Senate leadership and South East: APC must play fair

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The principal officers of the National Assembly (NASS) will be elected on June 11, 2019, preparatory to the inauguration of the 9th NASS. Already, the battle for the seats of principal officers of NASS is on and politicians across the six geo-political zones are strategising to ensure that their people are not shortchanged in the nation’s power equation.

For the Senate, the seats at stake are: Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader and Senate Minority Leader.

The rest include Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Senate Whip, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.

However, a situation where some zones are likely to be more favoured in the sharing of these offices while others are neglected is not good for the party as well as the unity of the country.

Since we have six geo-political zones in the country, we advise that none of the zones should be neglected in the power-sharing arrangement of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In fact, no geo-political zone should be ignored. The need to ensure balance in the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies is clearly stated in the constitution.

Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) clearly states that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

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But, if the current proposed zoning arrangement of the APC for NASS leadership is anything to go by, some zones will be short-changed. For example, the Senate President will likely go to the North East which has Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe State) as a major contender. Others are Senator Ali Ndume (Borno) and Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe).

Currently, the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, is from the North West while the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is from the South West. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is from the South South. The position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is likely to be clinched by the House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, from the South West and Deputy Speaker to the North Central. In all this, the South East appears to be nowhere in the APC extant power configuration.We decry the situation that leaves the South East zone with virtually no post in the 9th NASS and enjoin the party hierarchy not to forget the zone in constituting the principal officers of the Senate. Treating the South East as an outsider in the Senate leadership will not bode well for national cohesion and development.

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We believe that the APC should not make that mistake. Therefore, we think that the best thing the APC leadership can do now to ensure equity and fairness in the polity is to zone the Deputy Senate Presidency to the South East. This is one of the best ways to show the people of the zone that they matter and are still part of the country.

Neglecting the zone, which is one of the three major ethnic groups in the country, would not augur well for the country’s political stability. Everything should be done by the APC leaders to give the South East a sense of belonging. It is not in doubt that the zone has not fared so well in terms of political patronage since the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015. Also, the South East zone is not represented in the security architecture of the country. These are incontrovertible facts.

Interestingly, the APC did well in the zone in the last general election. The party had at least two senators and several House of Representatives members from the zone unlike in 2015. But with the improved electoral victory of the APC in the zone, we strongly believe that the situation will largely improve when the president makes his new appointments.

Good enough, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that he will be fair to all parts of the country in his new appointments. We believe that he will surely do so. At the same time, the APC should not forget the nation’s power arrangement since the First Republic based on the tripod power equation between the major ethnic nationalities of the country namely; Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba.

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It was through such arrangement that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe from the East became the Governor General of Nigeria in 1960. While Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (North), was the nation’s Prime Minister, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (West), was the leader of opposition. The Senate President, Dennis Osadebay hailed from the Mid-West Region while Sir Adetokunbo Ademola from the West was in charge of the judiciary.

To a large extent, the power- sharing arrangement was also replicated during the Second and Third Republics. There is even now more compelling need to ensure that all the zones are factored in the power sharing formula. The extant power rotation between the North and South underscores the need for politics of equity and inclusion and it must be sustained.

Therefore, as a federation, every part of the country must be factored in the nation’s power sharing arrangement. Any move to neglect a geo-political zone in the nation’s power equation will definitely work against the unity and progress of the country and must be avoided by all means. Let the APC leadership consider the South East and give it the slot of the Deputy Senate President.

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