Speculations are rife in Abuja that two top contenders to the Senate Presidency, former Governor Danjuma Goje and Senator Ali Ndume, may be reconsidering their ambition after persuasive meetings with party and presidency officials.
But none of the two has come out openly to say he is no longer in the race.
Ahmad Lawan, who is highly favoured by the presidency and the party hierachy, especially national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who sees in him a loyalist to his own much speculated presidential ambition.
But many National Assembly watchers fear for Lawan, whose personal disposition is not ageeable to his colleagues. “He may turn out to be another Okadigbo who did not touch a kobo of their money, but they were turned off by his personal disposition,” an aide to a high ranking Senator said.
“He has to deal with the perception that he is a proud and arrogant personality if he hopes to get that seat, or keep it if he gets it,” he added.
Another undoing being touted against Lawan is the backing from Tinubu, who many in the Senate are not comfortable with. The Lagos politician has further worsened it with a statement over the weekend that anyone in the APC not happy with the party’s choice of leaders in the National Assembly should leave.
“He does not realise he is not well liked here, and even in the northern APC where he is seen as a pushy hustler exploiting everyone for an agenda that will not fruit,” said a source.
It is alleged that after a nightly visit to the nation’s seat of power, the former Gombe Governor agreed to stand down his ambition to be number three citizen.
It was not clear on Saturday what was offered to persuade the former Governor, but a source suggested that subtle blackmail might have been brought to bear.
A source close to the Gombe Senator however debunked the story of the visit to the official residence of the President.
“It is not true. When I brought up the issue of the visit that was published in a national newspaper, he laughed it off saying nothing like that happened. Moreover, he has neither openly nor secretly told anyone he is interested in becoming Senate President. People are just raising it because he is one of the ranking Senators of the APC”.
The denial of a visit to the Villa from the camp of Ndume was as quick as it surfaced on social media that he has shelved his ambition..
The spokesman of a group that is bent on his emergence, Samaila Ville, told journalists in Maiduguri: “We were surprised to see the post on social media that our son, Senator Ndume, had withdrawn from the senate presidency race after he and the former Governor of Gombe state, Danjuma Goje, had met with the President.
“Though we did not believe the news, we still had to check with Senator Ndume who had just left for Abuja, to ascertain the veracity of such wicked rumour. And his response was in the negative, that he had never, not even for once, contemplated backing out of the race.
“We know that the rumour was fake; and we want to categorically tell it to the world that the race for the presidency of the 9th senate is not all about Senator Ndume, but a collective decision. It all started locally from here; we are the ones that asked him to run after we had massively voted for him for the third time as senator representing Borno South.
“Even if he is to withdraw, which is not likely, it has to be with the full consent of the stakeholders in Borno State first. And as at the last time we met with Senator Ndume, which was some hours ago, the issue of backing out was never discussed. Besides, how can a man that just left Maiduguri late Friday afternoon be said to have met with the President on the same day?
“All we want is a level playing ground for all candidates to exercise their rights and freewill in seeking the Senate President seat. Senator Ndume has never asked for too much by insisting that the seat should be made open to all; and even if it is going to be zoned to the northeast, let the aspirants who are all equal in their respective rights go and slog it out. And we the people of Borno stand by him on that.
“We are also happy to hear the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomole, say on Channels TV’s ‘Hard Copy’ that he cannot appoint or impose anyone on the Senate. Let him stick to that and allow democracy to prevail in the election of who becomes the next Senate President.”
Ndume is said to be unforgiving because Ahmad Lawan back-stabbed him when he went out to pray and joined the conspiracy, and proceeded to side with his political foes to take his plum job of Major Leader of the Senate.
“Do you think Ndume can ever forgive such a treachery,” a source asked on Saturday.
On the politics of the leadership of the National Assembly and the schemings by ranking lawmakers, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the weekend had said: “Party discipline is key, we must be disciplined in the party. We were a little careless in 2015. We created the opportunity for serpent to get into our party and that did not allow Nigeria to make the desired progress.
“You have seen the result of it and we are not going to allow that to happen again. We are going to respect our party and we are going to apply the whip.
“Party discipline is key, we must be disciplined in the party. We were a little careless in 2015. We created the opportunity for serpent to get into our party and that did not allow Nigeria to make the desired progress.
“It is either you stay with us or you follow us or you leave. You have the freedom to choose but the freedom does not give you as a minority to go and collaborate and protrude our mandate given to you to another party who was our opposition and who is still our opposition.
“We would not take that this time, no matter who you think you are. That is how it is built. Why do you want to deviate from what has been structured?
“We look at our reward system equally, zone by zone,” he said.