Less than two weeks to the inauguration of the Eighth Senate, 70 senators have reportedly queued behind Senator Bukola Saraki as the preferred candidate for Senate President.
The 70 senators are pushing forward a North central/North east ticket, zeroing in on the duo of Saraki and Ali Ndume as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
Feelers from the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senate caucus, however, indicate that members may insist on zoning the position of Senate President
Last week, former national chairman of the party, Bisi Akande, said the party may not zone the office of the Senate President but would allow zoning for other offices after the Senate President has emerged.
With 109 members, only 34 senators made it back to the chamber. Contenders for the Senate Presidency are now engaged in a frenzied lobby of 75 new members as their votes would largely decide who would be the next Senate President.
To actualise his ambition, Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki has reportedly secured more than two-thirds endorsements from the 59 APC senators.
Out of the 59 APC senators, 20 are returning senators but their rank is now depleted by one with the death of Senator Ahmed Khalifa Zannah on Saturday, May 16. Saraki, it was learnt, has also secured endorsement from more than two-thirds from the incoming senators.
Out of the 14 PDP returning senators, at least 8 of them have pledged to work for Saraki.
Across the six geo-political zones, Saraki is banking on the support of Sokoto State Governor and Senator-elect, Aliyu Wamakko to swing North west votes and in the North east, he has senator Danjuma Goje as his main campaigner.
In the South south and South east, Akwa Ibom State Governor and senator-elect, Godswill Akpabio and Sam Egwu, as well as returning senators of the PDP have all pledged support for Saraki.
It was gathered that members of the six regional APC caucuses are angry that the leadership of the party intends to make contenders go through a primary election.
To effectively seal standing agreements, Saraki has revived the old All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) political structure of his father, late Senator Olusola Saraki.
The elder Saraki was initially in the ANPP before he moved to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which his son, Bukola, became governor in 2003.
Regardless, Sunday Sun checks indicate that in the Seventh Senate, 40 senators set up an association called The Like Minds which intends to ensure the emergence of a brand new Senate which would enact legislations that would impact directly on Nigerians.
The group also seeks to ensure that, in the Eighth Senate, the affairs of the chamber, particularly its public image, was remarkably different from what it used to be.
Besides, The Like Minds has drawn its membership, not only from the APC but also, the PDP. As at the end of April, membership reportedly grew to 70 members, said a returning senator from the North west, who is a member of the group.
Membership of the group was extended to new senators, settling for senator-elect Dino Melaye from Kogi State to lead based specifically on his potential as “a great mobiliser. Besides, we didn’t want to discriminate by allowing a returning senator to lead,” the source within the group disclosed.
Thereafter, feelers from the party indicated that the Senate Presidency had earlier been zoned to the North central with Minority Leader George Akume as the preferred candidate.
“The only snag was that Akume is not a member of The Like Minds. With that initial zoning arrangement, Saraki became the sole candidate for the Senate Presidency.
“Thereafter, The Like Minds agreed that should the APC take a final decision that the North central should produce the Senate President, then, Saraki and Akume would be prevailed upon to sit down and agree on who should be the region’s candidate.
“The major agreement within the caucus was that the APC should go into the chamber on election day, which is also inauguration day, as one, united party.”
The entry of Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts changed the equation, it was gathered. “That was the beginning of the problem because it was perceived that Lawan was anointed by the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“When it was clear that the zoning arrangement would be jettisoned for Lawan, senators became resolute in choosing their leaders because we don’t want a situation where somebody from outside the chamber would anoint a leader for us…”
Another member of The Like Minds told Sunday Sun that, “we still believe the party would go ahead with the zoning arrangement for the post. Zoning has come to stay in Nigerian politics. You can’t wish it away now…it’s too late in the day.”
It was also gathered that there’s a break in the ranks of the North west caucus as 10 senators, out of 21, have declared support for Saraki.
In the South west, some senators are pushing for a secret ballot as some of the senators from the zone are unhappy with the choice of Lawan. “We prefer secret ballot because it is only with secret ballot that we can elect the leader of our choice…”
A meeting was reportedly held two weeks ago in Transcorp Hilton in Abuja which was attended by the soon-to-be former governors, alongside senators-elect from their respective zones.
“One after the other, each senator-elect got up and pledged to vote for Saraki. The same promise was given by some of the senators from the South east…”
In a related development, it was gathered that there may be a split in the ranks of senators from the North central as former Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Adamu, may soon declare for the Senate Presidency.
Senator Adamu, a first timer in the Senate won a return to the chamber on May 28. “Senator Adamu has started consultations across party lines and very soon, we expect him to declare his intention,” said a high-ranking member of The Like Minds.
He did not, however, disclose whether Adamu is a member of the group. Besides Adamu, all contenders for the Senate Presidency had, individually and at different times consulted with current Senate President, David Mark.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the Seventh Senate will be dissolved on Thursday, June 4 while the Eighth Senate will be inaugurated on Tuesday, June 9.