The die has been cast and the gunshot for the race to the Nigerian Senate President seat gone off. Who does the crown fits? Memorila analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the front-runners to the Number Three position of Nigeria.
The Ninth Senate Presidency race has begun in earnest and so far, two top contenders, Senators Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) and Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) have thrown their hats into the ring. There are other dark horses who haven’t openly declared their intentions, senators such as Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central) and Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West).And there are those eyeing the deputy senate president seat. Memorila analyses the strengths and weaknesses of these contenders and offers its choice of who should wear the crown.
Outcome of the 2019 general elections
Nigeria’s 2019 general elections have come and gone, with the winners announced nationwide. At the centre, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was returned having garnered 15,191,848 votes to beat his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who took home 11,262,978 votes.
So far, of the 29 states where governorship elections held this year, the country’s major opposition party, the PDP, snatched 14 states from the jaws of the ruling APC, who managed to win 15 states, with one (Kano) under controversial circumstances. All in all, the APC now have 20 states, the PDP has 15, with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having Anambra state only.
And of the 105 Senate seats so far declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC has 65 seats to PDP’s 39 and Young People’s Party’s (YPP) one. Four are still yet to be declared by the electoral umpire, two each from Imo and Rivers states. And one, Bauchi South, which was won by the APC, has no candidate declared yet.
Tradition of Nigeria’s Senate Presidency
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the country had operated a bi-camera legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives, just like the United States of America. But unlike the US where the head of the senate is the country’s vice president, the Senate President in Nigeria, who is its head, is elected among the members of the red chamber.
Thus so far, we have had the senate presidencies of Evan Enwerem (1999), Chuba Okadigbo (1999-2000), Anyim Pius Anyim (2000-2003), Adolphus Wabara (2003-2005) and Ken Nnamani (2005-2007). David Mark successfully presided for two terms of four years (2007-2015) and handed the baton to Bukola Saraki, the incumbent, whose tenure elapses on June 9, 2019.
Who will Saraki bequeath the seat to? Only time can tell.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume born 20 November 1959 is a native of Gwoza Town in Borno State. After obtaining OND and HND in marketing from Kaduna Polytechnic in 1980 and 1982, respectively, he became a lecturer at Ramat Polytechnic Maiduguri in 1982, rising to become a Senior Lecturer.
In 1988, Mr. Ndume was awarded the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Post-Graduate Scholarship to study Business and Computer Education at the University of Toledo Ohio, United States of America, where he graduated with a B.Ed and M.Ed in 1990.
He continued teaching at Ramat Polytechnic upon return from the USA, before venturing into politics in 2003 where he was elected to represent Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). After being re-elected for a second term, he emerged the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives in 2007, still under the platform of ANPP.
But in December 2010, due to political disagreements with his state governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Ndume decamped to the PDP, grabbed the party’s senate ticket and went on to win the general elections to represent Borno South.
In 2014 political alignments and re-alignments led Ndume and 20 of his colleagues in the senate, including Senator Bukola Saraki, to form the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) which later metamorphosed to form today’s ruling APC.
He got re-elected to represent Borno South senatorial district under the APC, and then teamed up with Bukola Saraki, to ensure the latter emerged the senate president against his party’s wish. He was thereafter rewarded with the Senate Leader’s position after having contested the Deputy Senate President and lost to the incumbent Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP.
But he soon fell out with Saraki, was impeached by the APC Senators from the Senate Leader’s position on 10 January 2017 and On March 29, 2017, suspended for six months by the senate after recommendations from the Senate committee on ethics and privileges, for falsely calling for a probe into the allegations of imported bullet proof Range Rover with fake documents involving Senate President Bukola Saraki and that of perjury involving Dino Melaye.
Senator Anyanwu, whose committee investigated both matters, reported that Mr. Ndume failed to conduct proper investigation before making “the allegations”.
But on November 10, 2017, the senator bounced back after Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court, Abuja, set aside the suspension and ordered that Mr. Ndume be allowed to resume his duties in the senate as a senator.
Ndume rebelled against the APC to install Saraki
When the 8th senate was inaugurated, Ndume was among other APC senators like Dino Melaye and Ahmed Sani Yerima, who fought tooth and nail with the PDP to install the senate presidency of Bukola Saraki against the wish of their party’s preferred candidate, Ahmad Lawan. After making sure Saraki had won the plum job, he vied for the position of the Deputy Senate President alongside Senator Ike Ekweremadu which the latter won with 54 votes against his own 20.
Undeterred and in order to reward those who helped him to get the senate presidency, Saraki made Ndume the Senate Leader, again, against the APC’s wish.
Due to the foregone, some Nigerians still see Ndume as an unfaithful party member. In an online poll conducted here and here, Rasaq Usman opined that “Ndume is another Saraki”, while Amuda Yusuf Ipaye stated that Ndume “is not a faithful APC member.”
Political watchers also say his antics after the APC anointed Senator Ahmad Lawan as its preferred candidate for the top seat further lay credence to the fact that the senator may repeat the Saraki scenario he midwife in 2015.
“Ndume is part of Saraki’s saga in 2015 and we don’t want a repeat of that in the 9th Assembly,” stated Iyabo Adebayo.
Became Buhari’s diehard after clash with Saraki
Ndume has also been accused of being a turncoat. Analysts say in the beginning of the 8th Assembly, he sided with the Saraki leadership to rubbish the will of his party. But when his cosy relationship with Saraki turned sour, he switched over to the camp President Muhammadu Buhari.
And thus, Akinyemi Gbenga wrote that being a “chameleon”, APC faithful should reject his choice.
Link with Boko Haram
During the wee hours of Boko Haram insurgency, political thugs were hired to take out political opponents and these killings were tagged ‘Boko Haram killings’. Prior to the 2011 general elections, the then Borno state’s gubernatorial candidate of the defunct ruling party All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Alhaji Modu Fannami Gubio, was gunned down by gunmen in front of his house in a manner that the then Borno State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar said the Police will not rule out many possibilities, “including that of a political nature.”
One stain that has refused to leave Distinguished Senator Ali Ndume’s babban riga is his link with the dreaded terrorist group.
To this end a report by Daily Post announced the arraignment of Senator Ndume in 2011 and his re-arraignment in 2013 on a four-count charge of allegedly sponsoring the Boko Haram sect. “The offence according to the Federal Government, contravened Sections 3, 4 and 7 of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011,” stated the report.
However, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on July 4, 2017 discharged and acquitted him of all charges of terrorism brought against him. But it seems this smear is not ready to wash away any time soon.
According to Dashik Simonl Jacob, “Na so PDP de the go choose Boko Haram founder as their leader”.
PDP might rally behind him
One political strength of Senator Ndume may have over other contenders is that the PDP senators can rally round him to spite the APC just the way they did in 2015.
Reports back then showed that he was the one assigned by the Like Mind Senators group, which vigorously campaigned for Saraki, to discuss with the PDP to support the latter’s shot for the senate presidency. One request the PDP caucus asked was for one of them to be nominated as the Deputy Senate President, which the Saraki group agreed.
On the Election Day, after Saraki was overwhelmingly voted by the PDP, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was nominated for the Senate Number Two position to which to the surprise of the PDP caucus, Ndume also threw his hat to slug for. Ekweramadu of the PDP later took the day.
If the PDP wants to grab any of the top senate leadership positions, they will need to get them through the back door by fronting for a disquieted APC member. Ndume, who feels shortchanged by his party, seems fit for the bill.
A member of the ANPP bloc of APC
Few months leading to the 2015 general elections, four parties threw away their registration licenses to merge to become the All Progressives Congress (APC) to wrestle power away from the then Nigeria’s ruling behemoth, the Peoples Democratic Party. These parties include Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The new-Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), a faction of the PDP later joined the new party.
As things stand today, the CPC elements of Nigeria’s ruling party have their member as the president, in the person of Muhammadu Buhari; Yemi Osinbajo, the vice-president is from the ACN part. But most of the nPDP elements of the party, like Atiku Abubakar, Senators Bukola Saraki and Rabi’u Kwankwaso, have returned to their former party, the PDP, citing highhandedness in the APC.
Now, the other major stakeholder not settled in the aforementioned marriage is the ANPP. Ndume, being a former ANPP member could enjoy the support of his former cotravellers who might prop him up for Nigeria’s Number Three position.
Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, CON, a three-time senator representing Yobe North since 2007, was born on the 12th of January, 1959. The senator who has just been re-elected for the fourth time is among the top-shots for Nigeria’s Senate presidency.
Senator Lawan has a degree in Geography (Unimaid, 1984), master’s degree in remote sensing (Ahmadu Bello University, 1990) and a doctorate degree in remote sensing/GIS (Cranfield University, UK, 1996).
He had worked as an Education Officer III with the Borno State Ministry of Education, (1985-1986), Assistant Lecturer I in Advanced Teacher’s College and now College of Education, Gashua (1986) and then transferred his services to University of Maiduguri as a Lecturer from 1987 – 1997.
With the return to democracy in 1998, he was elected the pioneer Vice Chairman of All Peoples Party (APP) Yobe State Chapter, and in 1999, served as the Secretary of the Electoral Committee of APP National Convention in Abuja.
He stood for election and got elected to the House of Representatives to represent Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe state in 1999, a seat a retained in 2003. From thence on, he moved to the Senate from 2007.
Left anti-Saraki supporters to their fates
At the height of Saraki’s disregard of APC’s zoning arrangement in 2015, another camp, Senate Unity Forum, sprouted up to push for the realization of the party’s wish that Ahmad Lawan becomes Senate President.
After Saraki maneuvered the party to emerge Senate President, reports say that he rewarded his supporters with juicy posts and committees and left all those that opposed him, including Ahmad Lawan, his major contender, out of the picture.
But after Saraki fell out with Ndume, he replaced him with Ahmad Lawan as the Senate Leader. Senators who fought alongside Lawan accused him of leaving them to the mercies of Saraki after he was ensconced with the Senate Leader post.
Many years of representation
One of the pros that will work for Lawan’s emergence as the next Senate President is his long years experience at the National Assembly. When the 9th Assembly reconvenes on June 9, 2019, he would have spent a combined 20 years as a House of Representatives member (8 years) and senator (12 years).
According to Duru Joseph, Senator Lawan’s “antecedents says it all.” Adding that being one of the most experienced lawmakers, Lawan is a “progressive of excellence. A well educated man; all his years in the national assembly you can hardly trace any crisis to him.”
A member of the ANPP bloc of APC
Just like Ali Ndume, Senator Ahmad Lawan being a former member of the defunct ANPP could also serve as an advantage for him. More so according to Akinyemi Gbenga, “Lawan Ahmed has never been to PDP up till now.”
Backing of APC apparatchik
Just like in 2015, Senator Ahmad Lawan is still enjoining the backing of APC’s top echelon. Rising from a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari on March 25, 2019, APC’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, announced that the party has chosen Lawan as its choice of Senate President for the 9th Senate. Even though the choice did not go down well with other contenders like Senator Ali Ndume, some senators-elect have since thrown their weights behind their party’s choice.
A senator-elect, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state where Ndume hails from, recently hailed Senator Lawan, promising to impress on Ndume to drop his ambition and toe the line of his party.
Senator-elect Shettima describe Lawan as “the best amongst equals. He is level headed, calm, and matured. We need such quality of leadership to drive the 9th Senate.”
Muhammad Danjuma Goje, a senator representing Gombe Central, shot to national limelight when he defeated the incumbent governor of Gombe State, Abubakar Habu Hashidu, in 2003. After serving out two terms under the PDP, he proceeded to the Senate in 2011, got reelected in 2015 under the platform of the newly-registered APC and from June 9, 2019, will be serving his third term in the Red Chamber.
Goje born on October 10, 1952, in Pindiga, Akko, Gombo State, had a Grade II teachers certificate from Bauch Teachers College (1977) and a B.Sc in Political Science from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria (1978).
His first foray into politics was when he became a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly (1979-1983) at the age of 27 years. He later became the Secretary of the National Institute for Medical Research in Yaba, Lagos State in 1984, continuing until 1989.
He later ventured into entrepreneurship when he incorporated Zaina Nigeria Ltd, which he ran from 1989 to 1999.
With the return to democracy, he contested for the seat of Senator in the Nigerian National Assembly in 1998 but failed. New President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as the Minister of State, Power and Steel from 1999-2001.
Senator Muhammadu Goje has been taunted as a possible Senate President of the 9th Assembly and many groups have come out to impress on him to contest. But till this moment, the Distinguished Senator has maintained tight lips.
Currently, Senator Goje heads the juicy Senate Appropriations Committee.
Link with Saraki
According to a report by Pulse, APC’s top hierarchy do not support Goje’s candidacy for Senate President because they view him as “too close to Saraki”. According to an inside source who does not want to be named, the APC top echelons fear foisting a Saraki 2.0 at the helm of the nation’s Senate.
The source said: “Goje is too close to Saraki. In fact, he worked in cahoots with Saraki to delay the budgets from the executive. All the budget padding allegations happened on his watch. In fact, some of us in the APC consider him Saraki’s candidate. He is the man Saraki wants to succeed him and we can’t allow Saraki 2.0 in the 9th national assembly.”
Brought a state governor and all NASS members
One of the strengths of ex-governor Danjuma Goje, according to insiders, is that he is a grassroots politician. In the just concluded elections, the Gombe state APC under his stewardship swept all the House of Representatives and Senate seats of the state and also returned the state government house to the party.
Viewing these feats, the North-East Consultative Forum (NECF) and five other groups in the zone endorsed Goje for the position of the Senate President and urged him to come out to formally declare.
In a letter signed by Barrister Mustapha Saidu and Alhaji Bello Ambo to the APC Chairman, the group wrote, “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 his gallantry loyalty and commitment to APC.”
But some political analysts view this otherwise. Malam Idris Mai Barca from Kano opined that Goje shouldn’t vie for the Senate Presidency in order to consolidate on his victory at home.
In his view, “If Goje should become the Senate President, he may likely clash with his state governor. And this could go a long way in diminishing the success of APC in the state.”
An nPDP member
Being a former PDP member could add impetus to Goje’s aspirations. One of the reasons Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, put forward when they contested for their respective positions was that the nPDP components of the APC were not being considered for any position in the share of the spoils of war after the party clinched the centre.
This time around the same nPDP members could still push forward a member of their caucus to be given a top leadership position in the APC family. And the main PDP members will support him.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu, born July 23, 1946 in Keffi, Nasarawa State was first elected under the PDP in 2011 to represent Nasarawa West senatorial district. He got reelected in 2015 under APC and will serve his third term from June 9, 2019.
Senator Adamu was a former two-term governor of Nasarawa State from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007 under his former party. Prior to this, in March 1995, the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha appointed Adamu as the Minister of State for Works and Housing, a position he held until November 1997. In 1994 he was appointed to the National Constitutional Conference by the General Sani Abacha’s administration.
Senator Adamu is a holder of a National Diploma (1965–1968) and Higher National Diploma (1971) in Law from Kaduna Polytechnic. In 1987, he enrolled in the part-time degree programme of the University of Jos, obtaining an LLB (Hons) in 1992. He enrolled in the Nigerian Law School, Lagos where he obtained his BL and was called to the Bar as a solicitor and Advocate of Supreme Court of Nigeria in December 1993.
He had worked with the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (1967), Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC) Kaduna (1971), AEK, a consultancy firm (1973), and in October 1975, at the age of 29, appointed the Executive Secretary of the Benue/Plateau Construction Company. From February 1980 – September 1983 he was also the Chairman of the Benue Cement Company, Gboko.
Adamu forayed into politics in 1977 and got elected to the Constituent Assembly; was the pioneer member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the first Secretary-General of the party in Plateau State from December 1978; and then chairman of the party in the Plateau from 1982 to 1983.
In 1998, Adamu became a founding member of People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
When Nigerian youths sponsored the #NotTooYoungToRun bill to the National Assembly which was later passed and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 31, 2019, what they achieved was the reduction of ages for aspirants to the State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25 years, Federal House of Representatives, 30 to 25 years, and aspirants for the Office of the President, 40 to 35 years.
The age for aspirants to become Senators and Governors maintained its status quo of 35 years.
At 72 years, many Nigerians view Senator Abdullahi Adamu as #TooOldToRun for the position of the Senate President. They believe, being a staunch Buhari supporter, he can rewarded with the position of the Senate Leader.
An nPDP member
Just like Goje, Senator Adamu is also a caucus member of the nPDP family in APC, and hence could enjoy their support. But with the massive defections of most senators of the clique, like the current Senate President Bukola Saraki, Shaaba Lafiaji, Soji Akanbi, Lanre Tejuosho, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Sulaiman Hunkuyi, back to their former house on July 24, 2019, the voice of the nPDP family has drastically thinned out.
Orji Uzor Kalu
Senator-elect Orji Uzor Kalu has vowed to contest for the Senate President position if the Deputy Senate President post is not zoned to the southeast. Even though a first-timer but being the only the APC senator from the southeast, the ex-governor of Abia state from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007 under the PDP platform, believes he has all it takes to be at the helm of the senate leadership.
Orji Uzor Kalu who won the 2019 general election to represent the people of Abia North in the senate was born on April 21, 1960.
As chairman of SLOK Holding a consortium of companies which are into oil and gas, banking and finance, media and publishing, real estate, trading, manufacturing, insurance and tourism, he owns Nigeria’s popular Daily Sun and New Telegraph newspapers.
Kalu was once the chairman of the Borno Water Board.
An alumnus of the Barewa College, Zaria, he enrolled in the University of Maiduguri where he studied political science. While at the university, he participated in the “Ali Must Go” riots against former education minister, Ahmadu Ali. He was suspected alongside other students. But instead of fighting for reinstatement, he chose to go into business with a N5,000.00 loan he got from his mother, trading in palm oil.
In 1986, at the tender age of 26, he received a National Merit Award from President Ibrahim Babangida.
Orji Uzor Kalu has a degree from Abia State University, a Certificate in Business Administration from Harvard University and honorary doctorate degrees from the universities of Maiduguri and Abia State.
If the 9th Assembly convenes on June 9, 2019, Orji Uzor Kalu will commence his first term as a Nigerian Senator. One of the rules guiding election of principal officers into the Senate, states that “Nomination of Senators to serve as Presiding Officers and appointments of Principal Officers and other Officers of the Senate or on any Parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of Senators. In determining ranking, the following order shall apply- (i) Senators returning based on number of times re-elected; (ii) Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives; (iii) Senators elected as Senators for the first time…”
Being a first timer, the chance of Kalu becoming the Senate President is very weak, more so the fact that his party has zoned the position to the North East.
His region didn’t vote much for APC
The southeast region gave the APC presidential candidate a measly 403,968 votes (17%) out of the over two million votes cast in the region in the just concluded 2019 general elections; the region also returned only one APC senator, elected only three APC House of Representatives members and did not vote in any APC gubernatorial candidate.
When compensations for political contributions are being considered by the APC, some political analysts opine that the southeast shouldn’t try to reap from where it hadn’t sown
Kalu has also been a serial political migrant just like the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Experts say there are many tendencies of a future Senate President Orji Uzor Kalu defecting back to the PDP or any other party if he get crossed by the APC.
Sympathy for his region
One advantage Kalu might garner is the sympathy Nigerians might have for his region. Being a region that has not been earmarked for a top leadership position by the ruling party, the tides might turn his way if for example he declares for the Deputy Senate President position.
Orji Uzor Kalu’s business success could boost his push for the Senate President or Deputy Senate President position. His arrays of companies and the successes recorded with them even with little financial and educational background could spur on his image.
In response to the aforementioned online survey conducted at the Political Debates and the APC Worldwide Forum facebook groups, Jonathan Koku writes that Ndume “is a good man, (a) very nice guy (who) is loyal to his party,” saying that he “knew him closely,” because they were in the same office. But Amuda Yusuf Ipaye contradicted him sharply by saying disqualilfying Ndume. Ipaye added that Ndume “is not a faithful APC member.”
But on his part, Ali Ibrahim wrote: “The man that a leader of Boko Haram was arrested in his house (referring to Ndume) some evil Nigerians want him to be our Senate president just because of the hate they have for PMB. Back to sender!”
And Akinyemi Gbenga continued from where Ibrahim stopped, screaming “Chameleon. God forbid!”. Gbenga went on by saying that Ndume “supported Saraki to emerge in 2015. He was later disgraced as Senate Leader. He wants to start the same process this term. He is always self centered mostly. Neither here nor there is in the blood.”
Gbenga concluded by saying: “Someone like Lawan Ahmed has never been to PDP up till now.”
In his part, Dashik Simonl Jacob capped it up by saying “Na so PDP de the go choose Boko Haram founder as their leader”
How to win the senate presidency
Now that the gun shot for the race to the Senate top seat has gone off, the contenders are leaving no stone unturned to outdo each other. We wouldn’t know who the pendulum will swing to until the die is casted and the votes counted. Until then, we are but mere speculators.
But one winning formula that could work out is if the Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan takes Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, the senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District under the APC, as his running mate. The latter defied all gangs-up and the godfathers of Delta politics who gathered together in the PDP to give him a run for his money and emerged unruffled as the senator-elect of his constituency. He has also been at the loggerheads with Saraki.
As the incumbent Borno state governor state and senator-elect Kashim Shettima puts it, most senators of the northern Nigeria region voted under the APC platform got so under the influence of President Muhammadu Buhari, “but people like Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Senator Ifeanyi Uba and Sen. Francis Alimikhena won in spite of Buhari.”