Fred Itua, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, and majority of the governors who were inaugurated into office in May, 2015, and got re-elected in 2019 have barely two years and six months to vacate office.
Interestingly, beside legislators whose positions are not tenured, President Buhari and many governors would vacate office on May 29, 2023. This expected vacancy is already reverberating in the polity and in no distant time, key players will swing into action.
In the National Assembly, which houses the Senate and the House of Representatives, lawmakers are already gearing up to gun for governorship positions. These senators cut across the various geopolitical zones of the country. They’re also drawn from the main political parties.
Recently, the National Assembly, specifically the Senate, secured an infamous name. It was described as a retirement home for former governors, their deputies and ministers. As at the last count, there were over 20 former governors in the 9th Senate.
However, for senators plotting to succeed their governors, a number of factors may play out for or against them. From zoning to corruption cases, blessings from godfathers to financial muscle, the issues are endless.
Albert Bassey Akpan
He’s the Senate committee chairman on Petroleum (Upstream). He represents Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District. He served as commissioner of Finance when Godswill Akpabio held sway as governor of Akwa Ibom State.
He’s positioning himself to succeed Udom Emmanuel in 2023. He’s banking on the existing zoning formula in the state which may likely favour his senatorial district. However, there are fears that he may be bypassed by the political establishment in the state for a number of reasons.
For instance, a politician in the state, Eseme Eyiboh, told Daily Sun recently that “the cycle of zoning in Akwa Ibom has ended. So, what will happen now is, everybody, including somebody from Governor Udom’s local government has the right now to contest in 2023. Somebody from Godswill Akpabio’s senatorial district has the right to contest. Somebody from Uyo has the right to contest. Whoever will emerge as the governor, the cycle will start from there. Its common sense. Because if you say it should automatically go and start from Uyo, that means the Eket people are perpetually going to be on standby in every cycle of 16 years. But if an Eket man emerges in 2023, then again, Ikot Ekpene and Uyo will struggle for who emerges. We should share the waiting period.”
Beside that, Akpan’s ongoing trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may be another setback. In August, 2018, the EFCC filed a 14 count charge at an Ikeja High Court against Akpan, for allegedly receiving 12 cars worth N254 million as bribes.
He reportedly received the vehicles between 2010 and 2014 from, a businessman and oil mogul, when he (Bassey) served as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.
Akpan is facing a seven-count corruption charge as a public officer and for allegedly receiving bribes as a result of his own action. Pundits in the state believe this may work against him eventually.
Ike Ekweremadu represents Enugu West in the Senate. He’s one of the longest serving lawmakers and the longest serving Deputy President of the Senate in Nigeria’s history. He held the position repeatedly for 12 years. He lost his bid to return to the same position last year. Currently, he serves as chairman, Senate committee on Environment.
Ekweremadu, like many senators, said he doesn’t intend to run for another term in the Senate, when he would have completed 20 years in the Parliament by 2023. Instead, he wants to take a shot at the governorship seat in Enugu, despite the existing zoning arrangement in the state.
Enugu State stands on a tripod- East, West and North. Based on the existing zoning arrangement, Ekweremadu may be on a long walk to freedom. But his supporters however believe that the three senatorial districts have produced a governor. For them, anyone from any part of the State can emerge. It’s unclear if his erstwhile political godfather, Chimaroke Nnamani who is insisting that power must return to his Senatorial district in Enugu East, will tolerate Ekweremadu’s planned contest.
Senator Bassey represents Cross River South Senatorial District. He’s believed to be a powerful member of a political establishment in Cross River State. Until he ran for the Senate in 2015 and won, he had served in two different administrations as chairman of Cross River State Water Board between 1999-2014.
Although he is not vibrant on the floor of the Senate and seldom contributes to serious debates, Bassey is however believed to be one of the key contenders gunning to succeed Ben Ayade of Cross River State in 2023.
His aspiration may not come without a stiff opposition. Already, Cross River South Stakeholders Group have signalled the intention of the people of Southern Senatorial District, to recall Bassey from the Red Chamber. He is being accused of “abdication and dereliction of his duties, leaving the district with no representation at the Red Chamber and abandoning the people over the years, especially at this period when every representative of the people are with their people helping them to battle the effect of COVID-19.”
The group, in its letter of intent to petition the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the planned recall, signed by Ita Ewa Henshaw, said “the ‘no love lost’ relationship between Senator Bassey and his people is something that may have started from when he first won the senatorial election in 2015 to represent the people, as he was said to have neglected his people shortly after and irked by this, the people decided to deny him a second term ticket but was prevailed upon by the elders and leadership of the party, with the promise that he would change his ways.”
Ubah represents Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly. He is the vice chairman, Senate committee on Petroleum (Upstream). He’s a first timer in the Senate and the only senator elected on the platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP).
Ubah defeated both Senator Andy and Chris Uba in February, 2019, to clinch a seat in the Senate. However, he has faced uncountable challenges since then. He was temporarily sacked as a senator recently, until a superior Court restored his mandate
In 2014, Ubah lost at the 2014 Anambra gubernatorial election under the platform of the Labour Party. Though he’s a member of a relatively known political party, Ubah is gearing up to contest for the Anambra State governorship election next year. He’s banking on the existing zoning arrangement in the state, which may likely not stand in 2021.
Those against Ubah’s narrative believe that every senatorial district in the state has already produced a governor. They’re therefore rooting for a technorat, rather than career politicians, who according to them, will further impoverish the state.
At the moment, the Federal Government has filed criminal charges against Ubah and his Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited over an indebtedness of N135 billion to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
In the charges filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos, the prosecution said the N135 billion emanated from a July 2013 consent judgment between Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited and AMCON, but accused Ubah of frustrating AMCON’s efforts to recover the judgment debt.
For many political pundits in Anambra, this ongoing trial of Ubah may be his biggest undoing as the State gets set for a governorship election.
Ahmed Baba Kaita
He represents President Buhari’s Senatorial District (Katsina North) in the Senate. He heads committee on Tertiary Education. He was elected to the Senate in 2018, following the death of Senator Mustapha Bukar. He had served as a member of the House of Representatives, but he got the nod of President Buhari to step up in 2018.
Kaita who is often contentious and opposes anything that targets President Buhari on the floor of the Senate, is believed to be among the key contenders, planning to succeed Bello Masari as governor of Katsina State.
He is also believed to enjoy the support of President Buhari, but observers believe that he may run into troubled waters if the current minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, decides to push through his ambition of succeeding the current governor.
There are other senators in the upper legislative chamber who maybe nursing governorship ambitions and maybe more vocal about it in the coming months. Whether they’ll secure their parties’ tickets and go ahead to win the elections, is unclear for now.