Northcentral, Northwest join Southeast, Southsouth in race for top office
SEVEN senators-elect from five geo-political zones have thrown their hats into the ring for the 10th Senate President, The Nation has learnt.
All the aspirants are of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Three of them – Barau Jibrin (Kano North, Northwest); Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North, Southeast) and David Umahi (Ebonyi South, Southeast), have made their interest public to chair the next National Assembly.
The 10th Senate is billed for inauguration on June 13 after the Proclamation of the 10th National Assembly by the President.
Kalu is the incumbent Senate Chief Whip; Jibrin is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation and Umahi doubles as Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum.
Other senators-elect eying the position are incumbent Senate President Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North, Northeast); Senate Services Committee Chairman, Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East, Northcentral); Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South, Northeast) and former Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom, Southsouth).
Last week, APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, told aspirants seeking presiding offices to await the party’s zoning arrangement.
It was at a parley with National Assembly members-elect with the president-elect, vice president-elect and members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC).
Jibrin promised to officially declare his intention to lead the Red Chamber in a matter of days.
The second-ranking senator-elect to make to publicly show interest, Jibrin described himself as the most experienced among senators-elect seeking to lead the 10th Senate.
Declaring his intention on Tuesday, Kalu said he will contest the position because ‘it is his turn to be Senate President’.
Governor Umahi, who dropped the hint to run for the position during yesterday’s State Executive Council meeting in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, urged President-elect Bola Tinubu and the APC leadership to zone the office to the Southeast.
But the Kano North senator dismissed recourse to religious sentiments by some aspirants instead of competence and record of performance as criteria for electing the next Senate President.
Jibrin, who has been in the National Assembly since 1999 and in the Senate since 2015, insisted that the Senate Standing Rule prioritises seniority (ranking) and legislative experience above other considerations.
The senator said: “I intend to seek to be the President of the 10th Senate. In the next few days, I will start my campaign and make a formal declaration.
“The legislature is a distinct arm of government that doesn’t work based on sentiments, it works on your ability to get the job done.
“It is the tradition all over the world and it is also stated there in our rule book and the rules are drafted from our Constitution.
“It is stated there in our Standing Rules that aspirations of elections for the seat of the Senate Presidency shall be in accordance with ranking.
“Among those who are running for the seat of the Senate Presidency, I am the most ranked senator.
“So, it is constitutional and among those who are showing their intentions to run for the Senate Presidency, I am the most experienced.
“The issue is that of competence. You need to be grounded in the residue of the legislature before you become the Senate President. Do you now play against competence based on sentiments?”
Disagreeing with claims that it would not augur well for the next APC’s administration to have a Muslim Senate President, Jibrin said: “Remember that David Mark was a Christian, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, was a Christian and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, was a Christian because they were the most experienced and ranking and that is the tradition, so do we now relegate competence for other sentiments?
“Bringing religious sentiment won’t fly. It’s about competence, not sentiment. When we talk about experience, I’m the most experienced.”
Jibrin added: “There is a need to reward performance. The Northwest deserves to produce the Senate President because we gave the President-elect the highest votes.
“We want our President to go for a second term. We saw what he did in Lagos and want him to replicate that across the country.”
On Tuesday, Kalu urged APC national leadership to zone the Senate presidency to his Igbere country home in Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
Kalu said: “The question is whether I will run for the position of Senate President. Yes, I am ready to run for Senate President if the party zones it to my region because the party is supreme.
“If they want to zone, they should zone it to my village so nobody would contest it against me. I don’t even want them to zone it to the South…I am hoping that Nigerian people will pray for me to be the Senate President because it is my turn.”
Umahi urged the party to zone the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the Northwest.
The governor noted that zoning the two top positions to the Southeast and Northwest will be in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.
He said it was time to break protocol and bend the rules adding that the focus should be how to redeem the country.
Umahi said: “I plead and request the leadership of APC and the president-elect to please for the sake of equity, Justice and fairness zone the Senate President to Southeast and the Speaker of House of Representatives to Northwest.
“This is for inclusiveness, this will assure Nigerians of a total reunion and it will also calm frayed nerves.
“Miracle is when God set aside rules and breaks protocols. I am asking the APC leadership and the National Assembly leadership to set aside the rules so that we can get the best for the leadership of the national assembly.”
“If the APC family zones the Senate presidency to the Southeast, I am indicating interest on the platform that I have been in public service for the past 16 years so you can rightly say that I understand administration,” he said.
The governor insisted that zoning the speakership position to the Northwest will calm frayed nerves in the country.
He declared Ebonyi a complete APC state having given almost all the National Assembly seats to the party, adding that the governor-elect and majority of the state lawmakers are also APC members.
Umahi said: “When you have administered a state, which is more complex than any other position other than that of the presidency, I want to put myself forward and I plead with the National Assembly to amend the rules.
“We should be looking for the best. Anyone elected into the National Assembly is the best but let God be allowed to choose.
“We need to elect a leadership that will rebuild the nation. I put myself forward without prejudice to whatever is the will of God and the wish of our party leadership, the president-elect and vice president-elect.”