By Sadiq Umar, Abuja.
The crisis rocking the All Progressive Congress (APC) over who becomes the president of the next Senate deepens over the weekend with senators-elect of the APC sharply divided over the matter.
Even the 2-days retreat organized partly to bring APC senators together to reach a consensus on its would-be leadership ended up in disarray on Saturday, as a faction of the APC senators-elect rooting for Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara) candidacy, claimed 35 of the 52 Senators at the retreat had endorsed Saraki as the next President of the 8th Senate session.
The group made up of 24 Senators under the aegis of “The like minds,” filed out of the retreat and announced that 35 members of the group had endorsed Saraki (Kwara Central) for the post.
Earlier, some Senators loyal to APC chieftain, Mr. Bola Tinubu, said to be backing the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe) boycotted the retreat organised in Abuja.
Tinubu is belived to be backing Lwan from the north east for senate presidency to pave way for a south west speakership.
The faction known as the Senate Unity Forum walked out of the event and addressed a news conference where they declared that they had resolved to support the joint ticket of Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume for the senate top posts.
Their resolution was signed by Ahmad Lawan ( Yobe North ), George Akume (Benue North West ) and the group’s spokesperson, Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East).
“We, the Senate Unity Forum comprising senators-elect from various states and various zones of Nigeria, have met, held extensive discussions and resolved to support Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Senator George Akume, as the Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate,” the group stated.
But the group made up of 24 Senators under the aegis of “The like minds,” filed out of the retreat and announced that 35 members of the group had endorsed Saraki (Kwara Central) for the post.
A resolution read by Dino Melaye (Kogi West) said, “Senators of the like minds are here today at the retreat organised by our dear Party All Progressive Congress, which is meant to equip and empower Senators-elect of the 8th Assembly to prepare them toward the challenges ahead.
“We commend the leadership of our party for this timely and well-focused exercise. The issue of National Assembly leadership is about integrity, competence, discipline and leadership skills and not about fixing of candidates just for mere horse-trading.
“Our stand is about electing a senator who eventually becomes the chairman of National Assembly and relates with the executive on behalf of Nigerians, fellow Senators and the National Assembly as an institution.
“Furthermore, leadership of National Assembly is about the Senator that has the wherewithal to stabilise the legislative institution, working with the executive and judicial arm of government to be effective and perform to their optimal capacity.
“In addition, we are aware of the fact that all senators from the North-Central zone have taken a firm position that they are only interested in the office of the senate president which has been earlier zoned by the National Working Committee of our party to the zone.
“We are also aware that North-Central Senators have resolved to abide by the resolution of the zone on a single candidate and anything short of this is an attempt to jeopardise the collective interest of the zone.
“Of the 59 Senators of the APC, 35 of us present here today hereby reaffirm our collective commitment and resolution to ensure the candidature of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of 8th Assembly.
“We have also resolved that the office of the Deputy Senate President be zoned to the North-East,” Melaye declared.
An inside source told News Investigators that the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, though, had publicly declared that he had no prefence among the contenders to the National Assembly leadership positions is in actual fact in favour of Bukola Saraki as senate president and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker, House of Representatives.
“The drama you are seeing is a well-concealed struggle between Tinubu and Buhari over the control of the next National Assembly.
“Eventhough, they are silent on the House of Representatives, it is given that once Lawan is knocked out of the race and Saraki emerges, the coast would have been cleared for their preference candidate for the speakership, in which case Buhari would have effectively keep the Senate Presidency and Speakerhip to the north.
The source further said he believed Buhari traveled deliberately so as not to be seem in the intrigues that played out in the APC senate retreat.
“The idea is to knock out Tinubu who is backing Ahmed Lawan for Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila for Speakership,” the source added.