The leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC is meeting today with the party’s senators-elect in a second meeting aimed at dousing the dissonance in the Senate leadership contest.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Though no agenda was given for the meeting scheduled for Abuja there is little doubt that the meeting will centre on the leadership contest in the Senate which has seen the emergence of two strong candidates on the platform of the party.
The two candidates who have apparently polarised the party into two are Senators Bukola Saraki and Ahmad Lawan from Kwara and Yobe States respectively. The two men have captured the centre stage in the contest forcing lesser minions like Senator Ali Ndume and George Akume who had earlier shown interest to back down from the race. Senator Akume who is the outgoing Senate Minority Leader climbed down to endorse Senator Lawan and is now positioned as his deputy in the leadership contest. Senator Ndume on backing down is now pushing for Senator Saraki.
Until recently, the outgoing Senate President, Senator David Mark had largely been believed to be working behind the scenes for the emergence of Senator Lawan on the basis of the political chemistry behind the two men which has seen Senator Lawan in the past being accused of being a closet member of the PDP.
Though, a member of the opposition, Lawan is known to be in the inner caucus of the David Mark Senate a tradition that follows his close working relationship with Speaker Aminu Masari in the PDP controlled House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007.
The suggestion of the good understanding between him and the PDP had in the past led to the assumption that Senator Mark and his machine were well behind the aspiration of Senator Lawan. Supporting Lawan was also good politics for Mark as it seemed logical for him to support a friend than Senator Akume and Saraki, both of whom had sought to deny him his place of glory in the Senate.
Senator Akume had nearly denied Senator Mark the presidency of the Senate in 2007 when he mustered almost 40 votes in the Senate leadership contest of that year. Mark and Akume, who were reportedly chummy political friends were believed to have fallen apart before the 2007 general elections due to some still inexplicable reasons. When Mark mustered his return to the Senate in 2007 against Akume’s desire, the later was to challenge him in the contest for Senate President despite the earlier endorsement given Mark by the PDP few days before President Olusegun Obasanjo left office.
In the end, Akume failed in his bid and then shifted towards the opposition, becoming the leader of the opposition against his former party, the PDP in his native Benue State.
Senator Saraki’s aspiration for Senate President was also seen as a no go area for the Mark team given the cold relationship between the senator and the outgoing Senate President especially as reflected in the days leading to the defection of Saraki and some other senators from the PDP. Besides, Senator Saraki is also believed to have his eyes on the presidency in 2019. Many politicians also say that Senator Mark may also have his own eyes on 2019.
Given the difficult relationship between Mark and Akume, it was not difficult to realise why Senator Mark would not support Akume. Also, given the alleged convergence of the ambitions of Mark and Saraki towards 2019, it was also easy to see why the Senate President was not seen to be supporting his potential rival.
The two reasons also mixed together to favour Senator Lawan, the supposedly closeted member of the PDP.
However, the permutations in the contest as concerning Senator Mark seemed to have been altered by the new working relationship between Senators Lawan and Akume. Would Senator Mark sit down and allow his perceived political foe, Akume, to overtake him in the ranking at home and in the Senate?
That is the issue and challenge that is now confronting the Lawan campaign. Those in the Lawan camp who had taken the support from the Mark machine for granted are now having to restrategise given the new alliance they now share with Akume.
The development is what is now fuelling suggestions of Mark entering the fray himself to capitalise on how he can make a killing in the face of the division in the APC. If Mark enters the contest, he as usual would do it subtly. If he does so, he would surely not enter at the point of weakness.
With 49 senators on the platform of the PDP, and the APC having 59 senators, only 10 votes separate the two parties. It is such a fear of Mark’s moves that may have drawn the leadership of the APC into seeking a consensus in the contest.
The APC has every reason to move cautiously. As an ordinary senator prior to 2007, Senator Mark won a reputation of leading the largest bloc of senators with more than 70 senators pledging allegiance to him. In his eight years as Senate President, there has been no single report of an attempted putsch quite unlike the years before his advent. Mischief makers allege that he was the one that strew the banana peels that fell the several Senate Presidents before him and that once he got to the office he quickly packed away the banana peels.
The capacity and capability of such a man who also has the political shrewd Senator Ike Ekweremadu behind him could not but have roused the APC to action. But whether the APC has woken up late is another issue given the hardened positions that have been taken by the Saraki and Lawan campaigns.