Senate Presidency: The Case for North Central

imageBy Gbenga Alaba

Truth be said, it is in the interest of national inclusiveness and pragmatic politics that the number three position in the country remains in the North Central as the jostle for the Senate Presidency ramps up. Let me explain.

Nigeria braces for a change of guard at the center following General Mohammed Buhari’s victory at the presidential elections ending the PDP’s 16 year run at Aso Rock Villa. Focus is equally on the national assembly where APC’s tsunami in the March 28th polls also compels a change of baton in the leadership of both houses since the PDP has been knocked off its perch as majority party in the upper chamber.

Expectedly, the run up has witnessed extensive political horse trading with APC top brass holding marathon meetings to decide where to zone the leadership of the national assembly, especially Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

However, it is with the leadership of the Senate that I am concerned in this piece. As a concerned Nigerian who joined millions in voting in GMB and other APC representatives, I remain confident that the new ruling party will ensure justice, equity and inclusive as its mantra states.

However, I am concerned by speculatios that the APC is considering zoning the position of Senate President to the North East as opposed to the North Central, which currently holds the position but is favored. In the unlikely event that the APC does this, it will be shooting itself in the foot and disappointing millions of Nigerians including myself.

The APC touted inclusive politics as one the reasons why Nigerians should choose it over the foundering PDP. It was positioned as the party that will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging. The party will therefore be going against this claim if it takes the number three position out of the north central and cedes it to the North East. Doing that will not only be against geopolitical equity, knocking the north central from the power equation, it will also concentrate power in the hands of the core north. With the President elect from the North West, giving the Senate Presidency to another zone from the core north risks re-igniting the North Central’s history of relegation in the geopolitics of the country.

Ideally, the position should have gone to the South East or South-south if the arguement is that the North Central has held it for many years. However, with the South-East shooting itself in the foot and refusing to re-elect any ranking Senator and the South-South doing the same out of fidelity to outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 polls, the North Central Zone remains the most pragmatic first choice zone to provide the Senate President. Anything short of zoning the position to the North Central means the APC leadership will be sacrificing equity on the alter of selfish political interests of a few.

Besides, with the North Central States of Plateau, Niger, Kwara, Benue and Nassarawa all delivering overwhelming victories to the APC, which gave General Buhari and the party unprecedented victory in the Zone at all levels of the just concluded elections, it will be politically unwise and certainly inequitable to rob the region of this position that has over the years given it a sense of belonging after years of relegation to the wings of national politics by the core north. It is also important to note that keeping the Senate Presidency in the North Central over the years is not an act of political charity. It is rather an act of political equity an inclusion, especially for the North and for the country as a whole. Excluding the North Central by the APC will therefore be an act of suicidal unwisdom as the disenchantment that would follow will definitely set the grounds for the current Senate President, Davide Mark to rally other PDP Senators as well as other ranking Senators from the North Central to stage a legislative coup against the now majority APC in the Senate.

It is also important to note that North Central States are also home to a heterogeneous people who will otherwise not get a sense of inclusiveness in national affairs if the position is zoned out of the North Central. Those who make the case that the North Central has controlled the Senate Leadership for too long miss the point that only Benue and Plateau have tended to provide these officers, leaving states like Niger, Kwara, Kogi and Nassarawa in the shadows.

Just as it is in the interest of extant geopolitical considerations to retain the position in the North Central, internal dynamics of the region dictate that other states in the region be given a shot at the position given their contribution to the APC’s victories and in the interest of the justice, equity and inclusiveness that the APC championed in the run-up to the elections.

Finally, those who make the case that the North East be given a shot at the position as compensation for the ravages it has suffered due to the Boko Haram insurgency miss the point. Boko Haram is a national malaise that has affected all of Nigeria. The APC Presidency is poised to tackle the problem just as it has promised to tackle the problem of the region’s economic stagnation due to insurgency. That should suffice. Otherwise, regions like the Southeast that have suffered from rampant cases of kidnapping or the South-South which is only gradually recovering from Niger-Delta militancy will be justified in making a grab for Senate Presidency.

The most tenable position therefore remains the APC leadership’s zoning of the Senate Presidency to the North Central. That is not only the politically wise thing to do by the APC, considering that the next election is only a mere four years away, but is also in the interest of equity and fairness. Nigerians trust the APC leadership will do well to let national interest trump narrow sentiments or individual aspirations for party control and dominance.

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