A group of concerned Nigerians committed to democratic ideals and independent legislature under the aegis of Citizens Advocacy Group has expressed concern about the decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to impose a candidate for the position of the senate president on the 10th national assembly.
Recall that the national working committee of the party had on May 8 announced the names and geopolitical zones of the principal officers of the national assembly.
It chose the former minister of Nigeria Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), south-south for the position of the senate president; deputy senate president, northwest, Mr. Barau Jubrin (Kano); speaker, house of representatives, northwest, Mr. Abass Tajudeen (Kaduna); and deputy speaker, southeast, Mr. Benjamin Kalu (Abia).
Reacting to the zoning template, the Citizens Advocacy Group said in a statement described as “autocratic” the decision to choose the senate president for the 109-member senate adding that “it is an affront on the principles of separation of powers.”
In the release signed by the convener and secretary of CAG, Messrs Chris Sunday George and Haruna Kabir, the group said if the party decided to zone positions, “you cannot say this is the person that should be the senate president from that zone when you have other candidates from the same zone who have expressed interest in the position”
It advised that the “race should be thrown open for all the candidates who have expressed interest from the zone to test their strength and popularity in a free and fair contest and anything short of that would not augur well for the smooth take-off of the 10th assembly.”
The statement reads:
“The decision by the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to impose a candidate on the Senate as the President of the next Upper Legislative Arm of the National Assembly has been generating an uproar in the polity.
“You will recall that the APC NWC has released the zoning of offices for the 10th National Assembly.
“A document issued after the NWC meeting in Abuja, showed that the Senate President would come from the South-South and specifically, Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom).
“Others are “Deputy senate president: northwest-Senator Barau Jubrin (Kano); speaker, house of representatives: northwest- Abass Tajudeen (Kaduna); and deputy speaker: southeast- Ben Kalu (Abia).”
“This decision has been generating controversy and this is not unexpected and we feel we must add our voice to what we see as an anti-democratic posture which bodes no good for our nascent democracy.
“What the party has done is an autocratic imposition which has no place in a democracy as it poses serious danger to independent legislature and an attack on the principle of separation of power.
“We in the Citizens Advocacy Group believe the concerned senators-elect should be allowed to make their choice based on the experience, competence and the qualification of each aspirant.
“If you are zoning it to a particular zone of the country, you cannot say this is the person that should be the senate president from that zone when you have other candidates from the same zone who have expressed interest in the position.
“For instance, the position of the Senate President was zoned to the South-South geopolitical zone, are we saying there are no other candidates from that zone who are qualified and competent enough to become the Senate President? The zone alone has six states including Akwa Ibom where the APC’s anointed candidate hails from; Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States.
“Why should we exclude five other states despite also having qualified senators-elect, both new and returning who have the experience to lead the senate? Politics of exclusion in a democratic setting like Nigeria would only breed enmity, ill-feeling and rancour which the incoming administration cannot afford in a country already deeply divided.
“We believe the race should be thrown open for all the candidates who have expressed interest from the zone to test their strength and popularity in a free and fair contest and anything short of that would not augur well for the smooth take-off of the 10th Assembly.
“At this point in time when Nigeria is faced with multitude of challenges, we cannot afford to inaugurate a new government and the National Assembly on a shaky and controversial note and we can avoid this by not giving room for imposition as the APC leadership has done.
“We reiterate that the decision of the party is not democratic. It is not well thought-out. It is highly offensive and a decision that must not be allowed to stand for the sake of equity and fair play.”