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Senate Presidency: Tinubu, Amaechi Ready For Showdown

As the contest for the office of the Senate President intensifies, various political blocs in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have thrown their weights behind different gladiators for the office.

Prior to the emergence of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as the president-elect, there were three political blocs within the APC, which won the March 28, 2015 presidential election and secured majority seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

These political blocs include 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 former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors who decamped to APC in 2013 led by Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Bukola Saraki.

Hence, the battle for who occupies which position is championed by these blocs with the possibility of arriving at a consensus in the end.

It is against this backdrop that the Tinubu bloc has thrown its weight behind 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.

A top source in the Tinubu camp told newsmen on Monday 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 number in the Senate to push through their goal.

According to him, the group is supporting Akume for three reasons. First, he said Akume has been with Tinubu’s group since its days in the ACN, culminating in his emergence as the Senate minority leader.

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

Third, the source said Tinubu and his men understand Akume far better than Saraki whom he said is not close to the bigwigs in the group like Akume.

“The Tinubu group is backing Akume because Saraki seems to be more or less an outsider (to the group). Besides, Akume has long been in ACN and he is a senior to Saraki. He is also better understood by Asiwaju than Saraki,” the source said.

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

In this regard, it was learnt that power brokers in the party have said it might be difficult to sell the candidacy of the former governor for the office to the Nigerian public in view of the fact that the vice-president-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is also a Yoruba man from Ogun State in the South-West.

A source added that it would be a hard sell for two Yoruba men to become number two and three citizens respectively even though they are from different geopolitical zones.

Despite the hurdles in Saraki’s way, the Amaechi group is said to be relentlessly pushing for his emergence as the next Senate President.

On the other hand, the agitation of North-East senators to produce the Senate President is said to have had the backing of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The senators have implored the leadership of the APC to zone the office to their region on the grounds that it is the most marginalised zone in the country.

Among the senators jostling for the office in the North-East are former Gombe State Governor, Danjuma Goje, who represents Gombe Central in the Senate and his counterparts in Yobe East and Yobe North, Bukka Abba Ibrahim and Ahmed Lawan respectively.

A senator from the South-west, Professor Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central), has also indicated interest in the race.

We gathered that given the interest by different contenders for the office, it may be difficult for the power brokers in APC to reach a consensus with the gladiators on who would become the next Senate President.

Hence, a source said if a stalemate prevails, there may be a repeat of the episode in the House of Representatives in 2011 when members of the House opted to elect their speaker and deputy in violation of the ruling PDP zoning agenda which had zoned the two offices to South-West and North-East respectively.

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.

Given the emerging scenario, a source told newsmen that the Senate might be forced to decide who leads them through an election that is based on the coalition built by each of the contenders for the post of Senate President among their colleagues.

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