As the 2023 election cycle nears conclusion with the upcoming gubernatorial and house of assembly elections, the usual intrigues and politicking that often characterize the composition of the officers of the national assembly are already rearing its head. From the interest of the party in government and that of the president-elect who would want to have their influence prevail for the obvious reason of having a “cooperative” legislature for synergy in governance. Some influential party bigwigs would also want to exert their relevance and salvage what is left of their credibility. There are others who are regional champions, some would advocate for religious balance, not to forget the roles of opposition parties, the unfolding political alignments, the give and take, and many other factors that will shape the composition of the 10th assembly.
We would recall that the president-elect and the vice president-elect are both Muslims from South-West and North-East. The president-elect, a Yoruba Muslim from Lagos, and his vice-elect, a Kanuri Muslim from Borno. Expectedly, the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket would necessitate the need for religious balance among the top positions of government. Beyond this, putting our diversity into consideration, there will also be a need to balance regions and ethnicity.
Though APC dominated the senate and the house of reps, considering the released results of the 2023 national assembly elections. However, unlike 2015 and 2019, the 2023 domination may not be significant enough not to need collaboration of other political parties in building consensus to select principal officers of both chambers and get the critical bills passed. Based on the INEC results released for the senatorial districts and federal constituency elections so far in the 36 states and the FCT, APC won 57 and 162 in the senate and house of reps respectively. However, there are still few elections to be concluded on Saturday alongside the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections. These supplementary elections may bring a different dynamic to the calculations.
In order for ethno-religious balance and regional representation, one would expect the APC’s power sharing formular to be such that brings unity and diversity. For me, since the president-elect and vice-president-elect are both Muslims from South-West and North-East respectively, the Senate President should be a Christian from the South-South or South-East. The post of the Speaker of House of Reps be zoned to the North-West. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation should be a Christian from South-East or South-South. The Chairman of APC should remain in the North-Central but be filled by a Christian. Although, this proposal will depend largely on the flexibility of our people to sacrifice and political convenience to unite the country. One would not be surprised to see SE and SS as well as NW and NC swap positions.
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Already various hopefuls have commenced consultations and the politicking has started. Frontline Senate President hopefuls in the APC like Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia in the South-East and Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa-Ibom in the South-South. For these two, one will expect a battle royal. They’re both former governors and are both believed to have the capacity and other necessary requirements. They’re both influential in and out of the party. While Orji Uzor Kalu will be expected to exert so much influence among LP dominated South-East caucus. Akpabio having been former minority leader of PDP in 2015 when he was a first time senator would be expected to rely on his former base in the PDP, his South-South caucus, and the fact that he contested the primaries of APC, stepped-down and worked for the emergence of the eventual winner, the president-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It’s equally believed that both are close allies of the president-elect, but analysts believe Kalu has been a longtime ally.
While some hopefuls for both chambers are banking on their regional contributions to the APC presidential victory, some are challenging on the basis of their seniority in APC, others are looking at the region with highest numbers of APC senators between South-South and South East. Some are even canvassing on the basis of history of regional domination of the position of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps. For this group, considering elimination of SW and NE from the equations on the account of producing the President-elect and Vice president-elect, the senate president should go to the South-South having only occupied the post for just four years with Joseph Wayas (1979 – 1983). To them the South-East had produced Senate President for 14 years starting from Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1960, Jan-Oct), Dennis Chukude Osadebay (Oct.1960 – Oct.1963), Akwekwe Nwafor Orizu (Oct. 1963-Jan.1966), Evans Enwerem (1999, June – Nov), Chuba Okadigbo (1999-2000), Ayim Pius Ayim (2000-2003), Adophus Wabara (2003-2005), and Ken Nnamani (2005-2007). North-Central ranked second in senate President domination for 13 years starting from the current PDP chairman Iyorcha Ayu (1992-1993), Ameh Ebute (1993, Nov.), David Mark (2007-2015), Bukola Saraki (2015-2019), The current senate president Ahmad Lawan from Yobe representing North-East would have spent four years (2019- 2023) at the end of his tenure. It will be on record that only North-West and South-West have not produced the senate president in Nigeria.
In like manner, the race for the leadership of the green chamber is no different. The North West and the North-Central are making strong cases for the position and expecting the current occupier, the SW, to be magnanimous and make a sacrifice for government of national unity as prophesied by the president-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his election acceptance speech. For the canvasers of North-Central, the North-West have spent 12 years as Speaker House of Reps starting from the Salisu Buhari (1999, June-July) and its inglorious ending, followed by Ghali Umar Na’abba (July 1999 – June 2003), Aminu Bello Masari(June 2003 – June 2007), and most recently Aminu Tambuwal (2011 – 2015). North-East ranks second with cumulative 10 years in between Ibrahim Jalo Waziri (1960-1966), and Yakubu Dogara (2015-2019). The South West, the current office holder, have had their fair share of the speakership position with a cumulative eight years that began with Patricia Olubunmi Etteh (2007, June – Oct.), Dimeji Bankole (2007-2011), and currently Femi Gbajabiamila (2019-2023). The South-East have also had their chances having produced Jaja Wachukwu (1959-1960), Edwin Ume-Ezeoke (1979-1983), and Agunwa Anaekwe (1992-1993). The North-Central had a stint at the speakership before the military coup of January 1984 with Benjamin Chaha Biam (1983, Oct-Dec) spending just three months. The South-South remains the only region that hasn’t produced the speaker of the house of reps.
In all these scheming and calculations, it will be interesting to see where other smaller opposition parties with significant presence like LP, NNPP, APGA, SDP, and YPP will pitch their tents between APC and PDP. Equally interesting would be the roles of PDP presidential candidate Waziri Adamawa Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party candidate Mr. Peter Obi, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP, Governor Charles Soludo as the leader of APGA, and other influential figures in SDP, YPP, and others. The noble (or otherwise) roles of the G-5 governors led by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike in this election will remain a reference for many years in our political history. We will also be on the lookout for their next game plan in this 10th national assembly politics.
One thing that’s clear is that the choices are not going to be easy because of the diverse interests. Nigerians have fastened their seat belts and curious to see whether the Bukola
Saraki and Yakubu Dogara scenario of 2015 in the senate and the house of representative would not be repeated.
Wale Ajayi, Engineer, Management Strategist, & Development Advocate writes from Brough, England