WHY SARAKI SHOULD BE THE SENATE PRESIDENT
As the activities of the 7th National Assembly gradually winds down, Nigerians are watching and anxiously waiting to see what shape the next National Assembly would take and how its principal officers would emerge. This is because, since the return of democracy in 1999, this is the first time the in-coming assembly otherwise known as the 8th National Assembly, at both chambers of the parliament would be led by the opposition. The leadership of the Red and Green Chambers has always come from the outgoing ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but following its defeat in the March 28th Presidential and National Assembly elections; the reverse is now the case. While the in-coming ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) got 64 Senate seats, the PDP got 45 seats. Based on this, common sense demands that, the party with the majority in the House should produce the next Senate President and other principal officers of the Red Chamber. But
then, the choice of who becomes the next Senate President will go a long way in ensuring stability in our politics as well as the growth of our fledgling democracy.
However, grapevine information has it that, the leadership of the APC has zoned the post of the Senate President to the North Central Geopolitical zone. The states in this zone also known as the Middle Belt are; Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Niger and Nassarawa States. In this zone, apart from Niger and Nassarawa States that always take different political directions, Kwara and Kogi States have always moved in the same political direction, while Benue and Plateau moved in another direction politically. In lieu of this reality, political developments in Kwara normally determine the direction Kogi takes and vice versa. For example, at the return of democracy in 1999, the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) was the dominant party in Kwara as it won the governorship seat in the state. While late Mohammed Lawal was the APP governor in Kwara, Prince Abubakar Audu was the APP governor in Kogi State. But, in 2003, following the defection of the strong man of Kwara
Politics, late Senator Olusola Saraki to PDP, the party produced the next governor for the state, while in Kogi; PDP produced the next governor in the state, in the person Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. This was how PDP became the dominant party in the two states before the recent “Broom revolution” in the entire North Central zone and Nigeria at large.
Accordingly, the political alliance between Kwara and Kogi states dates back to 1979, when late Adamu Atta, an Igbira man from the present day Kogi State was elected the first executive Governor of Kwara State with the support of the Second Republic Senate Leader, late Senator Olusola Saraki.
Similarly, Benue and Plateau always followed the same path politically. Apart from being Benue/Plateau state before Benue State was created in 1976 by late General Murtala Mohammed, the two states had always forged their own political alliances since 1999. The outgoing Peoples Democratic Party has being the party ruling in the states before porting for APC this year.
Following the political realities in the country today, it is Kwara State and Benue State that have ranking Senators that meet rule 97 of the National Assembly which is a prerequisite for producing the next Senate President.
Based on the foregoing, the Benue axis has produced Senator Iyorchia Ayu as Senate President. He ruled from 1992– 1993. It also produced Senator Ameh Ebute as Senate President. He ruled from 1993 till the late Military Head of States, General Sani Abacha took over power. The last Senate President produced by the same Benue axis is the outgoing Senate President, Senator David Mark who started his reign in 2007 till date. But, Kwara axis has not produced any Senate President in Nigeria's history. Where is Federal Character here? Hence, injustice is when equals are not treated equally.
Furthermore, the current APC is made up of two groups; there are the Legacy group and the Equity group. The legacy group is made up of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and some factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which metamorphosed to the current All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013. While the Equity group are former PDP governors, Senators and party members who joined the APC later. Now, the two major contenders for the post of the Senate President are Senator George Akume from Benue axis. He belongs to the Legacy group because he was elected Senate Minority Leader under (ACN), while Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki from Kwara axis belongs to the Equity group.
The Legacy group has produced the number one and two citizens of the country. There are General Muhammadu Buhari, the President-elect and Professor Yemi Osibanjo, the Vice President-elect. The question is, should the number three position—the Senate President still go the Legacy group? Haba! What will be left for the Equity group?
Also, Nigerians should not be in a hurry to forget the patriotic role played by Senator Saraki when he was the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), at a time the country faced constitutional crisis occasioned by the ill health of former President Umaru Yar'Dua as well as his inability to transmit a written note to the then Vice President Good Luck Jonathan to preside over the affairs of the country in acting capacity. It was the NGF under Saraki that threw it full weight behind the famous “Doctrine of necessity”, a novel idea introduced in to our constitution to save the nation from the constitutional crisis it faced.
Secondly, Senator Saraki is the one that exposed the popular subsidy scam that prompted the various probes in the National Assembly, even at a great personal cost. With these track records, I think Saraki should be the country's next Senate President, if not for the sake of competence, then for the sake of equity and justice.
***Comrade Edwin Uhara is a Journalist and Public Affairs Commentator based in Abuja.