10th National Assembly: South-South favoured to produce Senate President

Senator Godswill Akpabio is ‘alpha dog’ in the race for Senate President

The dust has seemingly settled particularly in the senatorial arm of the National Assembly though not without minor kicks unlike in the presidential sphere where legal fireworks is expected to start soon among the three top contenders in the February 25th presidential/national assembly elections.

And basking on this positive temperament silhouetting the anticipated10th National Assembly inauguration in June after the president issues a proclamation, some senators-elect across the six geo-political regions have already indicated interest to vie for the office of Senate President.

The scenario I see most likely to play out when the 10th National Assembly eventually convenes going by the rave of the moment is the huge rustle for principal offices as well as being drafted to supposed juicy committees of the senate.

The elected legislators from the February 25 outing as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) while issuing Certificates of Return to winners was 98 but now 100 out of 109 won by 7 parties.

In the released INEC list, eight names now six are missing, as the commission noted that supplementary elections will be held in the affected senatorial districts. The affected districts save Enugu East are Kebbi North, Plateau Central, Sokoto East, North and South, Yobe South and Zamfara Central.

Kelvin Chukwu the Labour Party governorship candidate on March 18 won the ticket to increase LP’s number to 7 and now 8. He replaced his brother, Oyibo Chukwu, who was gruesomely murdered a few days before the February 25, presidential and National Assembly elections resulting in the postponement of the Enugu East senatorial election to March 18 same day the Governorship and State Assembly elections was held.

This makes the outlook of the Senate in the 10th National Assembly unique because of the diverse and more inclusive composition of the new upper chamber. Unlike in previous congregations where two or three political parties had footprints and disproportionately composed with one of the parties dominating overwhelmingly, the yet to be constituted hallow chamber draw senators-elect from the All Progressives Congress (57); Peoples Democratic Party (29); Labour Party (8); New Nigeria Peoples Party (2); Social Democratic Party (2); All Progressive Grand Alliance (1) and Young Progressive Party (1).

The diversity this time around is indeed intense as reflected for instance in Abia State where the All Progressives Congress APC, Labour Party LP and All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA all picked seats from north, central and south senatorial zones respectively in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.

The overwhelming majority of 57 slots garnered by the ruling APC has positioned the party to produce the Senate President in the 10th Senate after May 29.

Meanwhile, the South-South geo-political region have the leverage over other zones to clinch the coveted number 1 position in the 10th senate.  The South- South had a stint 40 years ago with late Senator Joe Wayas on the saddle for a single term as the illfated1984 military coup truncated the second leg of the Shagari led NPN national government.

The South West and North East where the President-elect and his vice hails from on a Muslim/Muslim ticket are out of the equation. In the case of the North West and North Central, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who after May 29 will be addressed as immediate past president is from the former and a Senator from the later, David Mark has occupied the seat two terms concurrently between 2005 and 2015. In addition, the region also produced the immediate past Senate President in the person of Senator Olushola Saraki who served a single term spanning 2015 to 2019.

The South East region has the highest turnover of Senators that have occupied the office since the fourth republic. The zone had multiple shots at the position leading the upper legislative chamber at different times concurrently from 1999 to 2007.

Specifically, in the jumbo 5×125 relay race, Senator Evan Enwerem took the first hit serving as Senate President in 1999. Maverick Senator Chuba Okadigbo ran the second leg as Senate President between 1999 to 2000. Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was next in line leading the red chamber from 2000 to 2023.  Senator Adolphus Wabara collected the baton and reigned as President of the Senate between 2003 and 2005. Senator Ken Nnamani completed the last lap as Senate President from the region reigning between 2005 and 2007.

The race for the office has begun in earnest with passionate opinions from contenders to justify their eligibility.

Already, among the roll call of gladiators that have indicated interest at the moment are Oji Uzo Kalu, Senate Chief Whip, David Umahie, Jibril Barau, the Senator representing Kano Central Senatorial district and chairman Senate Committee on appropriation as well as others on waiting.

Jibril for instance insist he is the most ranked member of the Senate and most experienced with legislative capacity. While Ohaneze, an Igbo socio-cultural organization threw their weight behind the candidature of David Umahia, the Ebonyi governor. Aside brandishing the period spent in the hallow chamber of the Senate, Orji Uzo Kalu said the position should be seeded to the South East region and on top of it to his village apparently mimicking the ‘emilokan’ phrase of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

“And So, I will like the party to zone it to my zone, to my village in Igbere because President Tinubu needs people of high character to turn around the economy and work for the masses, make laws that will enable him to turn around the economy, because, I am an economic person, an entrepreneur.” Kalu said.

Although the Senator-elect of the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial district is yet to openly declare intent, I think as a con strategist he may be working remotely connecting senators across parties with stakes in the 10th Senate as well as influencers to persuade stakeholders to support his ambition.

Senator Godswill Akpabio riding on this long period of hibernation of the region coupled with his knack in connecting with people as well as negotiating power especially at the top which aptly earned him the appellation “iweg Akwa Ibom” has substantially positioned him for the top legislative job. Out of the seven senators that emerged on the APC ticket from the South-South, only Akpabio is a ranking member and a principal officer in the 8th senate spanning 2015 to 2019. Others are first timers who should ordinarily provide support to energize his campaign base thus positioning him appropriately to win. However, the onus here is on him to leverage on this anecdotal tie of the region to galvanize real commitment and eventually strengthen bond across party lines.

Akpabio is clearly the ‘alfa dog’ from the region whose academic credentials scale the low bar set for the office and in addition, he has the towering experience and capacity to break through the glass ceiling to grab the top legislative job when the 10th Senate convenes. Indeed, Godswill Akpabio would stand tall among competitors eyeing the office.

Again, the ‘uncommon personality’ has a trump card in his kitty that is lethal to skew the contest his way. He is expected to draw from the banked goodwill he opened at the March 26 2022 APC national convention in Abuja where he was the first to voluntarily recuse himself from the contest and shift support to Bola Tinubu, now the president-elect.

Unarguably, I think an aggregation of these efforts enabled by God factor will brighten his chances of garnering enough support to get the plum legislative job.

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