SENATE PRESIDENCY: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE VOTE BUT RECONNECTING THE IBOS TO MAINSTREAM POLITICS FOR PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE, EQUITY, EQUALITY AND INCLUSIVENESS.
The Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawal-led 9th Senate will cease to exist on June 13, 2023. The race for the Senate Presidency has begun in earnest. As expected, one of the most burning issues in Nigeria today is the race for the numero uno seat for the 10th National Assembly. Section 50 [1a and b] of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [as amended) read: “There shall be [a] a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”. Senate Rule, on the other hand allows only a Ranking Senator to be elected for this purpose and according to the Standing Orders “Nomination of Senators to serve as Presiding Officers and appointments of Principal Officers and other Officers of the Senate or any Parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of Senators”. In determining the ranking, the following order shall apply – Senators retuning based on number of times re-elected; Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives.
Those contesting for the plumb job are: the incumbent President of the Senate Ahmad Lawal Ibrahim, and some of the Senators-Elect like Orji Uzor Kalu, Barua Bibrin, Godswill Akpabio, Adams Oshiomhole, Abdul-Aziz Yari and Dave Umahi. Of all these political big wigs, so many professional bodies, political analysts, public commentators, Christian groups, cultural organisations and even the political class across the country have in different fora unanimously tipped Orji Uzor Kalu [OUK] for the Senate Presidency. These groups believe, firmly too, that OUK is a seasoned Lawmaker with cognate wealth of political experience. He has that political savvy, legislative prowess and ability to navigate the complex terrain of Nigerian politics. OUK’S emergence as Senate President will likely have far-reaching implications for the balance of power within the polity. His emergence will reduce tension in the South East of the country. The South East hitherto feel that they have been abandoned in the distribution of political powers in the country. Truly, the South East feel they are slaves in their own country. They believe that they are not part of this great country: and are therefore considered as second class citizens. A typical and recent example to support this assertion is the “Obi Wave” that swept aside many political actors from their seats. Who would have thought that Obi will win Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja in a Presidential Election? That was the level of anger by the electorates. There’s no sitting Governor in the South East, Senator or House of Representatives Member that the “Obi Wave ” did not affect adversely. In Abia State, the incumbent Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu lost his bid to go to the Senate and also lost the Governirship to same “Obi Wave”. The scenario was the same in Enugu, Ebonyi and would have been the same in Anambra and Imo States if elections were held in those States. Forget some Governors retained their seats! The Wave also spread to almost all parts of the country. The people are so dischanted and are hopeless with the leadership style of exclusion of the South East and this exclusion, coupled with Obi’s personality activated sympathy from all parts of the country.
To remedy the ugly situation, we should not be asking how many votes did the APC garner from the South East? The question should be, how do we sincerely integrate the South East into the mainstream politics of Nigera? The APC as a Politcal Party has the opportunity now. The Party should reconnect the Ibos into its fold for peaceful co-existence, equity, equality and inclusiveness in the affairs of running the country. They should do this by stabilizing the polity as it was done since 1960. Under the NCNC Nnamdi Azikiwe, Denis Osadebay and Nwafor Orizu became the Senate President of the country respectively. Between 1979 to 1983 Joseph Wayas of the NPN became the Senate President. Iyorchia Ayu and Eme Ebute of the SDP were Senate Presidents of the country respectively in 1992 to 1993. From 1999 to 2000 we had Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani as Senate Presidents under the PDP. From 2007 to 2015 we had David Mark as Senate President also from the PDP. Between 2015 to 2019 we had Bukola Saraki as Senate President from APC/PDP. From 2019 to date, we have the incumbent Ahmad Ibrahim Lawal from the APC. VOTES cast in making these people Senate President was never a factor. The primary and fundamental factor was and has been the balancing of the political equation for peaceful co-existence.
OUK being a detrabilized Nigerian and a ranking Principal Officer with a verifiable track record of achievements should be favoured by the ruling party, the APC. It should be noted that APC lost presidential election in Christian dominated areas because of its muslim-muslim ticket. The best way to win the confidence of the Christians and the South East is to make Kalu the Senate President and he has the capacity to reach out to everyone in the zone and the entire Nigeria.
DR. IBEM UDUMA
writes from Port Harcourt.