There were strong indications last night that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Alhaji Ahmad Lawan, can now bank on the support of three geopolitical zones in his bid to preside over the affairs of the Eighth Senate.
It was also learnt yesterday that ex-Governor Bukola Saraki has emerged as the main rival to Lawan.
Ex-Governor George Akume is also very much in the race.
But the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark, and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Senators mostly from the South-East, South-South and North-Central may break the tie between the two leading candidates -Lawan and Saraki -both of whom are now directing their campaign at Southeast and the Southsouth caucuses.
Investigation revealed that Lawan has been endorsed by 12 Senators from the South-West, 20 from the North-East and about 18 from the North-West.
It was gathered that the support for Lawan is being driven by political heavyweights in Yobe State, especially ex-Governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim and Governor Ibrahim Gaidam.
Apart from reaching out to North-East leaders, Bukar and Gaidam have started intense lobbying of North-West and South-West leaders within and beyond the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A reliable source said: “Our leaders in the North-East have rallied round Sen. Ahmad Lawan for the Senate Presidency. As a matter of fact, we prefer to lead the Senate than the House of Representatives because of enhanced political leverage.
“So far, we have secured the backing of a sizable number of Senators from the North-East, North-West and South-West for Ahmad Lawan.
“In fact, North-East leaders are already opening up talks with heavyweights like all the governors and political leaders in the North-East, North-West and South-West.
“We are hopeful that Lawan may emerge the President of the eighth Senate.”
On his part, Sen. Bukar Abba Ibrahim said Lawan is eminently qualified for the office.
Ibrahim, who heads the Senate Housing Committee, said Lawan’s endorsement was made on behalf of the people and government of Yobe State.
He added: “Lawan possesses the required qualities, character and the frame of mind to make a qualitative Senate President. He is energetic, hardworking and possessing progressive values.
Gaidam, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Press Affairs and Information, Abdullahi Bego, urged “all senators-elect to consider Senator Lawan’s experience, his goodwill, capacity and reach and, therefore, support him to be the next President of the Senate.”
It was also gathered that the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark and the PDP Senators mostly from the South-East, South-South and North-Central may break the tie between the two leading candidates (Lawan and Saraki).
A highly-placed source in the PDP Caucus said: “I do not think we will be bound by the zoning arrangement of APC. Instead, we will vote on our Inauguration day according to our conscience, what is good for democracy and the directive of our party.
“We are certainly weighing options. You see, some of those aspiring for positions in the Senate and in the House of Representatives defected from our party to APC.
“Their defection eventually led to the defeat of PDP. To some of us, it is pay-back time. We may not allow these people to have their cake and eat it.
“A negligible few among us however feel that if a defector from PDP to APC becomes the Senate President, we will be recovering our mandate gradually ahead of 2019.
“So, either way, all these aspirants in the National Assembly need us and we will play a “strategic role.”
Another source added: “Lawan is more or less a favourite of the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark.
“So, you can see that even Lawan’s candidacy might gain some weight in the PDP Caucus in the Senate if Mark endorses his anointed “favourite” whom he saddled with Public Accounts Committee. Mark will prefer to serve under Lawan in the Senate than Saraki.
“There is no hiding place for Mark. He will be interested in his successor having built some legacies including the preservation of the maturity and unity of the Senate.”
In spite of the support base for Lawan, ex-Governor Bukola Saraki is still reaching out to political leaders and Emirs in the North on why the North-Central should retain the Senate Presidency slot.
To pacify the North-East, it was learnt that Saraki’s camp is considering the option of producing the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the zone.
A Senator-elect said: “I think the race is a straightforward one between Lawan and Saraki. The two candidates have dominated lobbying sessions in the last one and a half weeks.
“Most leaders from the North seem to prefer Lawan because of 2019 factor. Realising that the North-East cannot be shoved aside, the Saraki camp is pushing for the concession of House Speakership to the zone. This is why Representative Yakubu Dogara’s name is coming up.
“Saraki is trying to use his Senate heritage (since his father was a former Senate Leader), political connections in the North, and leverage as a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
“Therefore, Saraki is no push over. Saraki has only two obstacles. These are his rich Yoruba heritage, which will not make the core north to accept his presidency as really a slot for the North-Central.
“This same factor denied the late Senate Leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki the presidential ticket in 1978. It was the same reason the late Chief S.B. Awoniyi could not be either the National Chairman of PDP or a presidential candidate. This is the dilemma facing Yoruba in the North.
“And if Saraki says he is a pure Fulani, most Senators will remind him that the President-elect is also a Fulani too. In the spirit of Federal Character, a Fulani cannot be president and be the President of the Senate.
“Some governors are however flaunting the cosmopolitan credentials of Saraki to seek the Senate Presidency for him.”