Court verdict: End of the road for Senate President, Lawan?




Senate President Ahmad Lawan

Chances of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, returning to the red chamber may have been closed by the court verdict upholding Bashir Sheriff Machina as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Yobe North Senatorial District. Is this the end to the road for the lawmaker’s political journey? KEHINDE OSASONA asks.

The legislature is one of the tripods on which any democracy stands hence the importance attached to the parliament where policies are made and the future of any country is shaped in line with people’s yearnings and aspirations.

This explains why capable hands and result-oriented politicians are most sought after for by the electorate to represent them both at the National Assembly.

However, when the floor of the red chamber would be opened for legislative business in 2023 Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, would be one personality that would be missing in action. This is no thanks to a court verdict that may have nailed his political journey.

Lawan, who represents Yobe North in the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is arguably one of the most experienced lawmakers in the National Assembly.

He came to the National Assembly in 1999 as a member of the House of Representatives, on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP), which transformed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later merged with two other parties to form the ruling APC in 2014.

Political journey

Born on January 12, 1959, the embattled lawmaker boasts of a parliamentary career spanning a stretch of 22 years at the National Assembly. After his stint in 1999, where he represented Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe state, he was re-elected in 2003 and has been in the National Assembly. Lawan had contested and elected to represent Yobe North Senatorial District in 2007.

Although, he lost the bid to become Senate President in 2015 to Bukola Saraki, he emerged as the Senate Majority Leader two years later following the removal of Ali Ndume in 2017, a position he held till 2019 when he became the helmsman at the red chamber and the number three citizen.

Beginning of the end

In the run up to the 2023 general elections, Senator Lawan had joined the race for Presidency on the platform of the APC, however, he lost in the primary election to former Lagos Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

When the whole matter first reared its head, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Yobe North Senatorial District,

On the other hand, Machina, had won the primary election for Yobe North Senatorial District, a position held by Senator Lawan.

Following the outcome of the presidential primary Machina, who was initially described as a placeholder, however, insisted that he wouldn’t relinquish his ticket to Senator Lawan.

Some political analysts, who saw through the Senate President’s had described his actions as that of a man who wanted to have his cake and eat cake.

Amidst speculations on who was the authentic APC candidate for Yobe North Senatorial District there were claims that another primary election was conducted with Lawan emerging as the winner of that election.

However, Machina came out to clear the air stating he was the authentic candidate for the seat.

He stated: “As far as I’m concerned, I contested for the Yobe North Senatorial ticket and I won the election.

“I was confirmed elected because there were other contestants but I was the one that was qualified. I happened to be unopposed.

“I am still the candidate; I have not withdrawn and I will not withdraw for anybody. I am being approached by some persons but I will not withdraw, Insha Allah.”

Contentious ‘withdrawal letter’

At some point while some party stalwarts and stakeholders were still seeking ways around the issue, another controversy bordering on an alleged forged letter announcing Machina’s resignation from APC cropped up.

While dissociating himself from the said letter a few days later, the senatorial candidate in a press statement described the letter as forged and meant to mislead the public.

“It is brought to my notice that some unscrupulous elements have forged my withdrawal letter out of mischief and blackmail.

“I want to state unequivocally that the purported letter was forged. I did not at any time withdraw nor resign from my party.

“I was shocked when I discovered that some persons concocted plans to mislead the public, particularly my supporters into believing that I have withdrawn.

“The discrepancies between the two dates, especially between the date of writing the purported letter and the date it was received exposed the author’s inadequacies and lack of sufficient administrative knowledge,” the statement read.

It further stated, “Although we suspect that this letter may be another fake news and the handwork of enemies of peace, the APC’s national secretariat must speak up on it since it is carrying the official stamp of the secretariat.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I have not resigned nor withdrawn my candidature; I am in APC and have no intention to move to any party. I will (Insha Allah) pursue my senatorial ambition.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to review the fake letter and take necessary legal action against.”

Position of the Law

Speaking on the development in Yobe and Akwa Ibom, Human Rights Lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, described as “brazen impunity” for the APC to present Ahmad Lawan as senatorial candidate for the district.

Falana, in a press statement, said he expected INEC to do the needful by ensuring that due process was followed on the submission of names of candidates.

“Apart from the brazen impunity of the APC, Dr. Ahmed Lawan superintended the passage of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly while Senator Godwin Akpabio is a senior lawyer who ought to have familiarised with the provisions of the Act.”

Citing relevant sections of the Electoral Act, 2022, on the functions of INEC at party primaries, Falana commended Igini, but criticised Mohammed Haruna, a national commissioner of INEC, for opposing the Akwa Ibom REC on the grounds that political parties alone can determine the legality of candidates.

Falana also urged INEC “not be misled to shirk its statutory duty to sanitise the democratic process”, adding that the only way the APC can present Akpabio and Lawan as its senatorial candidates was if Machina and Ekpoudom voluntarily withdrew.

The last straw

Despite Machina’s victory at the May 28 primary election, the leadership of the APC allegedly submitted Lawan’s name as the senatorial candidate for the district.

The action led Machina to court, where he filed a suit praying the court to rule that he was the bona fide candidate of the party.

He also asked the court to order the INEC to include his name in its final list of candidates for the 2023 National Assembly elections.

Earlier, INEC had reportedly refused to recognise either Lawan or Machina, insisting it would only recognise the candidate the court ruled was the authentic candidate of the party for the district.

Subsequently, a Federal High Court sitting in Damaturu, Yobe state, gave a verdict that Lawan was not the candidate of the ruling APC for Yobe North Senatorial District in next year’s election into the National Assembly.

The court held that Machina was the authentic candidate of the party having won the legally recognised primary election supervised by INEC.

In its ruling, the court held that Lawan did not participate in the legally recognised primary election of the APC to select its candidate for the Senate held on May 28.

Licking his wounds?

In what it termed as search for a consensus candidate, the ruling APC had in the middle of the game reportedly anointed Lawan as its choice for the presidency.

Although the actions of the Alhaji Adamu Abdulahi-led APC did not go down well with some party members, not many people could protest openly.

Save for the likes of Tinubu, who was fighting it internally, others practically went to sleep because they were expecting to be anointed too.

In spite of the internal wrangling that Lawan purported choice had caused, he still went ahead to contest with frontline aspirants like Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Rotimi Amaechi at the party primaries.

Tinubu, who emerged as the APC presidential candidate had lambasted Lawan, expressing surprised that the Senate President could compete with him.

The former governor while giving his acceptance speech the national convention said the Senate President “could now lick his wounds.”

“To you, the legislature; Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, I would have been a little upset because you competed with me but that is over now since you can easily lick your wounds. It doesn’t take away anything from liking you for the past cooperation, collaboration and cool-headedness you brought to our country.”

How things play out for the Yobe-born politician is yet to be seen, however, the outlook of his politically career appears to be bleak at the moment.

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