The Lawan-Akume Deal: End Of Discussion
PERHAPS unwittingly, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has solved the most difficult aspect of the problem confronting it in the selection of presiding officers in the National Assembly, by jettisoning zoning of offices for merit, experience and ranking. The process of zoning the offices, particularly that of the senate president, had become intractable, threatening to tear the APC apart, until the party decided to throw the contest open.
In my two previous interventions on the issue, I had tried to offer some illuminations as to the path the APC should take or the direction it should go in the tricky circumstance in which it had found itself, especially with some audacious members poised to go the whole hog in the battle for the coveted seat of senate president. The trio of Senators Bukola Saraki, George Akume and Ahmad Lawan had thrown their hats in the ring. They brought a large dose of intrigues and horse-trading into the mix.
The themes of the first article titled: “Senate Presidency: Considering the Akume, Lawan Options” and the second article, titled: “Senate Presidency, Speakership: the Conversation Continues” favoured both Akume and Lawan senate presidency. It was pretty difficult for me in my first outing to prop up one against the other. I had simply navigated the turbulence by proposing an Akume senate presidency if the APC ceded the position to the North Central and a Lawan senate presidency if the party decided to cede it to the Northeast zone.
That was quite explicable: both aspirants are very good, meritorious, experienced and, in the legislative parlance, ranking senators. In other words, either of them would make a good senate president; or put differently, both of them have all the requisite qualifications to occupy the office.
In my second outing, after the APC had discountenanced the factor of zoning, I weighed all the aspirants on the scale of merit, experience and ranking and concluded that while Saraki failed to measure up, both Akume and Lawan were spot-on in their claims on merit, experience and ranking.
My argument was that overall Akume would appear to have a head start over Lawan, apparently guided by the senate standing rule. Whereas, Lawan was a member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007 before his election into the Senate in 2007, the same year Akume got elected into the Senate, in determining ranking, the senate rule does not take into account the fact of previous membership of the either the state legislature or House of Representatives. That makes both Akume and Lawan equal in terms of length of tenure. The head start, which Akume has over Lawan, as I argued, is the fact that Akume has been a principal officer, to wit: senate minority leader since 2011.
By virtue of that seniority, now that the APC, which he leads as minority leader in the senate, has become a majority party, Akume should have been allowed to progress into the position of senate president in line with the convention of leadership by progression in advanced democracies. In the same vein, I had argued that the minority leader in the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, should also have been allowed to progress to become Speaker. Those were the frontiers of the conversation that I continued to expand in my second intervention before the horse-trading that redefined the shape and course of the race for the senate presidency.
Although, I came short of suggesting that Akume and Lawan should agree to step down for each other so that one would pick the position of Senate President and the other Deputy Senate President simply because I did not want to offend the sensibilities of either of these solid candidates, it was gratifying when the APC Senators Unity Forum, a group comprising 37 out of the 60 members-elect, got Akume to step down for Lawan so that Lawan would emerge as Senate President and Akume as Deputy Senate President.
That move gave birth to a very solid APC bloc in the emergent 8th Senate, leaving Saraki with the support of 23 senators to search for support in the PDP caucus to shore up his dwindling fortunes. Knowing the senate politics and politicking as one does, the acclaimed 23-member Saraki Like Minds group cannot remain intact between now and the day of inauguration. Saraki will steadily lose some of his supporters, who would not want to miss out in the chairmanship of standing committees, to the Lawan-Akume group, which looks good to clinch the presiding officers’ slots.
Indeed, Lawan and Akume have played the smartest politics and made the fastest move in the race for the senate plum positions. It was clear that both might have been defeated by Saraki if they had stuck to their guns of going into the planned primaries in the APC senate caucus individually. Having sat back to consider all the indices on ground, it was clear that the only way to breeze past Saraki was for Lawan and Akume to present a tag team or joint ticket. That worked perfectly for them. It also bolstered the support for the ticket among senators of the PDP caucus. Lawan is believed to enjoy the solid support of the outgoing Senate President, David Mark. Mark is very influential and would be instrumental to securing the support of a majority of 49-member PDP senate caucus for Lawan-Akume ticket. Saraki will get his share of support from the PDP caucus, no doubt.
That is the scenario to expect. The coast appears very clear for the emergence of Lawan-Akume tag team as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively. In fact, the conversation has ended as far as the race for the senate presidency is concerned; yes, what, in popular parlance, could be captured in the following words: “end of discussion!”
Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, sent this piece via email@example.com