Power balancing dilemma: Choosing next Senate President in a regionally diverse Nigeria
By Haruna Abdullahi Haruna Abdullahi wrote from Abuja
Media Trust Limited
After the gubernatorial elections yesterday, the political climate will inevitably shift towards the upcoming struggle for control of the 10th National Assembly. Even though this contest is still a few months away, there are indications that newly-elected assembly members have already started engaging in a behind-thescenes game of negotiations, permutations, and power plays. These assembly members are meticulously scheming within and beyond party lines, trying to manoeuvre one another and gain a strategic advantage over their rivals. The stakes are high in this game, as the outcome will determine who wields significant power and influence over the country’s legislative process. The new assembly members are aware that the political landscape is complex and multi-dimensional, and that success requires a sophisticated approach that considers the interests of various factions and interest groups. They are therefore engaging in a series of complex negotiations with different stakeholders, working to build alliances and gain the support of key players in the political arena. As the process of electing the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, approaches, many pundits are anticipating a tumultuous period ahead. It is widely believed that there may be a temporary collapse of party structures, power blocs, regional, and religious divisions as politicians work towards having the upper hand in negotiations. Therefore, in the days ahead, groups of politicians are likely to unite around common interests or goals, regardless of their political, regional, ethnic, and religious affiliations. At the moment, the game is being played in a highly secretive and covert manner, with each player working to conceal their true intentions and strategies from their opponents. The newlyelected lawmakers understand that any misstep or miscalculation will not only lead to a loss of power and influence but could also jeopardize the nation’s lawmaking process. Looking at the political diversity of the recently elected members of the Senate, pundits are envisioning a more robust and articulate assembly. Interestingly, among them are intellectually savvy personalities drawn from different political parties, as well as many who hold high-ranking status or who are former governors of states. Despite these positive indicators, if the process of electing individuals to occupy various positions is not handled carefully, these positive indicators will pale into insignificance, and what was supposed to be a blessing will automatically become a major albatross. The question on the lips of many is who will become the next Senate President and what factors will shape the decision-making process for choosing the occupant of this exalted position? With the significant role of the Senate in the democratic process, the decision-making process will undoubtedly be influenced by several factors. One such factor is the level of experience and competence of the aspirants and their ability to effectively navigate the complex legislative process. Driving the formulation and passage of critical bills and policies requires a high level of skill and experience. Out of the serving senators who sought re-election on February 25th, 30 emerged victorious; indicating that one of the ranking senators will likely become the next Senate President. This is because the Senate President is traditionally chosen from among the ranking senators, who have been in the chamber for a longer period of time and have gained more experience and influence within the Senate. Senator Sani Musa, one of the 30 re-elected senators, is a leading candidate for the position of Senate President. Since his election into the Red Chambers in 2019, he has skilfully nurtured and built relationships of trust with his colleagues across the political spectrum. His personality, characterized by authenticity, determination, charisma, and generosity, has earned him a reputation that transcends partisan lines. These relationships have enabled him to effectively champion and secure the interests of his senatorial district, an enviable feat. Senator Sani Musa’s qualities and qualifications go beyond being a ranking senator. His ability to nurture and build relationships of trust with colleagues across the political spectrum, his reputation on both sides of the aisle for being genuine, a go-getter, charismatic, and generous, as well as his track record of getting things done to the benefit of his senatorial district, could enhance his chances of becoming the Senate President. In a highly competitive and unpredictable political environment such as the Nigerian National Assembly, Senator Sani’s support and trust of colleagues across different parties and regions could be a game-changer and place him above other contenders. No doubt, a Senate President with Senator Sani’s qualities and broad spectrum of support would be more likely to build consensus and effectively lead the Senate toward achieving national goals and objectives. Another crucial factor that needs to be considered while selecting the occupant of the third-highest position in the government is the importance of promoting regional balancing and inclusiveness. It is necessary to ensure that all the regions of the country are represented and that their voices are heard at the highest levels of government. It is a well-known fact that the North-Central geopolitical zone, which is represented by Senator Sani Musa, has suffered from marginalization and neglect over the years. Despite the zone’s significant contributions to the nation’s development, successive governments have failed to recognize its importance and have not done enough to address its concerns. It is a fact that the region is the only part of the country that has never produced a President and Vice-President since 1960. The neglect of the region is evident. The North Central has been a hotbed of unrest and volatility, with militia attacks and sectarian crises lurking around every corner. The region is constantly on edge, plagued by a multitude of conflicts - religious and ethnic, territorial and economic - that threatens to tear the very fabric of its society apart. The fallout from this unrest has been disastrous for the region’s economy, particularly in the area of agriculture, the lifeblood of its people. The once-thriving farmlands that once dotted the region’s landscape are now lying fallow, abandoned by farmers who fear for their lives in the face of incessant attacks. With Senator Sani Musa being a representative of the zone, he would be a suitable candidate for the position of Senate President. He would be able to bring the concerns of the region to the forefront and work towards promoting its interests. Although it is commonly believed that scheming, negotiations, and permutations are integral components of the Nigerian political system, it is important to prioritize national interest, peace, fairness, competence, and prosperity above all forms of parochial, provincial, and archaic sentiments that could plunge the nation into an abyss. Therefore, all actors, including politicians, civil society organizations, media, and pressure groups across the country, must foster a culture of national integration and ethnic and regional balancing by projecting and supporting Senator Musa Sani to become the next Senate President.