Leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have started reaching out to some senators and leaders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a bid to stop the PDP members in the Senate from either contesting or supporting other senators to occupy leadership positions in the 9th National Assembly.
Specifically, the APC chiefs are lobbying the PDP leaders and lawmakers to support their move to make Ahmed Lawan the next Senate President.
APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, had said the party did not need the opposition party’s votes to clinch the presiding and principal offices of the 9th Assembly.
However, sources within the APC told The Punch on Friday that the APC leaders who had earlier called the opposition senators’ bluff, over the leadership of the Senate changed their tactics when they discovered that the division among their party members in the Senate was real.
Subsequently, the senators have been moving round to gain the support of the opposition senators for their ambition.
An APC senator-elect told The Punch on condition of anonymity in Abuja that the party leaders had tried to convince Goje and Ndume to drop their ambitions without success.
The source said the party leaders’ decision to ‘anoint’ Lawan as Senate President without wide consultations had caused a great division within the party and among the senators-elect.
It was learnt that both Goje, who was a two-term governor of Gombe State, and Ndume had been working behind the scenes to outsmart Lawan by secretly forming alliances with the PDP.
A source close to Goje stated that the senator was playing his cards close to his chest.
The APC senator-elect, said, “Goje is a very experienced and tactical politician.
“He understands the politics of the chamber better and he knows that making noises on the pages of the newspapers would not help any of the aspirants.
“He is not disobeying the leadership of the party by making up his mind to contest against Lawan. He is only exercising his rights as a ranking senator whose geopolitical zone has been asked to produce the Senate President.”
Asked if Goje was targeting the 41 bulk votes of the PDP in the Senate, the source said, “Anything is a possibility.”
He, however, ruled out the possibility of the Gombe State-born lawmaker picking a PDP senator as his deputy.
Efforts made by Saturday PUNCH to speak with Goje to confirm or deny his interest in the Senate presidency and his alleged pact with the PDP failed as of the time of filing this report.
He did not answer calls to his mobile line or respond to the text message sent to him.
However, Ndume, who has already constituted various committees to realise his dream, confirmed on Thursday that he was still in the race.
The Borno State-born lawmaker also said nobody had so far discouraged him from exercising his rights.
However, Ndume, who said he had the backing of many people within his party, said he would congratulate Lawan if he defeats him.
He said, “It is within my constitutional rights to contest the election. It is not as if I’m disrespecting the party, but people should be allowed to elect their leaders.
“I’m in the race till the end. If Lawan wins this election, I will be the first person to congratulate him.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that some of the APC senators-elect who were loyal to Lawan held separate meetings with the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Oshiomhole on the tension in the upper chamber.
They were said to have told both leaders that the best way to ensure victory for Lawan was to reach out to influential members of the PDP within the upper and lower chambers.
One of the sources said, “I can confirm to you that all of us are involved in the lobbying. We know that Goje and Ndume will contest against Lawan but we are not taking chances. We need PDP senators to win and we are already talking to them.”
Lawan told journalists during the week that he needed PDP votes and that he had started reaching out to them.
It was on the strength of this, Naija News gathered, that APC leaders began holding meetings with their ‘friends’ in the PDP.
A senator-elect from Ekiti State, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, however, told Punch in an interview that it would be against global parliamentary norms and practices if any PDP senator decides to contest the Senate presidency on inauguration day.
He said, “Nigerians have given the APC the majority of the seats in the Senate and they expect the party to control the Senate.
“Nobody should therefore try to subvert the will of the people by trying to play any game or create a division, even among the majority party, such that the will of the people, freely expressed at the polls, could be subverted.
“I do not expect any PDP member to contest the leadership positions meant for the party with the majority seats during the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.”
PDP senators weigh offers from Goje, Ndume, Lawan
Following intense politicking, consultations and meetings, PDP senators have started weighing the offers from the camps of Lawan, Goje and Ndume.
It was learnt that the PDP leaders and senators had yet to conclude on whether they would endorse one of the three APC candidates or field their own candidates for the Senate presidency and other presiding offices.
But party insiders said that there were indications that some PDP leaders and senators, especially those from the North, favoured Goje.
A PDP ranking senator told Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity on Friday that his colleagues were studying the offers.
The lawmaker said no definite decision had been taken on who the opposition members would support.
He said, “We have four options at the moment. We have three offers to support one of the three aspirants. The fourth offer is to bring out a candidate among the PDP ranking senators.
“We are still studying them. We had yet to ‘anoint’ any of them.”