X-RAYING THE CONTENDERS FOR THE 8TH SENATE PRESIDENCY
Arguably going by what happened in the Hallow chamber of the Senate few days ago, precisely a week ago during plenary session, contention for the position of Senate Presidency of the coming 8th Senate among interested contenders, is no doubt the major issue agitating the minds of the 33 returning senators now and 76 in coming ones with attendant distraction of proceedings of the expiring 7th senate.
It would be recalled that on the said day, during clause by clause consideration of the National Tobacco Control Bill which was eventually passed into law by the senate, distractions from campaigners of major contenders for the senate number one position in the coming 8th senate, was so unbearable to some of the senators to the point that one of them, Chris Ngige ( APC Anambra Central), have to cry out to the Deputy Senate President, Ike EKweremadu who presided over the session, to call the campaigners to order.
Ngige in calling for restoration of order and sanity on the floor of the senate shouted: ” fMr. President, please could you tell all these campaign coordinators of contenders for the 8th Senate Presidency to allow the existing 7th senate treat this Bill very well.
“They are disrupting proceedings in the chamber and we are not been allowed to give the Bill the utmost attention it deserves”.
A plea that made the Deputy Senate President Ike EKweremadu to rule thus: ” senate presidency campaigners , please allow us to concentrate on legislative matters in this chamber and not just politics about leadership of the coming 8th National Assembly by suspending your campaigns forthwith till after the session’.
But who are these contenders whose campaigners were alleged to be disrupting senate proceedings on Tuesday by Senator Chris Ngige one of the 76 non returning senators and what are their profiles ?
The contenders are no doubt, Senators Bukola Saraki ( APC Kwara Central), George Akume ( APC Benue North West), Ali Ndume ( APC Borno South) and Ahmad Lawan ( APC Yobe North).
Interestingly, while Saraki and Akume are from the North central geo- political zone of the country, Ndume and Lawan are from the North East geo political zone, a scenario that will be offering the 8th Senate, a two against two contest on zonal basis if the leadership of the All Progressives Congress( APC), failed to zone the position to a particular zone and a one against one contest if eventually zoned .
Although in line with the senate rule, all the four senators are ranking and thus, qualified to contest for the senate plum job but going by legislative experience, the level of their ranking, differs.
While the two contenders from the North East, I.e, Ahmad Lawan and Ali Ndume are into the race with enormous years of legislative experience 16 and 12 years respectively, Akume and Saraki from the North Central though with lesser years of legislative experience 8 and 4 years respectively but with required administrative acumen being formal governors of their respective states and of course, with deep pockets when compared to the other two,
Putting them on the spot on individual basis, Abubakar Bukola Saraki who is no doubt one of the front runners in the race with over 70 senators – elect already said to have pledged their support for him, was born on 19 December 1962. He attended King’s College , Lagos , from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College , Cheltenham , London from 1979 to 1981 for his High School Certificate.
He later studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987, where he obtained his M.B.B.S (London). He worked as a Medical Officer at Rush Green Hospital , Essex , from 1988 to 1989. He was a Director of Societe Generale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000.
He entered into politics in year 2000 with appointment given to him by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as his Special Assistant on Budget after which he joined partisan politics proper in 2002 as an aspirant for the governorship position of Kwara state on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) and won as the party’s candidate in May 2003.
It would be recalled that Saraki, as governor of Kwara state from May 2003 to May 2011, used the platform to carve a niche for himself in national politics , particularly between 2007 to 2011 when he served as the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum ( NGF) after which he won election into the senate in April 2011 as senator elect for Kwara central upon which he is presently serving as Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology with attendant legislative astuteness ever since, as shown with his motion on fuel subsidy management in September 2011 barely four months as a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria then.
George Akume the other contender from North central was born on the 27 December 1953. He is the Minority Leader of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after earlier serving as the Governor of Benue State from 1999 to 2007. He was elected governor of Benue State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and was then elected to the Senate in to represent Benue North west senatorial district on the platform of the same party but used a different platform in 2011 ( ACN) to retain his senatorial seat.
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan was born in 1959. He received a bachelor’s Degree In Geography, a Master’s Degree in Remote Sensing and a Doctorate Degree in Remote Sensing/GIS.
He got Elected to the House of Representatives for the northern state of Yoba in 1999 and got re-elected in 2003 . At different times Lawan chaired the House Committees on education and agriculture.
Lawan was elected to the Senate in 2007, got re-elected in 2011 and elected for the third time in the recently conducted National Assembly election, .making him to be rated as the second most ranking member of the National Assembly after the Senste President, David Mark who is considered to be the most ranking member, having been elected for fifth time into the senate .
For Senator Mohammed Aliyu Ndume who more can be considered as the dark horse in the race going by his natural acceptability by many of his colleagues and even staff of the National Assembly who however have no voting power , is clearly a contender to watch, having been in the National Assembly since 2003 when he was elected to represent Chibok/ Danboa / Gearzo federal constituency of Borno state on the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party ( ANPP).
His legislative assertiveness in the House between 2003 and 2007, made his other colleagues in opposition in the House, to elect elect him as the House Minority Leader, a position he used to showcase his leadership qualities at the national level , and upon which the Borno South electorates elected him into the senate in 2011 inspite of dumping the ruling party in his state then, the ANPP for PDP.
Ndume who currently serves as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Millennium Development a Goals ( MDGs), was born in1959 in Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State. He attended Kaduna Polytechnic and then the University of Toledo , USA , where he gained a Masters Degree in Accounting and Computer. He became a Senior Lecturer in Ramat Polytechnic , Maiduguri , Borno State until 2003, when he entered politics.
In a recent chat with the Newswatch Times on his ambition of becoming the President of the 8th Senate, he said as far as he was concerned, he believes that whoever God has chosen , would be the one that would emerge and besides, since the party leadership has not zoned the position to any zone yet, he would not want to join others in jumping the gun.
“Like every other interested senator, I have interest to contest for the position of senate president of the coming 8th senate being a very high ranking senator for that matter and having meritoriously served as House Minority Leader during the 5th National Assembly but as interested in the position as I am, I will not like to join others who to me are jumping the gun by addressing press conferences here and there and seeking for zonal endorsement when the leadership of our great party has not zoned the position to any zone yet.
“However this does not mean that on my own part, that am not making my interest known to my colleagues because there is no way those who want me to be there would come to ask whether am interested or not, without me answering affirmatively by saying yes , which I’ve said to not less than 60 senators.
“But as earlier said, God will be the ultimate decider of the person who will eventually emerge as the next president of the Senate , a process I believe will start with how the party leadership zones the position later”, he said.
As earlier posited, be it North Central or North East, which ever zone the APC leadership eventually zones the position to, it will definitely be keenly contested for, since there are two formidable contenders from each of the zones except there is a plan for consensus candidate which the 49 PDP senators are not praying for, so as to re enact a Tambuwal scenario.
In any case , as it is presently, it remains a game of wait and see among the four contenders but with the latest information that Saraki and Ndume are forming alliance for the contest, Saraki seems to be best positioned to win race.
Written by Taiye Odewale.