A few days to the convening of the eighth National Assembly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has launched a plot to take the Senate presidency from the All Progressives Congress (APC) which controls the majority of senators.
But the APC is not taking chances. It has summoned a meeting of its lawmakers to forge a united front.
The plot, if it succeeds, may lead to the return of outgoing Senate President David Mark and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu to their positions.
The PDP has directed its 49 senators to vote for one candidate when the eighth Senate convenes.
The APC is left with 59 Senators following the death of reelected Borno Senator Ahmed Zanna.
Although APC ought to produce the next President of the Senate, with its simple majority, the party has not reached a consensus.
Senate Committee on Public Accounts Chairman Ahmed Lawan and Ecology Committee Chairman Bukola Saraki are locked in a battle of popularity for the job.
The Nation learnt that PDP leaders at the party’s retreat in Port Harcourt,the Rivers State capital, for its senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect mooted the idea of the opposition retaining the senate presidency.
It was gathered that the PDP leaders agreed that with block votes by its 49 senators, the party could win the must coveted seat with a simple majority.
The permutation of the PDP is that APC might be unable to birdge the gap between Lawan and Saraki.
A highly-placed source said: “The PDP leaders held a secret meeting in Port Harcourt on Monday night to finetune the plot.
“The development may see Mark and Ekweremadu joining the race in a ‘tactical moment’ if the APC remains divided.
“The PDP is seeking to retain the office because there is no rule which says either the majority party or the opposition should produce the president of the Senate.”
The source cited Section 50 (1) of the 1999 Constitution to back the lacuna.
The section says: “There shall be a President and a Deputy President of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves…”
Apparently sensing the danger in going into the Senate presidency race divided, the APC leadership has called a meeting of its senators and Representatives for tomorrow in Abuja.
A statement by National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed inviting the lawmakers to the meeting did not reveal the agenda. It only urged them to be punctual at the International Conference Centre venue.
The meetings with the senators and the Reps will hold separately.
It was, however, learnt that the meetings might be used to galvanise a consensus.
As for the PDP, it was learnt that some of its governors have offered to bankroll the project to “pay back APC in its own coin for controlling the Seventh House of Representatives even when President Goodluck Jonathan was still in charge”.
Another source added: “We also want to spring a surprise and prove that anything is possible in politics. Once Mark and Ekweremadu are back in the saddle, APC will need at least the support of 72 or 73 members to remove them.
“If you look at Section 50 (2) (c), the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the Senate are required to remove the President of the Senate and deputy.”
“The PDP is trying to capitalise on internal wrangling within APC to realise its agenda.”
A third source however spoke of Plan B by some PDP leaders bordering on block votes.
The source added: “What the Port Harcourt retreat has so far achieved is the need for PDP senators-elect to vote enbloc based on prevailing circumstances in the Senate.
“The horse-trading will determine the direction of PDP bloc votes although the opposition is waiting in the wing for any slip.”
In his speech at the retreat in Port Harcourt, the outgoing President of the Senate, Chief David Mark, pleaded with PDP members-elect in the National Assembly to be united.
Mark said: “We must subject our individual interest to our group interest. In the election of principal officers of National Assembly, we must vote in one accord. We must know that united we stand, divided we fall.
“We must take our destinies in our hands. We must be ready to provide credible, vibrant, determined and focused opposition to the party in power in a manner that would guarantee development and good governance.
“In doing so, we must maintain a strong synergy between our members in the National Assembly and the National Working Committee. The PDP is still a brand all Nigerians know. We just need to reinvent the wheels and move forward.”