The choice of Nigeria’s next Senate president may be creating a rift in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as a meeting scheduled for today between members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the party’s newly elected legislators was postponed till Saturday.
The meeting, which was scheduled to decide on a single candidate for the position of Senate President, was to hold today at the International Conference Center in Abuja.
In a meeting a day ago with members of the party’s NWC, President Muhammad Buhari had signaled his preference for Senator Ahmed Lawan. Several sources at the meeting disclosed that Mr. Buhari said he was tipping Senator Lawan because of his experience and integrity. Mr. Lawan hails from Nigeria’s violence-ravaged northeast zone.
His presumed main rival is former Governor Bukola Saraki.
President Buhari had asked party leaders to present one candidate as a way of projecting a united front. However, SaharaReporters earlier reported that APC’s national chairman, Odigie Oyegun, was pushing for a primary to enable party members to choose between Saraki and Lawan. Some APC sources disclosed that Mr. Oyegun supports former Governor Saraki’s bid to emerge as the new Senate president.
Several supporters of Mr. Saraki told SaharaReporters that they suspect the abrupt cancellation of today’s meeting was a deliberate ploy by party leaders to enable the Lawan group to recruit more senators to their side.
Mr. Saraki and his backers are reportedly insisting that today’s meeting proceed as planned. “We are convinced that Distinguished Senator Saraki has a majority of support in the APC. And he will also draw support from PDP senators,” an ally of Mr. Saraki told SaharaReporters on condition of anonymity. The PDP is not presenting a candidate for the Senate presidency.
An APC leader told SaharaReporters that the National Assembly’s plenary session, slated for today, had made it impossible for the party’s meeting to hold as planned. “That’s why we changed the date to Saturday,” he said.
The Senate is expected to convene and elect a president on Saturday.