Ahead of the Senate’s resumption of sitting tomorrow, feelers from the leaderships of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) indicate that Senators Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) and Aminu Tambuwal (PDP, Sokoto) are favoured to emerge as majority and minority leaders respectively, Daily Trust reports.
It was, however, gathered that Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) and Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi) have remained interested in the majority and minority leadership positions respectively.
The Red Chamber is billed to resume sitting on Tuesday after which the ruling APC and the minority caucus are expected to fill the vacant eight principal positions.
The ruling APC is expected to produce the majority leader, deputy majority leader, chief whip and deputy chief whip.
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The four principal positions reserved for the minority caucus are minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.
PDP, being the major opposition party, is expected to produce the minority leader and deputy.
Though nominations for the positions are purely the affairs of political parties with the majority of seats in the Senate, the jostle for them has caused disquiet among senators of both majority and minority parties.
Findings indicate that the ruling APC has not finalised the nomination for the positions. Just as it endorsed Godswill Akpabio and Jibrin Barau for the seats of senate president and deputy respectively, the party is also expected to send names of nominees for the four principal positions it is expected to produce.
Senators Ndume and Bamidele are said to be the major contenders for the majority leader’s seat. They were among the arrowheads of Akpabio’s campaign for the senate presidency. Ndume served as the director general of Akpabio’s campaign, while Bamidele was the deputy.
The promoters of the two contenders have been at loggerheads, advancing different reasons why their candidates should be picked for the position.
A meeting of the APC leadership with Bamidele and Ndume on the matter yielded no result, it was gathered.
It was gathered that APC senators from the North said the push by some South West lawmakers to produce the majority leader will further polarise the Red Chamber.
One of them, who preferred not to be named, said lawmakers from the North were already feeling marginalised, and that the acrimony the Senate presidency contest caused among the lawmakers was yet to disappear.
Lawmakers from the South, especially South West, cautioned their Northern counterparts against heating up the polity over the principal positions.
Daily Trust gathered from the presidency and APC sources that the odds favour Bamidele who is from the same South as Akpabio.
They said Bamidele was favoured because the majority leader was often picked from the same region as the Senate president.
The source said, “In the 8th Senate, when Bukola Saraki (Kwara) was the Senate president, Ali Ndume (Borno) served as majority leader and later Ahmad Lawan (Yobe). Also, in Lawan’s 9th Senate, the majority leader was picked from the North.”
Meanwhile, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Barrister Felix Morka; National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore; National Vice Chairman (North West), Salihu Mohammed Lukman; neither answered their phone calls nor responded to text messages sent to them on the issue.
However, a chieftain of APC, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, confirmed that the party had not finalised on its preferred aspirants for the positions.
He said that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had a major role to play just like he anointed the presiding officers recently before the party’s adoption.
PDP stakeholders set to lock horns over minority leader
Indications have also emerged that the battle to produce the minority leader will be as fierce as the one that brought Akpabio as Senate president.
This is because the crisis that led the main opposition PDP to lose the presidential election to the APC continues to fester.
Daily Trust gathered that before the 2023 general elections, a former Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, was being positioned for the Senate president’s seat.
But with the loss of the election, stakeholders, including the PDP hierarchy, are said to be working for the former governor to lead the minority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the camp of a former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, an erstwhile ally of Tambuwal, is said to be working with the leadership of the Senate to thwart the move.
Wike, a few days ago, held a meeting with Senate President Akpabio at the National Assembly.
Sources said the meeting was part of his move to get his associates into the minority leadership positions in the Red Chamber.
Wike was said to have pushed his associate, Kingsley Chinda, as minority leader in the House of Representatives and was making efforts to achieve the same feat in the Senate.
Some PDP lawmakers opposed to Tambuwal’s minority leadership bid vowed to resist his emergence the way they fought against the alleged imposition of Akpabio as Senate president.
A source at the PDP headquarters told Daily Trust that the party would not allow any outside forces to have a say on an issue that its hierarchy should decide on.
He said, “I can tell you that the party will have the final say even though many people are interested in the position. The party is already rallying its senators and other opposition senators.
“It would be an aberration to allow the ruling party to produce the Senate president and also produce the person that is supposed to champion the opposition, the person that is supposed to be the eye of the people.”
Earlier, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, in an interview with Daily Trust, vowed to resist any move by the APC or other interest groups to foist a minority leadership on the Senate.
Ologunagba said Nigerians should rest assured that the party, along with its senators, would install a minority leadership that would ensure separation of powers and checks and balances.
He further said, “Our party is a party of process, and we follow our rules. On the issue of minority leadership in the Senate, the PDP is in touch with its senators in line with our democratic practice.
“What is paramount for us as a party is to have a minority leadership that will ensure a robust opposition in the Senate and the general interest of Nigerians.”
‘Opposition won’t stop Tambuwal’
Meanwhile, sources close to Tambuwal said despite protests by Wike and some PDP lawmakers, the former Sokoto governor was not relenting in his push for the position.
One of the sources described Wike’s opposition to Tambuwal’s aspiration as vengeance and sheer bitterness.
Wike reportedly felt betrayed when Tambuwal stepped down from contesting the PDP presidential ticket to support Atiku Abubakar on the day of the primary last year.
The source said, “It’s sheer bitterness that is driving Wike to oppose former Governor Tambuwal. It’s vengeance. For me, that’s not politics. Politics is about negotiation.”
On whether the division within the party will affect Tambuwal’s chances, especially as he belongs to Atiku’s camp, the source said, “The party has always been factionalised. The G5 factor is still there, and other contending issues.
“But that is not to say that the party will not iron out the issue. The elections have come and gone. There is a need to put the house in order. All bickering should be put aside. What is paramount now is how to provide vibrant opposition.
“If he eventually becomes the minority leader, Tambuwal is known as a bridge builder. He will carry everybody along. He doesn’t play politics of bitterness.”
Contacted to know if he is interested in the minority leadership position, Senator Aliero said, “If it is the wish of the minority caucus, I won’t say no. We want the minority leader to emerge devoid of any rancour or acrimony.”
By Abdullateef Salau, Saawua Terzungwe & Baba Martins