By Charles Ike-Okoh
As the All Progressives Congress (APC) prepares to take control of the 9th Senate on Tuesday, June 11, having won majority seats in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, several senators have thrown their hats in the ring to run for one leadership post or the other.
For the position of the Senate President, the current Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, who was the choice of the party in 2015 for the same position is the logical choice: He is the most senior senator in the current APC caucus and has led the caucus through tough political waters since January 2017, and there is no one in the APC senate caucus more qualified for the job at the moment.
Lawan deserves to be Senate President and having been endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the party, he appears likely to win, though he faces challenges from the former Majority Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume who IS reported to be eyeing the top job in the Senate.
If APC is to advance President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda in the Senate without hindrances from the opposition, it must avoid the nightmare scenario of 2015 when Dr Bukola Saraki emerged as Senate President with majority of votes from the Peoples Democratic Party senators which made Saraki beholden to the PDP to maintain power to the detriment of the APC.
Who gets to hold the gavel
While most of the attention has been focused on who gets to hold the gavel, the leadership hierarchy is much more than just that of the Senate President. Also up for grabs is the crucial position of Deputy Senate President.
To underscore the importance of the job, the DSP is the second highest-ranking member of the Senate, after the Senate President. He works closely with the Senate President to oversee the caucus and also presides over the Senate in the absence of the Senate President.
Constitutionally, the DSP also chairs the Constitutional Review Committee, which conducts the exercise of amending the constitution and represents the Nigerian legislature at the ECOWAS Parliament as Speaker and other functions that might be assigned to him by the Senate President Like the Senate President, the DSP is elected by a majority of the members of the Senate on the floor of the red chamber. The vibrant and popular 55 -year-old senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Ovie Omo-Agege would be at the centre stage of the contest for the Deputy Senate President.
The Urhobo senator, who is a dependable ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, must fend off a possible challenge from Deputy Chief Whip, Sen. Francis Asekhame Alimikhena of Edo State. Alimikhena is the only other ranking senator from South-South geopolitical zone, the zone the All Progressives Congress, the majority party in the Senate has zoned the position to.
Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia State and senator-elect representing Abia North Senatorial District has hinted of his intention to run for Deputy Senate President after dropping his Senate President ambition. But his chances are slim considering the fact that the position has not been zoned to the South East where he comes from. Besides, his ambition, many have argued, runs against the grain of fairness and equity as the South East produced the DSP, in the person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu from 2007 to date, a period of 12 years. Before then, from .the inception of democracy in 1999 to 2007, the South East also produced the Senate President. On the other hand, the South-South has never produced a principal officer in the Senate since 1999.
The case for Omo-Agege as Deputy Senate President is not hard to make. A lawyer trained and practised in Nigeria and United States of America, he’s a proven winner who was twice elected senator from Delta State, a Peoples Democratic Party state. He possesses the intellectual capacity, organizational ability and energy needed to operate at such a high level.
In an era when exasperated Nigerians seek courageous and mould-breaking leaders, he is the best candidate to partner Senator Ahmed Lawan and helps shape the party’s policy vision and implement the progressive agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to move the country to the next level.
Omo-Agege’s effectiveness is rooted in his enormous willpower and steely determination – qualities that both party and country really need rather badly at this point in time in our country. Furthermore, he is a truth-teller, never afraid to speak truth to power and very straightforward in his dealings, such that on any issue, there would be no doubt as to where he stands.
Senator Omo-Agege is broadly respected in the Senate and beyond for his huge intellectual and political savviness, uncompromising sense of justice, uncommon courage and steely grit in defence of rule of law and justice. But what earned him nationwide recognition and popularity and credibility on the national stage was his principled politics, fierce and charismatic commitment to what he believes.
He was at the forefront of the opposition to the bill reordering the sequence of elections that was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari in the National Assembly. Together with ten other heroic senators, this bill which was a product of a vast conspiracy against Mr President and driven solely by the desire to prevent his re-election was defeated, thus paving the way for Buhari’s victory.
Omo-Agege’s political career began in 2003 when he was appointed Executive Assistant to the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. He rose to become the Commissioner for Special Duties in 2005 and Secretary to the State Government in 2007.
While still active in party politics, Omo-Agege took a break from public service from 2007 to 2015 when he ran for Senate, which he won. And in February this year, he made history as the first senator to win re-election in Delta Central Senatorial District.
As a first-term senator, Omo-Agege sponsored over ten bills and got three – the Bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun; a Bill to Prohibit Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions, a Bill to Amend the Electoral Act, 2010 passed. The Bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari to give legal backing to the specialized institution that is so dear to the fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria which he represents in the Senate.
Attracting federal government funded projects
Senator Omo-Agege also performed creditably well in attracting federal government funded projects to his constituency. And it is to his credit that all his funded constituency projects were executed to the delight of his constituents.
Omo-Agege’s credentials as a Democrat are pretty strong. He is a man of principle who sacrificed/risked so much to uphold the rule of law, defend the constitution, end legislative impunity and abuse of power by the Senate leadership in the 8th Senate. And because of his sacrifice, the Senate would never again suspend a senator for speaking out.
In fact, Omo-Agege emergence as DSP, will set the tone for the 9th Senate, and it boils down to whether senators of the 9th Senate want the old order where there is no freedom of speech and freedom of association or they want a new order where there will be respect for the truth and respect for each other’s opinions on the basis of co-equals as promised by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
Without any shade of doubt, Omo-Agege’s pedigree as a disciplined politician who understands basic rules of political strategy and applies them shrewdly to get things done makes him the ideal deputy for Senate President Ahmed Lawal.
Charles Ike-Okoh wrote from Lagos.