Senate Presidency: The Odds Against Saraki, By Abdull-Azeez Ahmed Kadir
Few minutes after President Muhammadu Buhari was declared president-elect, I twitted rhetorically that “is @Bukolasaraki on his way to becoming the Senate President?” This followed the fact that Senator David Mark was on his way out as his party; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the majority in the red chamber.
In addition, Senators Bukola Saraki, George Akume, Abdullahi Adamu remain the three most ranking Senators from the North Central geopolitical zones with Saraki being the most visible around the Buhari group. It may also interest you to know that they are all former Governors once led by Saraki under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) which Saraki also utilised then for his presidential ambition.
But all that is in the past and the odds seems unfavourable to Saraki and the events of the last few days practically points him swimming against the tide with Senator Ahmed Lawan being the dark horse and sailing the wind.
For a starter, Lawan alongside Mark and one other Senator remains the most ranking Senator in the 8th National Assembly; having being in the National Assembly since 1999. Saraki on the other hand just spent 4 years and preparing for his 8 years whereas Lawan has spent 16 and preparing for his 20 years in the senate. So, if ranking is an issue, the odds favour Lawan against Saraki.
Since 1999, Lawan has headed several committees in the senate culminating with the Public Account Committee where his integrity remains untainted. He has thus far received accolades for standing tall and distancing himself from any act untoward.
Saraki on the other hand has a pending case for alleged corrupt charges during his 8 years as Kwara State Governor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Though he is yet to be indicted.
Lawan has not defected from his original platform that brought him to the NASS since 1999 except for the mergers, but not so with Saraki whose leaving of the PDP alongside others was the tragic flaw that saw to the dwindling fortunes of the once touted largest political party in Africa.
Feelers in some quarters are that Saraki has not been forgiven by his former party colleagues/stalwart, and if and when the time comes for electing the senate leadership, the PDP members would cast a block vote and it may be for Lawan and against Saraki.
There is also the South West/Yoruba factor. Pundits are of the view that with the Vice President as Yoruba and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamela most favoured to emerged as the Speaker, House of Representatives, having Saraki as President of the Senate would close the doors for the powers that be among the Yorubas to make case for more, strategic appointments such as Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice for which former Governor Babatunde Fashola is being touted for among others. Though Saraki is from the North Central zone but a Yoruba man.
Again, the joining of forces by Lawan and Akume for a “joint ticket” seems to have pulled the carpets under the Saraki camp’s feet. Just as the emergence of Akume in the race initially was unexpected and took the wind out of the sail for Saraki from the start.
Related to the above is the sudden forces most visible in the Saraki camp dubbed “like-minds Senators elect” with Dino Melaye as the spokesperson. Most of them are seen as opportunists who in the past worked against the people by flirting with the powers that be where they net their nests only to cry fowl when they fall out of favour with such groups.
On the other hand, those sympathetic to the Lawan/Akume ticket are quick to point out men of impeccable characters in the “Unity Group” that are pushing for Lawan to emerge as the President of the Senate.
And to cap it all, haven led the Senate for 8 years and now warming up to be an ordinary floor member, Senator Mark and his loyalists, most of whom owe one favour or the other to the man are said not to be comfortable with Saraki but rather prefer Lawan as President of the Senate.
Some are quick to point out that with Saraki as Senate President, Mark may end up not attending the senate sitting as Saraki may make him feel so inferior as against Lawan who is seen to be humble and would treat Mark with honour in the red chamber. As a result, Mark and his allies they said would rather mobilise, using their influence within the PDP and among the Senators to ensure Lawan emerge victorious.
After all said and done, both contenders possess leadership qualities and connections that make them potential good Senate President. But the All Progressive Congress (APC) seems not to be taking chances and is seen to be doing all it can, covertly to ensure these odds unfavours Saraki and favours Lawan.
For now, the odds are visibly against Saraki. But 24 hours is a long time in politics and the pendulum can swing either way.
-Abdull-Azeez writes from Kaduna