Why Orji Kalu may lose out
Following the successful inauguration of the 10th National Assembly and the emergence of the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, and his Deputy, Jibrin Barau, senators have intensified jostling for the chairmanship and membership of key standing committees in the upper chamber.
Akpabio had emerged as the 10th President of the Senate on June 6 after defeating Abdulaziz Yari.
The former Akwa Ibom State governor and Senate Minority Leader had polled 63 votes to defeat Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State, who scored 46 votes.
The senate had since been in recess after the June 6 inauguration, but when the lawmakers resume plenary on July 4 (today), the next battle is the selection of principal officers who would be leaders of the majority and minority caucuses in the upper chamber.
They are the majority leader, deputy majority leader, majority chief whip, deputy majority chief whip, minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.
Some observers say the positions may be shared among the North Central, North West, South East and the North East geopolitical zones.
However, analysts noted on Monday that several factors would come into play in determining who gets what at the upper chamber and that the race may be unpredictable.
But they added that if the voting pattern from the Senate presidency election was to be taken into consideration, the opposition lawmakers may be rewarded for their loyalty to the Akpabio’s camp.
From the voting pattern figures, apart from the ruling All Progressives Congress senators, they said that Akpabio got a large chunk of opposition lawmakers’ votes, from the People’s Democratic Party, Labour Party and Social Democratic Party.
Therefore, political analysts have predicted that there is a chance that opposition senators such as; Darlington Nwokocha (Labour Party, Abia Central); Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe (PDP, Abia South); Tony Okechukwu Nwoye (Labour Party, Anambra North); Ngwu Osita (PDP, Enugu West); Peter Jiya Ndalikali (PDP, Niger South); Fadeyi Oluwole Olubiyi (PDP, Osun Central); Francis Adenigba Fadahunsi (PDP, Osun East); Oyewumi Kamorudeen Olalere (PDP, Osun West); Ireti Heebah Kingibe (Labour Party FCT); Ikra Aliyu Bilbis (PDP, Zamfara Central), may get ‘juicy’ committees.
However, they said that returning senators like the former Abia State governor and minority leader in the 9th Assembly, Orji Uzor Kalu may lose out, as the voting pattern showed that he voted for Yari.
Kalu was in the Senate presidency race, but stepped down to form an alliance with Yari when it was obvious that his chance of emerging victorious was slim.
He had based his campaign on the need for a senator from South Eastern Nigeria to get the Senate president, for justice and equity, considering that the region could not get the president, which it had always clamoured for.
Kalu could not gather the needed support, partly because of the few numbers of senators from his region.
All the six geo-political zones in the country have been adequately represented in the top positions so far decided in both the executive and legislative arms.
Analysts said it would be interesting to see who gets what when the Senate resumes on July 4.
“So many factors may come into play in who gets what, but I think the APC leadership may have a say in who emerges the majority leader, because APC, Akpabio and the presidency may want someone they can smoothly work with.
“Don’t forget how Akpabio came in, so there may also be outside influence in who gets what,” Tope Musowo, public affairs commentator, said.
Similarly, Kunle Okunade, political analyst, said even though the opposition may be rewarded for supporting Akpabio, there are some key positions that the ruling party will still keep for their members.
According to him, “Of course, he would compensate them, but is it possible for him to give the opposition lawmaker the Majority Leader? No, it is a senator from the ruling party that would still get it.
“There are several ways he can compensate them, don’t forget that a large sum of money was shared for them to vote for him, even in hard currency.
“Akpabio has rewarded them handsomely, financially already. Of course, some of them would get ‘juicy’ committees just like you said.
“The ruling party may also not want to have a say and calm tension in the upper chamber by allowing those who lost out in the leadership race to get something.”
A member of the ruling APC who spoke on condition of anonymity said politics is about “fall for me I fall for you.”
According to the politician from the North Central, “We all knew why Senator Godswill Akpabio, for instance, was anointed to be the Senate president. He stepped down for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and said nice things about him during the presidential primaries. So, it was payback time. I strongly believe that those opposition senators that voted for Akpabio would be handsomely rewarded too.”
As the National Assembly reconvenes today, what is obvious is that the next few days would be full of intrigues among the major political gladiators in the upper chamber.