The race for principal offices in the 10th senate has started, following the successful inauguration of the National Assembly and the emergence of Godswill Akpabio (South-south) as Senate President and Barau Jibrin (North-West) as his deputy.
The remaining four principal officers positions – Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Whip – would now be shared among the North Central, North West, South East and the North East geopolitical zones.
Apart from the North Central, all the zones had been adequately represented in the top positions so far decided in both the executive and legislative arms of government following the successful conclusion of the 2023 general elections.
President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima are from the South West and North East geopolitical zones respectively.
The distribution of the presiding officers positions in the National Assembly was supposed to take care of the other zones but the North Central was shortchanged because two presiding offices – Deputy Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives – were given to the North West.
Some analysts had argued that a ranking senator from the North Central geopolitical zone should automatically be made the Senate Leader in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice while others insisted that the rule of ranking must be strictly adhered to.
Some of the senators, who spoke with THISDAY on the development had also maintained that a ranking senator from the South West geopolitical zone should be appointed the Senate Leader, because President Tinubu is from the zone.
They claimed that the last two Senate Leader in the second term of former president Muhammadu Buhari, Senators Yahaya Abdullahi and Ibrahim Gobir were both from the North West geopolitical zone, the same zone with Buhari.
But the claims had been countered by those who said there was no historical antecedents to support such argument.
One of the senators, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, countered the argument being advanced that the Senate Leader should be from the President’s geopolitical zone.
He said, “The first Senate Leader during the period of President Olusegun Obasanjo was a senator from Katsina State and another Katsina senator took over from him.
“During the era of the late President Umaru Yar’adua, Senator Teslim Folarin from South West was Senate Leader and he was there until former president Goodluck Jonathan completed the tenure of Yar’adua.
“Senator Victor Ndoma Egba from the South South took over as Senate Leader, when Jonathan was elected president.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari (North West) took over, Senator Ali Ndume from the North East was Senate Leader before he was removed and replaced with Senator Ahmad Lawan, from the same zone
“In 2019, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi from Kebbi North was the Senate Leader before he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party and Senator Ibrahim Gobir took over. There was no history that backed up the claims that the Senate Leader must come from the same zone as the President.
“It happened by circumstances, when Jonathan won his first presidential election in 2011 and when Buhari won his second term in office in 2019.”
However, going by the ranking rule, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari is the most ranking senator in the South West. He was in the House of Representatives in 2003 before he was elected senator in 2015, 2019 and 2023.
He is being followed closely by Senator Solomon Adeola, who was in the House of Representatives in 2011 and moved over to the Senate in 2015, and was reelected in 2015 and 2023
In the South East geopolitical zone, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunaso were the two most ranking senators in the South East. Both of them had been to the House of Representatives and the Senate twice.
However, Kalu was in the House of Representatives in 1993 while Izunaso was in the green chamber in 2007.
The only thing is that Kalu’s period in the Lower Chamber lasted just three months before it was truncated by the military junta of Sani Abacha.In the North Central, Senators Sani Musa (Niger East) and Saheed Umar (Kwara North) are the two leading ranking senators. Both of them had been to the Senate twice, 2019 and 2023.
The most ranking senator from the North East geopolitical zone is Ahmad Lawan, who just concluded his tenure as the Senate President, followed by Ali Ndume.However, Lawan may not accept to be the Senate Leader. It will now be left with Ndume, who had played similar role during the era of Bukola Saraki’s Senate presidency.
Ndume however had to contend with Senator Danjuma Goje for the exhalted position.
Ranking senators, who spoke with THISDAY were of the view that if the leadership of the All Progressives Congress would adhere strictly to the ranking system in choosing the principal officers, one of the senior senators listed above would emerge as Senate Leader.
They noted that the three others would be appointed as deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip and the Deputy Whip respectively.