The beauty of every constitutional democratic governance is the existence of efficient, effective, proactive, and functional legislative institutions. Meanwhile, it is also not news that a robust legislature is not only essential to democracy but is the bedrock and hallmark of the rule of law.
However as the history of the 10th Senate is about to be established in June 2023, two important factors must not be compromised which are: tranquility and stability which are needed to prevail in the next four years and the seeming integrity that the incoming leadership of the Senate must confer on that esteemed institution and to Nigeria as a whole
This all-important arm of government in a constitutional democracy needs experienced and competent leadership. While Nigeria is mindful of the almost universal convention that the majority party produces the presiding officers in the legislature and the fact that seniority of ranking plays an important role, the lawmakers are also not meant to be subservient to the executive.
Therefore, at a period when the majority of Nigerians erroneously perceive the National Assembly and its members as the rubber stamp of the executive, nothing should be carried out at a time like this which could further undermine the credibility of an institution that plays a veritable and pivotal role in our evolving democracy.
Whilst it is crucial to deepen our political system with the principle of separation of power among the three arms of government (executive, legislature, and judiciary) in a way that each can act as a check on the other, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that has an overwhelming majority in the coming 10th National Assembly, must allow this principle to prevail in the emergence of the presiding officers when the 10th session is formally inaugurated by the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The party must essentially put its house in order so that both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives can emerge in a manner devoid of acrimony or imputation of imposition from any unpopular centripetal or centrifugal forces.
Expectedly, interested Senators have commenced lobbying the National Leadership of the APC and are demanding that the choice of Senate president be in line with the Senate Standing Rules (2011, as amended).
The Senate rules, which applied in June 2011 when Senator David Mark was re-elected Senate president, give preference to any serving Senator who is re-elected to the chamber. Based on the ranking rule, the North-East caucus might not be out of place to produce a Senate president once again.
Those who may argue that the current Vice President-Elect, Senator Kashim Shettima is from the North-East and that the emergence of another individual from the same region as the Senate President might contravene the principle of fairness would be doing the greatest disservice and dishonor to the bridge-building initiative, requisite experience and the maturity of the office which is required at a time like this.
Meanwhile, our history book is replete with many good examples of serving President or Vice-President coming from the same region or geo-political zones as the Speaker or President of the Senate. What matters most is the ability to deliver on the demands and constitutional requirements of the office they occupy, as well as the capacity, character, and competence of the individual mounting the coveted saddle.
For example, Joseph Waya was Nigeria’s Senate President during the Nigerian Second Republic (1979–1983), whilst Dr. Alex Ekwueme who was then Vice President was from the same geopolitical zone as him; late Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the President at that time, the administration recorded excellent achievements and milestones to its credit.
Similarly, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan who had Namani Sambo as his Vice President also witnessed a legislature whose Speaker was from the same geopolitical zone as the Vice President (North-West), in the person of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (now Governor of Sokoto State).
For clarity the geopolitical zone of a President or Vice-President has never and will never serve as a contention to where the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives could emerge from, Nigeria has moved past such primordial sentiments but the larger interest of the country is what is expected to be at the front-burner.
If Nigeria truly wants to be fair and genuine in its bridge-building capacity, stronger attention needs to be given to the North-East of the country, deservedly so. It is sad however to reminisce on the record of violent activities of Boko Haram and the armed conflict since 2009 which have deeply affected North-East Nigeria and the lives of over 15 million people across the region. Over 20,000 people were killed and 2.2 million were forcibly displaced. The North-East states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe host 70 percent of those displaced, with regional spillovers around Lake Chad.
Affected communities have experienced severe damage to their social fabric, extensive destruction of infrastructure, and significant socio-economic basic needs that remain largely unmet.
Presently, North East is the current occupant of the post of Senate President, they were initially zoned to spend two terms as the constitution required but unfortunately during the infamous reign of Dr. Bukola Saraki, the mantle of the leadership was hijacked by the North Central depriving them of completing their two terms as required by the construction. The South-South geographical is currently the occupant of the Deputy Senate President, they have four years more to complete their two terms.
Both regions are blessed with versatile politicians and good administrators, who will be returning to the senate for the fourth term or third term in the upper chamber.
HE, Senator Danjuma Goje, the two-term governor of Gombe, former minister, and former member house of assembly is returning to the upper chamber of the upper house. He was persuaded to step down for Ahmed Lawal, the current senate president. The odds favor him to finish the second term of the North East being a true and loyal party man.
Danjuma Goje is not new to the people of the southwest, he is their friend and brother. He is a traditional chief from osogbo and will soon receive a traditional chieftaincy title from Ibadan in Oyo state.
And the South-South produces a third-term-ranking senator, in the person of the two-term governor of Akwaibom, HE, Senator Obot Akpabio, former commissioner, former minister, and now senator-elect from Akwaibom North West. From the South East, we have Senator Orji Uzo Kalu, the campaign manager of the current Senate President during the APC primaries.
In the spirit of National unity, integration, and cohesion the North-East should be preserved and adequately developed to keep the rest of the country safe, whilst also respecting each other’s views and traditions. We must equally recognize the fact that humanity shows in how we treat the most vulnerable people amongst us.
The Northeast can do a lot more than it is presently doing to harness the region’s resources to improve the conditions of living of the people. Nevertheless, it is undeniable, and indeed overdue, that if ever any region deserves special interest from the Nigerian entity, it is North-East, considering the immense challenges it is facing.
Without sounding immodest, the region deserves to clinch the number three Seat of the country, such that hope can be given to the susceptible group who plays an integral part in bridge building both in principle and character.
Mogaji Wole Arisekola writes from Ibadan.