By Gideon Njoku
It was the D-Day at the Senate Chambers of the National Assembly, NASS. Senators-elect, after weeks of lobbying and horse-trading, were ready to elect two of their colleagues to the office of the Senate President, SP, and the Deputy Senate President, DSP.
Millions of Nigerians stayed glued to thier television and radio sets. Expectations were high.
The contestants, five for both positions, were all of the ruling party at the centre, APC, except Ike Ekweremadu, the immediate past DSP, who was a suprise contestant to the position he had held for 12 years.
In 2015, he and his party, the PDP, pulled a suprise when he snatched that position from the APC under the Senate Presidency of Dr Bukola Saraki. When he accepted to run again this time after being nominated, it was a shock to some people. Others felt that perhaps, he had a solid-rock arrangement with his colleagues from his party, and perhaps a few from the APC.
For the Senate President, the APC had backed Senator Ahmed Lawan, immediate past Majority Leader, as its choice, against another of its own, Senator Ali Ndume who resisted all pressures to toe the party line, and step down for Lawan.
For the position of the DSP, the party backed Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the alleged sponsor of the Mace-snatching scandal by thugs from the Senate Chambers
On the eve of the election, the PDP which had been dilly-dallying, had belatedly, endorsed Ndume for SP, and directed its members to comply. Surprisingly, the party never let-on that Ekweremadu would contest the position of the DSP.
Yet, a tough contest was expected.
But, at the end, it was a no-contest, an anti-climax. The vote was cast by 107 Senators-elect. Lawan scored 79 votes, a landslide which exceeded the 61 votes he was expecting, leaving a miserable 28 votes for the PDP-backed Ndume.
In same manner, Omo-Agege routed Ekwremadu by 70 votes to 37.
This magazine gathered that the PDP-backed candidates performed this woefully because it entered the race a divided house. The party boasts of over 45 Senators -elect. And so, was expected to be the deciding factor. But it failed to do so because its leadership took things for granted. It never held any serious meetings, or consultation with its Senators-elect to take a stand. It kept dilly-dallying, and giving conflicting signals. By the time it met on the eve of the election, and directed its members to give a block vote to Ndume, It was already late. The APC leadership and Lawan had reached out to them. Even the PDP governors were divided. Without any strong direction from the party, some of them had pledged support to the APC officially-backed candidate, just as a couple of them in the South-east, also, worked against the PDP Presidential ticket to spite its Vice Presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
The same scenario is expected to play out in the House of Representatives later today.
“The party betrayed itself”, one of its top officials told this magazine. “We went to the contest, divided”, he added.
In addition, many hold the opinion that the choice of Ekweremadu was not smart. Some expressed surprise that he accepted to put his name forward. An angry PDP Senator told this magazine: ” It is the law of Karma. How much did he help the PDP presidential tickets?” Another asked if he thought the DSP office has become his father’s farmland. “Is the office his father’s farmland? After 12 years, he still wanted more years. He ought to have bowed out when the ovation was highest” Another said, “When he saw how Ndume was routed by Lawan, he should have backed out of the race. He pushed his luck to a stretching point”
For the APC, it is a win-win situation. It enforced party supremacy, And now, it has the kind of Senate leadership it always yearned for, since 2015.