The senators-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, frustrated a seeming last minute coup by the senators elected on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to install Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume as the President of the 9th Senate.
Senators-elect of the PDP and other party stakeholders had held series of meetings in the last few days, exploring various avenues to elect their preferred leadership in the National Assembly.
The climax of these meetings came on Monday night when they met at the official residence of Ekweremadu at the Apo Legislators’ Quarters in Abuja and another one with the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, at the Governor’s lodge, Abuja.
It was during those meetings that they plotted how the members of the opposition would vote in yesterday’s parliamentary elections.
It was after their meetings that the party released an official statement to the effect that it had adopted Ali Ndume as the next President of the Senate.
The PDP expressed support for Ndume for the position of Senate President and Umar Bago for the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The final resolution on Senator Ndume and Bago was reached at the end of a decisive meeting of members of the National Working Committee (NWC), party leaders, state governors as well as senators and members-elect on the platform of the PDP.
“This decision is in the best interest of the nation in line with our party’s determination to deepen democracy, ensure a strong and independent legislature, strict compliance with the principle of separation of powers as well as constitutional checks and balances in the polity.
“All senators and members-elect on the platform of the PDP are to be guided accordingly,” Senator Umar Tsauri, National Secretary, stated in a statement early yesterday.
However, in the contest, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is the APC preferred candidate for Senate Presidency, polled a total of 79 votes to beat his only challenger, Ndume, who scored 28 votes.
In a similar circumstance, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), also floored Ekweramadu, in the election of the Deputy Senate President.
Omo-Agege, whom many did not give a chance in the race, defeated his opponent by 68 votes to 37 votes.
The implication was that many PDP lawmakers defied the opposition to cast their votes for their preferred candidates.
In the race for Senate Presidency, PDP’s candidate and APC senator – Ali Ndume – did not garner the entire 44 votes of the PDP senators. Even with Ekweremadu on the ballot, the numbers still fell short of PDP’s population.
The same scenario played out in the House of Representatives where Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila trounced PDP’s choice and APC member-elect, Umar Bago.
Gbajabiamila secured 281 votes to Bago’s 76 in the House where PDP has 135 members.
When the roll call preceding the elections of the presiding officers was taken, a total of 107 senators elected on different political party platforms were physically present in the chamber.
During the voting for the office of the President of the Senate, the entire 107 senators-elect participated in the exercise. There were no voided votes recorded in the exercise.
However, before the election, there was an uproar in the Senate chamber, as the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, declared the session open.
Trouble started when the CNA announced that the elections of the presiding officers would be held in accordance with the provisions of the rules of the Senate, as contained in its Standing Orders 2015 (as amended).
An Abuja High Court had, on Monday, issued an injunction, restraining the Clerk to the National Assembly from using the 2015 Standing Orders of the Senate.
The court further mandated the CNA to use the 2011 Standing Orders (as amended) to conduct the elections of the presiding officers, as the 2015 edition was said to have been forged and used for the election of immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
However, the CNA, in responding to the agitations and questions being raised obviously by supporters of Ahmad Lawan, making reference to the court decision, said that he had not been served with the court injunction.
When the protesters persisted, Sani-Omolori reminded them that the only business of the day was to conduct the elections in line with the provisions of the constitution, and the rules of the Senate.
He said that there was no provision for entertainment of questions, neither was there room for raising of point of order but, however, noted that he only decided to honour them by responding to their inquest into whether or not he received the said court injunction.
“You have no voice till after the election,” the Clerk bluntly told the senators-elect.
He then mandated the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Oniwoh to take the roll call, which he did.
At the end of the count, the CNA announced that 107 Senators, out of 109, were present in the chamber. Results of two senatorial seats of Imo East and Imo North are still pending.
Thereafter, the CNA called for nominations of candidates for the office of the President of the Senate. Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) nominated Lawan and seconded by Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos West).
Lawan was given an opportunity to address his colleagues, during which he assured them that he would run an inclusive administration and also ensure harmony between the Executive and the Legislature.
After his speech, Ndume was then nominated by Senator-elect Ishaku Cliff (PDP-Adamawa) and was seconded by Amange Bariagha (PDP-Rivers).
He was allowed a time to address the chamber and he briefly spoke to his colleagues, promising to make the office of the President of the Senate less attractive and also to make the Senate to be an institution of equal members, with the presiding officers applying the provisions of the law to lead their colleagues.
It will be recalled that Lawan was the preferred candidate of the ruling party as well as that of President Muhammadu Buhari, a decision that generated serious criticism, as some members of the APC and other Nigerians saw it as an imposition.
Meanwhile the greatest shocker of the moment came when Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), nominated Ekweremadu to contest for the office of the Deputy President of the Senate, and he gladly accepted.
Ekweremadu was never mentioned in the race since the jostle for the leadership of the 9th Senate started, neither did he ever indicate interest in the second highest political office of the Senate till when he was nominated.
The nomination was seconded by Senator Rose Oko, another PDP senator-elect from Cross River State.
While nominating Ekwerenadu, he said that he was doing that to restore the sanctity of the Senate that was desecrated recently, when some thugs invaded the hallowed chambers of the Senate and carted away the Mace, which is the symbol of authority of the Parliament.
Accepting his nomination, Ekweremadu reminded his colleagues of his past efforts to have a united Nigeria, where peace, harmony and progress would be the order of the day.
Ovie Omo-Agege was nominated by Senator-elect Ahmed Baba Kaita (APC, Katsina) and seconded by Senator Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger North).
While expressing his acceptance of his nomination, Omo-Agege said that he would contribute his quota to deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
After their elections, Lawan and Omo-Agege were immediately sworn in to assume their positions as the presiding officers of the 9th Senate.
Lawan, however, delegated the Clerk of the Senate to perform the swearing-in of the other senators on his behalf.