Ahmad Lawan’s emergence as senate president in the ninth assembly did not come as a surprise to many. First, the Yobe north senator and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), could be said to have perfected their plot to ensure his victory — frequent meetings were held up until Monday night, even across party lines. Secondly, he had the strong backing of the ruling party as well as President Muhammadu Buhari. Thirdly, unlike in 2015 when Lawan and the APC were taken unawares, they were largely in control of events in the build up to the election.
What came as a surprise to many, however, is the margin with which he defeated Ali Ndume, his fellow party member: 79 to 28! Was Ndume that unpopular or just politics at its best?
This time four years ago, Lawan had lost the senate presidency to Bukola Saraki. The former senate majority leader was favoured for the position by both his party and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
The APC caucus in the senate was, however, divided over the leadership of the national assembly. While a meeting to broker peace was about to commence at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Saraki teamed up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to become the nation’s No. 3 citizen. Lawan was only compensated with the position of senate majority leader.
BUT HE REMAINED LOYAL TO THE APC NONETHELESS
Despite his hopes getting shattered, Lawan stayed with the APC even when the party was hit with wave of defections. On one occasion, APC lost 14 senators with Saraki announcing his exit shortly after. Amid the defection storm, Lawan remained there to lead his colleagues and defend the APC and Buhari on various occasions, on policies and actions not supported by the upper legislative chamber. For instance, he defended the president for not signing the electoral act amendment bill and opposed those who contemplated impeaching the president.
His emergence as senate majority leader was also not an easy ride. Although he still had the backing of the party leadership, the APC senators from the north-east nominated Ali Ndume as senate majority leader, leaving Lawan out of the picture a second time.
Ndume would later emerge the senate majority leader but only till January 2017 when he was suspended and removed from the position, paving way for Lawan.
ONE OF THE MOST EXPERIENCED LAWMAKERS
Lawan has been a member of the national assembly since the current democratic dispensation began in 1999, together with David Mark and Nicholas Mutu.
He was first elected a member of the house of representatives, where he chaired the committees on education and agriculture at different times. After eight years in the lower legislative chamber, Lawan took a shot at the senate in 2007 and was elected to represent Yobe north district, a position he has held ever since.
In 2008, he was a member of the national assembly’s joint committee on constitution review and in 2009, as chairman of the senate committee on public accounts committee, sponsored the Desertification Control Commission Bill.
STRONG ACADEMIC RECORDS
The 60-year-old is a graduate of the University of Maiduguri where he read geography. He also has a postgraduate diploma in land survey, an MSc and PhD in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS), all from the University of Cranfield, United Kingdom.
Before then, he had served in the civil service and the academic field. He worked as an education officer in the Yobe state civil service between 1985 and 1986, from where he proceeded to the University of Maiduguri from 1987 to 1997, serving as a lecturer/research fellow with the universty and the Centre for Regional Studies.
Some of Lawan’s colleagues see him as being conservative, but the senator thinks this is because he is “consistent” in his actions and principles.
He once told NAN: “I do not know where the conservative thing is coming from. I may be judged as rigid but I call that consistency because you always know my position or where I stand on every issue.
“I do not sit on the fence. That may make me look like a conservative because I do not easily change my views although when I have superior argument, I give in. Otherwise as a politician I think I am a thorough bred progressive and I wish to remain so.”
AN UNAPOLOGETIC FAN OF BUHARI
Lawan is known to be a strong supporter of Buhari, but he once stated his support for the president will not jeopardise the senate under him.
He had said: “I won’t deny it; I am a president Buhari man. I believe in him and I believe in my party because of the ideals they stand for. But if you believe in someone and they have an issue that you think can be carried out in a certain way other than the way it was presented, suggesting you go the other way demonstrates that you are really for that person.” he said.
“So my support for the president, for example, must not be misconstrued as going to make the national assembly a rubber stamp if I am senate president.”