By Festus Owete
Political leaders of Nigeria’s South East geo-political zone appear to have shut themselves from the country’s emerging power equation beginning May 29, as the zone did not produce any federal lawmaker on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Saturday’sNational Assembly elections.
With no APC lawmaker from the South East, the zone is likely to lose the positions of the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives — two slots the region should ordinarily fill.
At Saturday’s Presidential and National Elections, all five states in the South East – Anambra, Abia, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi – not only voted overwhelmingly for the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, but for all the party’s candidates in the National Assembly elections.
On the contrary, all the candidates of the APC in the legislative elections as well as the party’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, lost woefully in the zone.
The 15 senatorial seats in the zone were won by the Peoples Democratic Party.
The APC’s presidential candidate, Mr. Buhari, however won the election and will form the government at the centre come May 29.
With Mr. Buhari from the North and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, from the South West, at least one of the two next key positions – the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives — should have been produced by the South East zone.
A former governor of Anambra State and serving senator, Chris Ngige, who was being positioned for the Senate President, lost his bid to return to the upper legislative chamber.
Mr. Ngige was defeated by Uche Ekwunife of the PDP. A serving member of the House of Representatives, Ms. Ekwunife will now represent the Anambra central senatorial district when the next Senate session opens June.
The incumbent Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who represents Enugu West Senatorial District, is returning on the platform of the PDP for the fourth time.
Apart from coming from the North Central zone, the Senate President, David Mark, who is returning to Senate for the fifth time, also belongs to the PDP thus ineligible to occupy the seat.
Faced with this dilemma, the APC should be forced to zone the position of the Senate Presidency to South-South zone where the party has so far won a seat in Edo State. The party’s candidate, Francis Aimikhena, won in Edo North.
However, the possibility of Mr. Aimikhena picking the slot is remote for two reasons. First, he is from the same zone and state as the party’s National Chairman, John Oyegun. Besides, the outgoing governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, might pick the Secretary to the Government of the Federation slot.
Second, Mr. Aimikhena will not be a ranking senator because he coming to the upper chamber for the first time. Consequently, he is barred by the rules of the Senate which says only ranking senators can aspire to the office of the Senate President.
There are also other distant possibilities.
One, although it has become the convention that a party in majority leads the Senate, there is no express rule that says only members of such party should occupy the offices of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President. As a result, the contest for the position might attract ranking senators from the minority party, in this case, the PDP.
There is also the likelihood of a ranking senator like Mr. Ekweremadu agreeing with the APC leadership to defect to the party with to occupy the exalted position.
Ultimately, with no strong contender from the south east, the Senate president seat may be snatched by the North, as it happened with the House of Representatives’ Speaker slot in the outgoing administration.
The House seat was reserved for the South West, but was eventually taken by Aminu Tambuwal, despite the North having Namadi Sambo as Vice President.
The loss by the South West followed the refusal of the region’s lawmakers, many in the opposition parties, to back Mulikat Akande-Adeola, propped by the PDP for the seat. Ms. Akande-Adeola eventually settled for the House Majority Leader slot.
Should that happen, the most likely scenario will be the North Central taking up the Senate President’s slot. The region has several candidates returning on the APC platform.
The fight then, will be straight between a former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, a former governor of Benue State and Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, and a former National Chairman of Chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade.
While Mr. Akume is returning to the Senate for the third time, Messrs. Saraki and Gemade are returning the second time.
In the House of Representatives, no candidate from the South East zone won election on the platform of the APC.
Interestingly though, no fewer than five native Igbos – originally from the South East– won their elections to the House from far away Lagos State. Yet, even from Lagos, they won their tickets on the PDP platform.
Among them are Tony Nwoolu and Rita Orji who won in Oshodi/Isolo and Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituencies.
South East and Senate Presidency
During the fourth session of the Senate (1999-2003), the Office of the Senate President was occupied in quick succession by Evan Enwerem (Imo), Chuba Okadigbo (Anambra) and Pius Anyim (Ebonyi).
In the fifth session (2003-2007), Adoplhus Wabara (Abia) and Ken Nnamani (Enugu) occupied the exalted seat.
In the sixth session, Ike Ekweremadu from Enugu emerged deputy senate president and he still occupies the position till position in the current seventh session.
An Igbo, Emeka Ihedioha, is currently the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.
The spokesperson of the South East chapter of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, who lamented the emerging political scenario, however, said there are other key positions at the federal level that could go to the South East.
Mr. Okechukwu, who also served in the Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, recounted in a chat with PREMIUM TIMES that he had always canvassed that Ndigbo should vote for the APC.
He said he had warned his kinsmen not to “put their eggs in one basket”.