Since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge of the two chambers of the National Assembly and has always filled six, out of the 10 available leadership positions in the federal legislature.
With a vice grip on power at the executive and legislative level, the PDP understandably became arrogant and perhaps, felt that because it was already embedded in government, the people would renew that confidence on March 28.
The National Assembly election results from the North showed that Nigerians were disappointed and frustrated with the PDP. In a classical show of power, the same people, whom the lawmakers claim to represent, spiked them with their thumbs resulting in hitherto heavyweights tumbling out of the race.
The PDP, which in the past, enjoyed strong presence in the North West and the North Central was left speechless when the people voted for change and a breath of fresh air.
The PDP was left panting in its stronghold states of Bauchi, Benue, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi and other northern states of Kano, Gombe, Kogi, Kwara, and even Adamawa.
A day after the poll, it was clear the power equation for the eighth Senate had been irrevocably altered and that, power had changed hands. By Monday, March 30, it was clear that the APC broom had swept off the PDP umbrella from the Senate chamber.
A breakdown shows that the APC convincingly cleared all the available 21 senatorial seats in Northwest comprising Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina states.
The party also clinched 15 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the North eastern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Gombe and 13 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the North central states of Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau.
Others are 13 out of the available 18 senatorial seats in the South western states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti in addition to the only one seat it won in the entire South South geo- political zone, precisely from Edo North.
However, the entire 15 senatorial seats available in South East, comprising Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Imo states form the bulk of the 45 seats won by the PDP; 17 seats from South South, five from South West, five from North central and one from North West.
With this new reality comes an intense jostle for leadership positions in the Senate. The nation’s upper legislative chamber has 10 leadership positions. They are Senate President, his deputy, Majority Leader, his deputy, Chief Whip, who also has a deputy. That is the leadership configuration for the majority party. The remaining four positions are filled by the opposition. They are Minority Leader, his deputy who stands in for him when he’s not in plenary, the Minority whip and his deputy.
Even though there are 10 leadership positions (also called principal officers), only the due of Senate President and Deputy Senate President can preside at plenary. And so, in June, the Eighth Senate will be in the firm grip of the APC having won more than 60 seats, out of the 109 senatorial seats available. For the first time since 1999, the PDP has the unenviable status of being referred to as a minority party in the Senate, having secured only 45 seats.
To take control of the leadership of the Senate, any political party would need to secure at least 58 seats. Already, feelers from the APC camp in the Senate indicate that long before the March 28 poll, the party was embroiled in who takes the Senate President seat in the event of constituting majority in the chamber.
Saturday Sun gathered that before December 2014, it was a straight tussle between former governors in the chamber and core parliamentarians who have been in the National Assembly since 1999.
With the polls and results already in the public domain, the contest may be a four-horse race among the present Minority Leader George Akume, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, Vice chairman of the Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Danjuma Goje and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is, at this time, considered a dark horse in the race.
As positions are shared in political parties along regional lines, the same sharing arrangement holds true in the National Assembly. Since the North-West has already clinched the Presidency and the South-West has filled the deputy slot, both regions are automatically out of consideration for the Senate Presidency leaving only the South- East, South-South, North-East and the North-Central in the race.
But with the benefit of hindsight, the North Central, which has occupied the slot since 2007 with Senator David Mark of Benue State, may not be in reckoning, at least for now. Original permutations do not favour the North Central because the out-going Senate President is a northern Christian. But things appear to be turning towards that direction again.
With a Muslim president, some pundits aver that a Saraki Senate Presidency is not out of character afterall, the President and the Senate President slots were filled by Christians since 2011. Saraki, obviously is better favoured as leader of a major power bloc in the party and the first presidential aspirant to sacrifice his ambition last year to rally support for Buhari candidacy.
Conversely, the South-East and the South-South have automatically ruled themselves out of the slot since the zone returned mostly PDP lawmakers. Only one APC senator is from the South-East and another from Edo State, the South- South geo-political zone. Being greenhorns, they are automatically disadvantaged based on the “no ranking” rule.
But the South-East and the South- South may yet get a foot into the Senate leadership if, by way of winning at the tribunal such Senator is sworn in with his/her colleagues in June. In such instance, the best position will be a deputy slot in the leadership. This scenario played out in 2011 when Senator Hosea Agboola from Oyo State simply walked into the Senate leadership, being the only PDP Senator from the South-West and that zone needed to be represented in the Senate leadership.
This leaves only the North-East with a clear shot at the Senate Presidency. Since Vice President Atiku Abubakar left government in 2003, the North-East geo-political zone has been an orphan in the National Assembly; at least in the Senate.
Commanding a return of at least 13 Senators, out of the mandatory 18 Senators from the region, the North-East believes it has a valid claim to the Senate Presidency this time around.
Another major plus for the North- East is that having been brought to its knees by the brutality of Boko Haram, the people’s resilience showed when it refused to succumb to the last minute wiles of the PDP and responded resoundingly by giving the APC majority votes in last Saturday’s general elections.
The closest the zone has come to power in the Senate is to occupy the deputy majority leader slot in 2011 with Senator Abdul Ningi, who lost out in the Senate poll on March 28.
All these permutations may not, however, work because Speaker Aminu Tambuwal proved twice to the PDP, in 2011 and in 2014 that as long as you stand in good stead with your colleagues in the chamber, the party position can be jettisoned without any repercussions. In that wise, the most popular Senator may get the post with support on the day of voting, which is usually on the day the chamber is inaugurated.
What is, however, clear as at this weekend is that the PDP will resume in the eighth Senate as the minority party except the party can pull a last-minute miracle before the House is inaugurated. The only miracle in this context lies with the tribunals.
In June, the Senate chamber will miss the robustness of Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), Senator Ayogu Eze’s dictionary-checking words in the heat of debates, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu’s unending postulations and most especially, Chief Whip Bello Hayatou Gwarzo’s unique manner of getting his colleagues to sit down and pay attention during plenary.
For now, the chamber may likely miss Senator Smart Adeyemi’s populist stand on national affairs and issues, Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta’s friendliness and eager-to-please approach. Surely, the chamber will also miss Senator Ita Enang, who the Senate Press Corps have dubbed Mr. Laws of the Federation (LFN).
While there were great improvements in women representation in the Sixth Senate, which brought nine women, this Senate got only seven back with Senator Oluremi Tinubu being the only woman standing. She was re-elected at last Saturday’s polls to represent Lagos Central.The eighth Senate will, however, see fresh faces including that of Hon. Binta Garba, who was a former three-term member of the House of Representatives and before March 28, the state APC Chairman of Adamawa State, former Aviation Minister Stella Oduah and member of the House of Representatives, Uche Ekwunife.
The trend, which started in 2007 has finally taken root in the Seventh Senate with an intimidating 12 former governors, also comprising former secretaries to state governments, first ladies, former ministers, deputy governors and a former PDP National Chairman, the incoming eighth Senate already has its own superstars.
Sitting governors of Plateau (Jonah Jang), Kano (Rabiu Kwankwaso) Akwa Ibom (Godswill Akpabio) and Sokoto States (Magatarkada Wammako) already have a foot in the door. They are only bidding time to take their oath of office as Senators in June.
Senate President David Mark now holds the unique record of being the only Nigerian Senator to have been elected five times and also, the only man standing from the Class of 1999.
Senator Lawan also belongs to this class but he was elected first into the House of Representatives before he got elected into the Senate in 2007.
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