The zoning of the 10th National Assembly Senate presidency to the South-South by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has created a certain level of unrest among senators from other regions.
The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.
Specifically, this was carried out with the zoning template of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The party, therefore, settled for Senators Godswill Akpabio/ Barau Jubrin for Senate leadership and Abass Tajudeen/Ben Kalu for House of Representatives leadership.
This particular move by the president-elect begs the question of annihilating the Igbos from his incoming administration.
Perhaps this might just be another coincidence or are the Igbos being deliberately ignored by Tinubu’s government?
Not long ago the President-elect came under heavy criticism over the non-inclusion of any person from the South-East part of the country in his Transition Committee.
There were insinuation from various groups that the former governor of Lagos State was suffering from what they termed Igbophobia; a deep resentment for the Igbos.
Regions That Have Dominated The Senate Presidency So Far.
There have been eight senate presidents so far in the fourth republic and the first five of them were from the South-East region, the next two from the North-central region and the outgoing one from the North-east.
The Igbos that held the seat were Evan Enwerem from Imo State, who served between June and November 1999; Chuba Okadigbo from Anambra State who served from 1999 to 2000, Pius Anyim from Ebonyi State who served between 2000 and 2003, Adolphus Wabara from Abia State who served between 2003 and 2005 and Ken Nnamani from Enugu State who served from 2005 to 2007.
The North-central produced David Mark from Benue State who presided from 2007 to 2015, and Bukola Saraki from Kwara State who served from 2015 to 2019.
The present Senate president Ahmed Lawan, who was elected in 2019, is from Yobe State in the North-east region.
From the above, one fact stands out that the Igbos, compared to other regions, have dominated the senate presidency for a while now.
So can we indeed say that the Tinubu administration has refused to practice inclusivity or is he giving other regions more opportunities for participation?
If indeed the soon-to-be president is trying to give other regions a chance, do we then ignore the glaring fact that if Akpabio emerges as the leader of the National Assembly, the three most powerful positions in the country (Presidency, Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Senate) would be held by the South hereby bringing us back to the argument of the lack of inclusivity?
But yet again one might ask what exactly should be the yardsticks for choosing a senate president, should the focus be on capability or on…?
A representative of the former lawmakers in the upper legislative Chamber, Senator Basheer Lado had said that they had chosen Akpabio in the spirit of fairness and equity.
According to him: “In the spirit of equity, fairness, political expediency and following extensive consultations with stakeholders, we hereby express our total support for the zoning of the position of the President of the 10th Senate, to the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria.”
Let us take a quick look at other candidates and see if indeed the former Akwa Ibom governor was chosen on the basis of equity.
Senate Presidency candidates.
No less than six senators are contesting for the seat of the Senate presidency.
The contestants are from four of the nation’s six geo-political zones: the North-west, South-east, South-south and North-central.
Senator Barau Jibrin from Kano State and a former governor of Zamfara, Abdulazeez Yari, are the two contestants from the North-west.
From the South-east, there are two aspirants in the race. They are a former governor of Abia State who is the incumbent Senate Whip, Orji Kalu, and Osita Izunaso from Imo State.
From the South-South we have the chosen one, Akpabio, who between the years 2015 and 2019 was the Senate Minority Leader, Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State and former national chairman of the APC, has also been mentioned from the zone.
Senator Sanni Musa from Niger State in the North-central is also in the race but has indicated preparedness to accept the deputy Senate President seat should the APC zone the top seat elsewhere.
The APC has a slimmer majority in the incoming 10th Senate with 59 members. The PDP has 29 members, the Labour Party has six members, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and the Social Democratic Party have two members each. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Peoples Progressive Party (YPP) complete the 109-member Senate with one member each.
Are The Igbos Ready To Receive Tinubu’s Olive Branch?
Ojo, who gave a telephone interview to this online publication, opined that indeed it was no coincidence that the Senate presidency was offered to the South-South.
He argued that the Senate should have been zoned to the East to placate Igbos considering that Nigeria is made up of three major tribes.
He, however, noted that the Igbos, on the other hand, have shown no indication that they would love to sheath their sword and work with Tinubu’s administration.
He cited the letter prolific writer, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie wrote to the United States complaining of irregularities in the general election after its president, Joe Biden sent a congratulatory message to the President-elect.
Speaking further, Ojo pointed to the suit instituted by a Presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential election and constitutional lawyer, Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru aimed at stopping the inauguration of Tinubu.
He recalled how the Obidients movement attacked the Governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo when he suggested that the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, work with the presidency to move the country forward.
Ojo went on to state that despite his support for the Senate presidency to be given to the Igbos as an olive branch, it should not be forgotten that the region has produced more Senate presidents than others.
He noted that Tinubu’s decision to shun the Igbos might not totally be his fault as the Igbos have also shown that they are not ready for healing.