At the end of a two-day retreat organised by the All Progressives Congress, APC,for Senators elected under the platform of the party, two major contenders for the Senate Presidency have emerged.
Former Governor of Kwara state, Bukola Saraki, who PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported had the backing of 34 Senators as at the time the retreat began is still ahead of the chairman Senate committee on Public Accounts, Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe State.
Another contender, former Benue Governor, George Akume, has reportedly stepped down for Mr. Lawan in exchange for being selected as the Deputy Senate President.
Although the party did not formally address the press or issue a communique at the end of the retreat, two groups, “Like Mind Senators” and “Senate Unity Forum” separately addressed the press and declared their support for the two candidates.
The ‘like mind senators’ who said they are 35 in number out of the 59 APC Senators expressed their support for Mr. Saraki. The remaining 24 in the Senate Unity Forum expressed support for Mr. Lawan who is said to enjoy the support of APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
Senator-elect Dino Melaye, who address the press on behalf of the ‘Like Mind Senators’ displayed to the media a document he said contained the signatures of 35 Senators who have agreed to support Mr. Saraki.
Mr. Melaye’s address came shortly after the ‘Senate Unity Forum’ also addressed the media where it announced that Mr. Akume had stepped down for Mr. Lawan.
In the address by Mr. Melaye, he said “Of the 59 senators of the APC, 35 of us present here today hereby reaffirm our collective commitment and resolution to ensure that the candidature of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the 8th Assembly.” He also said the deputy to Mr. Saraki would come from the north-east, although no name was mentioned for the position as consultations continue.
On their part, the Senate Unity Forum in their address read by former national chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade, said they have adopted a joint ticket of Messrs. Lawan and Akume.
“We, the Senate Unity Forum, comprising of senators-elect from various states and zones of Nigeria, have met, held extensive discussions and resolved to support Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Senator George Akume as Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate,” Mr. Gemade said.
With the positions taken by the two group, what is left is for them to lobby their colleagues from other parties especially the PDP. A lawmaker attending the retreat had informed PREMIUM TIMES Sunday that Mr. Saraki has the support of majority PDP senators-elect. He said the candidature of the former Kwara governor is being championed in the PDP group by Senators Andy Uba and Godswill Akpabio. Mr. Saraki defected from the PDP to the APC following the crisis of 2013 when five governors left the PDP for the APC.