The tendency for former governors to go to the Senate has become so pervasive that it might be an unwritten rule.
National chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomohle, recently said he was not comfortable with the influx of ex-governors to the Senate. He said former governors have turned the Senate to their retirement home. It may have become clear why he did not seek to move from Government House, Benin, to the Senate, unlike many of his colleagues.
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Edo State has not fallen into the trending transition of governors to the Senate. If Oshiomohle had not become chairman of the ruling party, and thus maintained political relevance, he might have fallen for the move. It was Senator Jonathan Zwingina who told me in an interview when he was in the Senate that politics was like opium.
Those who taste it hardly stop going for it. Another former governor, Donald Duke, who did so much for tourism in Cross River State, where he was in charge between 1999 and 2003, has also expressed his dissatisfaction with the trend. He would rather opt to be President, as he now does, rather than retire to the Senate.
The tendency for former governors to go to the Senate has become so pervasive that it might be an unwritten rule. Over time, all states in the country may have all their ex-governors in the Senate. As the next election draws nearer, no fewer than two governors who have completed their constitutional tenure in the office have declared their intention to go to the Senate. Governor of Ogun State Ibikunle Amosun, who came into the office from the Senate, says he is returning to that original political abode.
Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, has also served notice that he would proceed to the Senate. The implication is that Senator Hope Uzodinma, who represents the zone, should kiss the seat goodbye. He had defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which he was elected, to the ruling APC in the state, perhaps to further his political career.
But the governor has become the big masquerade in the arena for which the serving senator must give way.
Unfolding events would yet show if Senator Osita Izunaso, former organising secretary of the APC, who, we hear, may have left the party for the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), will stand election to take back his seat in the Senate, which had been taken by Uzodinma. If Izunaso contends for the seat, it would be a straight fight between him and Okorocha.
It was Izunaso who unseated the former strongman of Imo politics, Francis Arthur Nzeribe, from the Senate. It would be a herculean task to battle Okorocha for the seat. But nothing is taken for granted in politics, which is why no one can easily predict where the pendulum of victory would swing during elections.
Okorocha, like ex-governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, who retired to the Senate, would love to join his colleague in the red chamber. Nnamani was unseated from the Senate but new wishes to return there. In Abia, former Governor Theodore Orji moved straight to the Senate from Government House at the end of his tenure. His predecessor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, also wants to go to the Senate. He is working very hard at the project.
In Yobe, former Governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim, who has done three terms in the Senate, now wants to vacate the seat for the incumbent. Ibrahim has been in the Senate since he left office as governor in 2007. The Yobe East senatorial zone has become a baton for governors. Giedam may be there until his successor is set for his or her turn.
In Nasarawa, the former governor moved to the Senate and has remained there, perhaps to hand the baton to current Governor Tanko Al-Makura, if they hail from the same zone.
In Akwa Ibom, ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio, who moved straight to the Senate, has defected to the ruling party in alignment with his previous political foes. He may be set to remain there as long as he can.
There are many examples and my search efforts may have missed out on a sizable number. There is a tiny gap between a desire to serve the people and a quest for relevance. Long after Senator Zwingina told me, years ago, that politics was addictive,
I have come to make head and tail of what he meant. What plays out in this transition, as it seems to be, is the desire to remain in power in perpetuity.
Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau State, now in the Senate, wants to return there. He has bought the form to contest again. The tendency has been for former governors to form ‘another force’ from the Senate to still exact a level of control over the states they governed. There has often been a clash of interests as exemplified in Kano, where Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is at loggerheads with his successor.
They never look away from power. They feel like fish out of water without it, which is perhaps why ex-Governor Akpabio has aligned with the ruling party to engage in a power game with the incumbent governor of his state.
There are less real and altruistic reasons for which they seek these Senate seats.
The continued rift with their successors, who they never want to give a free rein to govern, is an indication that going to the Senate is just a means to still stay close to power, not necessarily out of a desire to serve the people.
If they stay in the Senate to help make laws for good governance of the country and not engage in looking back to the power they left in the state with a view to extending their tenure by dictating to the governors, it would, perhaps, not elicit the attention it has done in recent times.
Eight years of governorship may not fully assuage the desire for service but the Senate may not also be the only avenue to satisfy such desire.