If the All Progressives Congress eventually agrees to the zoning of the Senate Presidency to the North Central, the fight for the seat is expected to be a straight contest between former governors Bukola Saraki and George Akume, of Kwara and Benue states respectively
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 4, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
WITH the speculations that the ongoing meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, will zone the position of the Senate President to North-central, high ranking members of the Senate from the region are squared for battle. So far, the contest looks like a two horse race. The two major contesters in the race are George Akume, former governor of Benue State, and Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State.
Others that might join the race are Adamu Abdullahi, former Nasarawa State governor, and Barnabas Gemade, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. While Akume and Saraki are evidently ahead of the pack, the body language of the APC leadership and private sentiments expressed by many returning senators is swaying in favour of Akume. Akume who is returning to the Senate for the third term, is minority leader of the current seventh session of the upper legislature, a position he held with uncommon maturity and comportment. He is credited with facilitating the enthronement of the APC brand in the North-central zone, having painstakingly stayed the course through the gradual evolution of the party from the days of the Action Congress, AC, to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, on to the eventual emergence of the APC.
Senator Akume has been receiving support from his supporters and even serving and senator-elects. Senator Gemade, who was among those chosen by pundits to occupy the position, is one of those that admired Akume to be the next Senate president. On April 21, he threw his weight behind Akume as the highest ranking senator from the North-central geo-political zone, which also makes him the most qualified candidate for the position of Senate president.
He used the occasion to dismiss as unfounded the rumours making the rounds in some parts of Benue State that he was against Akume’s candidature for the position. “This is no doubt the handwork of our political opponents who suffered defeat at the just concluded elections and can’t seem to get over it, that are now bent on sowing seed of discord in our party,” he said.
Apart from Gemade, the Arewa Youth Parliament, AYP, has also thrown its weight behind Akume. The group, which is an umbrella body of all northern youth organisation, said it decided to wade into the search for suitable persons to head the affairs of the eighth National Assembly, being a key stakeholder under the present dispensation.
It said Akume had won the hearts of most lawmakers following his role as the minority leader in the seventh assembly, where he distinguished himself as a rallying point of the opposition. According to the AYP, it has become a democratic norm in advanced democracies that whenever a minority party becomes the majority party, minority leader automatically becomes the leader of the parliament in question.
Bashir Maru, speaker of the AYP, at a press conference said his group was duty bound at all times to promote excellence, equity and equality in the affairs of Nigeria. The group said that Akume could truly be described as a genuine breed of the Ahmadu Bello school of thought, having always put the interest of his people, region and country above any other consideration. “Akume, a third-term senator, has distinguished himself as a pan-Arewa, detribalised Nigerian and excellent performer in all his previous outings. We truly believe there will be no confusion in deciding who the caps fits to lead the eighth National Assembly if experience, performance, balance should be the criteria for the selection. Senator Akume is best suitable Nigerian senator to lead the senate to the promise land,” Maru said.
Meanwhile, the North-central caucus of the APC has expressed gratitude to its national leadership for zoning the Senate presidency to the region. A statement by Suleiman Buhari, Kwara State publicity secretary of the party, described the zoning arrangement as just and fair. “There is no doubt that this zoning arrangement reflects a rich understanding of the diversity of Nigerians and the geography of the nation. For us in North Central zone, work has just started. And we can assure the national leadership of our party that the office of the Senate president would help consolidate on our successes in the recently conducted general elections where we delivered 100 percent state governors and 13 Senators to APC,” he said.