By GNN Correspondent
Ahead of the resumption of the 10th Senate, on Tuesday, July 4th, there are strong Indications that the issue of who becomes the Senate Majority leader has polarised Senators from the North and South.
With the election of the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Jibrin Barau penultimate week by the Senators, the battle has now shifted to who would be the Principal officers of the Senate.
Some Senators, who spoke separately and did not want their names mentioned said that the push by some South West Senators to produce a Yoruba Majority Leader would create more tension in the already tensed 10th Senate following the last election of Presiding officers where the former Zamfara State Governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari from the North West lost to Akpabio from the South-South.
Aside the office of the President of the Senate and the Deputy, who must go through election, the principal offices are purely the affairs of the party that should nominate members for such positions, but the fight for that has turned another dimension with geo-political colouration to the process.
In the Senate, the principal office positions for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC are the Majority Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Whip, Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader and Deputy Minority Whip.
With the completion of the elections, the APC has emerged as the majority party in the Senate with 59 Senators, while the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has 36; the Labour Party, LP has 8; the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP with 2; the Social Democratic Party, SDP has 2 while the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Young Progressives Party, YPP with one Senator each.
With the composition of the membership of the 10th Senate finalised, the six opposition parties have altogether 50 Senators as against APC’s 59.
Since the lawmakers went on break immediately after the inauguration, there have been protests and lobbying for the position of the Majority Leader of the Senate by the Senators, just as the President of the Senate, Akpabio and Barau have been engaged in a series of marathon meetings, waiting for President Bola Tinubu to give the direction the process should go.
According to one of the Senators, a precedent had also been set, saying that where the campaign coordinator of the President of the Senate was often named as Majority Leader and however expressed surprise why the status quo should not be maintained.
The Senator, who argued that a Senator with lesser cognitive experience should not be picked as Majority Leader, however, said called on the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, to as a matter of urgency, address what he described as an imbalance in the Senate, where Senators from the North are already feeling marginalised.
Ordinarily and with regard to the tradition of the Senate, geopolitical zones that have not produced the President of the Senate and the Deputy, are expected to occupy the key positions, especially in the ruling party.
The four geopolitical zones expected to be locked in a battle for the positions are the North East, North Central, South East and South West.
The South-South and North West are already having the President of the Senate and the Deputy and with this, it is clear that the two zones may not be considered for the principal position of the Senate, leaving the North Central as the most favoured.
Our Correspondent gathered the former Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South; the immediate past Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters in the 9th Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central and Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, APC, Oyo North are very much interested in the position of majority leader.
Ndume is from North-East, and Bamidele and Buhari are both from the South-West.
One interesting aspect of it is that while Ndume served as the Director-General of the Akpabio Campaign Council, Bamidele was his Deputy.
Speaking further, the Senator said: “Now, I learnt that they are pushing for Opeyemi Bamidele for Senate Leader. Bamidele is a junior senator, who can’t hold the Red Chamber together during any crisis.
We know the Director General of Akpabio’s campaign was Ali Ndume and Bamidele was the deputy.
“When Ahmad Lawan campaigned and he got the Senate President, it was the Director General of his campaign organisation, Abdullahi Yahaya that became the Senate Leader.
When Ndume was the campaign Director General for Saraki, he became the Senate Leader. When Ndoma Egba was made the campaign coordinator for David Mark, it was why he insisted that he should be the Senate Leader.
“Now, they say they want to make the deputy campaign coordinator the Senate Leader. Even himself should not have started all these. It does not arise.
“If not that some of us, Akpabio would have lost. Even despite the fight that we put on, we escaped with how many votes? Only 17 and Yari needed only nine votes to win. He got 46 already. And you know that at least there are more than 20 people that were in that Akpabio’s camp because of some of us and not because of Akpabio. These are facts.
“Bamidele has never been in the leadership. Ndume was a Minority Leader. He was a Senate Leader. He led the campaign for Akpabio and he’s older than Bamidele in the National Assembly.
It was also gathered yesterday that Akpabio has been under serious fight as Senators are angry with him that barely a few days after his emergence as President of the Senate, he has become inaccessible to his Colleagues.
A source also said that the Senators are angry with him following Monday’s appointment of the Chief of the Staff and his Deputy to the President of the Senate, who are both from the South and are Christians.
Buttressing the argument, a Senator from the north said that in spite of existing practice, where the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate and the Deputy are chosen from the North and South and also reflect the two faiths- Christianity and Islam, Akpabio decided to snub the North.
The Senator said, “That is why he doesn’t seek advice. How can he appoint a Chief of Staff and Deputy all from the South? The deputy should be from the North. He is creating problems for himself.
“If he had sought my advice, he would have taken his Chief of Staff from the South and Deputy from the North”.