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Nigeria’s 10th National Assembly will be inaugurated in the first week of June and different interest groups across the country are already lobbying for the seats of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The actors, Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, are not mentioned in the races for the two positions, mainly because they are from the two zones that have produced the president-elect and the vice-president.
The senators-elect who have declared their bids for the presidency of the senate are Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano) and Abdulaziz Yari (APC-Zamfara) from the North-West zone; Sani Musa (APC-Niger) from North-Central; South East’s Orji Kalu (APC-Abia) and David Umahi (APC-Ebonyi); as well as Adams Oshiomole (APC-Edo) and Godswill Akpabio (APC-Akwa Ibom) from the South-South.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has 59 of the 109 seats in the Senate and is expected to prescribe the geopolitical zone where the seat of the Senate President will be occupied. But senators can also resist the interference of the majority and choose what they prefer, as was the case when Bukola Saraki took office in the 9th Senate in 2015.
However, in Kano, where the 2023 election was fought between the ruling APC and the fledgling NNPP, elected lawmakers and other politicians are looking beyond local competition to take positions in the Senate presidency race.
14 Senate presidents since 1960
Since the inauguration of the first Senate in 1960, the Southeast zone has produced more Senate presidents than any other zone. Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was the first to take office. But he left the same year he became the Governor General of Nigeria with his NCNC colleague Dennis Osadebey. Mr. Osadebey held on until 1963 when he became the Prime Minister of the newly created Midwest region.
Nwafor Orizu, also of the NCNC, became Senate President in 1963 and remained so until the bloody military coup of January 15, 1966, which handed over the government to army chief Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi as Acting President of Nigeria.
Thirteen years later when civilian rule under the Second Republic was restored, Joseph Wayas of Cross River State served as Senate President from 1979 to 1983 in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Benue State’s Iyorchia Ayu led the Senate from 1992 to 1993 in the aborted Third Republic under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was succeeded by his relative Ameh Ebute of Benue State, but held office for a few days in November 1993 before the military struck again.
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With the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999, Evans Enwerem, from Imo State, was elected Senate President of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But his tenure was tumultuous and short, lasting from June 3 to November 18, 1999. He succeeded Chuba Okadigbo of Anambra, who was also removed in 2000. Another PDP senator from Ebonyi State, Anyim Pius Anyim, took over and held the position until. the end of the fourth Senate in 2003.
The Fifth Senate commenced in June 2003 under the PDP which also elected Adolphus Wabara, from Abia State, the Senate President. Mr. Wabara was replaced by Ken Nnamani, from Enugu State, who served until the end of that assembly in 2007.
David Mark, from Benue State, is the Senate President, who was the sixth and seventh Senate President from 2007 to 2015 under the PDP.
In 2015, Bukola Saraki, from Kwara State, was controversially elected against the wishes of his party, APC. But although he defected to the PDP in 2018, he held the position until the end of the 2019 assembly. Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe State, was elected to the position in June 2019 under the APC.
The battle for the leadership of the 10th Senate is unique because the outcome will be influenced by geographic, political and religious factors.
The North West region is a strong base of the APC and has never produced a Senate President. The two senators elected from the zone: Senior Senator and Chairman, Senate Committee on Property, Mr. Jibrin representing Kano-North constituency; and former governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, are vying for the seat.
But they have a hurdle in their religious adherence because the president-elect and the vice-president, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, respectively, are Muslims. The APC co-faith presidential ticket was widely criticized in the election and the party will be reluctant to give another Muslim the third highest political office in the federation.
Abdulmumin Jibrin, a member-elect of the Kano House of Representatives and the opposition New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), said the 10th Assembly should not elect a Muslim as Senate President. He also said the seat should be distributed in the South-East like the PDP did in 1999 when the heads of the Legislative and Executive Arms came from the Southern region after 20 years of rule in the North.
The case for the Northwest
But others have argued that the APC should give the seat to the North-West to appreciate the strong support given to the APC in the General Elections after the PDP emerged as its stronghold in the South-East in 1999.
Analysis of the voting pattern shows that the North-West gave the APC the most votes in the presidential election among the six zones, while the South-East gave the least. Mr. Tinubu got only 127,605 votes from the five South East states, while Peter Obi of the Labor Party got 1,960,589 votes.
The North West gave APC 2,653,235 votes, followed by the South West with 2,279,407 votes. North Central gave the party 1,670,091 votes while North East, the home region of main opposition PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar, gave Mr. Tinubu 1,185,458 votes. APC also got 799,957 votes in the South-South region.
Mr. Tinubu hails from the South West but has established his political base in the North as the entire 19 northern states gave him 5,507,787 votes compared to the southern states where he got 3,206,959 votes.
So, unlike the PDP which has garnered more votes from the South since 1999, the APC has been more dependent on the northern zones and they are being asked to take this into account when sharing top federal political positions.
However, even if the party can distribute the seat of the Senate President wherever it wants, it is not easy to force its members to abide by its agreements. That was when Mr. Saraki became the Senate President in 2015 and Aminu Tambuwal the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.
Former Senator El-Jibrin Doguwa on Sunday expressed his support for Mr. Jibrin’s bid, describing the Kano senator-elect as the most qualified candidate. He said senators can count on him for quality leadership.
The former member of parliament said that those who emphasize the factor of religion do not know the dynamics of the National Assembly. He said senators are statesmen who will consider the quality and abilities of the contestants above their religions or where they come from.
“In the National Assembly, religion has nothing to do with the choice of leadership. I was a member of the National Assembly. We always emphasize people’s productivity and capabilities and the issues at stake.
“The politics of the National Assembly never sees anybody coming from any direction, the National Assembly is an independent arm of government and they don’t want any imposition so that they don’t look like a rubber stamp,” he said.
“Barau Jibrin has a good relationship with his colleagues and his peers. I can say that the success of APC in Kano North district was based on his performance, if not for him we will not be talking about APC in Kano.
“APC had a bad outing in Kano because of wrong decisions taken. Senators may withdraw the decision of the party and the federal government for the presidency of the senate, against the wishes of the federal government that elected Bukuola Saraki as the president of the senate. Aminu Tambuwal was elected speaker against the wishes of former President Goodluck Jonathan. It is the relationship between the individual aspirant and his colleagues with what he will offer them and the type of leadership that they cannot put anyone who will be a problem for them.
“Whatever position Fasting Jibrin will hold, you will never find him unwilling. He is a good man, very honest, has many initiatives and is a basic politician. I am in favor of Senator El-Jibrin Doguwa becoming the next President of the Barau Jibrin Senate if our party in the APC area has an office in our area. My son, Alhassan Ado Duguwa is also seeking the speakership and that does not mean that Barau Jibrin should stop seeking the senate president and Barau Jibrin’s desire cannot stop Ado Duguwa from seeking the speakership,” Mr. Doguwa told journalists.
Also, a senator representing Jigawa Northwest, Danladi Sankara, said he is supporting Mr. Jibrin.
“Barau Jibrin is a ranking senator, he is limited by the experience of others and his strong relationship with his colleagues. He is the type of Senate President that the 10th National Assembly needs to build on the achievements of the 9th Assembly. As the chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, he is the brain behind the redesign of Nigeria’s budget cycle since January. was,” Mr. Sankara said on Sunday in support of Zamfara State’s APC youth wing, Mr. Jibrin.
The senator-elect from Kano South, under the NNPP, Kawu Sumaila also expressed his support for Mr. Jibrin at a meeting in Kano last week.
Kawu said the National Assembly is the most important organ of democracy and its leadership cannot be played with. He blasted the religious and politicians who supported APC Muslim-Muslim presidential tickets but remained silent in the Senate presidential race, which is more important than the vice-presidential position.
“Whatever I do, I will consider my country and my people in Kano first. My position is clear for the presidency of the Senate, I will vote for Barau Jibrin. I don’t care that it is APC for so long that it will bring development here (Kano). If you give it to Abdulaziz Yari, he is my friend, I will vote for him,” said the NNPP politician.
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