Last-minute attempts by the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and other party leaders to pacify Senator Ali Ndume to drop his bid for the Senate presidency may have flopped.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday revealed that the leadership of the party and some influential senators met last week and decided to reach out to Ndume, who is contesting the position against Senator Ahmad Lawan.
It was learnt that Ndume rejected moves by Tinubu to make him drop his ambition, early last week.
Details of how it happened were still sketchy as of Saturday while Ndume who could confirm or deny the development, did not answer calls put across to him.
However, a senator told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Saturday that a group of Pro-Lawan senators-elect who travelled to Maiduguri on Friday returned to Abuja on Saturday evening without achieving their mission.
He said the group of senators had planned to meet Governor Kashim Shettima, also a senator-elect, but were disappointed when they could not meet with him.
The senator said, “The governor, who was probably aware of the Pro-Lawan senators’ visit, travelled out of the country before their arrival.
“The lawmakers decided to meet the deputy governor, who is not a stakeholder in the project. During the brief session, the deputy governor told the lawmakers that Shettima had travelled to Saudi Arabia.”
Further findings revealed that the pro-Lawan senators returned to Abuja on Saturday evening.
Shettima, who is from the same state with Ndume, is believed to be one of the major backers of the former Senate leader for the position.
The pro-Lawan senators-elect would have used the opportunity of their visit to convince Shettima on the need to respect the choice of the party by supporting Lawan.
When contacted, Sabi Abdullahi, who is the spokesperson for the Lawan group, described the information from the anonymous senator as false.
He, however, confirmed that 13 senators including Lawan were in Maiduguri for the wedding of Lawan’s niece and to condole with the family over the death of her father.
He said, “Anybody telling you such fake story is a liar. Our mission to Maiduguri was not to meet Governor Shettima. We actually went there for the wedding of someone who is like Senator Lawan’s daughter, his little niece.
“We also seized the opportunity to condole with the family of the young lady who lost her father. The deputy governor was with us throughout the visit up to the airport when he returned when we boarded our aircraft.”
Some of the senators-elect on the trip are Abdullahi, Bala Na’Allah, Jibril Barau, Ifeanyi Ubah, Opeyemi Bamidele, Adamu Aliero, Adeola Olamilekan and Musa Sani.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the ruling APC is facing a dilemma following the insistence of some senator-elect to contest the Senate presidency despite settling for Lawan for the job, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
Tinubu has been quoted as saying those not in support of the party’s zoning arrangement for the National Assembly positions were free to leave the party.
Speculation is rife that the party may expel any member who decides to move against its stand on the leadership of the National Assembly.
But a member of the APC National Working Committee, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Saturday, said, “The truth is that for now, the issue of expulsion for our members who are threatening to move against the party’s choice is not on the card.”
Senators-elect tackle Oshiomhole over winner-takes-all posture
Meanwhile, returning and newly-elected members of the National Assembly have said the various committees of the federal parliament will not be allocated to only members of the APC.
They stated this in separate interviews with our correspondent at the ongoing orientation organised for incoming members of the 9th National Assembly.
The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, had said only his party members would be in charge of most committees in the National Assembly.
But the lawmakers advised the former Edo State governor against interfering in the affairs of the legislature.
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Garba, said, “The national chairman of the APC, with due respect, may not always be right. This is a parliamentary institution only for the legislators. Even in our own rules, we don’t create situations whereby only the ruling party members will constitute the committees. So, it can’t be winners-take-all (thing). When we come to sharing of committee headship, certainly many committees will go to the opposition party.”
Three Niger senators-elect back Lawan
The three senators-elect from Niger State, Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East); Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) and Muhammad Enagi (Niger South) have unanimously endorsed Senator Lawan as the next Senate President.
A statement jointly signed by the three senators said after due consultations and considerations and in recognition of the supremacy of our party’s position on the matter, “we have resolved absolutely to give our support to Lawan who has the competence, charisma and integrity to preside over the affairs of the Senate.”