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OPINION… Senate Presidency: A must-win battle to balance political power in the quest for national integration



The ‘battle’ for the leadership positions of the 10th Senate Assembly is seen as the father of all battles and a war which we must know is common to all, given that political observers generally agree that it is a ‘must win’ battle for the equitable distribution of power, to over coming the age long war in the problem of national integration in the political system in order to forge ahead with nation building, on the federal Character Principle (FCP) as enshrined in the constitution.

Considerably, there exist known formidable obstacles in the polity to the adoption of the FCP as a principled stands prognosis, owing to ethnic bias and chauvinism, religious fundamentalism as well as the expressions of group identities, linguistic, cultural, which confront among the socio-cultural realities in search of a stable political structure as the critical nation-building loads that tend to constitute the determining factors for political alignment and allegiance, rather than the Nigerian State.

These factors aforementioned are known to adversely affect the ethical leadership behaviours to balancing political power as exemplified with the rancorous battles for leadership positions of the 10th National Assembly, moreso, the policies and actions of Government towards national integration so far, has been an exercise in futility with zero integration or mal-integration and the solution to the problem remain undiscovered.

However, given the comments by the Chairman of the North West All Progressive Party (APC) Forum, Aminu Sani, in describing the Godswill Akpabio/Barau Jibrin leadership as the President and Deputy respectively, for the next Senate, “as a perfect step to ensuring good Governance … full of national colouration …. unbiased and free from ethnocentrism”, it is welcoming given the demonstrable embrace by a greater majority of the in-coming legislators for their ambition to provide leadership as noted from the series of interface consultations with stakeholders of the political system across the nation.

Therefore fears of unleashing “a recipe of restiveness” in demanding for the position of the Senate President by some interested and influential politicians of the South East group is not only seen as “uncalled for”, but said to portray a “hidden interest” given their claim of “injustice” in using the group narrative in seeking compensation, with the position of the Senate President on their complaint of being a marginalized group. Political pundits however dismiss the group narrative of being marginalized as a fallacy of generalization, while noting that the South East has since 1999 had five (5) Senate Presidents in office.

Also further protestation by the South East group for the position of the Senate President is fueled by the narrative of a tripod political structural footing to balancing political power and for the distribution of power on regional ethnicity basis of Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo, given as claimed that the President-elect is of the South West, Yoruba dominated group and the Vice President-elect of the Northern, Hausa-Fulani dominated group. Thus, that the South East dominated by the Ibo group is therefore entitled to the 3rd position in line of succession to the President, being the Senate President. Unfortunately this claim is what political analyst consider as backward looking to the historical antecedents for ethnic bias and mal-integration which breeds the inherent disunity that causes ethnic conflicts on the expressions of group identities in the polity.

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The said narrative of the tripodal structure foes against the rights and identities of the minorities which must be preserved in a federation, else, the ends in propagating such claims leads to an absurdity in denying the national true colouration of six (6) geo-political zones that exist with the thirty-six (36) federating States plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, as the present and known political arrangement of the super-structure – Nigeria for national integration in resolving the problem of nation building rather than seek the convenience of an obsolete, untenable tripodal political structure with its adverse connotations.

Furthermore, the rootedness of religious fundamentalism is an undeniable factor with balancing political power and is pronounced with the politics for alignments and affiliations in the polity. Nevertheless, while this could not grip the political soil firmly in the 2023 Presidential election as the electorate exuded confidence on the same faith-ticket pair of the President-elect and his Vice, however, political elders of the system call for caution, to avoid over-heating of the polity and to disallow politicization on religious concerns given the need to balance political power with positions of leadership in the 10th Assembly, nothwithstand the constitutional right of a Senator to vie for a position of leadership on the floor of the Senate.

However, noting continued protests from certain quarters alleging deliberate tendencies for religious dominance in the polity of one faith over the other, such a situation is seen to generate a lack of confidence for national interpretation to foster nation building.

Conclusively, the APC in its considered wisdom has endorsed distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio as its preferred candidate, as President as well as Barau Jibrin as Deputy President, respectively, for the in-coming Senate. Senator Godswill Akpabio (CON), Senator-elect for Akwa Ibom North West, hails from the bowels of the Niger Delta State of Akwa Ibom, of the South-South geo-political zone, which has not held the Senate President’s position since the 4th Republic from 1999. A former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, former Senate Minority Leader, the immediate past Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, and the APC preferred candidate for the office of the Senate President, he is a lawyer/politician.

Senator Barau Jibrin is from Kano State, North West geo-political zone and represents Kano North Senatorial District. He is the current Chairman of the 9th Senate Committee on Appropriations and former Chairman of Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND in the 8thSenate. A former Member of the House of Representatives, where he served as Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations. He is a successful business entrepreneur and a financial management expert.

The APC believes that given their training, exposure and concomitant experiences that they understand the fundamentals in policy making of the Senate leadership Offices in policy enactments and over sight functions, therefore, expectedly, the in-coming Senators-elect are required to be guided by an enlightened conscience in working together and to marry the policies they think is best, to what the people want for the welfare of their respective constituents and for the nation’s best interest being that all Senators are in principle equal with individual responsibilities to their respective constituents and the nation at large, to secure their relevance and re-election respectively.

Thus an issue of who presides over deliberations of the 10th Senate must not become escalated into a crisis with deep divisions among the Senators in the Red Chamber and an absence of a unifying consensus on the role of the Senate in governance. Interestingly we may be haunted by the said troubles of Nigeria’s First Republic, in which after independence, we saw centrifugal forces set in motion as the said independence eliminated the need to work together against colonial power, rather the issue became ‘who shall succeed the departing Europeans?’ In other to answer the question nation-building became a necessary product of cartel-type politics defined along ethnic, religious and class-lines, which we now see exemplified with the unfolding drama given the battle of the 10th Senate Presidentship that has created group awareness and aroused group tension creating a problem of accommodation and unless these issues are totally suffocated, the problem for the war to be won for national integration to achieve nation building may never have an end.

AUTHOR:Victor R. Etok-Akpan

Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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