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10th National Assembly and the Scramble for Senate Presidency

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OPINION

By David Chukwu

As the dust over the conduct of the 2023 general elections gradually begins to settle, the jostling for the leadership positions in the Senate, popularly known as the Red Chamber, has heightened and intensified amongst contenders.

Some interested candidates have not only indicated their intentions to seek the coveted position, but have gone ahead to launch their bids in the public space.

There have been arguments, of late, on why the positions of Senate President and Deputy Senate President should be zoned to one particular region or the other, depending on whose interests the arguments are being canvassed.

Even the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as represented by the National Working Committee (NWC), has joined the fray by its reported presentation on the zoning of National Assembly positions to the President-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu, recently.

Feelers from those around the President-elect indicate that no firm decision has been taken on the issue.

The fluid state of affairs has, therefore, resulted into to a situation, whereby many candidates from different geo-political zones have thrown their hats into the ring.

As at press time, the following Senators are known to be pushing for the Senate Presidency. They include Barau Jibrin (Kano), Sani Musa (Niger), Osita Izunaso (Imo), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Orji Kalu (Abia) and the incumbent, Dr. Ahmed Lawan (Yobe).

Interesting arguments are being put forward to justify the various bids. For instance, the aspirants from the North, particularly North West, are arguing that the bulk of the votes, which contributed largely to the success of the President-elect, Tinubu, came from their zone.

In addition, the supporters of Lawan tell anyone that cares to listen that the outgoing Senate President is the longest serving member of the National Assembly, having started his legislative career in the 4th Republic from the House of Representatives in 1999.

He has remained in the National Assembly ever since, moving in the process from the House to the Senate. But he is from the North East, the same zone with the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima.

The dominant political view in the country today and which is shared by quite a good number of Nigerians, is that the Senate Presidency should go to the South and be filled by a Christian, in order to give some sense of balance to the APC Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket.

Against this background, therefore, it is understandable that the contenders for the Senate Presidency from the South are all Christians, namely Akpabio, Izunaso and Kalu.

Given the geo-political and religious diversity of Nigeria, it would be quite insensitive of the ruling APC to pick a Muslim as the Senate President.

If that happens, it simply means that Nigeria has unofficially become an Islamic State. But I guess Tinubu and his minders would not succumb to such temptation.

Against this background, therefore, the South, especially South East and South South, are favoured to produce the Senate President, since the President-elect is from the South West.

The crucial question is: who amongst Izunaso, Akpabio and Kalu has the requisite qualifications and experience to occupy the coveted position?

Who amongst them has what it takes to work cordially with Tinubu and bring a measure of stabilization to his administration?

The truth of the matter is that Tinubu does not need a divisive character or controversial political figure to occupy the position.

Looking critically at the three Senators in contention from the South, it is quite clear that Osita Izunaso is the man that fits the bill.

Unlike the other two, he is the most ranked Senator, having served in different capacities at different times in the national legislature more than any of the other two aspirants.

Osita Izunaso started his political career in the National Assembly in 1991 during the short-lived 3rd Republic, when he served as the Chief Press Secretary to the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Agunwa Anaekwe.

At the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999, he was appointed the Chief Press Secretary to the then Senate President, Chief Evan Enwerem.

In 2003, he was elected into the House of Representatives to represent the good people of Oguta/Ohaji Egbema/Oru West Federal Constituency of Imo State.

He was one of the stars of that Assembly. He chaired the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, during his tenure. It is on record that in his capacity as the Chairman, he organized the first ever National Summit on Housing Development in Nigeria.

That Summit brought together all the stakeholders in the housing sector in Nigeria, to explore and share ideas on how to bridge the housing deficits in the country and also ensuring that all stakeholders comply with the relevant standards in the housing sector.

Following his good works in the House of Representatives, he was elected in 2007 to the Senate to represent Orlu Senatorial District. It is on record that he was the one that displaced Senator Arthur Nzeribe, one of the most powerful Senators of that era, from the Senate.

As a golden fish that has no hiding place in the water, Izunaso was appointed in the Senate as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, a very influential Committee.

He achieved quite a lot, especially in championing indigenous participation in the industry, including the marginal fields. He also championed the issue of local content in the oil and gas sector.

Following the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in which he played a role as a founding member, he was appointed the National Organizing Secretary of the Party.

Under his watch as the party manager, the APC defeated the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 2015. None of Izunaso’s competitors come close with such enviable pedigree.

The other two aspirants, Akpabio and Kalu, are political strangers,with baggage, who allegedly joined the APC to evade prosecution by the EFCC.

Again, Izunaso has no case pending before the EFCC, ICPC, NFIU or any other anti-corruption agency in the land.

He is not controversial. He enjoys the support of his Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, and the confidence of the President-elect.I

Izunaso also is in good standing with his colleagues from across the country. There is no doubt that he would draw from the repertoire of his vast political experience to give the needed stabilising support to the Tinubu administration.

The cap fits him. He should be supported to clinch the position.

Chukwu, a Public Affairs Analyst, wrote from Abuja

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