By Emeka Ogbolu
As the nation warms up for the inauguration of the next administration with Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the drum beat of agitation for the President of the 10th Senate of the National Assembly is also assuming a crescendo throwing up various contenders for the exalted position.
Precedents and power rotation favor the Southern part of Nigeria as the last three occupants – David Mark (2007 – 2015), Bukola Saraki (2015 – 2019, and Ahmed Lawan (2019 – date) are from the North.* This accounts for the preponderance of aspirants to the number 3 political position in Nigeria from the south.
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While the need for National healing and reconciliation favors the South-East, that is not cast in stone. Under Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, the Southeast enjoys the privilege of producing the Senate president to balance the political forces at play.
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Today, another Yoruba man in the person of Tinubu is about to be inaugurated on May 29 while the National Assembly is to be proclaimed and principal officers elected on June 13th.
Ordinarily, with the hurt being felt by the southeast over the continued agitation for the region to taste the presidency, they should be considered for the plum job to create room for an all-encompassing promotion of national healing.
However, politics being what it is will not throw the position on the lab of anybody in the south-east without a fight. The APC is not disposed to zoning the principal positions of the National Assembly, at least not yet, throwing the positions open to all.
As at the last count, no fewer than 5 aspirants for the position of Senate President have been identified from the South-South and South-East including former governor Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia State, Osita Izunaso from Imo State, Godswill Akpabio from Akwa-Ibom State and Comrade Adams Oshiomole from Edo State.
Outside these personalities, aspirants from other zones outside the southern part of Nigeria include the serving Senate President, Ahmad Lawan from Yobe state, Senator Sani Musa from Niger state, Senator Jibrin Barau from Kano state, Senator Abdul Ningi from Bauchi state and Senator Abdul- Aziz Yari from Zamfara state.
Also touted to be interested in the plum job is Senator Ali Ndume, who has now endorsed Akpabio.
If the search must be limited to the southern part of Nigeria as precedents demand, Nigeria must look beyond such other mundane considerations and rather place a high premium on the integrity of the candidate. Nigeria leaders are facing a huge dose of a crisis of confidence in the international community with corruption charges hanging on the head of many.
What the senate needs at the moment of our political journey is a man who could win the confidence of all and not a divisive personality that cannot unite the Niger Delta or southern Nigeria senators behind him.
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Ahmed Lawan was an example of a pan-Nigeria senate president and he did well. The 10th senate must avoid the temptation of allowing money-bags to hijack the leadership of the next senate, rather, a man of integrity, a bridge builder, and an upright, honest, and straightforward man with a great dose of discipline should be the next senate president.
From the south-south, only Godswill Akpabio and Adams Oshiomole are in the race for the senate presidency. Of the two, Akpabio is touted to be a ranking senator because of a brief stint in the senate before being booted out for the rightful winner of the election to take over.
He was Governor of Akwa-Ibom state just like Adams Oshiomole who eventually emerged as National Chairman of the APC. If the senate president must be from the south-south, a unifier like Adams Oshiomole should be considered for the task of presiding over the 10th Senate.
Nigeria should be wary of any man who would use the position to destroy and bring disaster to the Niger Delta area, a very sensitive zone in the wealth creation equation of Nigeria. Making a man without the presence of mind to work for the entire zone and country will not serve the ultimate goal of Tinubu’s presidency.
The Niger Delta had a rough ride with the NDDC under Buhari all to the arrogant political posture of one man and this must be buried in the past by electing a game-changer who would bring succor to the zone.
From the southeast, there are also eminently qualified men of integrity like Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunaso . These are men with tremendous political experience who would help to heal the wounds associated with the 2023 presidential polls and the hurt being felt by southeasterners of not being wanted by the rest of Nigeria.
However, whoever must be elected to the senate presidency must be a man with the right moral values and character that could drive the legislative support needed for a successful Tinubu administration.
The senators should be patriotic enough to examine the antecedents of the contenders, the content of their character, and their national outlook in terms of political experience.
Nigeria is on the threshold of history. Who assumes the next senate presidency should be a matter of concern for all? Those with corrosive political attributes must not be allowed to assume office as Senate president.
Tinubu needs a calm, unassuming, forward-looking, and progressive-minded person, who would invest quality in the next administration, help to heal old wounds and not to open new ones, bring positive changes with a positive mindset and help to resonate value, class, and worth in the next senate leadership.
Nigeria needs a humane, compassionate, and dignified senate leader and not some arrogant, egotistical, and abrasive character who would be so headstrong to hold the nation to ransom as some did with the NDDC for many years.
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Nigeria needs a senate president who would be reasonable enough to appreciate the enormity of the responsibility of the office and promote national consensus on issues not sectional, selfish, and haughty displays of power to hurt perceived enemies. Nigeria should look deeply at the character of the aspirants and pick on a man who could bring positive changes and invest honor and dignity in the office.
The consideration of a ranking senator should be secondary. A man who would be ready to learn, listen and open his heart to suggestions would be more effective as senate president than some arrogant bigot who claims superiority in all things and would drive the National Assembly like some petty assemblage of kindergarten school children under the leadership of a larger than life head teacher. Nigeria needs a man who would stoop to conquer.
We should look beyond ranking to pick a credible hand that would help drive Nigeria to the shores of national renewal and progress.
Emeka Ogbolu, a Public Affairs Analyst, Writes From Asaba, Delta State