Barely 55 days to the election of the next Senate President, the cloud of uncertainty over President Muhammadu Buhari's choice remains dense.
While the president has kept silent on his preferred candidate, the top contenders, Ahmed Lawan and Mohammed Ali Ndume, claimed they both have his coveted backing to occupy the nation's number three position.
Lawan's campaign group argues that the position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is automatically that of the president. But Ndume's supporters disagree, saying Buhari gave his blessing to their candidate before and after the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
But Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima yesterday openly adopted Lawan, urging APC members to demonstrate loyalty and do the same.He told reporters in Abuja: "I hail from the same state with the distinguished Senator Ali Ndume and I appreciate the fact that politics is local, but politics is also national.
"I fully align the aspiration of my party with the aspiration of President Muhammadu Buhari. By the grace of God, we are going to mobilise all our goodwill to see that we are fully on board. We are for Senator Ahmed Lawan. We are for Femi Gbajabiamila and all other senators and other House of Representatives members endorsed by the party." He added: "We are for party discipline that allows everyone to aspire to political offices. We believe that we must respect the party. All of us won on platforms. There is no provision for independent candidates. I don't know whether anyone has won on an independent platform."
This was as a group of elders from the state expressed fear that some forces were plotting to hijack the leadership of the ninth National Assembly for selfish gains. They also warned that this could be counterproductive to policies of the Buhari presidency.The elders on the platform of Concerned Borno Citizens made the disclosure in a statement by their spokesman, Alhaji Yakubu Umar.They said they decided to publicly mobilise support for Ndume after he confided in them that he discussed with and obtained the support of the president.
The group cautioned Buhari against alleged plots to sabotage his second term administration should the wrong person be elected as Senate President.It urged Buhari to personally scrutinise Ndume and Lawal to determine who is more loyal, experienced and qualified. Nduma is the better, having served as Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and later as Senate Majority Leader, the group said.
It claimed Ndume was removed as Senate Leader because he was perceived as too close to the presidency, and was suspended from plenary for defending Buhari's policy. It said Saraki replaced Ndume with Lawan, considered a willing partner, and under whom the presidency allegedly began to suffer sabotage.
"It is the responsibility of the Senate Leader to liaise between the Senate and the president. Perhaps this was not taken seriously under Lawan. The Senate Leader is the one who markets executive bills to the Senate and carries out any improvement such bills require to be accepted by the Senate. This is the function Lawan failed to achieve."
The group, which claimed it has the support of former governors, former ministers and leaders of the APC in Borno State, recalled that the state gave the APC over 90 per cent of votes in the recent elections. Meanwhile, a coalition, More Women, has submitted a letter to APC Chairman Adams Oshiomhole urging party leaders to support Mrs. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, who are vying for the positions of Speaker and Deputy Senate President.
According to the group, "taking this step will not only position APC as a gender-friendly party, it will also place Nigeria in the comity of nations committed to gender equality and women's participation in power and decision making. It will set a precedent for other governments across Africa and increase the gender rating of Nigeria."The coalition, consisting of over 150 organisations, made this known in a joint statement endorsed by the executive director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; executive director, Women Aid Collectives (WACOL), Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, and others.
It said: "Onyejeocha is no doubt a ranking member and has recorded landmark achievements, and worked tirelessly to advance and institutionalise societal development. As a federal lawmaker, her attendance and participation at parliamentary sittings are phenomenal. She has successfully put together and assisted in the passage of several bills into laws of the federation."
On why Tinubu should clinch the position, the coalition said: "She is very connected to her constituency and holds frequent town hall meetings with the people, a record which distinguishes her from the pool of people in the National Assembly. She is a regular, vocal and distinguished member of the hallowed chamber who hardly misses any sitting and at different times expressed support for the popular views of the people in the Senate."