Cover Stories, Politics, Seat of Power

Senate Presidency: Tinubu denies disagreement with Amaechi over Saraki

+ Ranking Senators Intensify Lobby

THERE’S no rift between the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi over who becomes next Senate President, ENCOMIUM Weekly has been told.

Lobby for the third most influential office in the land has, however, intensified with high-ranking senators reaching out to their colleagues and political associates.

Dismissing the alleged disagreement between Asiwaju and the former Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organization, one of his media aides, who preferred not to be mentioned said, “We’ve also heard the same story.”

The highly respected journalist who is also in the Buhari/Osinbajo media team added, “Jobless rumour mongers are certainly at work.”

But, both APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed and Tinubu’s Media Adviser, Mr. Sunday Dare, declined comments when ENCOMIUM Weekly sought their clarification on the issue on Thursday, April 16, 2015.

We also sent them SMS which they equally ignored.

“ENCOMIUM Weekly wants your reaction to the story in the media, that Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have issues over the choice of Senate President. While Asiwaju supports Senator Akume, they claim, Amaechi is projecting Saraki.  We would appreciate your clarification on this national issue, Sir,” our SMS to Alhaji Lai Muhammed and Mr. Sunday Dare read.

Investigations revealed that APC chieftains are having issues over who occupies juicy political offices after winning the 2015 Presidential election and securing absolute majority in the National Assembly.

According to our source, three main power blocs in the APC are actually at war over who gets what, when and how.

These blocs have been identified as: the Buhari/Northern bloc which is made up of the President-elect and his supporters who have been with him for 12 years and collapsed their structures into the APC during the merger process; the Tinubu/South-west bloc led by the former Lagos State governor, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu; and the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors who decamped to APC in 2013, led by the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Bukola Saraki.

“The battle for political offices is now being championed by these three blocs.  The Tinubu bloc is said to be behind the Senate minority leader, Senator George Akume, for the office of the Senate president, while the Amaechi bloc is pushing hard for the emergence of Saraki.”

It was further revealed that Akume has the backing of Tinubu and his group, which is believed to be the strongest bloc in the party, but may not have the numbers in the Senate to realize their ambition.

On why the bloc prefers Akume to succeed David Mark, we were told the Benue-born three term Senator

“has been with Tinubu’s group since its days in the ACN, culminating in his emergence as the Senate minority leader.”

Akume is also senior to Saraki in the Senate, having been in the Senate since 2007, while Saraki became a senator in 2011.

Another reason the Tinubu bloc wants Akume is the fact that they understand him far better than Saraki who is not really close to the bigwigs in the group like Akume.

ENCOMIUM Weekly also gathered that one other factor that is not in Saraki’s favour is his tribe as a Yoruba man, though geographically located in Kwara in North-central Nigeria.

The APC thinks they would have a tough time selling a Yoruba Senate president to the nation since the Vice-President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is also Yoruba. The Professor of Law and former Lagos Attorney General hails from Ogun State.

Our source noted it won’t be possible for two Yoruba men to become number two and three citizens, respectively, though they are from different geo-political zones.

Not swayed by this line of thought, Amaechi’s group still prefers Saraki to be Senate president.  Saraki, for the Amaechi camp, is the best man for the job.  Senator Saraki whom they project as a young and vibrant politician is also believed to have a formidable political structure most needed for the plum job.

The former PDP governors are also united in the choice of the two-term Senator since they lost out in other party posts.

In endorsing Saraki, the party would be compensating him for his loyalty and commitment to the APC which was in opposition before they crushed the PDP at the executive and legislative levels of governance. Senator Saraki was one of the so-called PDP rebel governors who plotted President Jonathan’s defeat.

Even the Yoruba factor which his critics feel is against his ambition does not necessarily work against him. Rather, his promoters see him as a perfect blend of the two regional poles which makes him look good for the office.  Also working in Senator Saraki’s favour is that the two high-ranking senators (Gemade and Akume) who are from the North-Central, hail from the same state (Benue) with the out-going Senate President.  That means that the state has taken their turn and should support others from the zone.

Saraki’s sponsors and supporters also repeatedly flaunt his political sagacity, mass followership  and popularity as the reason he’s fit for the prime job.

Amidst the Tinubu, Amaechi clash of interest, the agitation of North-East senators to produce the next Senate president equally has the support of the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

The senators had demanded the APC zone the position to their region, alleging they are the most marginalized zone in the country.

This position is being supported by the former Gombe State governor, Senator Danjuma Goje, who represents Gombe Central in the Senate, and by his counterparts in Yobe East and Yobe North, Bukka Abba Ibrahim and Senate Committee Chairman on Public Accounts, Ahmed Lawan, respectively.

And since it appears the power blocs might not reach a consensus, political observers predict a repeat of what happened in 2011 in the House of Representatives where the parties jettisoned their leaders’ directive on zoning.

It was against this background that Aminu Tambuwal from the North-West and Emeka Ihedioha from the South-East emerged the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively.  Thus, Hon. Mulikat Akande, the PDP- endorsed candidate from the South-West lost out to the consternation and chagrin of party leaders.

After occupying top leadership position in the National Assembly for straight 16 years, the ruling PDP has now been ousted, with APC controlling the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Again, the struggle to replace the out-going Senate President, David Mark and the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal (now Sokoto State governor-elect) is now causing unimaginable rift in the leadership of the new ruling party.  But APC power brokers are deliberately keeping mum on this development.

The 8th Senate would be inaugurated on June 4, 2015 with APC perfectly positioned to produce the President, his deputy, Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, the Chief Whip and Deputy, among other principal officers.

Ranking Senators who lost out in the race to occupy Senator David Mark’s paramount post may also be considered for any of the other plum offices as well as chairmen of juicy Senate Committees.

Interestingly, though high-ranking senators in the North-Central and North- East have intensified lobby for Senate principal offices, none has officially declared ambition.




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