Governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have begun the battle to smoothen Senator Ahmad Lawan’s road to the Senate presidency.
Some of them last night met in Abuja on how to push “the Lawan Agenda.” He is the party’s and President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice for the job.
Lawan was at the meeting, which was said to be part of steps to keep APC caucuses united ahead of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.
Last night’s meeting, The Nation learnt, was to: sell Lawan’s candidature to all senators-elect, irrespective of political parties; and debunk the notion that Lawan is being imposed.
The list of the governors and others at the talks was kept under wraps.
It was gathered that upon endorsement of Lawan by the party last Monday, the President mandated members to “sell the qualities of the nominee to Nigerians, especially senators-elect.”
One of the organisers of the meeting said: “The meeting was informed by the directive of the President to the governors to see the Lawan Agenda through in the interest of the country.
“We want to change the narrative being sponsored by the opposition PDP that Lawan’s choice and zoning amounted to imposition.
“Most senators-elect may not be aware that the President actually raised an eight-man search team which recommended Lawan and a few others.
“It was after weighing options that the President opted for Lawan. It is not a case of the Executive breathing down on senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect.
“The governors met with Lawan on how to project his inherent qualities, especially his rich legislative experience, and the need to build inter-party confidence/ collaboration before the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated.
“We do not want the race for the office of the President of Senate to be beclouded by sentiments. This is the time of merit and we want to stick out our neck for these candidates we have recommended.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The meeting will come up with strategies to reach out to all stakeholders on the Lawan project.”
President Muhammadu Buhari is expecting Senator Danjuma Goje to set his terms for stepping down from the race for Senate President.
Goje (Gombe Central), one of the leading aspirants for the job, is expected to quit the race for Dr Ahmed Lawan, the Senate Leader who is being backed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President.
Goje is believed to have visited Buhari with Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
Details of their discussion remained unknown at the weekend, but a source said Goje was asked to state his terms for dropping his ambition. He is said to be willing to let go.
Also in the race is Ali Ndume who is said to be planning to formally present a nine-point agenda this week.
APC leaders are said to be persuading Ndume not to go against Lawan because “the President and the party have spoken.”
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “So far, the race is still open, despite the endorsement of Lawan by the party. The Presidency, APC, governors and national leaders of the party have been reaching out to senators-elect and the two other aspirants (Goje and Ndume).
“In fact, one of the governors, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, brokered last week’s talks between the President and Goje at the Presidential Villa.
“At the session, Goje was asked to name his terms which are still being awaited. So far, Goje and Ndume have not stepped down.
”All the aspirants have been holding meetings with senators and senators-elect. The comforting aspect is that the APC, governors and our national leaders still have about two months for rapprochement before the inauguration of the Ninth Senate in June.”
On Ndume, a Senator-elect said: “Although a strategist of the President has had an audience with him, he is unrelenting in his ambition to contest for the seat.
“As at Saturday, Ndume has presented his nine-point agenda to senators and senators-elect who are backing him.
“The agenda will be presented to the public any time this week. What Ndume told his supporters was that if he is the only senator left in the race, he will vie for the office against Lawan. He said it is either he wins or loses.
“He is embittered that after sticking out his neck to defend Buhari’s government, he is being sidelined. And he complained against the way the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, allegedly breathed down on senators-elect last Monday in the presence of the President on the choice of Lawan.”
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) may field candidates for Senate President and deputy Senate President if Goje and Ndume step down.
A PDP senator-elect said: “At a meeting, we agreed to work with any of the aspirants not imposed by the APC. Some of us are discussing with both Goje and Ndume.
“In one of the sessions with some PDP senators-elect, we insisted that if Goje and Ndume withdraw for Lawan, we will nominate candidates for Senate president and deputy president. We are not bound by the APC’s zoning formula.
“Left to us, we want the Southeast to retain the office of the Deputy Senate President. We are thinking of either the present occupant, Chief Ike Ekweremadu and ex-Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, who is a ranking lawmaker, being a former member of the House of Representatives.”