By Terungwa Oota
The contest over who wins the Senate Presidency of the 10th National Assembly in Nigeria is unique in many ways.
The issues canvassed by all the candidates are germane and cannot be easily dismissed by a wave of the hand or Executive fiat .
Four zones, two in the South and two in the North have layed there arguments and each is valid .
The All Progressives Congress have produced a Muslim-Muslim Presidency awaiting inauguration come May 29, 2023.
This was a victory earned by share dexterity and consensus building amongst the APC Governors across Nigeria.
This emergence of what looked like aberration has significantly shaped the contest for the Senate Presidency and uniquely so in a manner of speaking.
The Muslim-Muslim Presidency has literally excluded the North West from laying genuine claims to head the Legislature as an arm of the Government , it equally ,morally excludes any Senator -Elect of Muslim Faith from the six states of the North Central Geo-political zones as well.
Then uniquely too, it has become a preservative of the Senators-Elect of the Christian faith.
Then in another unique fashion, all eyes are on the two zones of South South and South East of the Southern region.
Then again ,the new introduction into that contest is the consideration of fairness to determine which of the two zones had taken a shot more-times than the other.
This argument has never featured more prominently in the elections of a Senate President in the history of Nigeria’s Democracy.
The North Central have had the Senate Presidency for twelve years since advent of democracy ,more than all the other zones. This development ordinarily would have punctured that school of thought that believes the South East have had more shots at the Senate Presidency than the South South’s nill numbers.
But the uniqueness of even the Presidency has paved the way for the uniqueness of narratives that will determine the zone that will produce the President of the 10th Senate .
There is equally the conversation about the percentage of the votes the two zones South South and South East have individually contributed to deliver the APC and it’s Presidential candidate at the 2023 elections.
Frankly unique as well ,surfaces another argument that still can’t be dismissed by any strength or imagination as Mr Kassim Afegbua and other proponents of fair play have continually held the strong view that the South South arrived at the party with trucks of drinks and sumptuous meals and can’t be locked out at the time of recognition .
Afegbua, a former commissioner of Information in Edo State believes and rightly too, that the argument of a South East Senate Presidency on account of a South West President defies all known logic.
His unique narratives which in themselves are quite reasonable and have further made the contest pretty-unique in some sorta sense is his description of the South South’s 2023 Presidential votes-contribution as “audacious ” inroads of the APC in the PDP stronghold.
According to Afegua ,”The South-South zone contributed so much to the success of the ruling APC in the last election. This zone has always been the stronghold of the opposition PDP, but in this 2023 election, the ruling APC was able to make a foothold in the zone, topping Rivers state votes, and coming second in the other five states with over 45% of the votes. That was audacious!”
He continued ,”The South-East zone had a different ball game. The presidential election outcome was abysmal for the ruling APC in all the five states of the South-East. In the fullness of such ridiculous outcome, Senators from the ruling party emerged, scoring as much as 42,000 votes in some cases, and others even more; but at the presidential election, they abandoned their candidate, Asiwaju Tinubu, in what I considered a conspiracy to humiliate him. The votes from all the five states of the South-East hover around 80,000. When one considers that both Senate and presidential elections held on the same day, hour, and minute and in a seamless process, the theme of conspiracy becomes obvious. Furthermore, the South-East zone senators have had the opportunity of being Senate President on five different occasions in the last twenty four years; Enwerem, Okadigbo, Wabara, Anyim and Nnamani are all from the South-East. Some other senators from the South- East have served as Deputy Senate President for twelve years also. It means they have dominated the Senate for circa, twenty years. Bidding for the position at this time would amount to taking the handshake beyond the elbow; and ask yourselves, if the APC had lost the presidency, as the South -East rooted for, would they be asking to become Senate President?
“I do understand that there is no morality in politics because of some bizarre realities which have become the second nature of politics. But, there has to be balance of power to minimize the seen and unseen mitigating factors that stand against building a cohesive and stable system. Our power play needs to stimulate constructive engagement, collective bargaining, conversational politics, thus, good governance and wholesome progress. The South-South zone is undoubtedly the resource base of this nation. It is of utmost importance to deliberately and consciously factor in the interest of this zone now to avoid protestations and vibrations that may hurt the zone and the nation at large. Also, the character, content and antecedents of the individual for this position must be scrutinized for performance and sound leadership. Merely asking for the Senate Presidency with a sense of entitlement, is to me, a depraved assessment of the issues that have so far dictated our collective engagement and led us to where we are. The South-South geopolitical zone has persons of capacity and sound leadership orientation who can fit the bill. An individual who would be perspicacious in leadership of lawmaking, not allowing the assembly be dubbed a rubber-stamp one. They must be someone who understands the political dynamics in the country and can connect to them. The individual must be generational in thoughts to fit into the expectations of a contemporary digital age in the country. The South-South, unlike Senator Jarigbe Agom opined, parades eminently qualified persons who can up the ante in the Senate and constructively partner with the Executive arm of government to deepen democracy through lawmaking and other relevant responsibilities”.
There is this other argument from the South South that the zone cannot be left as the heart beat of the nation when it comes to leadership in a dispensation it has made valuable contributions.
There is equally the argument about a new order ,which in itself sounds lots reasonable about moving away from the traditional culture of Igbos ,Hausa and Yoruba as true reflection of the Nigerian Tribes and cultures.
This too was crystal clearly out by Mr Afegbua , “the complexities associated with balancing power in plural countries or societies are multifarious. In any plural society, both national and subnational entities must feel a sense of inclusion and regard for their concerns in the process, in any power distribution activity. In the case of Nigeria, there is always the tendency to view Nigeria from only a tripod configuration, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, thus subsuming other interests as though their interests are secondary. It is a wrong-headed reading of the entire gamut of minority rights. In the context of the 10th Assembly Senate Presidency, the issue of geopolitical balancing is both auspicious and compelling. The issue of religion, is also important. Having a president and vice of the country, of same faith, being first and second citizens, it is expected that a Christian Senate President and perhaps the Speaker of the House of Reps will be of other faiths; except if we deliberately want to stir the hornet’s nest to provoke avoidable sentiments and emotions. I don’t think the President-elect and his Vice would want to travel that route, knowing full well that they both need a stable polity to stimulate good governance to deliver on their electoral promises. The geopolitical zone to be most considered and her merits is also important. I am advocating for the South-South zone to be accorded the position”.
Suffice to say that more than ever, the conversations around the emergence of a Senate President have never being such interesting , educating, well chronicled and persuasive.
This implies that the Nigeria electorate have come of age , it implies that Nigerians now want to understand why and how certain leadership decisions are made and are willing to make inputs into the recruitment process of those who will lead them at all levels, perhaps except the Judiciary which there are expectations that the process of the emergence of a Chief Justice of Nigeria as the head of the Judiciary arm of the government can even be halted by parliament if such process appears skewed .
The propondednce of opinion and the reasonable arguments so far put out in the public, the public opinion and all odds favours the South South’s Senator Godswill Akpabio over South East’s Senators Orji Kalu Uzor, Osita Izinaso ,Dave Umahia ; North West’s Jubril Barau as well as N orth Central’s Sani Musa.
Oota a public Affairs Analysts writes from Makurdi , Benue state capital .