*As intense lobby, nocturnal meetings for senate leadership begin
*Group roots for Ahmed Lawan
*Enang calls for robust legislature
*Says all lawmakers are equal before the law
By Henry Umoru
AHEAD of the inauguration of the 9th Senate and the election of the presiding officers, the Presidency, yesterday said that President Muhammadu Buhari will not interfere in the choice of the leaders of the upper chamber as he would allow the principle of separation of powers to prevail.
The Presidency however pleaded with the lawmakers to provide a robust relationship, adding that it was ready to reciprocate the gesture.
However, there have been intense lobby and political intrigues since the senators resumed plenary last Tuesday after the February 23 Presidential, National Assembly and March 9 Gubernatorial, State Houses of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory, FCT Area Council elections.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that serving senators and senators-elect across political parties have started holding nocturnal meetings in the nation’s capital city, Abuja to decide the leadership structure as well as shape direction for the 9th Senate.
Addressing Journalists yesterday in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senate, Senator Ita Enang, said that the President would not interfere in the choice of leadership of the senate, adding that the lawmakers are equal before the law as there was no greenhorn amongst them.
Enang added that President Buhari believes so much in the rule of law, and with this, he would allow each arm of government to perform its constitutional responsibility without interference.
Enang who noted that the President will remain neutral and allow the elected lawmakers to carry out their constitutional responsibilities, said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of high principles. His stand on this matter is that each arm of government should function according to what the constitution says, and that every person in government should do the right thing, and that he will not go beyond what the constitution allows him and that every other arm of government should stick to their constitutional responsibilities.”
It would be recalled that in sharp contrast to Enang’s opinion, some senators-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had on Thursday after collecting their Certificates of return, told Journalists that if things must go in the right direction in the yet to be inaugurated 9th Senate, the presidency and leadership of the APC must provide the direction for both chambers with regard to the leadership configuration to avoid leadership crisis that engulfed the 8th National Assembly .
The new Senators had specifically cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC leadership against working at cross-purposes to avoid another tussle that would alter the party’s zoning formula.
On greenhorn lawmakers, Senator Enang said, “There is no elected lawmaker that is a greenhorn. They are equal before the law. They were elected to represent their constituencies on the basis of equality of all Nigerians.
“Therefore, they are entitled to all privileges and wisdom. Some of them are coming with extra wisdom and knowledge from their different backgrounds. So, we expect a robust legislature. We give them all the respect, we value them, we welcome them and treasure them. The executive respects them across party lines. For the executive, every senator or member of the House of Representatives, irrespective of their political party, is a legislator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and they are treated equally whether you are doing your first, second or fifth term because you have one seat and one vote. We want to relate with all of them equally. So, there is no greenhorn. They are simply distinguished senators and honourable members.”
At the moment, the All Progressives Congress, APC has a majority of 65 Senators that would constitute the 9th Senate while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has 37 Senators and the Young Progressive Party, YPP one Senator.
Even as the scheming, politicking and lobbying of members are ongoing as to who becomes the next Senate President, the APC leaders have not come up with a zoning formula to ascertain which of the six political zones should produce the Senate President and the deputy.
At the moment, the North- West has the President, President Muhammadu Buhari while the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo from the South West.
Part of the lobby was what played out at Enugu Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Thursday night and into the early hours of yesterday when a parley was put in place for the senators and senators-elect to brainstorm.
At the meeting, a source told Saturday Vanguard that though the organizers repeatedly said it was a mere “dinner”; an exploratory meeting to cultivate friendship; it was more than that.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that there were enough political undertones beyond what was on the surface, suggesting that emerging powerful bloc already rooting for senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, APC, Yobe North as the next Senate President.
Before now, the focus has been on Senators Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North), Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) and Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central) and former Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu for the position of Senate President.
Ahmed Lawan was the only one among the heavy weight contenders at Thursday’s meeting between the ranking senators and the new senators.
It did not however take time for the suppressed motive to start emerging with Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta Central, coming closest to letting the cat out of the bag.
Moments later, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Ondo Central who was one of the conveners gave out what was even a bigger clue when he said he likes calling Lawan his President.
At the moment, the race is keener and looks clearly limited to runners mainly from APC.
Also present were the three Senators elect from Kwara, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Kwara Central; Architect Lola Ashiru, Kwara South and Umar Sadiq, Kwara North.
Also present were Adedayo Adeyeye, APC, Ekiti South, Senator Sani Aliyu Abdullahi, Niger North,Barau Jibrin, APC, Kano North, Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South, Christopher Ekpenyong, PDP, Akwa Ibom.
Prior to this, a meeting which took place in the office of the Senate Leader last Wednesday with many Senators in attendance including Senator Barnabas Gemade, SDP, Benue North East which lasted for several hours.
APC may have started well with this meeting and others will follow in the heat of high wired political horse trading which are often disguised with merriment and clicking glasses.