Ahmad Lawan is the favourite for Senate President – courtesy of his “rich legislative experience” and character – The Nation learnt yesterday.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership and most APC governors have endorsed the Senate Leader after consultations.
The leaders were said to have considered Lawan’s “qualifications, prudence, accountability, loyalty and rich legislative experience” which will assist the APC government to have a robust Executive-Legislative relationship to fast-track development.
Lawan is believed to be a “leader with much focus on accountability”.
It was also learnt that Buhari preferred Lawan because he repeatedly told senators-elect that he will “like to leave sustainable legacies; to be remembered for something”.
Buhari, who was emotional at a stage in his speech during a dinner with old and would-be lawmakers on Monday, regretted the frosty relationship between his administration and the leadership of the 8th National Assembly.
Senators Danjuma Goje and Adamu Abdullahi were calm, but Senator Ali Ndume protested against what he called Lawan’s imposition.
The search for the President of the Ninth Senate started immediately after the February 23 elections when members of the “kitchen cabinet” sought the opinion of the President on the direction to go.
It was gathered that the President wasted no time in picking Lawan.
Besides, every time the governors met with Buhari, his refrain was always “I will be involved in the election of principal officers in the National Assembly this time around”.
The source said the Kitchen Cabinet members, strategists, governors, national leaders of the party and APC leadership later endorsed Lawan.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The choice of Lawan for the office was not the making of the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The President had zeroed in on Lawan since 2015 and he did not mince words in asking the leaders of the party, APC governors and even senators-elect to ‘leave the Senate President for me’.”
“He spent the past few weeks to consult with some leaders of APC, governors and senators-elect to feel their pulse on Lawan. Having realised his position, some APC governors asked senators-elect from their states to be part of Lawan’s campaign.
“When Ndume met with one of the leaders of the party, he only said: ‘Whichever direction the President is going, I will follow him. You cannot expect me to work against the interest of the President.’
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“Security reports on Lawan’s lifestyle revealed a commitment to accountability. He does not indulge in wasteful spending. He fits into the austere focus of Buhari.”
Security agencies, it was learnt, rated Lawan as a loyal politician, who has been consistent in the last 20 years as a progressive.
“The dilemma of the President was how to break the news to senators-elect without making it to look like an imposition. Again, he was not too comfortable with the intrigues on the race for Senate presidency. This was why he felt he must address it before going on break,” the source said, adding:
“Buhari only routed his choice through the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to demonstrate deference to party and promote discipline in APC.”
A source said: “The President actually respected us and named his preferences for President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Oshiomhole’s job was simple. He was only to convey the decision of the leader of the party to our members-elect in the National Assembly. We are trying to avoid what happened in 2015.”
How the news was broken to senators-elect
A senator-elect at the dinner in the Villa said: “Sitting beside the President, Oshiomhole spoke passionately and made it clear that all ranking senators-elect are eminently qualified to be the President of the Senate and other principal officers. He eulogised all ranking senators.
“He had some difficulty in going straight to the point but he explained why it was necessary for the party to be united and have a solid leadership in the National Assembly.
“After some rigmarole, the National Chairman said the National Working Committee had consulted with the governors elected on the platform of the party and APC leaders and reached a conclusion that Dr. Ahmad Lawan should migrate from being a Senate Leader to the President of the Senate. At the end of the day, we are presenting Lawan for consideration.
“Oshiomhole assured that the party will ensure a win-win situation for all, especially those aspiring for Senate presidency.”
Another Senator-elect said: “Only the President and Oshiomhole spoke at the session in the Villa; we were not allowed any input. Lawan is mandated to reconcile with everybody and allow ranking senators to choose the committees they like.”
Asked how they knew that Buhari endorsed Lawan, a senator-elect from North-Central said: “The President was by his side and his body language suggested the choice of Lawan.
“Not only that the President in his remarks plainly said: ‘I thank the National Chairman of our party for making a difficult job for me much easier. I hope this will go as expected.’ Nobody needed any other signal from the President.”
The President was said to have also earned some mileage at the session with some emotional words.
A Senator from the Northeast said: “The President emotionally told us: ‘I want to be remembered for something; I want to leave something for Nigerians. I need your support.”
“Immediately after the President spoke, we all rose to sing the National Anthem.”
Although the announcement of Lawan by Oshiomhole received much applause, it was shocking to other contestants for Senate president, including Senators Danjuma Goje; Ali Ndume and Abdullahi Adamu.
A Senator from the Northwest said: “While Goje and Adamu took it in good faith, Ndume immediately protested to the APC governors at the meeting that what Oshiomhole did was unconstitutional.
“He made his feelings known and he was obviously bitter with the development. What pained Goje and Adamu was that they were not consulted. They said they would have loved to be consulted by the President and the party.”
Lawan has been mandated by the party and most senators-elect to reach out to Goje, Adamu and Ndume.
A ranking Senator said: “We are working on how to appease all. We said all our leaders should reach out to these respected Senators aspiring to be Senate President and give them some comfort. We believe it is not too late for the President and APC leadership to consult Goje, Adamu and Ndume.
“For instance, we have some proposals to make Abdullahi Adamu Senate Leader and retain Goje as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
“It was also agreed that all ranking senators be allowed to choose the committees they like.”