Sunday, 24th September 2023

10th Senate as APC’s second chance to impress Nigerians

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Adamu Abuh, Abuja
06 May 2023   |   4:54 am
To zone or not to zone is out of the question. But, as the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) dithers over the texture, tone and colour of the 10th National Assembly, chances are that how far it goes to get its right foot forward would determine what becomes of the next administration.
Nigeria Senate

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

• Southeast, South/South Agitation Replays Eighth NASS • Akpabio, Izunaso Favoured

To zone or not to zone is out of the question. But, as the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) dithers over the texture, tone and colour of the 10th National Assembly, chances are that how far it goes to get its right foot forward would determine what becomes of the next administration.

By June 6, or thereabouts, when the next plenary of the bi-cameral federal legislature of the federal republic is proclaimed, both the Senators-elect and members-elect of the House of Representatives have a rich history to learn from.
Like the lower chamber, which started on a false note on the leadership score, the upper chamber continued to be harassed by mis-steps in its leadership selection process. While the House of Representatives elected Salisu Buhari as its Speaker in 1999, the Senate elected Evan(s) Enwerem as the fourth republic Senate President. But, both leaders ended up on a sore note due to allegations of inconsistencies in their academic and reputation records.
At the end of the day, it became apparent that the Presidency’s insistence on influencing the leadership selection of the two chambers, particularly the Senate, remains at the root of the continued Executive versus Legislature schism in the democratic dispensation.
As at the time Senator Enwerem was elected Senate President with the strong backing of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, many of the Senators-elect and indeed, Nigerians, saw Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, as the man for the job. Nonetheless, after Enwerem was impeached and Okadigbo elected in his place, the confrontations between the Senate and the Presidency continued.
Eventually, being the arm of government in charge of the till, the Presidency succeeded in mobilising Senators to remove Okadigbo in a grotesque leadership change that underscored the garrison political style of that quasi-democratic era.  
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, who was elected after Okadigbo fell out of favour with the Presidency, walked carefully and succeeded in avoiding the legendary banana peels spread at the Red Chamber by the Presidency, Anyim decided to forego a second term in order not to give President Obasanjo’s handlers the opportunity to extract their pound of flesh.
And, because the Senate Presidency was zoned to Southeast, the fifth plenary provided the opportunity for Adolphus Nwagbara to try his hands at the Senate Presidency. Before long, Nwagbara fell out with the Presidency, only for Senator Ken Nnamani came as his substitute.
Come June, the buildup to the election of the next President of Senate has continued to dominate public discourse. Being that the President of Senate chairs the National Assembly, the position has been attracting diverse considerations, including the zoning convention and the issue of ranking.
Nigerians are waiting to see if the 10th Senate would demonstrate maturity by weaning itself out of the perennial command and control of the Presidency. The election of the principal officers of the Red Chamber goes to a great length to define the nature of the National Assembly.
Like in the period spanning 1999 to 2007, the Presidency is returning to the South. However, instead of the rotational convention to throw up a Southeast President, the Southwest is once again set to occupy the Presidency. Consequently, the current argument is whether the next Senate President should come from Southeast as obtained in 1999 through 2007 or to the South-South geopolitical zone.
While the South-South argues that it is its turn to produce a President of Senate, the Southeast maintains that the zoning convention dictates that their zone should take another turn since political schemes denied the zone of the Presidency.
However, some political actors, notably members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Northwest geopolitical zone contend that the choice of the next President of Senate should be predicated on democratic election, where the majority should have its way.
Yet, another school of thought believes that merit, fairness and national interest should be the overriding consideration, even as they call for Southeast to be considered in the light of the political injury it suffers through marginalization.
Contenders from Southeast include, Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, David Nweze Umahi, current Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu and former APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso. Notable names being associated with the scheming for the Senate top job are immediate past Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio and former APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Within the APC, some strong party aficionados are moving for a thorough-bred party man to hold the forte in the Senate so as to avoid the intrigues of the opposition through the PDP as happened during the Bukola Saraki term.
It is against that background of political consideration that Senator Izunaso is being pushed forward as the best candidate to succeed Dr. Ahmad Lawan and protect the party’s manifesto.
Izunaso worked in the National Assembly bureaucracy before serving as an aide to former President, Okadigbo. He was a member of the House of Representatives before fortuitous circumstances propelled to the Senate. Having served APC as its National Organising Secretary, those who are championing the cause of party supremacy believe that the Imo State-born Senator-elect fits the billing.
It is also argued that Izunaso as Senate President would accommodate the Southeast in the power foci of the emerging Tinubu Presidency, where the question of inclusion and national reconciliation have become a top agenda.
However, defying those considerations, the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday, supported the candidacy of Senator Akpabio, even though, as usual with the National Assembly politics, nothing is cast in stone until after the inauguration of the plenary.  
Aligning with the APC leaders, Tinubu also identified with the plan to throw up a Northwest candidate as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which was occupied by Southwest in the receding plenary.
The Guardian gathered that the tentative zoning template was agreed upon during a parley held between the President -Elect, select members of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) at the Defence House, Abuja.
Some of the dignitaries that attended the meeting were, the outgoing Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, his Deputy, Ovie Omo -Agege and the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Femi Gbajabiamila.
Those from the NWC included the APC national Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the Deputy national chairman North, Sen Abubakar Kyari and his counterpart from the South, Chief Emma Eneukwu.
Confirming the developments in confidence to The Guardian, a member of the NWC declared:  “The President -Elect had made up his mind on the issue a long time ago except if he changes his mind again before the inauguration of the national Assembly next month. It is true he has endorsed them for the leadership of the national Assembly after meeting with representatives of the NWC and other stakeholders of the party.”
However, when contacted, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Felix Morka, sounded evasive, promising to get back without confirming or denying the endorsement of Abass, the Representative of Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State.
Recall that Senator Akpabio, who participated in the contest for the APC presidential ticket, was the first to step down for the President -Elect during the presidential primaries held at the Eagle Square, Abuja in June last year.
A two-term Senator, the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, going by the agreements reached at the parley, would be deputised by Kano State-born Senator Barau Jibrin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriation or Senator Danjuma Goje, who represents Gombe Central and chairs the Committee on Marine Transport.
It was gathered that Hon, Abass enjoys the tacit support of his home state governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai. He is reputed to have sponsored 75 bills within the life of the National Assembly and relates well with his colleagues. As a sign that the arrangement is still inchoate, no name has been associated with the Deputy Speaker position, even as feelers point to the likelihood that the position could go to Southeast as consolation prize.