Renewed intrigues are building up among the contenders for Senate presidency as the race for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly continues to gather steam.
Aspirants for the top job have intensified their campaigns and lobbying despite the silence of All Progressives Congress (APC) and President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu on which zone will produce Ahmad Lawan’s successor.
The development has led to a growing number of aspirants jostling for the Senate presidency.
Those eyeing the position include Senators Jibrin Barau (Kano North); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North-West); Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North); Abdul-Aziz Yari (Zamfara West); Sani Musa (Niger East); Ali Ndume (Borno South), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi South) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North).
While some have rooted for regional considerations, others pushed for open contests, arguing that competence, party loyalty, and experience must not be sacrificed for the sentiment.
The final candidates for the positions will largely be determined by the party’s zoning arrangements, in which the president-elect and the APC leadership are expected to play key roles.
Tinubu yesterday returned to the country after a month-long vacation in Paris, France. He was welcomed by a crowd of party leaders, members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC); governors, National Assembly members, and well-wishers, among others.
Sources close to Tinubu said in a couple of days, a meeting between the president-elect and key stakeholders would be convened to take a decision on the zoning of the National Assembly leadership positions.
Why North West deserves Senate presidency – Stakeholders
While the aspirants and Nigerians await the final decision of the president-elect and the party, the North West geopolitical zone has insisted it should produce the next Senate president in appreciation of their support for the party in the presidential election.
The North West region is a strong base of the APC and has never produced a Senate president. The zone gave the ruling APC the most votes in the presidential election among the six zones, while the South East gave it the least.
The zone gave the APC 2,653,235 votes, followed by the South West with 2,279,407 votes. The North Central gave the party 1,670,091 votes, while the North East produced 1,185,458 votes. The APC also got 799,957 votes in the South South zone.
Stakeholders from the zone argued that considering the zone for the Senate presidency will further boost the chances of the APC to regain its stronghold of Kano and other north-western states, which the party has lost to the opposition parties, like the NNPP.
A performance of this magnitude, they said, is highly significant and should be adequately rewarded for the sake of unity, peace, progress, and national cohesion.
The cap fits Senator Barau Jibrin
While stakeholders from the North West continue to canvas for the zone to produce the next Senate president, Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) is the only senator from the zone who has publicly declared interest in the plum job.
Party chieftains from the zone said Jibrin is the most competent for Senate presidency, considering his years of experience in the parliament and his understanding of parliamentary proceedings.
Senator Jibrin was first elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives to represent the Tarauni Federal Constituency of Kano State. In the green chamber, he chaired the committee on appropriations and also served as a member of the committee on power.
He switched to the Senate in 2015 to represent Kano North and has won re-election since then. In the red chamber, Barau was appointed vice chairman of the Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream) of the Senate and subsequently became the chairman of the same committee.
In 2016, the then Senate president, Bukola Saraki, reshuffled the leadership of standing committees, and Senator Barau Jibrin was reassigned to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETfund as the chairman.
He currently chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriation and also serves as a member of several others, including Niger Delta, industries, and land transportation.
He is the only APC senatorial candidate from Kano State who was not swept away by the NNPP Tsunami.
However, some analysts say the Senate presidency race is not expected to be a smooth sail for Jibrin due to his Islamic faith as the president-elect and vice president-elect, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima respectively, are also Muslims.
The Muslim-Muslim ticket, which generated controversies ahead of the presidential poll, experts said, inflamed a delicate situation for the party regarding zoning the parliament’s leadership positions.
Jibrin, however, had dismissed the calls for religious balancing in the composition of National Assembly leadership, saying competence should not be sacrificed for sentiment.
He recalled a time the federal parliament had David Mark as Senate president; Ike Ekweremadu as deputy and Patricia Etteh as House Speaker, all Christians.
“They were the most experienced and ranking at that time. Competence was not relegated to sentiment then. Bringing religious sentiment won’t fly. It’s about competence, not sentiment. When we talk about experience, I’m the most experienced,” he argued.
APC chairman in Kano, Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas, APC, while drumming support for Jibrin, said the senator was central to the 513,000 votes APC garnered in Kano.
Abbas, therefore, implored the party leadership to reward hard-working Jibril with the position of the Senate president, pointing out that he was the most qualified to lead the Senate in the 10th National Assembly.
He noted that due to Jibrin’s influence, no other party had made in-roads in Kano North where he hails from.
“Significantly, Kano State gave APC tremendous victory in 2015, 2019, and now 2023 elections, with the state producing the highest votes across the federation.
“This is time to reward a hard-working member who had contributed immensely to the growth of our party; by supporting Barau Jibril to lead the 10th Senate,” he said.
Also, a senator representing Jigawa Northwest, Danladi Sankara, backed Jibrin’s bid for Senate presidency.
Speaking while hosting the youth wing of the APC from Zamfara State, Sankara said, “Barau Jibrin is a ranking senator; he edges others in experience and sound relationship with his colleagues. He is the kind of Senate president the 10th National Assembly needs to consolidate the achievements of the 9th assembly.
“As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, he was the brain behind the redesigning of Nigeria’s budget circle starting from January.”
A pan-African organisation, the Centre for African Progress and Development, urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) to zone the Senate presidency to the North West.
In a statement by its head of Advocacy and Public Engagement, Mr Chigbo Iwuanorue, the group said among the array of members of the red chamber jostling to occupy the position of Senate president in the 10th Senate, Barau Jibrin stands out as the right man for the job.
He said, “Senator Jibrin, who is widely known to be a unifier, has a potent mission to bring to the discussion table the North-South-East-West National Assembly members within the Senate, cater for everybody’s interests, unite the Senate, and drive the agenda of the new administration.
“His commitment to apt progressive leadership will deliver to the 10th assembly a less rancorous, less confusing, and less controversial Senate president. He commands so much respect among his people, his peers, and his colleagues at the red chamber and brings tremendous value to his party, the APC, the nation, and his region in the North West.
“He is the only senator with a proven track record of serving remarkably and exceptionally in running the Senate businesses and chairing the appropriation committee that drives the success of the APC government.”
A former Kano senator, El-jibrin Doguwa, at a separate press briefing in Kano State last week, said Jibrin is the most suitable of all the candidates vying for the Senate president.
He said, “First, I have to confess to you that I have known Barau Jibrin over the years and I can guarantee his capacity and tenacity to offer purposeful leadership in the Senate. He commands lots of respect from his colleagues, as a ranking member.”