As the race for the leadership of the 8th National Assembly hots up, it has been narrowed to two frontrunners; Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Ahmed Lawan. The supporters of both candidates flaunt what they term as their rich credentials for the job, but there are some distinguishing factors that may likely hand over advantage to either of the two candidates write EMMA ALOZIE.
Senator Bukola Saraki
A medical doctor by training, but he has embraced politics well ahead of his medical profession. A two term governor of Kwara state, he is the scion of the Saraki political dynasty, which the late father and former senate leader in the Second Republic bequeathed to him. In holding forth for his late father, he has not disappointed in annexing the politics of Kwara and making it his fortress. Coming from such rich and robust political background, nobody can easily wish Saraki away when it comes to politics.
However, in this race for the next senate president, he is an outcast in the eyes of the ‘original’ owners of the APC. To the power brokers in the party, Saraki cannot and should not be made the third most powerful man in Nigeria. To them, he is haughty, does not kowtow to the leadership of the party’s foremost national leader, Bola Tinubu and above all has a PDP ‘blood’ flowing in his political veins. The ‘owners’ of the party see him as somebody who cannot be called to order and who if empowered now, may become too ambitious ahead of 2019. Therefore, the battle to stop him is a battle the party hierarchy is waging with the needed ferocity.
Also, he is being viewed by the majority of Nigerians as perhaps not ‘clean’ when the issue of corruption is raised and many people think that it would run antithetical to the mantra of the party that won election ‘shouting’ anti-corruption. This particular factor is what his opponents are using to tar him and repudiate his quest for the senate presidency.
But his strengths come from the fact that he may be the joker of the PDP; a tool the PDP intends to use to get back at the leaders of the APC for blackmailing the party out of power after 16 years. If rumours making the rounds are anything to go to the bank with, Bukola has been assured of at least 40 of PDP’s 49 senators. This is a huge number in a contest the winner only needs to score about 55 or 60 votes.
Being a former governor and one time chairman of the powerful Nigerian Governors Forum, he is believed to have the backing of many of the ex-governors who litter the senate and his reach beyond his North Central zone is not in doubt. Many of his followers believe that his rich political upbringing and experience in managing the affairs of a diverse state like Kwara for eight years stand him in a better stead ahead of his rival.
Senator Ahmed Lawan
He is one of the ranking senators in the senate. He is from Yobe state in North East, a zone that believes that only the senate presidency can heal the wounds of the devastating Boko Haram insurgency.
Senator Lawan is a candidate of the party. In a mock election held to choose a candidate for the party, he received an overwhelming support. While expressing his joy for receiving the backing of the party, he appealed to the party to bring every aggrieved candidate back on board.
“I am saddened by the fact that some of our colleagues chose not to participate. This change can’t be real if we are divided. I want to assure you that we will embark on reaching out to our colleagues. I appeal to the party the help out in reaching out to our colleagues. We will not disappoint you. We need to reach out to our PDP colleagues in the senate. We want to see a senate that will want to be bi partisan in approach. I want to assure Nigerians that the 8th legislature under me will be a focused legislature that will bring dividends of democracy to the people,” Senator Lawan pledged.
Though, President Buhari had publicly said he was not supporting any candidate, but insiders believe that he is fully backing Lawan because of Lawan’s consistency in remaining in opposition till now. Lawan is also enjoying the backing of the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu who is using him as a bargaining chip to enthrone his preferred candidate for the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
However, the party’s backing may be Lawan’s Achilles Hill. Some of the renegades in the party in collaboration with the opposition PDP have vowed to deal the party a huge shock by voting against whomever the party backed. And the deafening dissent since his emergence as the party’s preferred candidate is a pointer to the fact that the party and Lawan may be in for a rude shock.
Lawan is seen as arrogant and a close ally of the former senate president, David Mark. He is seen as not having pan Nigerian views whenever national issues arise. Many of those who are campaigning against him believe that he is not as exposed and does not embrace the diversity of Nigeria.