The spokesman for the ninth Senate and the lawmaker representing the Osun Central Senatorial District, Senator Ajibola Basiru, has kicked against zoning of leadership positions in the 10th Assembly.
Basiru said in an exclusive interview with Sunday PUNCH that if all geopolitical zones were allowed to contest freely during the presidential election, then each zone should be allowed a fair contest for the National Assembly leadership.
Following the National Assembly election that took place on February 25, the ruling All Progressives Congress maintains a majority in the Senate, having secured 57 seats.
The APC senators eyeing the Senate presidency have been lobbying their colleagues for support.
Ranking senators who have indicated interest in the job are Jibrin Barau (Kano), Uzor Kalu ( Abia), Sani Musa (Niger), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).
Basiru said, “Personally, I don’t believe that the Senate presidency should be zoned because in the just concluded presidential election, there was nothing like zoning; the leading four candidates came from different parts of Nigeria; two from the southern part – Peter Obi from the South-East, while Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is from the South-West.
“The other two are from the northern part of the country; Rabiu Kwankwaso from the North-West and Atiku Abubakar from the North-East.
“It was a democratic contest whereby people came out from different zones to contest the presidency.”
The lawmaker added that there was no basis for some people to be denied the opportunity to contest for the Senate presidency based on sentiments.
Basiru noted that it was important that Nigerians should begin to de-emphasize religion and ethnicity in democracy.
He added that zoning the leadership of the 10th Assembly might boomerang as there were suits against the presidential election.
He stated, “Let’s also not forget that two of the presidential candidates have approached the court and we never can tell what the outcome will be.
“So, will it not be pre-emptive to zone the National Assembly leadership and if perchance any of them wins, which is a possibility?
“We should not reduce the office of the leader of the 10th Assembly to ethnic or religious considerations. It should be on the basis of merit and acceptability.”
A political analyst, Dr Busari Dauda, advised the APC to balance the power dynamics among the six regions.
He said, “The party should ensure power balance among all the regions, not forgetting the religion constituent in Nigeria’s power equation. For obvious reasons, the Senate President should come from either the South-South or the South-East. Sacrifices will have to be made. Inclusivity should be the government’s mantra.”
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy, Auwal Rafsanjani, said the APC should consider zoning the leadership of the 10th Assembly.
Meanwhile, a civil society group, Campaign for Democracy, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Offences Commission to beam their searchlight on the National Assembly members at both the upper and the lower legislative chambers.
The group, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Ifeanyi Odili, called on the anti-graft agencies to thoroughly probe the alleged bribery involving some senators and newly elected senators of the 10th Senate.