Senate presidency: Why the cap fits Senator Orji Kalu

By Brown Akukpo

Guest  Columnist

Akukpo, a political analyts, writes from Lagos


With the inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday, May 29, as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, all eyes are now fixed on the emergence of the principal officers for the 10th National Assembly, comprising the Red and Green Chambers.

But more importantly, the focus, no doubt, will be greater on the Senate, the upper legislative chamber.

Expectedly, the contestants have indicated keen interest in the positions they intend to battle for with some settling to run for the position of the Senate President as a matter of their legislative right than selfish party zoning considerations.

In truth, our leadership selection process is again being called into question.

In different conversations, we have gained immense expertise in skipping the question, or at best skirting around it, many feeling unconcerned, with some discouragingly accepting that anyone can lead.

These egregious positions on the leadership question have thrown up all manners of people into positions that demand knowledge, expertise, competence and capacities to be groomed for future responsibilities.

At the moment, serious contestants and ranking senators have emerged, but some others only mentioned. They include Orji Uzor Kalu, Abia North; Osita Izunaso, Imo West (Southeast); Godswill Akpabio (South-south); Sani Musa (Niger East); Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara West); and Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North).

Given the fact that the President of the country, Bola Tinubu and the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima are from the Southwest and Northeast respectively, the natural equation as overwhelmingly supported by political analysts is for the position of the Senate President to be ceded to the Southeast.

Aside from the fact that the Southeast zone will provide the tripod plank for the political weight balancing and stability needed, it equally parades a highly distinguished Senator who stands out in legislative competence, as well as standing tall in all round leadership proficiency. That generalissimo, the go-getter, with exceptional management qualities is the maverick Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who at present is the Chief Whip of the Senate.

Most political observers are in agreement that despite the competence of Senator Kalu in legislative matters, the Southeast zone of the country has suffered serious injustice and neglect over the years and needs to be deliberately considered in key national positions in the present dispensation.

Nigeria, no doubt, is on the edge and needs proper integration of the Southeast for the ship of state to sail smoothly.

As Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the great sage,  warned President Shehu Shagari on the state of the nation at then troubling time: “There is a frightful danger ahead. Visible to those who care and are patriotic enough to look beyond their narrow self-interest. Our ship of state is fast approaching a huge rock, and unless you as the chief helmsman quickly rise to the occasion and courageously steer the ship away from its present course, it shall hit the rock”.

Before now, Senator Shehu Sani who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, first on the platform of APC and later the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, has given an insight on why Senator Kalu should be considered for the Senate President position.

Sani who urged the APC to zone the position of Senate President to the Southeast, hammered strongly on the issue of equity and justice as harbingers for the unity of any country.

According to him, the APC should consider the above aside any primordial sentiments in the interest of the nation.

On who he felt should be considered for the Senate presidency seat, he without mincing words said, the Senate should settle for Kalu.

Said Sani: “The Senate Presidency should go to the Southeast for equity and justice.  There is no better person to stabilise the National Assembly and maintain balance like Orji Uzor Kalu, having demonstrated competence as Chief Whip of the Senate.

“I am not of the APC, but I think he remains the best option out of those who offered themselves and Kalu has the experience and the pedigree as well.”

Sadly enough, there has been intensive pressure on other Senate presidency aspirants to withdraw from the race and support a particular choice of a segment of the party, Senator Godswill Akpabio,  but which Senator Kalu has insisted, and wisely too, that he would not withdraw his bid in the race.

Many believe that the purported selection of Akpabio and Jubrin Barau as preferred candidates for the positions of Senate President and deputy respectively by President Tinubu may likely be counter-productive in the end result, going by feelers from political watchers.

Expectedly, aggrieved aspirants criticized the zoning arrangement and demanded a review.

In the same vein, Abdul’aziz Yari, former Zamfara governor, and a frontline contender had said the zoning formula was unconstitutional and skewed against the North and that he would run and not chicken out.

Waxing strongly too, Senator Kalu briefing reporters at the National Assembly, Abuja, on Tuesday, re-echoed that he would not step down for Akpabio, disclosing that he was already talking with Yari for an alliance and that their decisions would soon be made public.

Attached to the personal letters of intent Senator Kalu wrote to members of APC NWC and the 108 senators-elect, intimating them of his intention to contest the position of Senate President, was also a copy of his legislative agenda, which had six priorities.

They are: Economic Growth and Reform; Constitutional and Electoral Reform; National Security; Improved Social Conditions and Welfare; Efficient and Effective National Assembly and Global Influence.

Kalu promised to promote and defend the constitution and foster a congenial and cordial relationship between the executive and judiciary.

Therefore, many believe that there is need for justice, equity, and fairness if the country must move out of the political doldrums and economic mess that President Muhammadu Buhari left as a legacy.

And Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.

Senator Kalu has continued to receive massive support and solidarity nationwide and beyond the nation’s shore on the 10th Senate presidency position.

One of the supporters’ groups, under the aegis of “Orji Uzor Kalu for Senate President,” said that the Senate Majority Whip deserves to be elected Senate President for his doggedness in upholding the APC flag against all odds in the Southeast.

Members of the group described Kalu as a pan-Nigerian who stood firm to defend the party’s honour at a time it was not politically fashionable to do.

Convener of the group, Engr. Fredrick Nwoha, on Wednesday, explained further that Senator Kalu equally made sacrifices for the growth and stability of the party by giving up his Presidential bid to pave the way for the emergence of President Tinubu.

According to the group, the Southeast was faced with a political tsunami and should be encouraged to forestall a possible alignment that could throw the APC into a precarious situation in the 2027 elections. It reminded the party leadership that APC despite all odds now controls two states in the Southeast.

The group expressed confidence that the relationships built by Senator Kalu across religious and ethnic lines over the years would serve him and the nation well if he is given the chance.

It further noted that the zoning principle initiated in 1999 was designed to enhance and promote fairness and equity, and should not be abused.

Also, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), the apex socio-political youth groups in the Southeast, is heavily backing Senator Kalu’s aspiration to lead the Senate.

The Igbo youths in a statement by its President General, Goodluck Ibem, said: “As representatives of our people in Southeast, we have the mandate of our people to do their wish and bidding. We present Kalu as the consensus candidate by the people of Southeast for the position of Senate President.

“This adoption of Kalu by our people is a confirmation that we reject in its entirety the position of the deputy speaker purportedly zoned to Southeast before now.”

A popular cleric in Ebonyi State, Samuel Uzochukwu, recently decried the marginalisation of the Southeast in the zoning of principal officers for the 10th Assembly by the APC.

He said that the party and its leadership did not do well by not considering Southeast for Senate President.

Uzochukwu said: “Ndigbo have paid their dues in this country, but when it is time for them to be included in the scheme of things, they will be marginalised.

“Senator Kalu has been an inspiring leader over the years and many have vouched for his capacity to deliver. 

“Those who abuse Kalu, especially his political opponents who have in diverse ways made things difficult for him, unknown to them are his friends in disguise. This is because by their actions they have toughened him and made him utterly fearless, unusual, and supremely self-confident.

“The reality is that Senator Kalu is not only a study in humility, but one with great wisdom, looking at his socially relevant and need-meeting antecedents.

“He is a personality that has refused to build obstacles in his imagination, always bearing in mind and reminding himself that God is with him and that nothing can defeat him.

“For him, there are no hopeless situations only people who are hopeless about a situation, the reason he fights to achieve his set goals, not for himself alone, but for the good of others.”

Further study of Kalu’s life pattern revealed that he has a creative mind and since new developments are the products of a creative mind, he, therefore, stimulates and encourages such minds in every way possible in his leadership mantra.

Unarguably, Kalu is a personality that you know where he stands in any situation and is not a pretender like most political folks. He is a party man to the core.

Politically speaking, Senator Kalu is never discouraged to pursue his belief. For him, there is a future ahead and the resistance encountered now predicates hope.

He knows that only as we rise, do we encounter opposition, a reason, he fights to the end of any of his strong convictions.

The Kalu lesson is one of: show me a successful man and I will show you a man whose principles are not thought at Harvard, but that you have to be street-wise to succeed. Like he would always say,  “I’m a true partyman,” even when many saw his stand as unusual!

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