The race for the Presidency of the 10th Senate has set two former governors, Godswill Akpabio and Abdulaziz Yari, against each other. As the National Assembly prepares to select its leaders today, President Bola Tinubu faces a crucial test that will shape the course of his presidency.
Nigeria’s federalism has its unique characteristics, and for a President to effectively fulfill his electoral promises, a harmonious relationship between the executive and legislative branches is essential. Since the advent of democracy in 1999, successive presidents have displayed more than a casual interest in determining the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. People still vividly remember how President Olusegun Obasanjo disregarded calls to appoint Chuba Okadigbo as the Senate President in 1999 and instead chose Evans Enwerem, who later gave way to Okadigbo within a few months.
As the 10th Senate’s inauguration approaches, President Bola Tinubu finds himself trying to appease those who contributed to his emergence through various means of gratification. The Senate President’s coveted position has become a focal point of struggle among influential figures in the All Progressives Congress, vying for the support of the former Governor of Lagos State.
In recent weeks, the agitation for the Senate Presidency has taken on ethnic and religious dimensions. A South-South group led by former Information Commissioner in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua, insists that Godswill Akpabio should be rewarded with the position due to the significant role played by the region in securing Tinubu’s victory. Afegbua argues that Akpabio, with his extensive experience as a Governor, Senator, and Minister, is the ideal candidate deserving of this highly esteemed office.
Afegbua also expresses concern that Bola Tinubu should avoid being entangled in another controversy regarding religious affiliation while searching for a President of the 10th Senate. He recalls how the joint ticket of Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, both Muslims, caused tensions in the past. Some Nigerians raised valid concerns about the need for inclusivity. Afegbua emphasizes the importance of avoiding the appointment of another Muslim Senate President, as it would be difficult to defend against criticisms of marginalization.
While Akpabio’s supporters vocalize their endorsement, the Northern Business Roundtable urges Senators from different parties to rally behind Abdulaziz Yari’s bid for the position of the nation’s number three leader.
The group commends the leadership of the All Progressives Congress for reconsidering its decision to zone the Senate Presidency to the South-South, which led to Senator Godswill Akpabio emerging as a top contender. Spokesperson Larai Kolo highlights Yari’s competence, character, and track record, emphasizing that he possesses the necessary qualities to excel in the role.
Critiquing the APC’s zoning decision, the group argues that appointing Akpabio would undermine the North-West’s contribution of votes in the 2023 general election, particularly considering the region’s demand for the presidency to be zoned to the South. They assert that after the presidency was conceded to the South and the vice presidency to the North-East, the Senate Presidency should rightfully go to the North-West.
The group emphasizes the need to prioritize fairness, equity, and justice over sentiment in the nation’s politics. They express disappointment with traditional institutions in the North-West for not advocating on behalf of the region since the Senate Presidency scheming began. They urge Senators from the region to align with their demands, warning that failure to do so will result in the withdrawal of support from both the group and traditional leaders.