Battle for Senate presidency hots up as Lawan, Ndume meet PDP senators-elect

The two contenders for the position of the Senate presidency on Sunday intensified efforts to woo senators-elect ahead of Tuesday’s election for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly.

While the immediate past Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, met the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and some other Peoples Democratic Party senators, there were indications that Senator Ali Ndume, had got the support of some members of the opposition parties.

One of our correspondents gathered that apart from Ekeweremadu, other PDP senators-elect including Eyinnaya Abaribe, Emmanuel Bwacha, Dino Melaye, Theodore Orji, Philip Aduda, and James Manager, were in attendance when Lawan met the former DSP.

The spokesperson for the Senator Ahmad Lawan Campaign Organisation, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, confirmed that the meeting was held in the early hours of Sunday.

He said, “The 9th Senate is poised to deliver on the expectations of Nigerians, without taking them for granted. Senator Ahmad Lawan in company with other senators-elect on the platform of the APC met with some PDP senators this (Sunday) morning in the residence of the Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

“There were some other PDP senators on hand in Senator Ekweremadu’s house to receive Senator Lawan and members of his campaign team.”

He said Lawan would emerge the Senate President on Tuesday.

Attempts to speak with Ekweremadu, Melaye, Abaribe and Manager on the development failed on Sunday evening as none of them responded to calls sent to their mobile phones.

Ndume also met with PDP senators on Sunday – Associate

Also, there were indications that Ndume met with some senators-elect of the PDP on Saturday.

An associate of the senator, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Sunday, said Ndume was well received by the PDP members.

He said, “The senator (Ndume) met with the PDP senators on Saturday but he would not blackmail the distinguished senators by saying that they have endorsed him even when their party has yet to take a position on it.

“He will not mention the names of those he met with or blackmail his colleagues with any endorsement list compiled with a single handwriting.”

Meanwhile, there was apprehension in Lawan’s camp over alleged support being received by Ndume, it was gathered on Saturday.

Ndume, who had refused to step down for Lawan, was said to be confident of winning what a senator described as a “sizeable number of votes from his colleagues in the APC and majority of votes from the main opposition party, the PDP,” on Tuesday.

The senator had said he was not bothered about the endorsement given Lawan by his colleagues, adding that the voting that would take place on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday would be the ultimate decider.

Ndume, who represents Borno-South in the Senate, also said Lawan was endorsed by his colleagues for the same position in 2015 but lost to Senator Bukola Saraki.

However, the national leadership of the PDP and the lawmakers-elect will meet in Abuja on Monday (today) to take a final decision on who to support among those angling to lead the 9th National Assembly.

The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, said the former ruling party was planning to make it a “last-minute affair.”

Also, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said the main opposition party refused to speak on who the party would favour for the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Rather, he said that the party “will not disappoint Nigerians and we will have their interest at heart when we decide on what to do” on the matter.

He said the PDP “is aware that Nigerians are looking towards us for direction and leadership because it will be wrong to have a docile National Assembly. We will not disappoint them in that regards.”

Meanwhile, an Igbo group, the Umuigbo Progressive Network, has urged lawmakers-elect from the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones to vote Lawan and the ex-governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu as Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively.

It also solicited support for Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The National Coordinator of the group, Oscar Obi, said the trio had exceptional disposition to lead a rancour-free National Assembly.

He said the call to elect the three had become necessary to prevent initial and avoidable mistakes that could generate rancour in the 9th National Assembly.

Speaking at a press conference in Awka, Anambra State, Obi said the right persons should lead the 9th Senate for optimal performance.

He added, “We believe Lawan and Kalu are the right persons to lead the Red Chamber. They both have shown capacity and political expertise to a more vibrant democracy and unified Nigeria.

“Nigerians should not also forget that President Muhammadu Buhari has a great relationship with the two. With this, we are rest assured of a smooth relationship between both arms of government to promote good governance and implement policies that would have direct impact on the lives of the electorate and alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

“We cannot think of no one better suited to be the speaker at this critical moment in history than Femi Gbajabiamila. Through his motions and bills, he has been an unquestionable champion of Nigerians’ interest.

“Already, 178 members-elect have declared their support for Gbajabiamila. Just recently, the opposition PDP instructed lawmakers-elect under its platform to support Gbajabiamila.

“This again tells how much we are collectively getting it right as a country.

“Gbajabiamila is presently the most experienced of all the lawmakers, and he has remained one of the most productive members of the House of Representatives.”

 Meanwhile, lawmakers supporting Gbajabiamila’s speakership in the 9th National Assembly have said they are ready to negotiate with members of the opposition on their candidate’s ambition.

Already, they said that they had met and secured the support of more than 60 members of the PDP and other opposition political parties.

The Director General of the Femi  Gbajabiamila and Ibrahim Wase Campaign Organisation, AbdulMumumi Jibril, stated this in Abuja on Sunday.

He spoke at an event where lawmakers supporting the aspiration of Gbajabiamila/Wase team gathered to affirm their support for the team.

Wase is the group’s candidate for the position of deputy Speakership.

Mumumi said, “We have more than 60 members of the PDP and other opposition members in the camp of the Gbajabiamila camp. We are ready to negotiate with everyone.

“The South-East caucus has declared its support for the Gbajabiamila group. Unlike 2015, we have made sufficient inroads into the PDP.

“The South-East caucus members said they were ready to partner us. The incoming speaker and his deputy listened to them.

“For other candidates in the race, our doors are opened for them.”

Meanwhile, while addressing the lawmakers-elect, Gbajabiamila said he and his team would not disappoint Nigerians if elected.

He said result of votes would be made available to Nigerians and that their constituencies would know where their lawmakers belong.

He said, “We will not disappoint Nigerians.  We will work for them and make sure that we represent their interest well.

“We will be voting electronically. We will publish the votes in major newspapers. Lawmakers’ votes will be made available to members of their constituencies.  So that they will know where they belong.”

But Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC-Edo), one of the contenders in the race for Deputy Senate President of the 9th Senate, has said he is still in the race.

Alimikhena in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, denied stepping down as being insinuated in some quarters, saying,” that will not happen.”

He called on his supporters and colleagues in the Senate to disregard claims that he had stepped down, describing it as “unimaginable, unthinkable and machinations of some very overzealous and too ambitious persons who will go the extra mile to bring down others.”

The lawmaker, who was the Deputy Chief Whip of the 8th Senate, said his decision to contest the position was with the blessing and permission of his constituents, adding that he would not dash their hope if elected.


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