New Telegraph

Governors eying the Senate in 2023

CHUKWU DAVID, here examines serving governors who are fighting to remain politically relevant, by angling to come to the Senate after serving eight years as Chief Executive Officers of their states. He also captures those in the Senate who want to return to the apex legislative chamber in the next legislative Assembly, as well as those who may be warming up to emerge as the President of the Senate

 

There are some serving and former governors who want to occupy the nation’s apex legislative Assembly come 2023. There are also ex-governors currently serving in the Red Chamber, who secured return tickets in the last political party primaries across the country.

It has been observed that, after the first four years of the country’s return to civil rule, the Nigerian Senate has gradually turned into a retirement ground for former governors, who would not want to go into political oblivion after serving out their constitutionally granted eight years.

Most times, as a result of this seeming unwritten trend in the ranks of serving governors, once the tenure of a governor is coming to an end, the Senator representing the District where the governor comes from, will either be preparing to lock horns with the governor or surrender his seat willingly to the State Chief Executive Officer.

Consequently, ahead of the 2023 general polls, some former and incumbent governors are already positioning themselves for election to the 10th Senate.

 

From available statistics, over 20 serving and former governors in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other minor opposition parties, are in the Senatorial race for their various Districts.

 

Presently, 16 former governors are in the Senate. They are Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Tanko Al Makura (Nasarawa), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Theodore Orji (Abia), Chimaraoke Nnamani (Enugu), Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto).

The former and serving governors contesting in the 2023 Senatorial election are: Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Tanko Al-makura (Nasarawa), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Sani Bello (Niger), and Samuel Ortom (Benue).

Others are: Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) and Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia).

Out of the 109 Senators who are currently serving in the Ninth Senate, there are 14 former governors serving as Senators, representing different Senatorial Districts in the Northern and Southern Nigeria.

 

The pre-2023 general elections horse trading notwithstanding, Sunday Telegraph checks indicate that there are some of the former Governors who are likely going to be eyeing office of  the President of the Senate. The top among them are Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who holds the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Another prospective top contender is the present Senate Chief Whip and former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. Also likely to angle for the highly coveted seat, is the incumbent of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi.

Umahi, is however, in a disadvantaged position since he is going to be a first timer, if he eventually makes it to the country’s highest law making Chamber. Kalu and Umahi are both of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

In the Senate, and indeed the National Assembly, seniority is a critical factor in attaining leadership positions. By the conventions of the Senate and the House of Representatives, old members are usually preferred for the positions of presiding and principal officers.

 

However, who becomes what as far as the leadership of the Senate is concerned, depends on the outcome of the Presidential elections, going by the zoning arraignment being practiced by different political parties as well as the federal character principles.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that Tambuwal’s Senate presidency ambition was part of his trade off to step down for the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, during the May presidential primary.

 

Sunday Telegraph also learnt that his  emergence as Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council was strategic to enable him to be considered for the Senate Presidency, if the opposition party wins.

 

It is important to note that Tambuwal is not new to the National Assembly. He was a former Speaker of the House of Representatives before he contested and won the governorship seat in Sokoto State.

 

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, during one of his tackles against the main opposition party, hinted that Tambuwal was desperately positioning for the top legislative job ahead of the 2023 general elections.

 

In the APC, it was gathered that the serving Senate Chief Whip and former Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who currently represents Abia North, is also interested in the exalted seat. He has advantage over Umahi because in the next dispensation, he will be a ranking member in the Senate while Umahi will be a fresher in the Red Chamber, and may not be considered for the plum job.

 

One of the factors that may work for Kalu above Umahi, is that he is a very close ally of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu. He has on many occasions, expressed his unalloyed support for the Tinubu presidency. This is why he is the one pushing the campaign more than other APC chieftains.

 

The Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, is also said to be seriously  eyeing the top position. Although he does not have much legislative experience, he is said to be poised to fight for the seat once his party, APC, zones it to the South East.

Another contender for the top seat is Senator Kabiru Gaya of the APC from Kano State. He is the Senator currently representing Kano South Senatorial District and is one of the longest serving lawmakers in the Senate. However, some of them have made major legislative inputs in Ninth Senate.

Senator Sam Egwu, PDP, Ebonyi North

Senator Samuel Ominyi Egwu, is a former Governor of Ebonyi State and represents Ebonyi North Senatorial District. He is a ranking member of the Senate, having been elected first in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. He has made some remarkable legislative inputs in the Senate via bills, motions and contributions to debates on the floor of the nation’s apex legislative Assembly.

For instances he solely sponsored, “A Bill for an Act to Establish the Federal School of Nursing and Midwifery, Igbeagu Izzi, and for Related Matters, 2022 (SB. 836); “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020 (SB. 479), “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Procurement Act to Provide for and Adopt a Local Content Policy and Timely Completion of Procurement Process, and for other related Matters, 2016; “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of the Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency and Other Related Matters.

(SB. 255) and “A Bill for an Act to provide for the Prevention, Control and Management of Sickle Cell Anemia and for other Purposes connected therewith (SB. 128), among others.

Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, PDP, Bayelsa West

Senator Seriake Dickson, a former Governor of Bayelsa State has used his position to fight for the well-being of the Niger Delta communities, which have been suffering from prolonged environmental degradation, occasioned by oil exploration in the region. He has been visibly vocal in defending not only the interest of the people of Bayelsa West but also the entire Niger Delta region, particularly on issues affecting the oil producing communities in the area.

Dickson, for instance, led other Senators to walk out of the Senate Chambers in protest on the day the PIB was passed because according to him, the three per cent earmarked of the host communities was insensitive to the plight of the oil producing communities, who have been facing degradation as a result of oil exploration in the region.

Also, in the recent confirmation of Lauretta Onochie and Charles Ogunmola, for Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board appointment, Senator Dickson, vehemently objected to the confirmation of the two nominees, noted in his objection to Onochie and some other nominees alleged not to come from oil producing areas, warned that bad precedents should not be laid with such confirmation, arguing that the two are not from oil producing areas in their respective States, which was a violation of relevant provisions of the NDDC Act.

Senator Gabriel Suswam, PDP, Benue North-East

Senator Gabriel Suswam represents Benue North East Senatorial District, and former Governor of Benue State. He is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power.

He is the sponsor of the “Electricity Bill, 2022. With respect to the objectives of the bill, Clause 1 provides that the Bill seeks to among other things – repeal the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, consolidate all legislations in Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and enact an omnibus Electricity Act for the industry to provide the ideal legal and institutional framework that will regulate the post –privatization phase of the industry in Nigeria. The Bill also seeks to provide the framework that would attract more investors to leverage on the modest gains of the privatized electricity industry in Nigeria to accelerate growth in power generation capacity and improve utilization of generated power through increased investment in new technologies that that would enhance transmission and distribution of generated power and minimize aggregate value chain loses.

Chimaroke Nnamani PDP, Enugu East

Chimaroke Nnamani, represents Enugu East Senatorial District, and served as the governor of Enugu State between 1999 and 2007. He became the only Senator to oppose the infamous Social Media Control Bill. When the bill came up for debate in the Red Chamber, he argued that there were legislations in the country that addressed defamation, slander and peddling of fake news. He emphasized: “In principle, I do not only oppose this bill, I condemn it in its entirety. This bill is an attempt to surreptitiously introduce censorship into our laws. This bill is pure censorship; it has no business in contemporary Nigeria. Therefore, I vigorously oppose this bill.”

Senator Nnamani is also a recognized champion of women and child rights. On October 11, 2019 he called for legislation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and the girl child.

Assessing the performance of the current set of former governors serving in the Senate, Martins Onovo, a presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 election, said it is particularly disappointing, rather it is very poor.

“What we expect of them as the former governors with their political experience, their governance experience was that they would have learnt from their mistakes, and contribute significantly to the improvement of legislation as former governors, but it seems that almost every one of them has no significant contributions, and that is very disappointing.

“A lot of people are now accusing them of seeing the Senate as a retirement home that looks like what they are doing. Let me give you an example. The Petroleum Industry Act, we expected them as governors, as experienced they are, would have been able to be much more productive, but you saw the quality of law that they passed.

“The Act that doesn’t even have full implementation as at today, it was very cosmetic. It was duly contentious; it diverted attention from its original and purpose. Then more particularly and more impactful, they have not been discussing budgets very robustly before passing the Appropriation Act.”

He said that as former governors they would contribute to Federal Government implementation significantly. “You can see that since 2016 Buhari’s budgets have made very terrible budgets and in 2016 we called the budgets ‘Budgets of Ruination,’ they said because we are in opposition we don’t want to see anything good in the government, but the economy is not doing well.

“We started our analysis about this reckless unpatriotic borrowing; you will expect that if a governor had led the state in a financial mess because of borrowing. Yet as Senators they fail to stress fiscal prudence, but you see all of them, they are either aggrieved or they are playing politics.

“You can see the situation where the Nigerian economy is now, where the service obligations, not debt payments, outstrips the national budget. Why will all these governors, with all the experience, sit there and they are not able to think, and they are not able to see this. Some of them have been into those processes for eight years and they are not able to see that they are not able to contribute to prevent it from the whole country. So you see the general regard we have for national interest, or lack of patriotism.

“Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, made himself a rubber stamp President. It is disastrous. Since it has turned into a rubber stamp, it is redundant, that is the meaning. The legislature is the heart of democracy, because that is where the ideal of a democratic government by the majority is reviewed properly, discussed openly and thoroughly.”

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