With the signed proclamation for the holding of the 9th Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, it is just a matter of days before the presiding officers of the National Assembly are known. For the House of Representatives, three candidates are in the race – Umaru Mohammed Bago, Femi Gbajabiamila and Nkiruka Onyejeocha. Gbajabiamila, from all indications, appear costing home to victory.
Meanwhile, the same cannot be said of Senator Ahmed Lawan, the APC party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole’s favorite for the job of senate president. At the moment, the race is predominantly between Muhammed Ali Ndume and Lawan. Lawan is from Yobe State while Ndume is from Borno State. The two states, incidentally, are from the North-East where the senate president position is zoned.
The Odds As They Stand
Lawan, one of the oldest, in fact, the oldest member in the coming 9th assembly, no doubt, has upper hand courtesy of the privilege he presently enjoys from President Buhari and the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomole .
Lawan is Senate Leader, a privilege which gives him easy access to the executive and by extension, the President. Because of his accessibility to the executive, he can easily curry its support as he is presently doing. For these advantages, Lawan might not have any issue as to funding of his campaign. It is an open secret that if war chest determines who becomes the next Senate President, Ndume may as well throws in the towel. It is good for the executive to take interest in who preside over the National Assembly, as the legislature, in this clime, determines, to a large extent, how the executive functions and at what pace. So, it is very important for the executive to show more than interest in who it wants to work with. And through Oshiomhole, Lawan appears to be that person of interest. Congratulations.
Ndume is presently seen as the underdog. Indeed, he is an underdog. After all, he is from Borno, “a son of nobody who knows nobody to become somebody.’’ This is the phrase he uses all the time when he talks about himself. He is a ranking member having been in the Senate since 2011. Ndume may not have the war chest but, according to a source that is privy to the workings in the Ndume group, he has the support of his colleagues, all across party lines. One of the Senators who support him said: “This is the most important for us. Money is good, but integrity is better. Integrity is a byproduct of money.”
Ndume, before he found himself in the senate, was a member of the House of Representatives where he was Minority Leader of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. There, Lawan was also a member where he chaired committees on education and agriculture. At that time, they were in the same party, ANPP. Lawan was elected first into the senate 2007 before Ndume got the chance to come in 2011. The same son of nobody was elected into the office of the senate leader, before Lawan was appointed to the same position some two years later.
Shortly before the 8th assembly’s inauguration, a mock election was organised to choose who to represent the North-East where the senate leader’s position was zoned. In the mock election between Ndume and Lawan, Ndume won by 11 votes. Lawan scored two votes. It was the same Ndume, son of nobody that was appointed as Director, North-East of the Buhari Campaign Organization during the last general election. As it stands, Ndume is the most persecuted Senator in the 8th assembly. He was suspended because of his stand and support for the executive and party interest. His suspension arose because of his support for the executive and its appointed nominee in the person of Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, who the senate refused to confirm. It took the intervention of the judiciary for his suspension to be lifted and his salaries paid.
One of the things working for Ndume, sources say, is his preparedness for the office of Senate President. Shortly after he announced his interest, he printed and circulated across the country his 9-point agenda to be implemented if and when his colleagues found him worthy to lead them. His 9-point agenda, incidentally, coincides with the name 9th Assembly. Lawan is yet to give details of his work plan if and when he gets elected.
Another source said: “It is not about wanting to lead. It is about preparedness. It is not about being pushed to do something. It is about having the capacity and capability to doing something. Not only that; between the two, Ndume sponsored more bills. As a matter of fact, he sponsored more bills in the 8th Assembly that anyone else.”
Support for Ndume is increasing among the senators elect, because of his strength of advocacy for rule of law and being a proponent of justice and fair play.
A survey was conducted recently among the staff of the National Assembly as to suitability among the contenders for the senate president. Over 70 per cent preferred to have Ndume as presiding officer. His propensity to giving is second to none. His cheerfulness, according to the survey, endeared them to him. He can crack jokes to make a seemingly serious issue light. He is loved by everyone. His popularity even increased when he was slammed with suspension during the 8th assembly.
The survey shows that Lawan may be courteous but does not go beyond officialdom unlike Ndume who, outside official matter, ask after your family and your wellbeing. In terms of motivation, the survey shows that the workers prefer to work with Ndume than Lawan. In terms of reliability and simplicity, Ndume had more votes. For example, Ndume is said to prefer sitting in front, beside the driver than Lawan, who is perpetually sitting at the back. Sitting with your driver is hallmark of simplicity.
According to some of the senators, particularly the old ones, any matter agreed upon, you can be assured that Ndume will not change position. Lawan position will change immediately he returns from the Villa.
Trust is very important in who becomes the senate president. That trust among the members, according to the source, resides more in Ndume than Lawan. It is that trust that made Ndume to superintend, on many occasions, over Lawan. He was minority leader over Lawan when they were both in the House. It clearly shows that their colleagues believe and trust Ndume more and better than Lawan.
True, the race may be between money and integrity. True the race may be between rubber stamp and independence. The coming senators, both old and new, knowing how important its arm, legislature is, will do what is right to protect the sanctity of the independent of the legislature, all in the interest of the country, democracy and general good of everyone and everybody.