Determined to present a united front in the race for the 9th Senate presidency scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, June 11, one of the main contenders, Senator Ali Ndume, has come under intense pressure from the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to drop out of the contest. The National Assembly will be inaugurated tomorrow and the election of the Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives will kick-start the ceremonies.
Ndume is the main challenger to APC’s anointed candidate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, after another aspirant, Senator Danjuma Goje, dropped out of the race last week following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. APC leaders and officials from the presidency intensified pressure on Ndume for him to defer to the party and President Buhari by backing Lawan; even as Lawan himself stepped up his lobbying of senators elected on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to lock in their votes. Lawan’s chances also got boosted by the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, who arrived Abuja over the weekend to rally support for the party’s candidates.
Sources told Huhuonline.com that the APC and the presidency are desperate to get Ndume out of contention, to avoid a possible upset whose optics will be politically devastating as happened four years ago when Senator Bukola Saraki defeated Lawan, who was the APC anointed candidate for the Senate presidency. The party and some top presidency officials have sent different emissaries to Ndume to pressure him to forgo his ambition.
Last week, similar pressure on Ndume paid off as Goje, a former Gombe State governor and Chairman, Committee on Appropriation in the last Senate, withdrew from the race and immediately declared support for Lawan. But Ndume had rebuffed pleas then that he should emulate Goje, saying he was in the race to win. Huhuonline.com learnt from sources that three meetings were held from Friday to yesterday between elders of the APC and Ndume.
Another set of meetings also took place at the Maitama, Abuja residence of a Northern traditional ruler where Ndume was also prevailed upon to step down for Lawan. In addition, several calls were reportedly made by top presidency officials at the weekend to Ndume; all in a bid to get him not to run tomorrow. To the consternation of the APC and presidency officials, Ndume refuse to budge and rather remained resolute to pursue his ambition to the end. He even shocked his interlocutors by revealing that he has the votes of both returning and fresh senators and was just waiting till tomorrow for his ambition to come to reality.
Ostensibly in response to this claim by Ndume, the Lawan campaign took the unprecedented decision to publish the list of 60 APC senators and 38 PDP senators, who have purportedly, endorse Lawan for the Senate presidency. Ndume dismissed the list as a public relations gimmick intended to trigger a mass bandwagon effect with the aim of stampeding the senators to vote Lawan; insisting that the truth will come out of the ballot box tomorrow.