Three names have remained consistent in the race for the senate presidency some 41 days to the take off of the new senate but Senator Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe central) seems to be the dark horse in the race. Taiye Odewale examines.
The posts in contention are president of the 9th senate, deputy and other presiding officers’ positions as clearly stated in section 50 (1a and b) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The section states “There shall be a president and deputy president of the senate who shall be elected by the members of that house from among themselves; and (b) a speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives who shall be elected by the members of that house from among themselves”.
However in line with parliamentary practices, norms and conventions in Nigeria over the years and in democracies globally over the centuries, occupiers of such positions at inauguration are normally from the party with majority of seats, as it is with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria having majority of the seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
For the coming 9th Senate in particular, while APC has in its fold a total of 64 senators-elect, PDP has 43 and YPP 1, with the result for the remaining one seat (Imo North senatorial seat) yet to be declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a result of litigation over it.
In preparing for the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly billed for on Monday, June 10, 2019 or Tuesday, June 11, 2019 since the life span of the current 8th National Assembly, expires on Saturday, June 8, 2019, having been inaugurated on June 9, 2015; the APC national leadership endorsed Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (Yobe North) for the 9th senate presidency on Monday, March 25, 2019 at the Presidential Villa.
But hours later another ranking senator from the North-east Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South), kicked against Lawan’s endorsement by the party and vowed to contest against him on the strength of provisions of section 50(1a and b) of the 1999 constitution as earlier quoted.
Ndume said: “Oshiomhole, in making the announcement or endorsement, did not even allow myself or Senators Danjuma Goje (Gombe central) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa west), widely known to be in the race for the position to say anything.
“More disturbing was the fact that even Senator Ahmed Lawan endorsed for the position, was not allowed to make any comment in form of acceptance speech or soliciting for supports from other interested senators.
“For the sake of cohesion and stability among party members as regards aspirations for such positions, what was expected from the party leadership, was to just zone the positions and allow contenders within each of the zones to South it out either through consensus or shadow election.
“The 109 elected senators and 360 House of Representatives members are the constitutional kingmakers as far as emergence of presiding officers of both chambers are concerned and not national chairman of a ruling party or even the president”.
A week after at the National Assembly precisely on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Ndume officially declared his aspiration for the seat by rolling out his legislative agenda in pamphlets distributed to journalists if elected by other senators-elect.
Ndume in the 9-point agenda promised to improve upon the performance of the 8th senate by making the office of the senate president less attractive through reduction of unnecessary privileges attached to the office.
Expectedly as Ndume is marketing himself for the position, so also is Lawan consolidating on his endorsement by reaching out to both returning and newly elected senators, one of whom is the Governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima who few weeks back, disowned Ndume who hails from Borno by throwing his weight and that of other party chieftains from the state behind Lawan.
Goje as the dark horse
But as both Lawan and Ndume are personally feasible in the race, Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe central), is not. Yet he is seen as the third force or dark horse in the race. He has through series of behind the scene sensitisations or campaigns been aligning forces to join the race.
One of such surreptitious or strategic moves in this regard was the rally staged on his behalf at the frontage of the National Assembly on Thursday, April 4, 2019 by a group which branded itself as ‘Goje Support Group from the North-east’ led by Bello Ambo from Bauchi state.
Ambo said: “As far as public service experience is concerned, Goje stands far above the other two having controlled a whole state for eight years between 2003 and 2011 and been in the senate since then with required parliamentary experience.
“Our party (APC) is a party of the people and not few leaders. The party should allow the people in this case, senators-elect, to decide whoever they want as their leader in whatever capacity.
“For us, the Goje Support Groups from the North-east for the presidency of the 9th Senate (GSGNE), Senator Danjuma Goje is the right man for the job. He has the required experience as a tested administrator and high ranking lawmaker.
“He is a man of the people and a senator that has all it takes to lead the senate, can carry others along across party lines and most importantly is a party man to the core who will fit perfectly into the next level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari “.
Apparently in further pushing the Goje in the race into the consciousness of senators-elect and the general public, exactly a week after the protest, a statement of support for Goje was also issued by North-east stakeholders.
In the statement dated April 17th April, 2019, after an emergency meeting held at the Zaranda Hotel, Bauchi, the groups including North East Elders Mobilisation Forum, APC National Youth Caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and the North East Youth Awareness for Good Governance, urged Goje to immediately declare for the position.
The groups also forwarded a letter to the APC national chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The letter signed by the conveners, Barrister Mustapha Saidu, Alhaji Bello Ambo and others reads: “Following very wide consultations among stakeholders, party members and North East Consultative Forum and after careful assessment of his contribution to the party and Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration, we hereby present to you, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje as the choice of the people of the North-east for the senate president of the 9th assembly.
“Senator Goje is eminently respected among members of the National Assembly and the country for his immense contribution to the success of the APC in 2015 and 2019 general elections. The landslide victory of the APC in Gombe state in the just concluded general elections is a sure testimony of is gallantry loyalty and commitment to APC.
“It will serve the best interest of the party if Your Excellency and the party review your stance on the choice of Senator Ahmad Lawan and allow for a level playing field for all aspiring candidates from the North-east zone to showcase themselves to their colleagues.
“We, therefore, urge Sen Danjuma Goje to come forward and declare his interest to vie for the position of the President of the Senate in the 9th assembly”.
However, despite all the supports being thrown at Goje right, left and centre by different groups sponsored or otherwise, he has not by any means openly declare his interest for the race which is believed to be deliberate.
Will Goje deliver the sucker punch?
Feelers from Goje camp indicate that, he may not even come out to declare for the position publicly until the day of inauguration when he will be nominated and seconded by senators-elect across the two major political parties (APC and PDP).
But since there are still about 41 days left for the inauguration of the 9th senate, anything can still happen between now and then, as regards Senators Lawan, Ndume and Goje’s different patterns of politicking towards emerging the next chief presiding officer of the upper legislative chamber.