Senate Presidency: Saraki, Lawan’s ambition divides APC

Bola Tinubu

The politics of who emerges the next Senate president among leading All Progressives Congress, APC, lawmakers, is tearing the party’s caucus apart, with some members boycotting a retreat organized by the party for its senators-elect.

Senators-elect loyal to a former Lagos State governor, and a leader of the party, Ahmed Tinubu, stayed away from the retreat at Ibeto hotel, Abuja on Saturday. They group later joined the retreat after holding separate meeting at a different location.

The retreat began Friday evening with a cocktail party for the lawmakers.

The APC, Nigeria’s ruling party-in-waiting, has been enmeshed in high-wire politicking as the party struggles to agree on a formula for the election of new National Assembly leaders.

Leaders of the party have met severally to discuss and come up with a zoning arrangement for national assembly principal officers without success.

Among the major contenders for the senate presidency are former governors, Bukola Saraki, from Kwara State, George Akume, from Benue State, and Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe state.

Mr. Tinubu, an influential party leader, is said to be in support of the ambition of Mr. Lawan, the current chairman of the Senate Public Accounts committee.

Senators loyal to Mr. Tinubu were led to the retreat by Abu Ibrahim from Katsina state.

In a short remark during the cocktail on Friday, the national chairman of the APC, John Oyegun, urged the Senators to remain united and not allow the election of Principal Officers to divide them.

But one lawmaker said as a result of what seemed to be Mr. Saraki’s advantage, the Tinubu group decided to stay away from the retreat.

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“Only three of them from the South West are presently attending the retreat,” he said.

Another source at Ibeto Hotel also said that Senators “have drawn a battle line with Tinubu”.

He said the Senators are determined to ensure that Mr. Tinubu does not have control of the Senate.

The lawmaker told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Saraki appeared to have the support of about 34 Senators during the cocktail event.

“Saraki also has the backing of majority PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) Senators and is therefore in a strong position to emerge as the next president,” the lawmaker claimed.

The PDP Senators who are in support of Mr. Saraki, we gathered, are led by Senators Andy Uba and Godswill Akpabio.

Buhari travelled to avoid retreat

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the APC has told PREMIUM TIMES that the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, left the country for the United Kingdom Friday, without the knowledge of most party leaders, because he was under tremendous pressure to adopt a candidate for the Senate Presidency.

“That is why he travelled with a commercial flight despite having a private jet at his disposal,” our source said.

Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu Friday issued a statement saying the president-elect went to the U.K. on a private visit.

Asked why Mr. Tinubu appears determined to have Mr. Lawan emerge as Senate President, the APC leader said “it is all tied to the politics of 2019”.

He said Mr. Tinubu believes that Mr. Saraki is ambitious while Lawan is not.

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