Except Nigeria’s ruling party puts its house in order, it risks making the same mistake it made in 2015 when Bukola Saraki emerged Senate President against the interest of the party.
Hours after the APC leadership at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and senators-elect announced the endorsement of Ahmed Lawan to be the next Senate president, Ali Ndume has vowed to fight on.
Mr Ndume, a Borno State senator, expressed dissatisfaction over the decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to endorse lawmakers for leadership positions in the 9th assembly.
The lawmaker said the endorsement of Mr Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila for positions of Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives may have sparked off a crisis of confidence in the ruling party.
Mr Ndume, a ranking senator, on Monday wrote the chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomole, to declare his intention to run for Senate President.
Same Monday, the party was reported to have endorsed Mr Lawan for this position at a meeting held at the Presidential Villa.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, Mr Ndume described the endorsement APC handed to Mr Lawan as unconstitutional and against the spirit of fair play.
His reaction was reported by The Nation.
He said the position of the party on who emerges the Senate President cannot stand as it did not follow due process adding that he consulted widely and was given the go-ahead by party leaders to vie for the position.
For him, the best the party could have done was to zone the slot of Senate President to a geo-political zone and allow the zone to choose their candidate
“First of all, let me say that the decision by the party to settle for an individual instead of zoning the position to a particular geopolitical zone and also consulting or allowing the senators from that zone to decide who among them they prefer as Senate President, is a surprise.
“We were surprised on Monday when national chairman of our party told us a decision had been taken to adopt Ahmad Lawan as candidate from the North-east for the position of the President of the Senate.
“The reason why I am shocked and I am sure that is the feeling of my colleagues, is that the constitutional provision for the emergence of the leadership of the Senate is clearly spelt out.
“Section 51 (a) of the Constitution says that “there shall be a Senate President and Deputy Senate President who shall be elected by members of the House.
“Section 1 of the Constitution clearly states that “this Constitution is binding on all Nigerians and government agencies.
“It went further to say that any other law that contravenes the provision of the Constitution is null and void.”
Ndume takes swipe at APC
Mr Ndume also tackled the APC on its decision, questioning the democratic credentials of its leaders.
“As a party that is supposed to be democratic and as a government that insists on allowing due process to prevail, this is strange. A candidate of APC normally emerges by one of three means, namely- consensus, indirect elections and direct primaries,” he said.
“As I said, such a decision was taken and we were not given the chance to ask questions. We were not allowed to make comments.
“The President made his remarks and after that, the national anthem was recited.
“Even the chosen candidate was not given the chance to thank us or say something about it. Those of us that have indicated interests were not consulted or given the chance to make any comments.
“I left there with that shock but I slept well notwithstanding. I am one among equal. I am just one among 109 senators. I am not better than them, except for Lawan. I came back and slept well.
“My wife and children were worried about my feelings. I was even late for the prayers in the morning.
“I try my best in everything I do and I leave the rest to God. I am now leaving this to God and those who elected me. I am going home to consult with elders who gathered themselves and asked me to contest. I will consult with them and then take a final decision.
“The party has taken a decision. I ultimately wait on the decision of Almighty God and my colleagues. That is what I will say for now.”
Asked to explain what he meant by waiting for his colleagues to decide his fate, he said:
“You should not be confused. The constitution is clear. It says the Senate shall elect its president and deputy.
“Like I said, my decision to contest for the position of the Senate President is not personal. Even my colleagues encouraged me to run. Not just the elected ones. They said I should vie for the position. Even then, the party didn’t say it had elected Ahmad Lawan. It only said it has nominated Lawan.
“The way the leadership of the National Assembly should emerge is clearly stated. Anything contrary to that means it is illegal and it can’t stand. As I said, we wait on God.
“I am not the one saying this. It is the decision of my colleagues. I am one of those offering himself to contest for the position. I can’t even nominate myself. Someone has to nominate and second me. I can’t say that a candidate has been imposed on us. The decision is now left for my colleagues. If you look at the history of the National Assembly, such decisions have never gone down well.
“In 1999, Evan Ewerem was imposed. He didn’t last. Wabara was also imposed. It didn’t last. After that, the PDP we have accused of impunity didn’t do this.
“In 2007, the PDP showed wisdom by zoning the position to North Central. That was what led to the contest between David Mark and George Akume. Because that happened, Mark served for two terms. Mark would have served for another term if PDP had won. He served his tenure peacefully.”
The Saraki Experience
Although the APC has a clear majority of Nigeria’s109 senators (over 60), Mr Ndume stands a chance for the Senate president’s seat if he is able to get significant support of the party’s lawmakers and those of other opposition parties.
Should the APC not be able to resolve its internal squabbles, the party risks going through the same crisis it went through in 2015 when Bukola Saraki defeated the APC-endorsed Ahmed Lawan to emerge Senate president.
The ruling party never got out of that crisis as Mr Saraki, now an opposition lawmaker continues to preside over the Senate.