With less than a week after the successful conclusion of the presidential and National Assembly elections, the battle for the office of the next Senate president has begun in earnest. THISDAY report.
It would be recalled, the result of March 28 presidential election has completely altered the composition of Nigeria’s political structures since 1999.
For that reason, the next tenure that will take-off on May 29 will witness a total repositioning of the entire political landscape. Hence, the unfolding development will witness the exit of the hitherto ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had boasted of its uncommon capacity to rule Nigeria for 60 consecutive years, from power.
Thus, the party which has occupied the political scene for 16 unbroken years from May 29 take its place as an opposition political party, underscoring the maxim that change remains the only constant factor in life. Against this background, while the commencement of a new tenure will see the hitherto opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) forming the ruling party at the centre, the PDP will descend from its majority status to the minority caucus in the Senate.
This PDP’s defeat in last week’s poll has already truncated the third time ambition of incumbent Senate President David Mark to return to the exalted seat as Senate’s helmsman in June. Although Mark won his re-election in a resounding form, polling over 90,000 votes to defeat his opponent who scored over 50,000 votes, his party has lost the majority strength to produce the next Senate President.
Hence, Mark, one of the only two survivors of the 109 senators who were elected into the Senate in 1999 can only remain in the Senate from June as a floor member if he chooses to stay. His only contemporary from the fourth Senate between 1999 and 2003, Senator Bello Gwarzo, the incumbent chief whip, was mercilessly crushed at the Kano South senatorial election on March 28, scoring just over 850 votes against his opponent’s massive votes at the election.
Because of this, the results of last Saturday’s senatorial election showed that PDP won only 48 Senate seats while the opposition APC won 61. Of the 48 seats won by the PDP, five were from the South-west, viz: Ogun East, Ondo South, Ekiti Central, Ekiti North and Ekiti South.
However, the PDP won 17 out of the 18 senatorial seats in the South-south, losing only a seat in Edo North to APC. The PDP, nevertheless, cleared the entire 15 senatorial seats in the South-east while it performed abysmally in North-west and North-east. Whereas it won only one seat in North-west (Kaduna South), it cleared the three senatorial seats in Taraba States and won only one seat each in Gombe and Yobe States.
Presently, seven senators from the three zones have thrown their hats into the ring. They are Senators George Akume, Senate Minority Leader (Benue North-west); Bukola Saraki, a former Kwara State governor (Kwara Central); Olusola Adeyeye, a vocal senator and professor of Molecular Biology (Osun Central); and Danjuma Goje, a former Gombe State governor (Gombe Central). Others are Senators Ahmad Lawan, a former university don (Yobe North), Ali Ndume, a former House of Representatives Minority Leader (Borno South) and a former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Usman Nafada (Gombe North).
Grapevine has it that for now, it is a two-horse race, Saraki and Akume, both former governors, are the front-runners.
The North Central zone has by now demanded for the slot. Interestingly, the zone is believed to have played the role of a ‘game-changer’ in penultimate week’s presidential election as it delivered the North-central zone, which had since 1999 been the stronghold of PDP, to APC. Apart from Plateau and Nasarawa which voted for PDP in the Presidential election, Kwara, Kogi, Niger and Benue delivered huge votes for the APC, a development that rendered useless the pre-election calculations of the ruling party to use the votes of North Central to check that of the South-west.
The North-east geo-political zone which produced 13 senators-elect at the last election has also demanded for the zoning of the office of the Senate President to the region. The party cleared the three senatorial seats in Borno, Adamawa and Bauchi States while Gombe and Yobe produced two senators each. The zone claimed that it had hitherto been marginalised and therefore should be compensated with the office.
However, social critics are of the view that APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose South-west zone also clinched 13 senatorial seats in penultimate week election would play a deciding role in who eventually emerges as Mark’s successor because of his influence within the party and among lawmakers.
The weeks ahead will play a key component role on who will emerge as Nigeria’s next Senate President.