The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has launched an audacious move to win to its side 13 All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators-elect as part of a grand design to hijack the leadership of the 9th Senate.
But the alleged plot has leaked to the APC which has launched a counter move of its own to avoid a repeat of the 2015 infiltration of its ranks in the National Assembly by the PDP, highly placed party sources said last night.
The APC is in talks with all its state governors and national leaders to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s choices for the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House who may be named this week.
The party is determined to ensure that none of its members’ contests against APC’s official candidates for leadership positions in the Senate and the House of Representatives in June.
Another option is a likely waive of the Standing Rules of the two chambers to allow open voting during the election of principal officers to monitor the loyalty of the party’s Senators-elect.
Besides, the APC is discussing with some PDP Senators-elect with a view to giving them the chairmanship of juicy committees.
But some PDP leaders are targeting 13 ‘rebellious’ Senators-elect from the APC to produce the next President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate and other principal officers.
If the PDP’s plan sails through it will have on its side about 56 votes for a majority decision leaving APC with 53.
The PDP targets are Senators-elect from Borno, Oyo, Gombe, Bayelsa, Bauchi and Ogun states.
The party is insisting that the Standing Rules do not expressly state that presiding officers must come from the ruling party.
The opposition party said the fact that it has been a convention for the majority party to produce presiding officers does not make it legal or the norm.
Following the APC’s endorsement of Dr Ahmed Lawan for the position of Senate President, the battle for the Deputy President of the Senate is hitting up between Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central ) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Red Chamber, Senator Alimikhena Asekhame (Edo North).
The outgoing Governor of Ogun State, Mr Ibikunle Amosun is believed to have joined the race for Deputy Senate President even though it was not zoned to the Southwest.
An investigation by The Nation revealed that APC and PDP have been trying to outwit each other on the election of the new Senate President, Speaker and other officers.
While the APC leadership and Dr Lawan have been engaging Senators-elect on one-on-one talks, the PDP has been trying to mount pressure on most Senators-elect to resist what it has termed “imposition of principal officers” by the Executive.
Sources said PDP’s agenda is to share power with the APC in the two chambers.
A top source in APC, who spoke in confidence, said: “The race is still open despite the fact that APC has made its position known and released its zoning formula for the Senate. We are expecting the party’s idea of power sharing in the House this week. What we are trying to do is to keep our caucus united in the two chambers.
“But not all Senators-elect and House members-elect have bought into the party’s zoning formula. This is why we have sought the assistance of APC governors and national leaders to engage the new National Assembly members to avoid a repeat of 2015 episode which was plotted and sealed by the opposition.
“Our main target is to assert our right as the party with the majority in the National Assembly to produce the new set of leaders.
“We have already asked the nominee for Senate Presidency, Dr Ahmad Lawan and some Senators-elect to meet with all Senators-elect on why APC must forge a common front. To us, delivering democratic dividends is more important than the sentiments being whipped up by the opposition.”
Asked if the APC could regain the control of the two chambers, the source added: “We want to speak with one voice this time around; we plan to present common candidates for all offices due to APC without counter-nominations, and we are also negotiating with PDP Senators-elect and House members-elect.
“We will not underrate the opposition but we won’t let them have their way like the case in 2015. We are hopeful of getting the figures from APC and PDP members before the inauguration of the 9th Senate.
A ranking Senator in PDP said: “We are really opposed to any plot to foist leaders on the two chambers. Our fears border on a possible rubber-stamp legislature.
“Our position is that it is not mandatory for the principal officers of the Senate and the House to come from the party with a simple majority in the two chambers. This has been successfully proven in the 7th and 8th National Assembly.
“And going by Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution, the two chambers can come up with rules and regulations to guide its proceedings. The section says: ‘Subject to the provisions of this constitution. The Senate or the House of Representatives shall have the power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.
“The modes of voting can be by voice vote, signing of the register in a division, electronic voting or even by secret ballot if it is the wish of the new members of the National Assembly.
“So, if a PDP lawmaker will lead the Senate or the House better, let us go for him or her.”
On the alleged plot by PDP to poach 13 APC Senators-elect in order to influence the election of new principal officers in the Senate, a party source said: “With 13 Senators-elect from APC teaming up with 43 PDP Senators-elect, we can comfortably elect independent-minded Senate President and other principal officers with 56-man strength.
“We are discussing with some Senators-elect from Borno, Oyo, Gombe, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Ogun states.
“This is our target which we believe is realizable. We will field candidates for all available offices in the two chambers.”
Deputy Senate President
The race for the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate, however, took a new turn with the emergence of three contenders.
The zoning of the position to the Southsouth has made it a close race for Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Alimikhena Asekhame from the Southsouth.
But the outgoing Governor of Ogun State, Mr Ibikunle Amosun was said to have joined the race for the Deputy Senate President even though it was not zoned to the Southwest.
The outgoing President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has been silent on whether he will vie for the office for a third term.
A source said: “So far, three candidates have emerged from the APC but being a deft politician, Ekweremadu can spring a big surprise as he did in 2015. The zoning formula favours Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Alimikhena Asekhame from the Southsouth but if Amosun goes ahead with his ambition, it can redraw the permutations.
“The zoning formula put in place by the APC is yet to favour the Southeast and the PDP will not mind reaching some accord which can make Ekweremadu remain in office.”