National Assembly leadership and the South-East question, By Emeka Alex Duru

The temptation was strong the other day, to ignore members of the South East Senate caucus as they argued on the need to zone the senate presidency to their region. I had reasons for almost dismissing them. Some of them making the case, are known to have worked against the zone and larger Igbo interest at some point and have denied it its due on major national issues. For them, what matters is what favours them or what they stand to gain at any time. To paraphrase The Mafia Manager, a guide to corporate Machiavelli, by the curious author, V, theirs is a world driven by one aim only: profit, and not averse to using any means to ensure and increase that profit. Thus, brandishing South East to facilitate their individual cravings, is no longer a new thing.


But no matter the antecedents of the lawmakers, the logic of their presentation cannot be wished away. The senators urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) to zone the Senate Presidency of the 10th Assembly to the South-East for reasons of justice and inclusiveness.


Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP-Anambra South), who read the communique from their meeting, told the President-elect and APC hierarchy to be sensitive to the times in Nigeria and ensure the country continues to thrive on the part of equity, unity and fairness to the tripod of Nigeria (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) and the geopolitical zones.


He also argued that with the side-lining of the South-East from producing the Presidential candidates of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the general elections, the only means through which the zone can be compensated and given a sense of belonging is for the zone to produce the next Senate President.


“This will restore confidence of the people from the South-East and South-South geo-political zones and indeed all Nigerians in the unity of the country”, he said.


The senators are right. Their zone demand attention and recognition. In our system, symbolisms matter. The positions that go to the zones matter. Ordinarily, these are issues that require being looked into. But this is a setting where principles have no place in politics. Our politicians are selfish and deadly. They take no prisoners but rather go for a kill. Whatever the demands by the South East Senate caucus could therefore be seen as mere rants of a people schemed out of a power game.


While the lawmakers, cried, the APC had gone far in determining who gets what in its power equation. The APC National Working Committee, (NWC), had during the week, zoned the Senate Presidency to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West. The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.


In settling for the arrangement, the party was said to have adopted the zoning template and candidates of its President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that favoured Senators Godswill Akpabio/ Barau Jubrin for Senate leadership; and Messrs Abass Tajudeen/Ben Kalu for House of Representatives leadership.


So, the South East question, is again kept in abeyance. There is, of course, an extent to which you can blame the APC in its sharing formular. Politics, is a game of numbers. Every politics is local. The trending argument by hawks in the APC is that the South East did not vote massively for the party during the election, hence does not deserve any significant position in its power sharing. That is however, hackneyed and a carryover of the President Muhammadu Buhari era that saw him constantly talking down on the region.


The current APC leadership cannot run away with such cheap propaganda. Ebonyi governor, David Umahi, delivered over 95 percent of the elected seats at the state and national levels to the APC. In Imo, Governor Hope Uzodimma, muscled the other political parties out of contention and literally handed the state to the party. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and others ensured that the APC made impacts in Abia. In Anambra, the party recorded some gains. It was perhaps, in Enugu, that the APC did not make much showing, essentially because of the internal crisis in its fold.


A party that registered such impacts in a zone that the current APC-led government has treated with disdain, cannot be rightly said to have been rejected by the people. Compared with the South-South, the South East has shown more loyalty to the party. The states in the South-South; Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa are currently under the PDP column. Even Cross River State where APC is in control, will revert to the PDP on May 29. There is therefore nothing spectacular that can be said to be going for Akpabio (from Akwa Ibom) in working for APC in his state that cannot be said of Orji Kalu (Abia) and Osita Izunaso (Imo), who are also ranking Senators.


Ignoring the South East at this critical time, equally amounts to dismissing the commendable roles of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, immediate past Minister for Science and Technology, George Muoghalu, Director-General, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Chris Ngige, Minister for Labour and Productivity, in stabilising the party at its formative stage. Onu, is on record to have made the necessary contacts that culminated in the fusion of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and fragments of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) into APC. Ngige, who left the PDP for the ACN following his irreconcilable differences with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, was on hand to market the APC in the East. These are realities that should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand.


But then, what is at play, is giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. The henchmen in the APC have taken their decision to sideline the South East. Buhari did so and seemed unperturbed. PDP did so in its presidential primary and currently paying dearly for it.


If the incoming administration does so, it won’t be out of tune with the system. After all, the iconic Chinua Achebe, noted in his concise book, The Trouble with Nigeria, that “Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo”. If that is what is playing out in the emerging 10th National Assembly leadership, time will tell.


*Emeka is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos









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