The crowded race for President of the 10th Senate took a new direction last week after the interface some of the contenders had with the President – elect, Bola Tinubu. TAIYE ODEWALE reports
Senate and the two positions of presiding officers
As obtainable in most democracies across the globe, particularly, the presidential model with bi – cameral legislature being practised in Nigeria and some other countries, the Senate is headed by a Chief Presiding Officer, designated as President of the Senate and deputy presiding officer, designated as Deputy President of the Senate.
Procedures for conducting elections into the two offices, are provided for, by section 50 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The section states that “for election of President or Deputy President of the Senate, Senators – elect shall after assembling for inauguration, nominate from among themselves those interested in the position and vote accordingly … “
In line with the relevant provisions of the constitutions, since the advent of the fourth republic in 1999, race for positions of Presiding officers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives from the 4th National Assembly to the about ending 9th Assembly, have always been on two horse template, in form of candidate ‘A’ contesting against ‘B’ and with clear cut direction of where prospective occupants of the positions should come from; along the divides of North and South.
Arguably, lack of clear cut direction for the race among the contenders, made it crowded in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in terms of number of Senators and Members – elect, gunning for the position of Senate President or Speakership of the House of Representatives.
For the Senate in particular, more than 10 Senators – elect have indicated interests for the position across the regional divides of South and North.
While those from the south are: Godswill Akpabio (Akwa – Ibom North West), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), David Umahi (Ebonyi South) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North), their counterparts from the North before the change of direction were: the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Jibrin Barau (Kano North), his counterpart on Senate Services, Senator Sani Musa (Niger East), the incumbent President of the Senate , Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) and immediate past governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West).
The seeming new direction for the race
However, the crowdedness of the race is set to thin out with reported endorsement of Senator Godswill Akpabio for Senate Presidency by the President – elect, Bola Tinubu which invariably set new direction as regards those to contest for Senate Presidency and those to go for the Deputy Senate President position.
Endorsement of Akpabio for Senate Presidency by the President – elect as authoritatively gathered by the Blueprint, came when Barau visited him last week and told to vie for the Deputy Senate President ‘s position which however has not been accepted by the stakeholders from the Northwest where Buhari hails from.
But in strategic move of toeing the new direction, another contender from the North for the Presidency of the 10th Senate, Senator Sani Musa hurriedly on Friday last week, hosted sizeable number of Senators – elect from North Central in his Maitama residence, Abuja for endorsement for the position of Deputy President of the Senate.
At the end of the meeting attended by 11 out of the 19 Senators – elect from North Central, its Convener, the Senator – elect from Nasarawa West, Ahmed Aliyu Wadada (NNPP), said North Central has settled for the position of Deputy President of the Senate in the 10th Senate and Sani Musa is their choice.
He said: “We convened this meeting to welcome Mr. President-elect from his foreign trip.
“We also appreciate his disposition to ensure that fairness and equity take place in the distribution of leadership positions to all the geopolitical zones.
“We are aware that there are agitations from various geopolitical zones on the positions of Senate President, deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
“We are aware of these agitations. The South West and the North East having produced the president and the vice president, respectively, the North Central as a result is of the stand and position that the least position we will go for is that of the Deputy Senate President.
“This is not just coming today. The North Central Caucus has been consistent from the commencement of the politics that will lead to the emergency of the leadership of the National Assembly.
“We are for the deputy Senate President position. We shall work in harmony and mutually with other geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
“There is synergy between us and the similar caucus in the House of Representatives that is at liberty to demand for what it want but here in the Senate, for now, we are for the Deputy Senate President position and we are endorsing Senator Sani Musa for that “
Aside Senator Wadada and the host, Senator Sani Musa , other Senators – elect from North – Central at the meeting were ÷
returning Senators Isah Jibrin (Kogi East), and Sadiq Umar Suleiman (Kwara North).
Also at the meeting were Senators-Elect Peter Ndalkali Jiya (Niger South), Ahmed Aliyu Wadada (Nasarawa West), Sunday Karimi (Kogi West), Udende Memsa
Emmanuel (Benue North East), Titus Tartenger Zam (Benue North West), Hon Diket Plang (Plateau Central), Mohammed Onawo (Nasarawa South), and Engr. (Dr) Abubakar Sadiku Ohere (Kogi Central).
Change of direction by Senator Sani Musa in the race for leadership of the 10th Senate, was also keyed into by some governors from the zone who hours after the resolution by North Central caucus of Senators – elect, also endorsed Senator Sani Musa for the number two presiding officer position in the 10th Senate after a brief parley with the Senators – elect at the Kwara State Governor’s Lodge Asokoro, Abuja.
Specifically, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state at the meeting , expressed appreciation to the caucus for coming together for the first time to pursue the interest of the zone which he noted has never happened before.
He called on all the political actors in the zone from the local government elected officials, political appointees, serving and former State and National Assembly members to unite as one entity.
He also assured the federal lawmakers-elect that all the governors of the North Central geopolitical zone would support their aspiration to produce a presiding officer in the 10th National Assembly.
He said, “This is the appropriate time for us to unite in order to pursue a common goal so that the North Central Nigeria would take its rightful place in the affairs of the country”.
On his part, the Kwara state Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, commended members of the caucus for coming together as a team to pursue a common goal.
“The fact that the elected senators from our zone, irrespective of their political party affiliation have chosen to come together to promote a common interest for the benefits of the North Central and the country, is a welcome development and highly commendable.
“We will advise the caucus to reach out to other zones with the aim of getting the required numbers and cooperation for actualisation of the position”, he said.
Possible change of direction by Jibrin Barau
Although since advised by the President – elect to go for the position of Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau (Kano North), has not practically made any change in that direction but he is no longer intensifying campaign for the position of President of the Senate despite vociferous demand being made for it by stakeholders of the party from North West.
The emerging new direction in the race, is however expected to get clearer this week when leadership of APC at national level meets and make pronouncement on zoning of the positions.