Barely three weeks to the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, lawmakers loyal to the incumbent Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Mohammed Ali Ndume, are flexing muscles and spoiling for war following a disagreement over the voting pattern to be adopted in the election of presiding officers.
Lawan and Ndume are the frontline contenders for the office of the Senate president. While Ndume’s camp is rooting for a secret ballot which is currently the position of the Senate’s Standing Rules, Lawan’s loyalists are pushing for an open ballot system.
A ranking lawmaker, who spoke to newsmen, on Sunday, revealed that senators-elect who are loyal to the candidate favoured by the All Progressive Congress A(APC), Lawan, are mounting pressure on the presidency to ensure that the National Assembly management adopt the open ballot system.
Lawan’s camp has, however, denied the claim. Its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told journalists in Abuja yesterday, the camp was too busy to focus on such trivial issues.
But supporters of Ndume are insisting that the 2015 Senate Rule Book which had already been distributed to all senators-elect, be used for the election of presiding officers on the day of inauguration.
The 2015 Rule Book made provisions for a secret ballot, while the 2011 version provided for open ballot as an option.
Making further revelations, the senator who does not want his name mentioned, told some journalists that there may be a violent clash on the day of inauguration if the issue of voting pattern is not resolved.
He said his colleagues have confided in him that the inauguration may be disrupted by hired thugs.
Similarly, an APC senator loyal to Lawan, who is gunning for a key position in the Senate, said the inauguration might be disrupted if the management decides to adopt the secret ballot method.
“We are going to adopt the open ballot system because that is the standard practice all over the World. The 2015 Rule Book which made provisions for the secret ballot was forged, we must use the 2011 version.
“I cannot guarantee that the event would be peaceful if the management succumbed to the pressures of the current presiding officers of the eight National Assembly by conducting the election through a secret ballot arrangement.”
Countering Lawan’s supporter, Ndume’s loyalist warned that management must adopt the secret voting method to avoid any violent clash on inauguration day.
The senator-elect, who also spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The Lawan group are jittery that their candidate would not win if the management adopts the current Rule Book to conduct the election.
“It is clear to the pro-Lawan senators-elect that some leaders of the APC are trying to force Senate Leader on all of us and we would reject such an imposition.
“We have also learnt that they have planned to use thugs to stop some anti-Lawan senators-elect from entering the National Assembly premises on the day of inauguration.
“We have also established it from good authorities that names of some anti-Lawan senators have been forwarded to the EFCC to be arrested and kept behind bars until after the inauguration.
“We are fully prepared and ready for them. The thugs should stay out of the National Assembly affairs on the inauguration day.”
The Ndume supporter alleged that there was a grand plan to arrest some of his colleagues ahead of the inauguration.
“A ranking PDP senator was invited by the EFCC recently and would have been kept behind the bars until after the inauguration but for the timely intervention of a strong member of the APC who signed his bail conditions.
“The PDP ranking senator was actually invited over the same case that he had earlier defended before the EFCC. A principal officer of the Senate was said to have even approached him that he should openly declare for Lawan so that the EFCC would discontinue the case.”
Abdullahi who doubles as spokesman of the Senate and Lawan’s campaign organisation said they were confident that their candidate will emerge victorious.
He said they have no reason to scuttle the inauguration or resort to use of force or coercion to compel members to vote for Lawan.
He retorted: “This is news to me. I am just hearing that officials of the National Assembly were invited by the EFCC. But what I can tell is that we are not aware and we have no hand in what you are alleging; that we are using EFCC to harass them to change the rules for us or to harass our colleagues.
“We have been working and our contact and mobilisation committee has reached out to our colleagues. We are taking our campaign serious; we are not taking our chances likely.
“We have no reason to harass anyone or do anything to scuttle the inauguration. We are solidly on ground and working round the clock to deliver our candidate on the day of inauguration. This is our preoccupation and whatever you have been told is not true.
“We are selling Lawan’s strong areas to our colleagues which are integrity, intelligence and capability. We are also selling our agenda to our colleagues to buy into what we intend to do for the ninth Senate.
“I know that I am part of the outgoing Senate. To be frank, there were so many things we didn’t do right. So, our plan is to ensure that Lawan’s presidency improves on that. These are the issues.
“With what we have done, on the day of inauguration, by the grace of God, we shall carry the day and Lawan will emerge as president of the ninth Senate. No cause for alarm my brother. We are marching forward.”