By Onwuka Nzeshi and Chukwu DavidAbuja
There are indications that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will field a candidate for the 9th Senate Presidency contest, if Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central) eventually fails to participate in the race.
Sources close to the Senate told New Telegraph at the weekend that the PDP has been monitoring direction of events, to see what would happen in the APC, with respect to who would contest as candidates of the ruling party before deciding on whether or not to participate in the race.
According to one of the sources, since Goje appears to be reluctant to publicly declare his interest in the Senate Presidency race for the next Assembly, the opposition party is waiting for the right time to take appropriate decision on the matter.
The source hinted that the PDP had not been definitive on whether or not it would field a candidate because the party’s intention has been to support Goje to emerge the next President of the Senate by giving him block vote.
“Don’t rule out the possibility of PDP fielding a candidate to contest with the APC candidate. However, everything is dependent on who is coming out from the APC. If Goje fails to contest, I can tell you that the PDP will field a candidate because it is Goje that the opposition party is backing.
“As it stands now, the picture is not very clear as to whether or not Danjuma Goje is going to contest because it is expected that he should have declared his intention by now. But I know that he is interested, but at the same time he is afraid that if he declares intention to run, the anti-graft agencies may come after him because he is having a pending case with the EFCC.
“The PDP can spring surprises. If Goje finally backs out, the PDP is likely going to field somebody to contest that office, and their chances are bright. I think they secured about 40 seats in the Senate during the last general election. And, as you know, it is only simple majority that is required to elect a Senate President. If the opposition works very hard, they can get 13 or so members of the APC to support their candidate, and that will give them victory,” the source said.
It will be recalled that the PDP won 43 seats out of the 109 senatorial seats in the Senate while the APC has 64, YPP has one, while one seat for Imo North is yet to be declared as the matter is pending in court.
Sources say that the PDP is more comfortable with Goje because he is perceived to be more independent minded than Lawan.
New Telegraph learnt that, just as Lawan has been lobbying the PDP senators-elect for support, the PDP chieftains are also working hard to get support from the APC senators-elect, with which to give their preferred candidate victory during June inauguration.
It was further learnt that the chances of the PDP to produce the next President of the Senate would be brighter, if Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) refuses to step down for Lawan.
“If Ndume contests, it means that he will split the votes of the ruling party, and therefore make it an easy ride for the opposition candidate to emerge victorious because the PDP senators-elect will cast their votes in block for their candidate,” a source said.
Meanwhile, the Ahmad Lawan for Senate Presidency Campaign has debunked insinuations that the ambition of the Senate Leader to become the next Senate President was the product of some godfathers and puppet masters in the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) whose desire is to emasculate the National Assembly.
Chairman of the campaign, Dr. Yahaya Abdullahi, who made the clarification at a media interaction in Abuja, said that contrary to the insinuations in certain quarters, Lawan was not imposed as a candidate, but a choice of his colleagues who believe in his leadership capacity.
Abdullahi, who led other members of his campaign team to the interaction, disclosed that they chose to support Lawan’s candidature because of his educational background, leadership qualities and cognate experience in the legislature.
According to him, the key motivation for their support was borne out of the need to have a leader who will work in harmony with the Executive arm of the government in the overall interest of Nigeria.
“We want you to know that Ahmad Lawan is our choice. It’s not a choice that was imposed on us either by the party or by the Presidency. What happened was that there was a concurrence of interests and a concurrence of vision.
“They must have done their homework like we did and found out that we need somebody with experience, somebody that is level headed and somebody who understands the independence of the legislature, but willing to work with the Executive to realise the dreams of Nigerians,” he said.
According to Abdullahi, the move to draft Lawan into the Senate Presidency race started with a meeting of some senators-elect a few days after the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The nucleus of the campaign team, he said, met with the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to intimate him about their desire to draft Lawan into the race.
According to him, the move was made because they were convinced that Lawan was the most qualified candidate for the position based on his education, competence and long years of service at the National Assembly.
“The first one is that he is the leader of the current Senate and normally in all democratic dispensations, after an election, if you don’t want too much rancour, you normally allow the leader of the caucus of the majority party to become the President of the Senate. It is actually a parliamentary tradition.
“The second reason is that when we look at the legislative experience of members of the National Assembly, the only person who could match Ahmad Lawan’s experience is David Mark and Mark is leaving the Senate. So, by the time we get into the next National Assembly, Ahmad Lawan will simply be the most experienced Senator in the National Assembly. I will say that given the instability of our democracy, the most experienced in legislature should lead us. He is simply the most experienced legislator now.
“The third plank of our support is the nature and character of the candidate.”
Abdulahi stated that it was after his group had started reaching out to other senators-elect that the leadership of the APC and the Presidency bought into the project.
Senators: Why we’re backing Lawan’s candidacy