By Josiah Adedayo
With the National Assembly elections over, senators and members of the House of Representatives are back to the trenches to begin the race for the principal offices of the National Assembly, particularly the position of Senate President in the upper chamber.
This time, the battle to succeed Ahmad Lawan as President of the Senate, Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives, will take the centre stage in the coming days.
Although investigation revealed that initially, the incumbent President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and some of the senators-elect, like Orji Uzor Kalu, Barau Bibrin, Godswill Akpabio, Adams Oshiomhole, Abdul-Aziz Yari and Dave Umahi, have started subtle campaigns among their colleagues, although the party is yet to make an official announcement as to its preferred geopolitical zone from where the Senate President would be picked, but not a few believe that the contest is between the South-East and South-South geopolitical regions.
Already, the South-West has produced the President-elect. The North-East the Vice President-Elect. If the contribution in terms of votes the zones made to the success of the President-elect is anything to go by, then the South-South geopolitical zone is most favoured to clinch the Senate Presidency from the South-East.
From the above analysis, only the South-East geopolitical zone is completely missing from the equation in the current scheming for the top jobs, and that is holding back the confidence of Orji Kalu’s camp that Tinubu would run an inclusive government by bringing on board political gladiators, who are members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the South-East geopolitical zone.
Close confidants of the Senate Chief Whip, who was a two-term governor of Abia State, said that since Tinubu knows no Igbo person has been President since 1999, he would gladly welcome the idea of a South-Easternee becoming the number three citizen. But this would fly in the face of the negligible votes that were harvested for the President-elect from the region.
Investigation revealed that apart from making moves among his colleagues, Kalu has started reaching out to sitting APC governors, whose states produced APC senators in the just concluded National Assembly elections.
It was however argued that the South-East could not reap where it didn’t sow, even though there are insinuations that the position should be zoned to the South-East to foster inclusiveness and national cohesion. But that thinking, according to close associates of the President-elect, may likely not be cast in stone, because since 2015 till date, the South-East has shown hostility and hatred towards the APC. Members of the party have been attacked for supporting the party and if the videos on social media about voting in the just concluded elections are reliable, there was massive voter suppression in the region due to threats and intimidation of members of other parties, principally the APC. This is despite the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has carried out a lot of infrastructural projects in the region.
Some of these projects include the Second Niger Bridge, the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, the Onitsha-Enugu road, etc. By its votes, it has shown that the APC can win the Presidency many times over without securing a single vote from the South-East region. Why should the APC zone a powerful and sensitive position like the Senate President to a region that has consistently given it dross in return for gold? Why should they produce a Senate President that will have almost zero followership in his region?
Close associates of the President-elect insist that politics is a game of numbers and not sentiments. And the South-East has relied more on sentiments in their demand for political positions rather than delivering the votes to the party. The only reason why President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu went for a Muslim-Muslim ticket was because he reasoned that was the only way to emerge victorious at the polls. His political calculations turned out right. The South-South delivered close to a million votes to the APC, compared to the measly a hundred thousand votes that the party secured in the South-East in the presidential election. The South-South also delivered the required 25 per cent across all the states in the region and produced seven senators, compared to the South-East, which failed to deliver 25 per cent in any state and produced six senators.
The APC currently has more elected officials from the South-South than the South-East. This shows that the APC has more acceptance in the South-South region and the people are beginning to turn their backs against the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which hitherto, had a stronghold in the region. Zoning the Senate President to the South-South will help the APC to increase its national spread as it will serve in no small measure to converting the zone to an APC stronghold.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the South-South is yet to produce the Senate President. The highest position the region has gotten in the National Assembly is the Deputy Senate President; yet it has done wonders with that, as the number of senators in the region recorded an increase in the recent polls. Imagine what would happen should the APC decide to zone the Senate President to the region.
A prominent political figure from the zone had said, “The South-South is the goose that lays the golden eggs which feeds the Nigerian federation. It would therefore be unfair for us to be cheated in the sharing of political power, after we have exhibited political maturity by not putting all our eggs in one basket, unlike the South-East. We deserve the Senate President.”
According to a group in the North-Central zone, Senator Godswill Akpabio for Common Good, SGACG, Akpabio is the most suitable and balanced candidate to lead the 10th Assembly. The group therefore urged senators-elect for the 10th Senate to vote for Senator Akpabio as the next Senate President of Nigeria.
The chairman of the group, Musa Yahaya Azara, made this request on behalf of SGACG at a press conference in Lafia, Nasarawa State.
Azara, however, noted that all the other aspirants for the office of the Senate President are experienced and qualified, “but Akpabio, who is the Dan Amanan Azara of Nasarawa State, was more deserving of the position, if it’s based on national unity and fairness. It is worth mentioning that all the zones have had a fair share of the office but the South-South has been marginalized for a long time, considering their contributions to the national treasury.
Thus, the North-Central group believes that it is time for the South-South to have real representation with the position of the Senate President.
He maintained that Akpabio, being a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, former Senate Minority Leader, and a former minister, is very experienced and qualified for the Presidency of the Senate.
Azara added, “In addition, Senator Akpabio has contributed immensely to the success of the APC presidential primaries last year, where he was the first presidential aspirant to step down and throw his support behind Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a situation that reduced the tension at the APC presidential primaries.”
He, therefore, described Akpabio as an uncommon leader, who always stands for the people, irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliations.