The 8th Senate: Who wears the crown? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The 8th Senate: Who wears the crown?

Posted: Apr 20, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Tyo Oota, a public affairs analyst, examines the political scenario in the incoming eighth Senate of the National Assembly and makes some permutations on which geo-political zone the next Senate president is likely to come from… 



The 8th Senate of the 8th National Assembly would take off early June, 2015 after it would be proclaimed by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, who would preside over the elections of the four Presiding officers of the two chambers of Nigeria’s highest lawmaking body, namely; Senate president, Speaker, Deputy Senate president and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Suffice it to say that, with the President and Vice President from the North West and South West respectively, the positions up for grabs in the National Assembly would be filled by the North Central and North East geo-political zones. The South-South and South- East are automatically out of the contest, following the inability of the two zones to return any ranking member of the two chambers of the National Assembly under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.

It is important to note that the standing rules of the Senate gives preference to seniority of Senators for the positions of Senate President and Deputy Senate presidents; in fact it bars new members from aspiring to hold these positions.

This is because, in the wisdom of the Senate, only Senators with cognate parliamentary experience can effectively lead the upper legislative chambers and examples are drown from advanced democracies like the United States of America as well as India.

The seniority/ranking factor was first tasted in 2007 when the current Senate President, David Mark first contested the number three position in order of protocol against the current Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume and defeated him, even though ranking was not yet included in the Senate’s standing rules. But within the life of that very assembly, under the leadership of David Mark, it was imperative to insert the clause in the standing rules of the red chamber, so as to properly guide lawmakers and possibly limit the contestation to only experienced senators for effective leadership.

It was then first applied as a written rule in 2011 when the likes of Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe state, who was elected into the Senate for the first term was prevailed upon to drop his ambition to vie for the office of the Senate president, hence David Mark, from the ruling PDP emerged unopposed.

As the race for the Senate Presidency heats up, and with APC winning the majority seats in the Senate, the North West and South West having produced the President and Commander In Chief and, Vice President respectively, it is a direct contest between the North Central and the North East, featuring Senate Minority Leader George Akume who would be returning to the Senate the third time and Senator Bukola Saraki who would be making a second return to the red chamber from Benue and Kwara States respectively from the North Central zone.

From the North East, it would be between Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe) and senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); both would be coming back the third time as well as Danjuma Goje from Gombe state who would be returning the second time.

Giving the standard set by the president of the Senate David Mark in the last eight years as chairman of the National Assembly, his dexterity and deep understanding of the legislative procedures as well as the ability navigate through tough political terrains to bridge the gap between parliament and executive, there is then the desire for a senate president that is humble, a team player, stabilizer as well as one that is respected amongst his colleagues irrespective of political party differences.

Therefore, as the build up to the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly gets on the way, three names have prominently featured in the calculations and permutations for the senate presidency and deputy senate president. They include the Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume (Benue), Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe State) and Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki (Kwara state).

Senator George Akume: Senator Akume is the current Senate Minority leader from Benue, he was first elected into the senate on the platform of the PDP in 2007, and he secured a second term under the platform of the defunct ACN, now APC in 2011.  He will be returning to the red chamber for the third time. A former Governor of Benue State between 1999 and 2007. It would be recalled that Senator Akume laid the structure for the opposition in Benue State through the enormous goodwill he enjoys from the people of the state. A well respected member of the Nigerian parliament amongst his colleagues, team player with robust relationship with all. His eight years in the parliament have equipped for the job of senate Presidency and that huge experience would certainly come to bear. He is also in the good books of the APC leadership at the national level. He is favoured by the zoning and party strength in the senate. Senator Akume is a Christian.

Senator Ahmed Lawan: A former member of the House of Representatives, Senator Ahmed was first elected into the senate in 2007 and since then, he has been the chairman of the Senate Panel on Public Accounts. Well respected parliamentarian, team player as well, thorough in his dealings. He has not held leadership positions at the level of the executive, senator Lawan have spent more years in the parliament cumulatively than Akume and Saraki. Some analysts have argued that Senator Ahmed who hails from Yobe State is well favoured by the zoning, having in mind that the North- East have not produced the Senate President since advent of democracy in 1999. Some are, however, of the view that the emergence of Ahmed as Senate President would narrow the space in the zoning of the offices of the Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, particularly the religious factor. Ahmed Lawan is a Muslim.

Senator Bukola Saraki: Senator Saraki a former governor of kwara State between 2003 and 2011, was first elected senator in 2011 under the PDP platform, he would be returning for the second term under the APC platform. Well favoured by the zoning arrangements, Senator Saraki is also qualified as ranking senator, brilliant and composed; He is respected amongst his colleagues but what is in doubt, according to analysts is whether Saraki holds his colleagues in the high esteem they hold him. He is a Yoruba Muslim.

Pundits are of the same opinion that should Senator Bukola Saraki emerge Senate President from the North Central zone as a Yoruba Muslim, it will be difficult to balance the religious factor in the North East, hence all the senators from the North East are Muslims, unlike the House of Representatives where a ranking member Representative Yakubu Dogara is a Christian from Bauchi.

It is, therefore, said in many quarters that the emergence of a Senator Akume from the North Central will be the sure way of expanding the options for the APC in both chambers, having put all considerations in place.