The horse-trading for the leadership of the 9th Senate intensified yesterday with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spearheading negotiation with some aspirants from the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the office of the President of the Senate.
The PDP is plotting a joint ticket by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Danjuma Goje and the outgoing Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
But some leaders of PDP are suggesting either Sen. Ali Ndume-Ekweremadu mandate or Sen. Abdullahi Adamu-Ekweremadu ticket.
But most PDP senators-elect, especially loyalists of the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, have been uncomfortable with any joint ticket with Ali Ndume or Adamu.
Saraki and influential PDP leaders prefer a deal with Goje, who was once a father-figure in the opposition party before he defected to APC.
The outcome of the proposed alliance will pit the joint candidate for the Senate against the Senate Leader, Dr Ahmed Lawan, who has been adopted by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.
An investigation by The Nation revealed that the PDP opted for another alliance to hijack the Senate leadership in order to have a high stake in the 9th National Assembly and secure a comfortable slot for the South-East which might be left out of power sharing at the centre by the APC.
The PDP was said to be interested in a succession plan which will “sustain the current checks and balances against the Buhari administration” as symbolised by Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
According to findings, Ekweremadu has been holding marathon meetings with some APC senators-elect, especially those rated as “rebellious and amenable”, in order to get at least 56 simple majority out of 109 to enable the alliance to control the Senate.
It was learnt that the ongoing talks and negotiations have delayed the declaration of Goje for the Senate Presidency. At a caucus meeting of the PDP, its senators and senators-elect, it was resolved that “all the senators-elect should stay together to study the situation until the time for the election of principal officers.”
Some APC senators-elect, who spoke in confidence, confirmed that Ekweremadu has been reaching out to them “preaching peace, unity and the need to uphold the principle of separation of powers.”
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The intrigues for the Office of the President of the Senate have heightened with the PDP seeking to retain its present stake in the upper chamber.
“Already, the party is plotting a joint ticket by Goje and Ekweremadu or Ndume/Adamu-Ekweremadu alliance.
“We initially underrated the plot until Ekweremadu started meeting with APC Senators-elect under the guise of fighting for the upholding of the principle of separation of powers.
“The opposition wants a repeat of 2015 power game in the Senate and it is determined to divide the APC.
“The reality is that PDP is desirous of a weighty slot in the Senate to be able to checkmate President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling APC.
“At the heart of it all also is the calculation for 2023. The opposition does not want to give APC a breathing space before the next elections.
“Also, the PDP seeks to accommodate the South-East in the National Assembly hierarchy since APC might not give the geopolitical zone a significant appointment.”
Asked of the status of talks, another top source added: “Most PDP leaders prefer Goje-Ekweremadu ticket. Those loyal to Saraki do not really support Ndume and Adamu because of fear of vengeance if they emerge the Senate President.
“Do not forget that Saraki’s administration removed and suspended Ndume as Senate Leader. It is a wound that is yet to heal. To Saraki, the emergence of Ndume will be suicidal.
“As for Adamu, he led the antagonistic Parliamentary Support Group (PSG) which coordinated many assaults on Saraki in the chamber.
“Adamu only escaped suspension by a whisker because of his old age and long-standing relationship with the late kingmaker of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki.
“The Goje-Ekweremadu option appears more realistic than others.
“But Ndume and Adamu, who are still bitter with Buhari for not appreciating their loyalty, may play a spoiler’s game.”
Upon enquiries, a PDP senator-elect simply said: “We had a caucus meeting last week and we resolved that all our senators-elect should stay together to study the situation until the time for the election of principal officers.”
As at press time, the Ahmed Lawan camp, which got wind of the latest plot, was improving on its lobbying of PDP senators-elect.
A loyalist of Lawan said: “We are working round the clock to ensure that our candidate wins the leadership election in June. We have also gained more support from PDP camp too.
“We are working hard to secure a comfortable figure for Lawan to emerge as Senate President. So far, there is no cause for alarm.”