By David Lawani, Abuja
A group, Coalition For Good Governance & Economic Justice in Africa in partnership with South South called for Senate Presidency have noted that zoning the Senate Presidency to the South-South region remains the best compensation to the people of the region in view of the volume of votes the All Progressives Congress, APC, President-Elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu received in the just concluded Presidential election.
In a press conference addressed by the Convener, Prince Kassim Afegbua at the former Sheraton Hotel now Abuja Continental in Abuja explained that they are appealing to the party to in the interest of ethnic, regional and religious balance cede the Senate Presidency to the South-South region.
He stressed further that the South-South geopolitical zone occupies a very formidable and remarkable consideration as the treasure base of the country noting that it should be accorded special recognition to compensate for all her sacrifices thus far adding that what the South-South region has contributed to the nation no other region has done that hence the need to ensure the next Senate president emerges from the zone.
Afegbua said: ” With the foregoing, it would be an act of injustice to accord privilege to the South East over the South-South for the Senate Presidency. It would amount to the party giving one of its biggest prizes to a geopolitical zone that contributed the least to its victory. The import of this to members in the future would be that a sense of entitlement and heavy investments in the emotional appeal is all a region needs to score big in the post-election scramble for power, not results at the polls. This is damaging for any party with future plans to maintain its hold on power.
” It is clear that going by Nigeria’s history, its constitutional and moral obligation to ensure social justice and equitable representation of the sociocultural groups and geo-political zones that make up the country, as well as recent political perks and privileges enjoyed by each region; the most deserving region for the Senate Presidency is the South-South geo-political zone. To open his administration on a positive and optimistic note, the President-Elect must lead the party in this direction.
” In this dispensation, under the prevailing circumstances, we strongly believe that the incoming president Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC can only satisfy the necessary need to balance ethnic, regional, and religious concerns by ceding the Senate Presidency and Speakership to other religions. In light of this, we appeal to the leadership of the ruling party, the APC, and the President-elect to cede the Senate President to the South-South geopolitical zone.
” The argument as to why it must be a member credibly subscribed to other faith is self-evident and requires no elaborate explanation or defence. With the incoming President and Vice President both Muslims in a country with a compelling argument for balancing of all the factors and forces, it will only be reasonable and rational to allow other religions to occupy the Senate President and Speakership positions. The interest of this group is for the Senate President to be zoned to the South-South.
” The South-South geopolitical zone occupies a very formidable and remarkable consideration as the treasure base of the country that ought to be accorded special recognition to compensate for all her sacrifices thus far. The economic importance of the zone and its strategic relevance to stabilising the politics of the nation, cannot be over-emphasised. In the last election, the ruling party, the APC, was able to make serious in-roads into the zone that has been under the threshold of the opposition PDP. Aside from winning Rivers State, the APC came second in the other five states, thus simplifying the requirement needed by the Presidential candidate to defeat his opponents.
” While many fair-minded actors agree in principle that the Senate Presidency must return to the South given the fact that the incumbent is from the North, similar to the Vice President-elect; and with the South West out of the contest given that it is the home of the President-Elect, there are those who have made a case for the South East based on the region’s perpetual cry of marginalization and the need to balance the power equation.
” But what the South-East desires is the presidency of the country, anything short of that is a slap on their face, moreso that the zone had occupied the seat of senate president on five occasions, for eight years, and deputy senate president position for 12 years, in the last 24 years of our fledgling democracy. In the minds of those who make the argument, to pacify the South is to indulge the South East and to heed its call for a sense of belonging”, he said.
The body reiterated that in the last 24 years, the South East Region has had a fair share of the Senate president and Deputy which automatically rule them out of the equation noting that for equity and justice, the South-South region is in a better position to take up the task of presiding over the 10th National Assembly.
He said: ” Let me re-emphasise that in the last 24 years, the South East has enjoyed the unique privilege of producing the Senate President on five different occasions. Senators Enwerem, Okadigbo, Wabara, Anyim, and Nnamani, all of whom held sway as the Presidents of the Senate in the present fourth republic are all from the South East. If you include the additional stretch of 12 years during which the South East also held the Deputy Senate President position, that amounts to a near total control of that arm of government, and a more than earned political compensation.
” Moreover, considering that the contributions of each region to the victory of the ruling party is also a significant factor in the power-sharing tussle, as there would be no power to share without electoral triumph; it is just as important to scrutinize the numbers the South East gave to the APC in the presidential election.
” Indeed, whilst Senators from the region who are angling for the Senate President position manage to secure convincing victory in their various senatorial districts, with some of them pulling thousands of votes, the President-Elect was only able to claim a negligible figure, even though both contests, (the Senatorial and Presidential) held on the same day and followed the same process. This points to a possible conspiracy in which the Senators from the Eastern extraction happily traded away the President-Elect’s chances to secure their own victories. If this is the case, as the evidence suggests, it exposes a sore lack of belief in the President-Elect and a most damaging act of self-preservation.
” Contrary to this, the South-South region stood firm and contributed a significant percentage of votes to the President-Elect’s victory. The APC came first in Rivers State and claimed over 45% of the total number of votes in the other five states. This is despite the historic status of the region as an opposition stronghold. The members of the party from the South-South displayed a high sense of duty and loyalty to the party, canvassing votes not just for their individual positions but equally for the President-Elect. Indeed, without their outstanding show of belief, the President-Elect may have well faltered in achieving the mandatory 25% spread in the two-thirds of states of the Federation”, he noted.
Also responding, the Country Director, of Coalition For Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa, John Mayaki in his contribution said with the emergence of the same-faith presidential pairing of male members of the South West and North Eastern parts of the country there is a need to balance the political process leading to the (s)election of important national office holders.
According to him: ” The history of political power distribution in Nigeria and present dynamics justify the ceding of the Senate Presidency to a Christian from the South-South geo-political zone of the country.
” It is perhaps the most effective way to ensure a satisfactory inclusion of the hugely important region in the leadership of the country; a development certain to calm agitations in the region and help the country avoid possible uprisings that may threaten its economy, especially as it is about to veer into uncharted waters with the planned removal of the oil subsidy.
” Our stand is based on Nigeria’s history and the need for inclusive leadership as a purveyor to peace and stability in a country as diverse as polarized as Nigeria”, he noted