It was at the old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, on December 13, 2018, during the launching of one of his support groups, ‘Together Nigeria’, that President Muhammadu Buhari unreservedly made an undertaking to handsomely reward loyal All Progressives Congress (APC) members, who work for his victory in 2019.
It was as if for the first time, President Buhari have had to assure his wife, Aisha and several other APC party faithful that if he wins his re-election bid, it would no longer be the same ball game.
Curiously, Mrs. Aisha Buhari graced the occasion, together with the vice-president’s wife, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo; Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura and his colleague from Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun.
Many Nigerians, and more importantly, the APC members won’t forget easily Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s interview with BBC Hausa, on October 14, 2016.
The president’s wife said the president largely appointed those who never worked for his 2015 election.
It would be recalled that in the interview, she said: “The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.”
She said people who did not share the vision of the ruling APC were the ones appointed to top posts because of the influence a “few people” wield.
“Some people were sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position,” she said.
On that December 13, 2018, in the Presidential Banquet Hall, Buhari agreed with his wife that he had not been able to fully reward those who really worked for him to emerge as President in 2015.
However, he stressed that in 2019, his loyal supporters would be rewarded, stressing that: “At this point, I would like to acknowledge the overwhelming support I enjoyed from individuals and organisations across the country over the years”.
“I say thank you to all those who contributed to our success in one way or the other. Some of you, individuals and organisations, may be feeling disappointed because we have not been able to please everyone. I would like to assure you that this time, hard work and loyalty will be rewarded adequately.”
But while hosting state governors and senators-elect of the APC to a dinner at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in the night of Monday March 25, 2019, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole told the gathering that Senator Ahmed Lawan has been endorsed as the 9th senate president. It was also reported that President Buhari said that he aligned with the position of the party.
Curiously, on the same fateful day, March 25, 2019, former Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume wrote the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, to inform him of his decision to run for the office of the President of the Senate of the ninth National Assembly.
In the letter of intent to Oshiomhole, Ndume specifically sought the blessing of the party to actualise his aspiration; adding that he was “throwing his hat into the ring believing that the Senate President position would be zoned to the North East geo-political zone” where he hails from.
He said: “Following the successful conduct of the 2019 general elections and the overwhelming victory of our great party, the APC at all levels, I hereby forward my letter of intent to contest for the office of the President of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly’’.
Pundits are of the view that between Senators Ndume and Lawan, the former should enjoy the backing of President Buhari for loyalty, except if he chose to look the other way while former Governor Bola Tinubu nominated Senator Lawan for APC to endorse for the 9th senate presidency.
Alhaji Yakubu Umar, one of the conveners of the Concerned Borno Citizens group while fielding questions with the journalists over Senator Lawan’s endorsement by Oshiomhole cum Tinubu recently, is of the position that Ndume should have been favoured by the president and the party leadership.
It will be recalled that Borno elders on the platform of Concerned Borno Citizens had on March 21, 2019 addressed a news conference in Abuja to drum support for Ndume for the 9th senate presidency contest.
According to Alhaji Umar, Ndume undoubtedly sacrificed the most in the defence of his party interest and policy in the 8th senate. He lost his senate leadership position in the defence of President Buhari administration, just as he went on a 90 legislative-day suspension in the bid to shield the presidency from ridicule.
“Ndume was elected to represent Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives on the platform of the then ANPP in 2003, a position he occupied from 2003 to 2011. On the inauguration of the sixth (6th) Assembly in 2007, he was unanimously elected as the Minority Leader. Of course, Ndume had toiled with President Buhari in the ANPP days.
“He was first a Minority Leader and Majority Leader before Lawan, in other words, he has more ample legislative experience than Lawan. In terms of productivity and efficiency, Ndume has the highest number of bills passed and also topped the chart of bills sponsorship with 64 bills barely within the two years he was a senate leader. This was just as no bill passed by the National Assembly was denied assent by the President within the period.
“Before we decided to throw our support for Ndume to contest for the 9th senate President’s position if it was zoned to the north east geopolitical zone, we the Borno elders on the platform of Concerned Borno Citizens asked whether he conferred with President Buhari, the ultimate leader of the ruling party, of his intention.
“Ndume told us that he did that shortly after he won his primary election to contest for Borno south senatorial district on the APC platform. President Buhari, our son said, endorsed him.
“Borno state gave President Buhari and the party over 90% of the votes during the presidential election. There over 300,000 votes from Ndume’s senatorial district alone. President Buhari won in the entire six states of the southwest by just 200,000 votes, which is far less than what Ndume’s constituency recorded.
“It begs some imagination that the only House Assembly seat out of the 24 seats in Yobe state lost by APC to PDP was under Senator Lawan’s Yobe north constituency. Lawan Sani of the PDP scored 19,793 to defeat the incumbent member, Shuaibu Danladi Usman of APC that scored 11,395.
“This was just as the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole failed to deliver his Edo state on all grounds, with the opposition gaining more grounds day after the other in his state.
He added that President Buhari should please revisit the promise he made shortly before the 2019 presidential election that he would reward those that work hard for his re-election bid”, stressing that Ndume was appointed APC Presidential Campaign Council Northeast Zonal Director and has so much to show for it.
While speaking further, he stated that Tinubu has had more than his fair share of reward from the President Buhari-led administration, stating that he has had more than his contribution to the party. According to him, Tinubu single handedly brought Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the APC National Chairman Adamis Oshiomhole into this government. Ha added that the Director General of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler and a host of other MDA heads and state governors are equally his nominees.
Hence, he stated that President Buhari cannot afford to look the other way or donate the seats of the senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives to Tinubu again, “while other actors that even worked harder or polled greater result for his success at the last presidential election are sacrificed on the altar of ‘party position’.
He stated that it is even against the spirit or principle of check and balance to amass instrument of power in any administration in one person’s hand, “just as it is an aberration in the security parlance of a nation for a head of a government to tolerate such a practice. History will rather account for it as weakness too”.
He further stated that President Buhari as the leader of the party should guarantee a level playing ground for all contestants from the northeast for the 9th senate presidency. “The process should be devoid of manipulation by altering the Senate Rules to favour some contestants or using security apparatus to harass others’’, he said.
Following Oshiomhole’s announcement of the endorsement of Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila by the APC for the positions of Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives, in the 9th National Assembly, Ndume addressed a press conference on March 26, 2019 to denounce the endorsement.
He described the endorsement APC handed to Lawan as unconstitutional and completely against the spirit of fair play. He said the position of the party on who emerges the Senate President cannot stand as it did not follow due process.
Ndume said that he consulted widely and was given the go-ahead by party leaders to vie for the position; insisting the Constitution provided the procedure for the election of the Senate President
For him, the best the party could have done was to zone the slot of Senate President to a geo-political zone and allow the zone to choose their candidate
Ndume said: “First of all, let me say that the decision by the party to settle for an individual instead of zoning the position to a particular geopolitical zone and also consulting or allowing the senators from that zone to decide who among them they prefer as Senate President, is a surprise.
“We were surprised on Monday (March 25, 2019) when national chairman of our party told us a decision had been taken to adopt Ahmad Lawan as candidate from the North East for the position of the President of the Senate.
“The reason why I am shocked and I am sure that is the feeling of my colleagues, is that the constitutional provision for the emergence of the leadership of the Senate is clearly spelt out.
“Section 51 (a) of the Constitution says that “there shall be a Senate President and Deputy Senate President who shall be elected by members of the House.
“Section 1 of the Constitution clearly states that “this Constitution is binding on all Nigerians and government agencies.
“It went further to say that any other law that contravenes the provision of the Constitution is null and void.
“As a party that is supposed to be democratic and as a government that insists on allowing due process to prevail, this is strange. A candidate of APC normally emerges by one of three means, namely- consensus, indirect elections and direct primaries.
“As I said, such a decision was taken and we were not given the chance to ask questions. We were not allowed to make comments. The President made his remarks and after that, the national anthem was recited.
‘’If you look at the history of the National Assembly, such decisions have never gone down well. In 1999, Evan Ewerem was imposed. He didn’t last. Wabara was also imposed. It didn’t last. After that, the PDP we have accused of impunity didn’t do this.
“In 2007, the PDP showed wisdom by zoning the position to North Central. That was what led to the contest between David Mark and George Akume. Because that happened, Mark served for two terms. Mark would have served for another term if PDP had won. He served his tenure peacefully’’, Ndume said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi on April 9, 2019 said that Senator Lawan is not leaving any stone unturned in his bid for president of the 9th senate.
Senator Abdullahi, who doubles as the official spokesman of the Senator Lawan’s campaign group said the 109 senators-elect have inalienable rights to contest and to vote on the day of inauguration.
“The 1999 constitution, as amended, has guaranteed the right of every senator-elect to vote and be voted senate president. No one can be shut out from contesting or voting on the day of inauguration of the 9th National Assembly’’, he said.