibly to ask him to drop his aspiration or step down for anybody.

While making tacit reference to Goje’s withdrawal during his contribution at the valedictory session of senate plenary, he said whenever he believes on something he follows it up to the end.

Ndume said there won’t be any cause at this hour to drop his aspiration, meaning the die is cast already or it is too late in the day to consider such a thought.

‘’I am very much in the race, and I have a lot of the senators-elect cutting across political party lines rooting for me already. Nobody has invited me to the Villa for any talk, and there’s no cause for it at this moment in time. I’ll contest for the 9th Senate President position, Insha Allah tomorrow”

Senator Ndume who took time to praise Senate President, Bukola Saraki during the valedictory session of the 8th senate on Thursday however warned the 9th Senate against compromising the independence of the legislative arm of government.

He said independence of the legislative arm is imperative because the only difference between the rules of the military or any form of tyrannical rules is the institution of legislature arm of government.

Senator Ndume said, ‘’We have been together for the past four years in the 8th senate. We have at times had cause to disagree with you (senate president), but I respect him for one thing and that is his unequal resilience and standing for what he believes in. Perhaps that was why he and I had some differences because I also stand for what I believe in, just as I try to take it to the end.

‘’My greatest concern is the independence of this institution, which is not to say that we should not work in harmony with the other arms of government; but it is incumbent on us not to compromise independence of the legislature which I see as the most dangerous thing coming our way in the next senate.

‘’The only difference between the rules of the military or any form of tyrannical rules is this institution or legislature arm of government. We need to support other arms of government but must avoid doing so by acquiescing or compromising the principle governing independence of the legislative arm of government’’.

Speaking after Goje stepped down for him, Lawan thanked President Buhari, el-Rufai and Goje for making the agreement possible. He said the endorsement by Goje was going to bring so much unity in the APC and indeed in the entire Senate in a bi-partisan fashion.

“I believe that is the way to go, we want to go to the ninth Senate focused and united right from onset, kick start our activities which is very important at this time. The country needs a Senate that is focused and united for optimum performance and I believe that the senators-elect will be happy to hear that this has been achieved. I want to thank Senator Goje, he is a very experienced politician like he has said; he has been in this business much longer and then most of us really. I respect him; even when there were so many clamours for him to run for the position of the president of the senate, he never came out to publicly to declare.

However, it is expected that the drama, razzle-dazzling, intrigues and perhaps arms twisting to whip senators in line shall know no end until the election for the emergence of senate president of the 9th senate is held, won and lost.  This shall not be limited to the presidency and APC leadership preferred candidacy of Lawan but also with Ndume.

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