SAHARANEWS – As normalcy permeates the polity, following the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, there is more work to be done, especially in the area of political balance. Nigeria, no doubt, stands on a tripod and any arrangement that does not put into consideration this tripartite background will continue to attract not only strictures but also create instability.
Right from the First Republic, the constitutional checks and balances functioned effectively with the unwritten understanding that at no time did any of the three major ethnic nationalities, that is, Igbo, Hausa/ Fulani and Yoruba, failed to have a sense of belonging in the three arms of government.
Today, President Buhari, born to a Fulani father, has as Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba. Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who heads the National Assembly is Yoruba as well as Fulani. From Independence in 1960 to 1966 when the military struck for the first time, none of these three major groups was brushed aside in national equation.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo, moved from Governor General to President. Sir Balewa Abubakar Tafawa, from the Jere part of the North, became Prime Minister only because, his boss, Sir Ahmadu Bello, of Hausa/Fulani stock, gave him the go ahead.
The legislature had Dr. Dennis Osadebay, an Igbo, as Senate President. When he became Premier of the Mid-Western Region, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, another Igbo stepped in. The Yoruba did not in any way lose out. The judiciary was firmly under the leadership of Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, an Egba Prince from Abeokuta.
In the Second Republic, the Hausa/Fulani and Igbo got a fair share of Executive and Legislative positions. President Shehu Shagari had Dr. Alex Ekwueme as Vice President. Speaker of the House of Representatives was Chief Edwin Umezuoke. Again, the Yoruba headed the judiciary through Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams.
When he retired, another Yoruba, Justice George Sowemimo took his place. The tripod was therefore intact. This concrete balance continued under the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency. President Obasanjo, of Yoruba parentage, picked Atiku Abubakar, a Fulani as vice president. The five Senate Presidents from 1999 to 2007, were all Igbo. From Chief Evan Enwerem to Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Adolphus Wabara, Anyim Pius Anyim to Ken Nnamani.
The headship of the judiciary had changed hands to the Hausa/Fulani in the person of Justice Mohammed Uwais. The coming of President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Fulani, turned the national equilibrium upside down. With a Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw, the Senate President, David Mark, came from the Idoma group.
The Judiciary was led by Justice Idris Kutigi, a Nupe from Niger State. Jonathan became President in 2010 after the passage of Yar’Adua. The Hausa /Fulani got the position of Vice President through Namadi Sambo and also Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal. This position was reserved for the Yoruba to maintain balance.
Strange enough, the Yoruba members of the House worked against the zoning arrangement. President Buhari came in 2015 and expectations were that the Igbo, schemed out of top positions in the previous Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, would get the Senate President slot. Unfortunately, there was no Igbo in the Senate.
The closest they had was Dr. Chris Ngige who could not make it to the Upper Legislature. It was so disturbing that Governor Rochas Okorocha nearly broke down, praying for Ngige to scale through. President Buhari is back and he still has Prof. Osinbajo as his Vice.
The good news is that in the new Senate, there will be two Igbo senators, Orji Uzor Kalu and Okorocha elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Kalu served in the House of Representatives between 1992 and 1994. He was influential as Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation.
The import is that, perhaps, time is now for the Igbo to be given a due sense of belonging in the Buhari administration. The President performed better in the South- East, making 25 per cent and above in at least three of the five states. Kalu and Okorocha will be going to the Senate as former governors. And we have to stress that if the country could invent the phrase, ‘Doctrine of Necessity’, to enthrone Dr. Jonathan as President in 2010, the same could be done to choose the next President of the Senate from the South-East. We cite the example of Godswill Akpabio, whose first time in the Senate fetched the position of Minority Leader, ahead of some ranking senators.
Therefore, there is no hurdle of any kind to stem the desire of the South-East. We call on President Buhari and the leadership of the APC to zone the Senate Presidency to the South-East for equity sake ahead of the inauguration of Ninth Senate in June.