Upon his successful election to represent Ebonyi South District, the Ebonyi State governor, Engr David Nweze Umahi, who will be leaving office by May ending, made news on 22nd March for declaring his interest in being elected as the Senate President in the 10th Senate.
The governor, who equally contested for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket but lost to Bola Tinubu at the primaries in June 2022, has since his declaration of interest in the Senate Presidency position, continued to express strong confidence in his ability to lead the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Umahi has joined other senators-elect aspiring for the same position both from the southeast and other geopolitical zones in making a case for why they should be elected.
As the contest for the number three citizen of the country gathers steam, the ruling APC has a big role to play in deciding who emerges because it has a majority number of seats both in the upper and lower houses.
There are issues around zoning the seat to a particular geo-political zone, but the ruling party is yet to decide which region it should go to.
There are new and old lawmakers jostling for the position. Apart from Umahi, other Senators-elect currently, eyeing the position across geo-political zones are incumbent Senate President, Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North); Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North); Deputy Senate leader, Senator Abdul Ningi (APC, Bauchi Central); Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa Ibom North-West); Senator Sani Musa (APC, Niger East); Senator Abdul- Aziz Yari (APC, Zamfara); and Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North).
Apart from zoning for political equity and balancing, other issues being considered are religion and experience.
While some are of the view that the party leadership must avoid another Muslim-Muslim leader for the top job in Senate, others argue that competence and experience should form the basis for electing who will take up the job.
On the issue of zoning, many have clamoured for the Senate Presidency to be zoned to the Southeast. Senator Kalu, a former governor of Abia State has also used that as a campaign strategy.
Umahi has equally, reechoed that, stressing that the region needs to be compensated with the number three citizen position to counter the perception being held by those agitating for self-determination that the people are being alienated in the governance of the country.
In an interview with Channels Television, Umahi said his aspiration for the presidency of the 10th Senate is based on his experience and pedigree, arguing that the issue of being a first-timer in the upper chamber should not be a criterion to disqualify aspirants.
He said: “Leadership in the first place is about the ability to carry people along. It is about the ability to understand the problems you are going to solve. It is not how long you have been in the system; it is how far you have grasped the problems of the country. I am not saying that all the people campaigning are not qualified. I am talking about myself.
“So, I feel that before I joined politics, I have done extremely very well in businesses, being an employer of people, having different shades of opinions, managing a lot of businesses, people’s characters and diverse challenges of daily life.”
Speaking further on his experiences and exploits in governance, Umahi said that when he became the chairman of the PDP Ebonyi State chapter, which lasted for five years, he changed the narratives of the PDP. He cited the building of a magnificent edifice as party secretariat for PDP in the state, which according to him is the best so far across the country.
On becoming the deputy governor under Martin Elechi (2011 – 2015), Umahi said he was humble to his then boss (but now his predecessor) and learnt a lot about administration and leadership generally and later emerged as governor.
Reeling out his past leadership experiences both in the private sector and public offices, the outgoing governor said he feels eminently qualified to be elected as the senate president.
“I feel that in terms of the challenges I met as the chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum for eight years; in terms of the role I have played as chairman of NEC committee on the farmers and herdsmen crisis; in terms of the role I have played even at the risk of my life, and even being branded as a saboteur by my brothers and sisters for the unity of the country; in terms of my wealth of experiences in leadership administration; in terms of my knowledge and experiences in project management and execution, I feel that I am eminently qualified.”
He said there is a need for balancing of power in the country by allowing the position to go to the Southeast.
Gov Umahi Qualified for the Senate Presidency Job – Orji
Making a case for why the governor is qualified for the Senate’s top job, Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, Barr. Uchenna Orji, said Umahi has in-depth knowledge of the workings of the Legislature. He said Umahi’s administration has had a smooth working relationship with the legislative arm in the state to execute governance tasks for the good of the people of the state, adding that he went ahead to support the speaker of the State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru, to emerge as his successor.
Orji said: “Umahi as Governor has excellent cooperation and working relationship with the Legislative Arm of government
“This accounted for his support for a successor in office that is from the background of the Legislature- Speaker for 8 years and Legislator for 12 years.
“Umahi has in-depth knowledge of the workings of the Legislature as well as Intergovernmental relations
“As Deputy Governor, he stooped to conquer and was cracking the hardest kernel of his boss in fervent humility and profound loyalty.
“As State Party Chairman, he built the biggest Party office ever built by any democratic government in Africa.
“As Governor, he made Ebonyi State a reference point in innovative development in Nigeria.”
Orji averred that if given the opportunity, to be elected as Senate President, Umahi will prove that he “is a Ranking Leader in capacity, experience, passion for service delivery and he is a rare leadership gem in Africa.”
On the issue of ranking in the Senate as one of the criteria for being elected as Senate President, Orji maintained that such consideration has “suppressed the pre-eminence and considerations of the rule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on who qualifies to be elected as President of Nigeria’s Senate.”
He pointed out that the eligibility for being a Senate President is clear in Section 50 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which says that “every member of the Senate who has taken the oath of membership is eligible to be voted for as Senate President.”
“Ranking is not given any iota of pre-eminence. It is expected that in electing a Senate President, emphasis should be on nation-building, capability and character to lead the Senate to achieve the aspirations of the Nigerian people. The Senate members are known to be distinguished representatives of the people who must emphasize the virtue of mental and moral character (not ranking) as a yardstick for who is to be elected President of the Senate,” Orji added.
He also argued that the Senate Standing Order does not preclude first-timers from contesting the position.
READ ALSO: Muslim Lawmakers Desiring Senate President Lack Respect For Nigeria Constitutions — Lukman
In the Senate, Standing Order 3, Rule 2 of the Senate Standing Orders 2022 as amended provides that the nomination of presiding officers and appointments of Principal Officers and other Officers of the Senate shall be by the ranking of Senators.
“In determining rank, the following Order shall apply.
(i) Senators returning based on the number of times reelected;
(ii) Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives,
(iii) Senators elected as Senators for the first time.”
Subsection III supports the point being made by Orji by including first-timers as one of the categories of senators qualified to seek an election into office.
He observed that what ultimately determines who emerges is the mindset of the party in Majority, in this case, the APC, the interest of the majority of the Distinguished Senators and the prominence of power play between the ranking Senators and the first timers.
“Mind you, the first-timers are greater in number under the 10th Senate. No rule says that ranking members will determine who is elected as President of the Senate. All the inaugurated Senators have equal voting rights. The ranking Senators have no extra- influence or right of first refusal in who becomes the Senate President,” the Information Commissioner further argued.
He noted that in the 10th Senate, Nigerians want a Senate Presidency that will be vibrant, and balance the “national political equilibrium and Geopolitical tripod,” adding that “South East deserves the fullest consideration in this regard.”
“In Zoning considerations, South East is one of the three major parts of the tripod. In the history of Nigeria’s independence, the leadership of this Nation has always stood on the tripod of East, West, and North. This is fair and equitable.”
READ ALSO: Restoring Constitutional Order In APC Not Negotiable – Lukman
He stressed that in zoning the position to Southeast, the Party in power (APC) and the senators who are electing the Senate President “should look at pedigree not ranking; they should look at those who have served with proven records of probity and accountability.
“They should make performance and leadership experience count and not the number of tenures spent by a ranking Senator.”
He expressed optimism that Governor Umahi “is one of those from South East that will bring glory and honour to the 10th Senate.”
“David Nweze Umahi as Governor for eight years has been outstanding in his cooperation and smooth working relationship with the Legislative Arm of government leading to the passage and signing into law of key legislations that have brought transformation like never before in Ebonyi State.
“Umahi has in-depth knowledge of the workings of the Legislature as well as intergovernmental relations. He will provide legislative ingenuity that will solve the lingering security challenges in the State.
“As a man with private sector experience, he will provide legislative support that will liberalize economic development in Nigeria and transform the future of this country,” Orji further stated.
Umahi’s Emergence As Senate President will address Insecurity, Agitations in Southeast – Ohanaeze Ndigbo
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has expressed optimism that the emergence of David Umahi as Senate President from the Southeast, would help to calm frayed nerves causing the agitations for separation and also address insecurity in the region.
According to a report in Daily Post, the Secretary-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said Umahi would ensure that the Southeast is adequately represented at the national level and he would use his influence as Senate President to ensure that insecurity, Biafra agitation ends in the Southeast.