Ethno-religious, regional sentiments as Senate seeks principal officers
Barely a week after election of its President, the Senate is, again, in the eye of the storm over choice of principal officers. Of eight positions, the most attractive, generating so much attention: are Majority and Minority Leaders.
This is happening as lobbyists mount pressure on the Senate leadership, seeking appointment as chairmen of what is generally referred to as ‘Grade A’ committees.
While the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC) has commenced consultation on who should occupy the office of Majority Leader, the caucus of the APC in the Senate is facing difficulties surmounting ethno-religious and regional sentiments.
Some senators, who are reportedly asking that the Majority Leader’s position go to the North, argue that since Senate President Godswill Akpabio is a Christian from the South, a Muslim from the North deserves the seat.
But proponents of a Senate Majority Leader from the South say having it their own way would douse tension created by a Muslim-Muslim presidency in Aso Rock.
The Senate’s standing rule, which dictates: “The Majority Leader shall be a senator nominated from the party with the highest number of senators,” provides that functions of the Majority Leader shall include leading the business of the Senate; managing legislative schedule of the chamber; and liaising with committee chairmen and other functionaries of the Senate.
From the functions, it follows that the Senate cannot afford to elect a novice as Majority Leader. The deputy Majority Leader simply acts in the absence of the principal officer.
Lawmakers seeking to contest the number-three most powerful position include a former leader during the 8th Senate, Mohammed Ali Ndume.
He is favoured, being one of the most ranking senators, having been first elected into the chamber in 2011. Before then, Ndume had served two terms in the House of Representatives.
Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti State), who is also seeking to be elected as Majority Leader, has been in the chamber since 2019, after serving a term in the House of Representatives.
The lawmaker had served as a special assistant on legal matters to Senator Bola Tinubu until November 1993, when General Sani Abacha truncated Nigeria’s democracy. He had also served as Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development in the administration of then Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, a third-term lawmaker from Oyo State is another contender. He was first elected into the Senate in 2015.
Supporters of both Opeyemi and Buhari believe the position of Senate Majority Leader should be reserved for the South West, which produced the President. The argument is that the zone of the last President, Muhammadu Buhari, produced the Majority Leader.
Although, the immediate past Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, is reported to be in the race for Majority Leader, the latest twist is that he might have withdrawn. It was learnt he has begun consultations to remain Chief Whip at the 10th Senate.
While political exigencies could dictate to the contrary, the Senate’s rule on ranking favours the most experienced among the contestants, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and region.
Fewer than three senators from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are jostling to occupy the office of Senate Minority Leader: Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Abdul Ningi and Henry Seriake Dickson.
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