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Senate Presidency: Between Saraki and Akume

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Saraki

Saraki

ALTHOUGH the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has not made a definite official pronouncement on where the Senate President should come from in the next political dispensation, all eyes are on the North-Central as the most likely, out of the six geo-political zone, to produce Nigeria’s number three citizen.

As the position of the President has gone to the Northwest and the Vice-President to the Southwest in the unprecedented alliance of the two zones in the country’s political history, ordinarily, the position of the Senate President should go to either the Southeast or the South-South.

But because the APC has only one Senator, who is not going to have a ranking status, in the two Eastern zones, the searchlight is being beamed on the North and with the President coming from the Northwest, the pendulum could swing in favour of either the North-Central or the Northeast.

The North-Central, which produced incumbent David Mark, who is said to be nursing the ambition of “tenure elongation” despite the fact that his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lost its majority strength in the National Assembly, however seems to have an edge because of the peculiarities of the zone.

While the Northeast is also trying to make it’s presence felt in the struggle for the coveted position with the declared intention of Danjuma Goje and Ahmed Lawan from Gombe and Yobe States respectively, the focus is more on the North-Central duo of Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central) and George Akume (Benue Northwest).

In what appears to be a two-horse race between Saraki and Akume, a lot of political factors, particularly in the political trajectory of the two gladiators and the influence of the power blocs within the APC, are already coming into play fueling speculations that, if not well-handled, the party may end up losing the position to the opposition PDP which may provide a united platform for Mark, a consummate politician adept in the use of power-play that has put the Senate in his grip for years.

In what appears to be a two-horse race between Saraki and Akume, a lot of political factors, particularly in the political trajectory of the two gladiators and the influence of the power blocs within the APC, are already coming into play fueling speculations that, if not well-handled, the party may end up losing the position to the opposition PDP which may provide a united platform for Mark, a consummate politician adept in the use of power-play that has put the Senate in his grip for years. Already, the PDP, bruised by its March 28 loss of Presidential power and National Assembly control, is said to be planning to use Mark’s dexterity in the control of the Senate and division in the APC, to retain the leadership of the upper chamber just as the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) overturned the apple cart of the ruling party’s zoning arrangement in the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.

Already, the PDP, bruised by its March 28 loss of Presidential power and National Assembly control, is said to be planning to use Mark’s dexterity in the control of the Senate and division in the APC, to retain the leadership of the upper chamber just as the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) overturned the apple cart of the ruling party’s zoning arrangement in the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.

Being former governors of their respective states, both Saraki and Akume have been political leaders at the state level with enough influence and experience to lead the upper chamber of the National Assembly and as ranking Senators, have enough legislative expertise to drive the vehicle of the Senate.

Although both of them have the same PDP background, Akume had left the party earlier and joined the opposition during the ACN days while Saraki was among the group that dealt the death blow on the ruling party to form the formidable platform that the APC became in the build-up to the 2015 elections.

This has put the two gladiators into different power blocs within the APC with Saraki belonging to the PDP arm of the APC amalgamation while Akume is of the old ACN.

Akume

Akume

Sources within the APC who are in support of Saraki’s emergence argue that members of the old PDP who contributed to the final onslaught that dislodged their former party from power should be adequately compensated.

With President-elect Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) coming from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) arm of the APC amalgamation, his Deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo from the ACN arm, analysts believe that for effective balance of power among the three major blocs that formed the victorious party, the PDP arm, which Saraki represents, should be given the position of the Senate President.

Among this group are Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso who delivered the highest votes for Buhari in the presidential poll, Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who presided over the presidential campaigns and Saraki, who changed the direction of Kwara State politics in favour of the APC.

Another factor that Saraki has in his favour, which has endeared him to the younger generation of politicians, is his relatively younger age and modern approach to governance, which his supporters believe, would add value to governance at the highest level in the country.

Although both of them have the same PDP background, Akume had left the party earlier and joined the opposition during the ACN days while Saraki was among the group that dealt the death blow on the ruling party to form the formidable platform that the APC became in the build-up to the 2015 elections. This has put the two gladiators into different power blocs within the APC with Saraki belonging to the PDP arm of the APC amalgamation while Akume is of the old ACN.

As a two-term governor, Saraki is reputed to have introduced novel approach to governance in Kwara State especially with the involvement of Zimbabwean farmers in the state’s agricultural output as well as other innovations that increased the standard of government.

Coming from a state that could be described as the junction between the Southwest, the Fulani core North and the minorities of the old Middle Belt, Saraki is seen as bestriding the country’s political landscape and with enough clout to provide the required leadership for the Senate.

The former Kwara governor who maintained the grip his late father, Senator Olusola Saraki had on Kwara politics through massive contacts with the grassroots, is also credited with a lot of political dexterity that saw him taking the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) which he headed after relinquishing the chairmanship of the Northern arm of the forum, to such a high height that the Presidency took more than a passing glance in its affairs.

Despite this high profile however, a section of the APC leadership, particularly that of the old ACN, are said to be uncomfortable with the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President preferring Akume instead.

The former Benue State governor, who is going for a third term in the Senate, is said to have found favour with some leaders not only because of his ACN background but also because he is perceived as a politician that would not nurture any ambition that could cause avoidable headache for the Buhari presidency.

Having already spent 8 years in the Senate, he is believed to have garnered enough experience in legislative functions and as a principal officer in the last four years; Akume is already familiar with the administration of the Senate, which many see as relevant to a successful tenure as Senate President.

Although many supporters of the APC argue against retaining the position in Benue State as Mark is also from there, the ability to play the balancing act in a way that would not deprive the party the opportunity of filling the number 3 slot in the hierarchy of power, should be paramount in the leaders’ calculations.

The leadership therefore should be wary of how to manage its success, the first test of which will come from its ability to manage the contest for the Senate Presidency, which incidentally would be the first internal challenge of an opposition party holding political power for the first time. The success of this management will surely determine how internal cohesion of the APC will either aid or mar the Buhari presidency as far as its relationship with the National Assembly is concerned.


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4 Comments
  • Ajifes

    Senator Akume is more matured and experienced than Bukola Saraki. We need maturity @ the Senate level. The late Saraki was the Senate president during Shagari’s era. Nigeria belongs to everyone of us. Why are these folks( Sarakis) addicted to taking undue advantage of the system? There are better Nigerians to hold sensitive leadership positions than a single perennial lineage. Some leadership / sensitive positions are not meant for any dynasty. Nigeria is not Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Bush/ Clintons in the USA.

    • New Nigerian

      Akume has EFCC issues…and Benue State have produced the past 4 senate presidents…

  • New Nigerian

    I see the next senate president to be neither of the two these opinion piece endorses for myriad of reasons. I do not believe Akume and Saraki is qualified – too much anti-masses political baggage. Aside from EFCC related-issues, even some of the “legal” ones are problematic. Principal amongst which is this – as ex-governors they lorded over their various states Governors-pensions which they still collect till this day, even as, they receive $1m per year from the senate. This so-called pension is said to be N100million every month for one of these two senators, even as the state governor picks up the bill for their housing, logistics, security, servants….Picking an ex-governor as Senate leader would permanently enshrine the systemic plutocracy that PDP put in place. The argument that the PDP-Block within APC should be recognized also counts against the candidacy of Saraki – as it portrays him as beholden to the old ways of “ruling” the people as opposed to truly “serving” his people…we are waiting for his transition, the first of which he shoudl stop double-dipping by releaving his poor state the onerous task of payinh him governors-pension. This is money better spent on his poor state’s need.

  • Joseph

    For the purpose of being fair, let another state produce the Senate President, or has it become the birthright of a particular state?