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New face of NASS

Posted: Apr 5, 2015 at 4:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Rotimi Akinwunmi, Ignatius Okorocha and David Odama, Abuja

When the PDP came on board in 1999 with the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West geopolitical zone, as the President of the country, the policy of zoning was put together by the ruling party to ensure that all geopolitical zones of the nation have a feel of power. However, the principle of two straight divisions of North and South was adopted in sharing the offices at the federal level. This methodology saw to the emergence of a Southerner as the leader of the National Assembly in person of the Senate President as the number two seat, the Vice President was occupied by a northerner then. With the South West taking the Presidency, the South East was given the Senate President’s slot, with the north taking the seat of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Akpabio  Melaye

Akpabio                                  Melaye

However, the voting pattern at the March 28 elections seem to have made this virtually impossible, especially as it affects the National Assembly.

Both the South-South and the South-East in their voting patterns have clearly alienated lawmakers from the regions in the race for the lofty offices of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Dilemma of the South-East

Political leaders of Nigeria’s South-East geo-political zone appear to have shut themselves out of the emerging power equation beginning May 29, as the zone could not produce any federal lawmaker for the Senate or the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March National Assembly elections.

With the South-East unable to produce a federal lawmaker for the APC, the likelihood of the zone getting close to power in the National Assembly appears very slim.

In Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly Elections, all five states in the South-East – Anambra, Abia, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi – not only voted overwhelmingly for the Peoples Democratic Party, but also for all the party’s candidates in the National Assembly elections.

Following Buhari’s emergence from the North and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, from the South-West, the two key positions now are those of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives which would have been produced by the South-East zone.

A former governor of Anambra State and serving senator, Chris Ngige, who was properly positioned for the Senate President, lost his bid to return to the upper legislative chamber.

Ngige was defeated by Uche Ekwunife of the PDP. A serving member of the House of Representatives, Ekwunife, will now represent the Anambra Central Senatorial District when the next Senate session opens in June this year. The incumbent Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who represents Enugu West Senatorial District, is returning on the platform of the PDP for the fourth time.

Apart from coming from the North Central zone, the Senate President, David Mark, who is returning to Senate for the fifth time, also belongs to the PDP, thereby making it impossible for him to occupy the seat.

South-South also out

Consequent upon the dilemma, the APC will have no options than to zone the position of the Senate Presidency to the South-South zone where the party only won a seat in Edo State with the party’s candidate, Francis Aimikhena, emerging in Edo North.

The possibility however of Aimikhena picking the slot is remote for two reasons. First, he is from the same zone and state as the party’s National Chairman, John Oyegun. Besides, the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, outgoing, might clinch the Secretary to the Government of the Federation seat.

Secondly, Aimikhena may not be a ranking senator because he is just coming to the upper chamber for the first time as a result, he may be barred by the rules of the Senate which says only ranking senators can aspire to the office of the Senate President except the party decides to do otherwise.

Other possibilities

Although it has become a convention that a party in majority produce the leaders in the Senate, there is no express rule that says only members of such party should occupy the offices of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President. As a result, the contest for the position might attract ranking senators from the minority party in this case.

The other available options left for the opposition party, PDP, may be that a ranking senator such as Ike Ekweremadu agreeing with the APC leadership to defect to the party in order to enable him occupy the exalted position.

Ultimately, with no strong contender from the South-East, the Senate president seat may be snatched by the North, as it happened in the case of the House of Representatives’ Speaker slot in the outgoing administration. The House seat was reserved for the South West, but was eventually taken by Aminu Tambuwal, despite the North having Namadi Sambo as Vice President.

Should that happen, the most likely scenario will be the North Central taking up the Senate President’s slot. The region has several candidates returning on the APC platform. The fight then will be between the  former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, former governor of Benue State, Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, and the  former National Chairman of  the PDP, Barnabas Gemade.

While Mr. Akume is returning to the Senate for the third time, Saraki and Gemade are returning for the second time respectively. In the House of Representatives, no candidate from the South-East zone won election on the platform of the APC.

Past Senate Presidents

An insight into the leadership succession in the Senate in the last 16 years shows that during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the platform of the PDP, the party zoned the position of the President of the Senate to the South-East geopolitical zone with late Senator Evans Enwerem from Imo State as the first Senate President and Chairman of National Assembly. Senator Enwerem’s leadership could not endure because of what his colleagues regarded as subjecting the upper chamber of the National Assembly to an extension of the Presidency since he was perceived as been subservient to the authoritarian tendencies of President Obasanjo and so he was stampeded out of office by his colleagues through an impeachment process.

Again, with the exit of Late Enwerem, Dr Chuba Okadigbo of Anambra state popularly known as “Oyi of Oyi” emerged as the successor to Enwerem. But it also had a short-lived tenure through the same process of impeachment. Okadigbo’s sin against Obasanjo, then the President, was that he was preaching and entrenching the doctrine of independence of the legislature. The two eminent personalities appeared to have shared from the same tenure which was eventually completed by the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation( SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim from Ebonyi state who was ironically picked by former President Obasanjo to continue the way of late Senator Enwerem but ended up as one of Obasanjo’s perceived enemies because his loyalty was more with his colleagues in the Senate who he considered as partners in the Senate project, a relationship that angered his principal.

Also in the twilight of 2003 – to 2007 senate leadership composition, the upper chamber of the National Assembly under the ruling Peoples Democratic Party saw the emergence of Senator Adolphus Wabara of Abia State as the president of the Senate but was relieved of his office through an impeachment based on his alleged involvement in corrupt practices. Wabara’s tenure was eventually completed by Senator Ken Nnamani of Enugu state as the President of the Senate and Chairman of National Assembly. By this scenario, every state in the South-East geopolitical zone took a slot of the Senate presidency.

In the build up to the 6th senate, Senator David Mark, who was elected into the senate in 1999 and had remained in the upper chamber till date was elected as the president of the Senate and chairman of National Assembly 2007 based on his cognate experience as a third term Senator had to leverage on the  incidences that led to the fall of his predecessors in office( the banana peel) tried everything in his power to avoid a repeat of history by leaving a legacy that earned him a second term, a sharp contrast to stay in office by his predecessors.

However, Mark’s second term as president of the Senate would have been an unrealizable dream but for the Sixth Senate foresightedness in amending sections of its rules to reflect that senators wishing to contest the leadership of the Senate must have cognate experience which is rooted through ranking based on the number of years one has been in the parliament and as such by this rule, former governor Bukola Saraki (North Central) who was elected into the Senate as former  chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum wanted to contest the Senate presidency with David Mark.

Again, given his popularity at the governors forum then it was feared that he was poised to take over the leadership of the senate from Mark leveraging on his former status  but for the ranking system introduced by the senators of the sixth senate which vowed to protect their colleagues from the ambition of the green-horn legislators Saraki had to drop his ambition paving way for Mark to secure another mandate to constitute the 7th Senate and being a fourth term senator with the highest cognate experience. Mark had overwhelming victory at the senate leadership election on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.

APC’s new status

But the reality on the ground today is that the power equation at both the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly has crashed the ambition of Mark and Ekweremadu to preside over the affairs of the Senate in the next political dispensation. The question now is, given the development arising from this election would Mark still insist on coming back to the Senate to take a back seat while his perceived detractors in the persons of Senators Bukola Saraki who he withheld his privilege of cross carpeting to the APC when the latter decided to dump the PDP after the party’s last convention and his kinsman and leader of the opposition parties in the senate (Senate Minority Leader) Senator George Akume assume the presidency of the Senate. Well, most analysts the best option for the outgoing Senate president would have been to quit the parliament when the ovation is high by relinquishing his victory at the just concluded election for any other person from his party and senatorial district through a bye-election to avoid be ridiculed by those he stepped on their toes. As for his deputy, Senator Ekweremadu given his age and the fact that the South-East geopolitical zone invested all their energy on the PDP he could stay on and guide the senate on proper legislative footing and elected as minority leader of the opposition given the turn of event in the senate leadership equation.

Already there are strong indications that the incoming 8th Senate, will be under the firm grip of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as its flag bearers in the Senatorial elections conducted last Saturday, won 60 out of the 109 in the senate. This development has no doubt left the PDP senators with 49 seats.


Again feelers arising from the APC camp in the Senate indicate that either Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central) or the present Senate Minority Leader, George Akume (Benue North West), will be made the President of the 8th Senate in line with planned power sharing arrangement of the party.

The breakdown of the 60 seats won in the Senate by APC shows that it cleared 20 out of the available 21 senatorial seats in Northwest comprising Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina states.

The party pulled 13 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the North Eastern states of Borno, Yobe , Adamawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Gombe and 13 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the North Central states of Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau.

Others are 13 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the South Western states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti in addition to the only one seat it won in the entire South South geo political zone, precisely from Edo North.

However the entire 15 senatorial seats available in South East, comprising Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Abambra and Imo States form the bulk of the 49 seats won by PDP, 17 seats from South South, 5 from South West , 5 from North central and 1,from North West.

Be that as it may, what most Nigerians and indeed political analysts are yet to come to terms with is what the power sharing formula would be like in the upper chamber, given the fact that Benue, the country home of the incumbent President of the Senate, senator Mark and leader of the APC in the senate, Senator Akume also come from the same zone and has secured another mandate from their people to represent them at the 8th Senate.

It is also envisaged that not minding the increased number of former governors, mainly from the PDP, to the senate, the established ranking system in the senate would not change as none of them (even those from APC) would be allowed to contest or constitute the principal office cadre in the 8th senate.