Abaribe: PDP Senators-elect Yet to Endorse Anyone for Senate Presidency

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•   Lawan to release his legislative agenda Friday  •Goje opts out of race   •South-east APC House caucus seeks review of speakership zoning

Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Chairman of the South East Caucus in the Senate, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, has said that the 44 senators-elect of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have not endorsed anybody for the position of the president of the ninth Senate.

This is coming as the Senate Leader and the anointed candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ahmed Lawan, will on Friday formally make public his Legislative Agenda for the next federal parliament billed for inauguration next week.

Strong indications have also emerged that a former governor of Gombe State and the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the outgoing Senate, Senator Danjuma Goje may have opted out of the Senate presidency race.

Abaribe, representing Abia South and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, told THISDAY yesterday that the PDP senators-elect were yet to meet over the issue.

The re-elected senator in a text message declared that “PDP Senators elect are yet to meet as most of them are in their states for inauguration of their governors”.

However, THISDAY gathered that the national leadership of the main opposition party will meet in Abuja this week to determine who to support among those aspiring to lead the two chambers of the Ninth National Assembly.

 Lawan, had at the weekend expressed optimism that the PDP senators-elect would endorse him for the coveted office of Senate president.

The Senate leader will on Friday formally make public his Legislative Agenda for the next federal parliament billed for inauguration next week.

This is just as pressure has continued to mount on another aspirant for the Senate presidency, Senator Ali Ndume, on the need for him to jettison his ambition.

Lawan, a fifth-time federal legislator since 1999, was said to have initially planned to officially launch his Agenda next Monday but had a rethink because of the day being close to the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly which is expected to be on Tuesday, June11.

Sources told THISDAY that members of the Lawan for 9th Senate President Campaign Group agreed that the date should be moved to Friday, June 8, in Abuja.

The campaign group consisting of returning and fresh senators is expected to meet today at the campaign headquarters at Transcorp Hilton Hotel to put finishing touches to the public presentation of the Legislative Agenda.

THISDAY further learnt that the Agenda will be a pact between Lawan, and the other senators-elect on one hand, as well as the kind of relationship expected to evolve between the executive and the legislature if he is elected as Senate president and Chairman of the National Assembly.

The APC leadership has also continued to mount pressure on Ndume, to drop his interest in the presidency of the Ninth Senate.

Sources told THISDAY yesterday that some party elders met for several hours on Saturday and yesterday in Abuja with Ndume on the need for him to have a rethink about his ambition.

Ndume was said to have turned deaf ears to the pleas and insisted that he has the constitutional right to contest and will definitely run for the coveted office upon the inauguration of the Ninth Senate this month.

For the office of Deputy Senate President, sources told THISDAY that out of the five APC Senators that have signified their intention to run for the position, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege appears to be more favoured by the party.

Other contenders who have made their intention known to the Senators-elect across party lines include returning Senators Kabiru Gaya (North West), Ajayi Boroffice (South West), Francis Alimikhena (South South) and fresh Senator and former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu.

The APC was said to be more comfortable with Omo-Agege running as deputy Senate president and may ask other aspirants to withdraw for him.

Already, Omo-Agege is already reaching out to both old and new Senators with a view to canvassing for their support.

Meanwhile, an outgoing Senator has said at the weekend that there is nothing wrong in President Muhammadu Buhari having interest in who leads the Ninth National Assembly.

In a related development, there were strong indications that Goje may have opted out of the Senate presidency race.

Also, the members of the House of Representatives of the APC from the South-east have asked the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party to  reconsider the zoning of the office of the speaker of the 9th National Assembly to the South-west in the over all interest of justice,  equity and inclusion of all zones in the governance of the country.

A former governor who is also a senator told THISDAY that since the return of Goje from the lesser hajj, it is clear that he has lost interest in the contest for the next senate presidency.

According to the former governor from the north, “Our understanding with Senator Goje before going to the lesser hajj is that when he is back from Ummra and after consultations with some officials of the President Mohammadu Buhari’s government that he will commence a full scale campaigns for his ambition,  but he has returned more than a week ago and  kept mute about his aspiration.

“He has even told some of us that he is not interested in becoming the next Senate president.  He said that he is comfortable with being the chairman of the Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation.

“So,  with his inability to commence campaigns for the office and bearing in mind that we only have Monday, Thursday and Friday as working days before the inauguration on Tuesday,    it is evidently clear that he is no longer interested in the Senate President election

“In view of this,  the election for who becomes the next senate president is between Senators Ahmed lawan and Ali Ndume”, the former governor said., explaining that only Goje could explain the sudden change of heart.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued yesterday, APC members-elect and some aspirants from the South-east have urged the ruling party to reconsider the zoning of the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-east.

Hon.  Emeka Nwajiuba and Nkeieuka Onyejiocha in the statement said,  “we are asking the APC to reevaluate the zoning formula for the election of principal offices in the National Assembly from the South-west to the South-east.

“APC has grown from what it was in 2015 to 2019, we are therefore going to the National Assembly to secure more to our people and at the same time we are going to persuade that the APC is the future of the South-east by bringing more to the zone.

“In the past,  it is used to be that the South-east did not have requisite candidate for the National Assembly principal officers..  That era, we are saying is no longer the case.

And hence, there is no reason not to zone the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-east,  for at least for equity,  fair play and justice.

“Such a decision will end the feeling of alienation of the South-east from APC.  It will lead to greater national cohesion, stability of the polity and consolidate the APC in the zone. This is our plea to the national leadership of our party,” the statement stated.

So far, the ruling party, APC, that is divided into four camps of Gbajabiamila, Bayo,  Nwajiuba and Onyejiocha, has 213 members, while the PDP has increased by seven to 127.

If the APC members in the House sticks to the party’s directive to vote Gbajabiamila,  it would  be a straight win  for the Lagos State member.