At the risk of being immodest and without equivocation, Senator Ahmed Lawan, current Majority Leader in the outgoing senate is, to all intent and purpose, the man who should lead the 9th Senate which is due to come on board June this year.
Truth be told, of the current pack of contenders who have been making some subterranean moves to the Senate Presidency, Senator Lawan, representing Yobe North Senatorial District, stands out of the lot because of the robust legislative experience he has garnered over the years, dating back to 1999 when the country returned to civil rule.
Aside his intimidating legislative acumen spanning two decades and still counting, Senator Lawan, smart and unassuming, has also in the course of his 8-year stint in the Green Chamber before detouring to the Senate in 2007, acquired enough man-management skills that place him in good stead ahead of others as an excellent manager of men coming from different backgrounds, varied egos, political beliefs, persuasions, etc.
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With his versatile and diverse knowledge of the National Assembly, it did not come as a surprise to this writer when one political commentator described Senator Lawan as the ‘memory card’ of the senate during a recent television program. And the commentator was right on the money! You only have to encounter him on the floor of the Senate to know what he carries upstairs as far as the business of lawmaking and other allied matters is concerned.
By the way, Senator Lawan, a thorough progressive through and through, did not just find himself by accident within the Nigerian political leadership milieu. He consciously prepared himself for it. And that accounts for why he has shown brilliantly so far. Simply put, he is not an accidental lawmaker.
Before his foray into politics, Lawan got the highest academic degree anyone can acquire: he capped his sterling academic credentials with a PhD in Remote Sensing and GIS from the influential Cranfield University in the United Kingdom and was a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri before leaving the gown(university) for the town(parliament) where, till this day, he has been able to bring his background in scholarship to bear on his legislative works.
Senator Lawan had been prodded to become the Senate President in 2015 by the leadership of the APC having informally zoned the position to the northeast geopolitical zone. But he was not to get the position following the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki who struck a deal with the PDP bloc of the senate and some APC senators who rebelled against the zoning arrangement of the party.
The emergence of Saraki from Kwara State as Senate President created some internal squabbles within the Senate and also polarized the APC into different tendentious factions. It won’t be a surprise to anyone today if the wounds occasioned by ascension of Dr Saraki as senate president have truly healed. Even if the wounds are no longer visible, the scars linger on.
In all of these, Lawan, though fiercely independent, did not go against the supreme will of the party even when he could have done so with overtures from the other side. He took his time until his colleagues unanimously elected him as Senate Leader following the removal of Senator Ali Ndume from the position.
The contributions of Senator Lawan as the Senate Leader are crystal clear for everyone to see. In the times of peace, he spoke like a born statesman. During tempestuous moments on the floor of the Red Chamber as often seen, he was the rallying figure for rebuilding bridges burnt by his Senator colleagues.
Senator Lawan has indeed distinguished himself as both a consistent patriot and loyal party man who believes strongly in consensus building and negotiation. At a time disgruntled party men look for ways to spite their parties, Senator Lawan preaches unity and the need for politicians to always respect the position of their parties on issues. He believes in the fact that political parties are the bedrocks upon which democracy is built and shouldn’t be treated with disdain.
The reward for doing an excellent job isn’t just to be promoted, but to be assigned more tasks. Senator Lawan has not just shown his love and interest for the APC especially on the floor of the Senate, but has continued to work for its progress. Such loyalty needs to be rewarded.
With the 2019 elections over and winners into the National Assembly known, what should preoccupy our minds now is how to ensure that the right persons are encouraged and supported to emerge as leaders, especially in the Senate. To avoid a repeat of what happened in 2015, the APC must watch its guard and be alert to its responsibility.
Of all the people currently being touted for the position of the Senate President in the yet to be inaugurated 9th National Assembly, Senator Ahmed Lawan clearly stands out and has what it takes to preside over the Red Chamber in line with the tenets of democracy. He has the clout, maturity, experience, temperance, exposure and the requisite parliamentary skills to lead a focused, progressive and development-minded Senate. The APC leadership should not think twice in taking its decision. Senator Lawan is eminently qualified for the position.
The APC leadership shouldn’t be complacent on this issue by ensuring that the right persons are given the opportunity to emerge as leaders in both chambers of the National Assembly. Positions such as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives are specifically reserved for loyal, committed, faithful and well-rooted party men. Such very sensitive positions are not meant for bystanders or moles, but for tried and tested party faithful who mean well for the party.