Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on
President Olusegun Obasanjo last week took the wind off the sails of some of the South-East senators jostling to succeed outgoing Senate President Adolphus Wabara.
President Olusegun Obasanjo last week took the wind off the sails of some of the South-East senators jostling to succeed outgoing Senate President Adolphus Wabara. The President decreed that although the seat was open, it was not open to five particular senators and that, under no circumstance, must any of them be made Senate President.
The pronouncement which has effectively pruned down the list of prospective candidates for the post identified the affected senators as Arthur Nzeribe, Ifeanyi Araraume, Fidelis Okoro, Ben Obi and Uche Chukwumerije.
The reason for their unofficial ban, Daily Sun gathered, is Obasanjo fears that the trio of Nzeribe, Araraume and Okoro might turn out not to be any better than Wabara and could simply use the position to advance their own interests.
A usually reliable top Presidency functionary who made this revelation to Daily Sun said that the duo of Chukwumerije and Obi were disqualified for their perceived heady and stubborn disposition. "They are considered to be too independent minded", the source said, adding that "whenever they are not being stubborn, there is also the fear that they could turn out to be stooges of former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB)”.
While Chukwumerije had served as Babangida’s Minister of Information and managed his propaganda machine in the aftermath of the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election won by the late MKO Abiola, Obi had been a personal aide of Gen. Aliyu Ibrahim Gusau, the current National Security Adviser who is believed to be a right-hand man of IBB.
With IBB waiting in the wings for the 2007 presidency and Obasanjo believed to be testing the waters for a possible third term in office, the President would literally be shooting himself in the foot by appointing IBB’s perceived crony to head the National Assembly.
With this position, Obasanjo seems to have upped the ante for the race for Wabara’s replacement. Effectively, he has restricted the race to some six or so senators – one from Imo, two from Enugu and three from Ebonyi - with about two of them being non-starters from the outset.
No to ‘Acting Senate President’
However, it would seem that the ban on the five senators, as well as the determination of the Presidency to give the National Assembly a Senate President of Aso Rock’s dream has put Obasanjo and the senators on collision course. For it would seem that, rather than leave Obasanjo to fill the post once again, many senators are desirous of a break from the past tradition.
The senior lawmakers made this point very clearly at a meeting on Friday with the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Col. Ahmadu Ali.
At the meeting which held at the House of the national chairman and had PDP senators and members of the party’s National Working Committee in attendance, Ali had pushed what seemed the Aso Rock position that the senate should, this Tuesday, pick an Acting Senate President, while waiting for when the party would come up with a name to fill Wabara’s seat.
But the idea could not fly as it was immediately said to have been shot down by Senator Joy Emordi. The Senator from Anambra said that it was unconstitutional to appoint an Acting Senate President, pointing out that the constitution only allowed the Deputy Senate President to act in the event of a vacancy in the Senate President position. She suggested that until such a time when a new Senate President is elected, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, the Deputy Senate President should continue to hold fort.
The Emordi position at the meeting, Daily Sun gathered, was backed by senators from the North and the South-East. These other senators insist that a new leadership of the Senate must emerge Tuesday and that it must not be in an ‘Acting’ capacity.
Northern senators join forces with ANPP senators Although, the idea of an Acting Senate President was shot down before it could take off, it seems the Presidency is not letting go. It is this persistence, however, that has now made some of the Northern PDP senators to seek some sort of alignment with their counterparts from the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). They say the Senate has run for too long with presidents attached to the apron strings of Aso Rock and are calling for a total break from this tradition.
The aim of the re-alignment with the ANPP senators, therefore, seems to be to ensure that the senators choose an independent person, on the floor of the senate, to lead the senators, rather than yielding to the position of the PDP hierarchy which insists that the party should choose the Senate President.
One of the senators who spoke to Daily Sun after the meeting said, "under normal circumstances, it should be the party that should choose the Senate President". But he says these are not normal circumstances.
Asking the PDP as it is presently constituted and run to choose is just a euphemism for asking Obasanjo to appoint the Senate President. "The PDP, as we know it today", he reasoned, "is now owned by three people – Obasanjo, (Chief Tony) Anenih (the Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees) and Ahmadu Ali, with Obasanjo as the chief executive".
He said it is because of this reality that the party’s certificate of registration is in the custody of the president, "so that if they keep running things this way and the party disintegrates after the November convention, whatever faction that goes with Obasanjo would be the ‘authentic’ PDP."
Still in the race
Knowing how the current democracy functions, it might be unlikely that the senators’ wish will prevail over Obasanjo’s. Therefore, the race might remain closed to the said senators.
So, with Senator Chris Adighije presumably out of the way, as a result of his indictment in the raging N55 million bribe scandal, and Chukwumerije now being disqualified by an unwritten presidential fiat, Wabara’s Abia State has been technically removed from the race.
Also disqualified in a related fashion is Anambra State where Ben Obi hails from. Now, with Emordi, a woman, frontally attacking the party position on the mode of selection, it is unlikely that the payback for her ‘recalcitrance’ would be to make her the Senate President. That leaves Senator Ugochukwu Uba who is the elder brother of Chris Uba and Andy Uba. It might be too crass for Aso Rock to make him Senate President, especially when the dust over his election has yet to settle in the courts.
On the Enugu list, where Okoro was dropped from, Senators Ken Nnamani and Ike Ekweremadu are still in the race. With Enugu yet to produce a Senate President, the duo would ordinarily have had themselves to beat this time around. But Ekweremadu who is a former Secretary to the Enugu State government and who rode on Governor Chimaraoke Nnamani’s back to the Senate has since fallen out with the highly cerebral governor. In fact, Daily Sun gathered that his nominees on Nnamani’s cabinet were both dropped during the last cabinet reshuffle in the state.
Only last week, Nnamani was in Abuja and was believed to have made efforts to push the choice of beefy Sen. Ken Nnamani before Obasanjo. How successful that lobby was is yet to be ascertained.
Senator Amah Iwuagwu stands out on the Imo State ticket, with Obasanjo having disqualified Nzeribe and Araraume. But Imo has already taken a turn at the senate presidency with Evan Enwerem who Iwuagwu beat for the Owerri senatorial zone seat in 2003.
To make matters worse, Iwuagwu, a financial whizkid in the class of the Charles Soludos, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas and Magnus Kpakol of this administration, has been very ill of late. He is currently recuperating in a US hospital and it expected back home soonest. Some of the president’s men are even believed to have gone to check on him in the US and have confirmed that he is willing and strong enough for the job.
From the Ebonyi State that produced Anyim Pius Anyim, only Senator Agboti is said to have indicated any interest in Wabara’s seat. But he is not a top contender. However, given Obasanjo’s preference for dark horses in matters of this nature, it is not unlikely that he would take a second look at the three Ebonyi senators who are all Digital Senators.
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