A look into Nigerian Senate as retirement home for state governors

Presidents and governors naturally seek the maximum two terms allowed them by the Nigerian Constitution. While most in the Fourth Republic have succeeded, some like Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, as well as Ayo Fayose and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti failed to secure consecutive terms but kept trying until they returned for a second term. A few others failed.

But after the second term, what next? The trend now is that governors see the Senate as the next destination after their second term in office. Presently, about 15 senators in the Eighth Assembly of the Senate (2015-19) are former governors who have served one or two terms in their states.

These are the Senate President Bukola Saraki (Kwara, 2003-2011); Theodore Orji (Abia, 2007-2015); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom, 2007-2015); George Akume (Benue, 1999-2007); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi, 1999-2007); Danjuma Goje (Gombe, 2003-2011); Joshua Dariye (Plateau, 1999-2007) and Jonah Jang (Plateau 2007-2015).

The others are Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe, 1999-2007); Ahmed Sani Yerima (Zamfara, 1999-2007); Rabiu Kwankwaso, (Kano, 1999-2003, 2011-2015); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi, 1999-2007); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa, 1999-2007) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto, 2007-2015).

Rubbing shoulders with them are also two deputy governors – Eyinnaya Abaribe of Abia State and Biodun Olujimi of Ekiti State.

Out of the former governors, only a few like Messrs Orji and Akpabio have sponsored a substantial number of bills. Mr Saraki was able to use his political background to secure the position of the Senate president.

In spite of the unimpressive records of former governors in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, some outgoing governors are attempting to muscle out serving senators in 2019 and claim their seats. Already, about eight governors have expressed interest in running for the coveted seats.

Governors Seeking Senate Seat

Abdulfatah Ahmed

Just like his “political godfather” and immediate predecessor, Mr Saraki, the Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, has indicated interest to run for the Senate.

He has obtained and submitted the nomination form to contest the senatorial election in Kwara South on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election.

Mr Ahmed will be contesting against the current occupant of the seat, Rafiu Ibrahim, a fellow protégé of Mr Saraki who has also picked up the nomination form to seek re-election under the platform of the PDP.

The governor explained that his decision to run for Senate was in response to demands by his constituents and he has promised to provide them purposeful representation.

Since both the governor and the incumbent senator are loyalists of the Senate President who is expected to decide the contest, there is no telling who Mr Saraki will favour.

Should Mr Ahmed make it, all three senators of Kwara State may be ex-governors if Shaaba Lafiagi of Kwara North Senatorial district also returns next year. Mr Lafiagi was the governor of the North-central state in the short-lived Third Republic.

Abdul’aziz Yari

Governor Abdul’aziz Yari of Zamfara State wants to take the seat for Zamfara West from former governor of the state, Ahmed Yerima. The governor announced his ambition to journalists in Gusau. He said the reason behind his decision was because he was interested in the legislative process and to serve his people.

Although, there has been no word from Mr Yerima who has served three terms in the Senate since the end of his governorship term in 2007, the lawmaker may seek re-election for a fourth term.

The emerging contest between Mr Yari and Mr Yerima is one observers would pay attention to, especially as the latter has long been considered the most influential politician from the North-western state.

Rochas Okorocha

The Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, was one of the first governors to declare his senatorial ambition. In February, he said he will run for Imo West senatorial district in the 2019 general election under the platform of the All Progressives Party (APC).

Mr. Okorocha said it would be a disservice to the nation if he failed to contest considering his “wealth of experience” as a governor for eight years.

The senatorial seat is currently occupied by Hope Uzodinma who was elected under the flag of the PDP but defected to the APC. The duo have been at loggerheads as the lawmaker recently decried Mr Okorocha’s desire to “own” the Imo State Chapter of the APC.

The senator also accused Mr Okorocha of attempting to hand over his governorship seat to his chief of staff and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu. Mr Uzodinma said he will “soon make a public declaration of his ambition for 2019.”

Should the lawmaker decide to return to the senate, the battle between him and the governor will be within the party as both politicians claim to have the upper hand in the state.

Ibikunle Amosun

After Mr Amosun declared his ambition to run for the seat of Ogun Central Senatorial district in 2019, the APC Ogun State chapter resolved to produce consensus candidates for the National Assembly.

The governor was soon named the party’s candidate for the Ogun Central senate race as he and ‘elders’ of the APC unveiled the consensus candidates for the National Assembly.

Mr. Amosun held the Senate seat between 2003 and 2007, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2007 but was elected in 2011. Now at the end of his second term, he wants to displace the incumbent senator, Lanre Tejuoso, also of the APC.

If he succeeds in elbowing out Mr Tejuooso, he will also have to battle Abisola Shodipo-Clark, the wife of Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark, who is running for the same seat under the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Abiola Ajimobi

The Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, who is serving his second term in office as governor, was elected senator on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003.

He thereafter ran for governor in 2007 on the platform of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party but lost the election to Adebayo Alao-Akala of the PDP. In 2011, he defeated Mr. Alao-Akala and was re-elected for second term in 2015.

Although Mr. Ajimobi once vowed not to seek political office again at the end of his governorship tenure, he recently indicated he has changed his mind.

An aide to the governor disclosed to PREMIUM TIMES in February that constituents of the governor had pleaded with him to run for Senate and that “in the interest of good governance, he should be in the senate by 2019 by the grace of God.”

The governor will have to battle the current occupant of the seat, Soji Akanbi, for the Oyo South Senatorial seat. Should Mr Ajimobi secure the APC ticket, he would have to battle candidates of the PDP and the ADC, two parties with significant following in the state.

Kashim Shettima

With his second term coming to an end, the political ambition of the Borno State Governor seems to be headed towards the senate even though he had said he will further his studies at the end of his second term in office.

It is, however, not clear if the governor will contest for the Borno Central senatorial seat or that of Borno North. If he is running, he will have to face Kaka Garbai who represents Borno Central or Abubakar Kyari who represents Borno North in the Senate.

Mr Shettima has governed the state as an indigine of Borno Central but recent controversies in the politics of the state led to the discovery of Borno North as his real origin.

Mr Kyari, on the other hand, is said to be popular in the constituency and the state in general. Although Mr Kyari has not disclosed his intentions for 2019, the Borno State Governor might have to give him the gubernatorial ticket to stand a chance of going to the senate.

Tanko Al-Makura

Ta’al, as he is popularly known in Nasarawa State, has also made known his senatorial ambition.

Mr Al-makura, who first won election as governor on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in 2011, in June announced he will run for the seat of Nasarawa South Senatorial District under the platform of APC.

To take the seat, Mr Almakura will battle the incumbent from the PDP, Suleiman Adokwe, a third term senator.

Political experts believe the governor’s chances of winning the senatorial seat are slim because the incumbent senator is well grounded in the constituency.

Ibrahim Geidam

The battle for the Yobe East senatorial seat will be an interesting one. The governor, Ibrahim Geidam, whose tenure expires in May 2019, already has eyes on the senate.

The incumbent senator for the district, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, who is also a former governor of the state, is seeking reelection for a fourth term in the Senate.

The lawmaker was recently quoted saying he is physically and mentally fit to contest again and that is what he will do. He also said he doesn’t see anyone as a threat and expressed optimism of securing victory in 2019.

Mr Geidam attempted to contest for the Senate in 2003 but was denied by Mr Ibrahim, his mentor and godfather.

Other Outgoing Governors

Two other outgoing governors who have not indicated interest in the Senate are Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State and Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State.

Mr Dankwambo is aiming for the presidency in the 2019 general election.

There are speculations that he decided to run for presidency because he is scared of losing the Gombe North Senatorial District seat should he run against the incumbent senator, Bayero Nafada of the APC. But Mr Nafada may also not contest for the Senate in 2019, as he is believed to be eyeing the governorship seat.

Mr Aregbesola is yet to state the next phase of his political career.

Contesting for double pay?

Besides “heeding the calls of their constituents” and “being interested in the legislative process”, there are other possible reasons these outgoing governors are eyeing the Senate.

Revelations last year showed that senators and ministers who were former governors still receive salaries and pensions running into billions of naira from their states; in addition to their salaries and allowances as senators.

Listed among the beneficiaries were Messrs Akpabio, Kwankwaso, Saraki, Olujimi, and Abaribe, among others.

This revelation caused nationwide criticisms and made groups like the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sue the federal government for wastage of funds by states that were struggling to pay workers’ salaries.

Although, a few like Messrs Saraki and Fayemi (until recently Minister of Solid Minerals Development), Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola denied receiving double payments and retirement benefits, many of the others still receive such.

However, none of the outgoing governors who have declared interest in Senate seats have categorically said they would not receive such double payments. Should the eight governors all secure their party tickets as expected, and eventually win their senatorial elections, they would join the growing list of ex-governors in the Senate; many of whom only use the legislative chamber as retirement homes.



Credit – QueenEsther Iroanusi (Premium Times)