- By Ogochukwu Isioma
Ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly in June, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Dr Silva Opusunju says the South-East geo-political zone should be allowed to produce Senate President for justice, fairness, equity and greater political inclusion.
Opusunju made the call in an interview with METROWATCH over the weekend in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He said allowing the South-East to produce the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly would help calm nerves in the region, and give the people a sense of belonging.
Opusunju, also a former governorship aspirant of the PDP in Rivers, said the South-East region has well-qualified ranking senators suitable for the Senate plum position.
“Luckily, we have qualified and ranking senators-elect from the (South-East) zone. Let’s choose one of them. Methinks Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is over qualified. Kalu is detribalised, and well experienced even as a former governor. He studied in the North, doing business in the West and is more Pan-Nigerian. He knows Nigeria more than anybody.”
Opusunju said that with the election and impending inauguration of Bola Tinubu and Kassim Shetima as President and Vice-President respectively, the two top-most political offices in Nigeria had been taken by the South-West and North-East.
“Historically, the Nigerian politics has always rested on the tripod of three dominant ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo,” Opusunju argued.
”At any point in time in order to ensure the balance of power, the three are adequately represented in the top echelon of political power. A situation where one of the three is missing will create imbalance in the political equation.
“Under the incoming political dispensation, the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani have produced the President (Tinubu) and the Vice-President (Shetima) of the country.”
The PDP chieftain maintained that the best way to douse ongoing tension in the East, especially amongst those calling for secession, was to have a man from the region in the top three political positions in the country.
According to him, “Political expediency, quest for national stability and cohesion dictate that the number three position and the head of the legislative arm of government should go to the South-East.
“The South-East should be allowed to produce the number three political position (senate president) to address the intense Igbo sentiment against political exclusion and marginalisation in Nigeria.”
The erstwhile Director of Finance and Administration, Obasanjo Campaign Organisation, appealed for support for the South-East to produce the next Senate President in the interest of equity, fairness and togetherness, noting that the region does not have a fair share in the past years where the zone is missing in the top-five positions in the political hierarchy in the country.
”From 1999 till date, the South-South has produced Vice-President and President of Nigeria in the person of Goodluck Jonathan, none from South-East. The South-East produced the Senate President in 1999 under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and nothing more till date.”
Opusunju said it would be insensitive to have a Muslim Senate President after producing a president and his deputy, who share a similar faith, while maintaining that zoning the Senate Presidency to the South-East irrespective of how they voted in the last election, will promote National unity and cohesion.
He said the leadership of the National Assembly projecting the nation’s religious diversity will not only foster a sense of belonging for every region and religion, but will also prevent any divisive tension that could undermine the government’s effectiveness.
Opusunju, therefore, called on all the political actors in the South-East to close ranks and demand for Senate Presidency under the incoming political dispensation, believing that the other geo-political zones would stand in solidarity with them.
“It is important that we ensure power is distributed fairly across the nation. This will foster a sense of belonging for every region and religion, and prevent any divisive tension that could undermine the government’s effectiveness,” Dr. Opusunju added.
No fewer than four Senators-elect from the South-East region have indicated interest in the senate presidency race. They include senators Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Osita Izunaso (Imo West), Peter Ndubueze (Imo North), and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).