9th National Assembly: Why Senate President must not be handpicked-Civil society

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A coalition of civil society and youth groups, Partners for Legislative Agenda for Nigeria (PLAN), has kicked against the method where the Senate President of the 9th National Assembly will be handpicked.
According to the organization in a press conference addressed by its chairman, Lord Charles Ibiang, in Abuja on Wednesday, PLAN said the idea of handpicking the Senate President is as undemocratic as it is undesirable.
It, however, called for the broadening of the search for the Senate President in the North-East.

Senate President Saraki

Ibiang said the Senate must rise to the occasion and choose a Senate President that can build bipartisan and nationalistic bridges.
 Below is the full text of the press conference
Setting legislative agenda for the 9th National Assembly: A call on the Senate to broaden the search for a credible Senate President within the North-East.
Being the Text of a World Press Conference by Partners for Legislative Agenda for Nigeria (PLAN), a Coalition of Civil Society and Youth Groups in Nigeria, on March 27, 2019  in Abuja.
Gentlemen of the Press 
Sequel to the recently concluded Presidential and Legislative elections, it becomes imperative to begin a serious agenda setting for the 9th National Assembly, starting from the leadership of the Senate. The Senate President is the Chairman of the National Assembly, and is very critical to the direction the country goes.
We are concerned about the need to avoid the unnecessary rancorous politicking that led to the emergence of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the subsequent psychological and physical combat that followed. This issue as we all know, affected governance negatively.
Our major intention is to create a harmonious executive-legislative relationship that will help the country achieve sound and effective governance.
Gentlemen of the press!
The history of leadership of the National Assembly need to be placed in its proper perspective to reduce tension and help the leadership selection process in the 9th National Assembly. That is about setting the records straight!
In 1999 when this democracy was birthed, the President, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was from the South; the Southwest to be precise while the Senate Presidency was in the South also; the Southeast specifically. This was the arrangement for the two terms (8 years) of Obasanjo’s presidency.
Similarly, in 2007 when the Late Umar Musa Yar’adua from the Northwest became President, the Senate Presidency moved from the South to the North; this time, the Northcentral, and was held by Senator David Mark (who served the longest term as Senate President in Nigeria). Unfortunately, Yar’adua died and his deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan became President. The Senate Presidency was retained in the Northcentral simply because it was understood that President Jonathan was continuing with President Yar’adua’s tenure.
Again in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated as President and the Governing Party, APC agreed that the Senate President should remain in the North. The incumbent Senate President, Dr A.B. Saraki of the Northcentral cliched the position. This makes the Northcentral to have against historical balancing, held unto the exalted office for 12 straight years.
Consequently, the Northcentral should be totally out of the race for the sake of equity. If we must sustain this political consensus which is historical and very politically healthy, we strongly support the zoning of the Senate Presidency to the Northeast.
PLAN therefore sincerely commends the APC for looking in the direction of the Northeast. It is the right thing to do. But we equally disagree and warn against any attempt to impose a candidate.
Yes, while it is imperative for a ruling political party to introduce a semblance of order and political stability in the leadership choice, historical antecedent has shown that imposition through influence peddling and invoking the name of the President had led to instability in leadership succession in the National Assembly in the past.
There are a number of experienced, exposed, versatile, cosmopolitan and broad-minded ranking Senators from the Northeast. The search for a Senate President must be broadened to get for Nigeria, the very best. The idea of a handpicked Senate President is as undemocratic as it is undesirable.
The Senate must rise to the occasion. It is incumbent on it, on behalf of Nigerians who elected them, to choose a Senate President that can build bipartisan and nationalistic bridges which will contribute in stabilizing the polity and bridging the unity gap.
We are also shocked and disturbed that in order to impose a candidate, the name of President Muhammadu Buhari is being dragged into the agenda of a few, under the guise of the vague term, PRESIDENCY. It must be clear that President Buhari has not shown any sign of supporting any project that undermines participatory democracy. Just recently, he openly stated that the electorate in states where supplementary elections are held are wiser now, and should make their choices. Also during the APC primaries, contrary to APC NWC’s threats, he encouraged aggrieved aspirants to approach the court for redress, and disagreed with the party on its undemocratic stand then.
Therefore, the 9th Senate should go ahead and elect for itself, a Senate President that will work for it and for Nigerians. This position shall be communicated to all appropriate quarters, especially the senators-elect, President Muhammadu Buhari and all major political parties.
Gentlemen of the Press!
This conversation will continue, exploring different issues in the legislative agenda for the  9th National Assembly like the Speakership, Electoral Reforms, PIB Bill etc. PLAN shall be partnering with the media and other stakeholders in discussing issues that must deepen our democracy legislatively
Thank you!

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