Yerima tipped for Senate Majority leader
THE race for the top positions in the 8th session of the Senate which is expected to be to be inaugurated on June 4, has recorded a twist with the emergence of former Zamfara State governor, Ahmed Sani Yerima, as the likely next Senate Majority Leader.
This is the outcome of a meeting of a caucus of Northwest Senators in Abuja during which the issue of leadership of the next Senate was thoroughly discussed. With a total of 21 Senators, the Northwest enjoys an advantage against its only challenger for the position, the Southwest, which has 18 senators made up of 13 All Progressive Congress (APC) Senators and five from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At that meeting, Senators were said to have argued in favour of having the most ranking among them to become the Senate Majority leader in strict compliance with Senate ranking rule which dictated that election of persons into positions of Senate leadership should be based on the order of ranking. Members of the caucus were also said to have resolved to reach out to Senators and Senators-elect from other zones for support.
Yerima was first elected into the Senate in 2007 and since then had remained a principal officer. In his first term, he was elected Minority Whip and in 2011, became the Deputy Minority Leader.
The Senate Majority leader plays key roles in the workings of the Upper Legislative Chamber and the Senate Standing Rule in its section 28 simply made the Majority Leader the manager of Senate businesses.
At the moment, the crisis generated by the struggle for power in the leadership of the next Senate seemed to be over with a decision by the APC leadership to push the Senate President slot to the North East and that of the Senate Deputy President to the North Central.
However the caucus of the Southwest in the Senate, which is also seeking to produce the next Senate Leader, has continued it’s quiet lobby among various stakeholders.
The failure of the APC to produce ranking Senator from the Southeast and South-South zones has restricted the election of persons to position of leadership in the next Senate to only four zones of Northwest, Northeast, North-Central and Southwest.
The fact that the Southwest had produced the Vice-President and has been positioned to take the position of the House of Representatives’ Speaker has been a major threat to its quest to getting another key position.
Baring any last minute change in the arrangement, the Northwest would take the position of Senate Majority Leader in addition to the position of the President while the Southwest would take the position of Speaker in addition to the position of Vice-President. The Northeast and North-Central would take the positions of the Senate President and Deputy President respectively.
In the Second Republic, the Senate Majority Leader became a powerful position in the Nigerian legislature and the the prominence and prestige of that office was made possible by a former Senate Leader, the late Senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki.
In a Newspaper interview a few years ago, the senior Saraki gave insight into how the defunct National Party of Party (NPN), as a political party, was able to work and have a harmonious relationship with the legislature. He said the party leaders and leaders in the parliament would meet, ponder over party positions and then, agreed on what should be the party position.
According to him, whatever was agreed at that level was what would happen on the floor of the Senate the following day; hence the harmonious relationship between the party and the legislature.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, however, this has not been the case. What is not in doubt is that the role of the Senate Majority Leader is still a very important one as whoever occupies that office serves as a link between his colleagues in the legislature and the executive arm of government.
Abdallah Wali (Sokoto State) became Senate Leader in June 1999 and was later succeeded by Samaila Mamman (Katsina State). In 2003, the Northwest occupied the position with Senator (now Ambassador) Dalhatu Sarki Tafida from Kaduna State occupying the office. In 2007, the position shifted to the Southwest and Senator Teslim Folarin from Oyo State got it. In 2011, because Folarin could not make it back to the Senate, his deputy, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), amid stiff opposition from the Northeast, got the post.