The National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has tactically edged out the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, from the race for the Senate presidency. The NWC, at its meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday night, had listed certain conditions which an aspirant for the post must possess, but none favours Saraki’s ambition.
According to newtelegraph reports,The meeting had agreed that the party’s candidate for the post must come from the geo-political zone with the second highest votes after the North-West for the party, during the March 28 presidential election.
The party leadership also agreed that the next Senate president must not be facing any corruption charges and should be one of the most ranking senators in the current Fourth Republic. A senator, who attended the meeting, told our correspondent that the leadership of the party was mandated to present the most eligible aspirant as a consensus candidate for the post within three days, based on the listed criteria, during inauguration, next week. The two contenders for the post are Saraki (Kwara Central) and Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North). Saraki is from the North-Central while Lawan is from North-East.
In the presidential election, North-East gave APC and Buhari the second highest number of votes. APC secured 3,473,340 votes in the North-East while the party got 2,264,614 votes in the North-Central.
The North-West gave the party the highest number votes of 6,490,537. South-West gave APC 2,433,193 votes while the party got 418,590 votes in the South-South; 198,248 in the South-East and 146,399 in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Besides, unlike Lawan, Saraki has been investigated by the Special Fraud Unit of the Police following allegations of a N11 billion-loan fraud preferred against him. Saraki was said to have secured the loans between 2004 and 2009 when he was the governor of Kwara State. The SFU said the loans were used to purchase shares of blue chip companies and choice property in Lagos and Abuja, some of which were used to secure the loans.
However, Saraki has denied the allegations, saying he has been cleared. The senator, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Bamikole Omisore, denied any case of corruption against him.
The statement said: “We will like to inform the public that following the review and due interpretation of the case, by the office of DPP of the Federal Ministry of Justice, via a letter dated October 9, 2012, with reference number DPP/ADV: 061/12, addressed to Inspector General of Police (IG), it is clearly stated that Senator Saraki has no case against him as the allegation is frivolous.”
Also, the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, cleared Saraki of any wrongdoing in a bank loan being investigated by the SFU. The clearance was given following a legal opinion by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice that the allegations of wrongdoing against Saraki were baseless and unfounded.
The legal opinion of the minister was a response to the report submitted to him by the IG on police findings in a complaint by Joy Petroleum Limited. Delivering judgement, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed stopped the IGP from inviting or arresting Saraki over the alleged bank loan. Some senators who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja expressed fears that the decision of the APC to use such undemocratic conditions considered strange to the rules of the Senate and constitution of the country, could be counter-productive. The party plans to announce its preferred candidate between Lawan and Saraki, during a meeting with the senators-elect today in Abuja.
But some of the senators urged the leadership of the party to allow the most popular aspirant to emerge through a due process that would be free, fair, credible and generally acceptable to all concerned. In his reaction, the Coordinator of the Saraki group, Senator-elect Dino Melaye, cautioned the NWC against interference in the affairs of the Senate because the upper legislative chamber is guided by rules.
Melaye said: “The NWC is there to offer advice and not to determine those who will contest leadership positions on the floor of the Senate. The constitution of Nigeria and the rules of the Senate are clear on how a Senate President could emerge.” Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the desire of APC for a consensus candidate might rob the party of the position because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers might take advantage of the division to present a candidate, who could garner protest votes from aggrieved APC senators to defeat the governing party’s candidate.
However, amidst the uncertainties on who will succeed Senate President David Mark, the PDP has denied report that it has launched a bid to snatch the post from the APC. PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, told reporters yesterday that the party has no candidate for the position. Metuh also said contrary to the expectations of most Nigerians, it was too early to criticize some of the policies of the Buhari administration.
“The PDP has no candidate to the position of Senate President and Deputy Senate President. What is important for PDP at this critical time is how to reposition to form a formidable opposition party. “We will not dabble into the affairs of the National Assembly,” Metuh stated. He added that though the expectations of Nigerians were that PDP should be criticizing some of the statements and actions of Buhari, the party would allow the president settle down first before taking him to task.