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October 4, 2023
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Senate Presidency: Why Tinubu should micro-zone position to Kalu –Nwachukwu

By Dickson Okafor

The West Africa Coordinator of the defunct National Support for Jonathan/Sambo Presidency, Mr Nwachukwu Tobinson Alakwe, has expressed confidence that President Bola Tinubu would unite Nigeria through ensuring that the Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, emerged the 10th President of the Senate so as to strike a balance in power sharing in the country.

He warned that if the present administration denies the Igbo the number three position, the people of the Southeast would believe that it is the tradition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to sideline the Igbo from  the party and in the governance of the country, which he said would further divide the country.

Nwachukwu faulted the hasty removal of fuel subsidy by President Tinubu during his inaugural speech, saying that it was a trap set by the last administration which he claimed Tinubu fell into.

He called on the new administration to run an all-inclusive government while speaking on other burning national issues.


The inauguration of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the 16th President of Nigeria took place on May 29, in spite of opposition by some individuals and groups, what agenda would you like to set for the new administration? 

Let me use this medium to congratulate His Excellency, President Bola Tinubu on his emergence as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, he must know that all eyes are on him globally. Tinubu must as a matter of urgent importance unite Nigeria without delay. After the just concluded general election, Nigeria is divided along ethnic, religious and tribal lines because many believed the February 25 presidential election was rigged. That was why many were against the inauguration of President Tinubu. Even as we speak many Nigerians are hopeful that the presidential election result will be upturned by the court. Therefore, to restore trust and confidence in the people, President Tinubu must not think of whether this or that tribe voted for him or not, but should go ahead and embrace every Nigerian.

What is your take on the sudden removal of fuel subsidy by President Tinubu, during his inaugural speech which has been condemned by Nigerians?

Fuel subsidy removal by President Tinubu is a hasty decision that did not go down well with the majority of Nigerians. Under former President Muhammadu Buhari eight years reign, Nigerians were and still in an untold hardship because of poor management of the nation’s economy. The economic policy of the administration was so harsh to the extent Nigerians were living below poverty line. Most especially, the redesign of naira notes, which many Nigerians are yet to recover from only for the new President to add to their sufferings by removing fuel subsidy on the very day he was to assume office. The subsidy removal is a trap set for Tinubu by the immediate past administration, unfortunately Tinubu fell into it. That is why Nigerians opposed the removal. Because of this pronouncement by Tinubu, today a litre of fuel is N600 and many filling stations have closed waiting for the new official price of fuel. Tinubu should have first stabilised his government through unification of Nigerians and improve the living standard of the citizens,  then he can float the idea and decision to remove fuel subsidy. I can assure you that Nigerians will listen and then ready to bear the pains that comes with subsidy removal.    

Going by the reversal of the recent zoning arrangement of NASS leadership by the NWC of APC, the fate of the contenders especially Sen. Godswill Akpabio who was endorsed as the next Senate President by some Senators-elect led by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, don’t you think this may affect the chances of Orji Uzor Kalu? 

This is an internal issue of the  APC because they formulated the zoning arrangement and perhaps it must have been enshrined in the constitution of the party or it could be a gentleman agreement. This may have overtime worked for the party, but the sudden turnaround is surprising to a great number of Nigerians, including the Senators-elect who are contesting for executive positions in the 10th Senate. But for the purpose of equity, inclusiveness and balance of power, the Senate President position should be zoned to the Southeast. The region should not be relegated or forgotten in the distribution of heads of the three arms of government. I said it in my last interview and I will say it again, this is a time when the Tinubu government should heal national wounds which is the primary objective. It is not time to start heating up the polity because we are talking about the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The president is the president of the entire Nigeria not president of APC. Invariably, this is not a time to be judging who voted for who or not rather, people from all parts of Nigeria should be included in the running of affairs of Nigeria and how best we can balance power so that there shouldn’t be any further grievances from any section of the country.

The only position vacant in the three arms of government is the Senate President which the people of Southeast said should be zoned to their region, but key party members from the other zones are against the position being zoned to the region because to them, Orji Uzor Kalu did not support Tinubu candidacy at APC presidential primary neither did he deliver his local government to Tinubu, how will you react to this?

In relative to my previous answer, this has to do with internal politicking. The National Working Committee (NWC) should have looked into so many factors and enabling parameters before anyone can be considered to occupy the Senate President seat. The Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, indeed, did not deliver his local government to the president neither did he deliver Abia State to Tinubu. Yes, it is a challenge to his candidacy. However, zoning the Senate Presidency to Southeast is for equity, justice and fairness.  The party leadership should look at the state of Southeast in the nation and negotiate and include them in the management of the nation’s resources. I’m not speaking for APC nor my political party and I’m not speaking for any particular candidate from Southeast rather, I’m saying that power should be balanced by the new government so that by including the Southeast geo-political zone, the Tinubu administration will sail through easily. Southeast is and still remains one of the important political blocs which any reasonable administration cannot do without.  APC should look at things from national perspective, but should not be against Southeast geo-political zone or any other zone because we did not vote Tinubu. Why we are clamouring for Orji Uzor Kalu is because he is a ranking member and competent even though we have other ranking Senators-elect of APC in Southeast and some of them if not all, are capable of handling the affairs of the 10th National Assembly.

Initially, the Senate Presidency was zoned to South-South and Sen. Godswill Akpabio was endorsed as consensus candidate, as it is what is your expectation if it turnout to be so?

We have three main regions, Southeast, Southwest and South-south and when it comes to Nigerian setting right now, the President is from Southwest, the Vice President is from Northeast and we are talking about the Senate Presidency and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. For equity and justice, Southeast should produce the next Senate President.  We must remember that no South Easterner has ever ascended the President and as it is now they may feel being looked at as second class citizens of the country and that could be dangerous. Therefore, I believe that if the present administration must do things right, they should not further relegate the Southeast to the background this time. APC should not jettison their zoning formula in the party because if it had not been working they wouldn’t have been using it except there is a conspiracy or gang up against the Southeast so that they won’t be inclusive or heard by Nigerians.

But some people in the Southeast are against Kalu’s candidacy to head the 10th Senate, what is your take?

I wouldn’t say the South Easterners are not good politicians, rather they are forthright when it comes to choice of a leader to govern them or Nigeria. They are political elite and problem killers, but most times they fail to realize that it takes two to tangle irrespective of your political affiliation. For instance, in 2011, I advocated for additional one state in the Southeast and our representatives at the National Assembly both at the upper and lower chambers were all there, but they swept it under the carpet without knowing it would have been an edge for the Southeast if the one additional state was created to measure with other zones. Because additional state would have given us three additional senators and three additional House of Representatives members that would go a long way, but because it was swept under the carpet till today nothing has been done about it. Just two days ago I read a write up signed by the Secretary of Ohanaeze talking about additional state in the Southeast in this 2023. So, it has been the political culture of the people of Southeast. Bickering within themselves instead to unite and pursue a common csuse. If they should be realistic, they should know what to do at the right time not fire brigade approach. Yes, some people may be against Kalu’s candidacy, but APC should position itself so that they unite Nigeria through proper distribution of federal appointments.

As the struggle for Senate Presidency enters a crucial stage, Kalu is insisting that he must contest for the position, how do you look at this as Igbo leaders have not come out to back him?   

You don’t have to blame Igbo prominent sons and daughters for not pushing the cause for Southeast to produce the next Senate President because they are hopeful that Peter Obi will reclaim his mandate through the court. Also, the Bible says “Many are called, but few are chosen”. However, you should not have expected the entire people of Southeast and political bigwigs to join in the demand for the position. This is not a protest; rather we are saying what should be done for the sake of equity and justice. President Tinubu should prevail on the Senators-elect to unanimously endorse Kalu as the President of the 10th Senate. Igbo should also  be included in the formation of the component of the government at the leadership level as part of the architecture of the government. Because Igbo will not accept a repeat of what happened during the last administration when nobody from the zone was appointed into any sensitive position. Overtime most leaders of Southeast will tell you it doesn’t matter, but later they will complain that we are being marginalized and sidelined. Sometimes,  we fail to call for adjustment and amendment when necessary. They may keep quiet, but I as an individual and I won’t stop to demand for the rights of Igbo. I’m not speaking for any political party, but I’m speaking as South Easterner that the Senate Presidency should be zoned to Southeast by the present government because failure to do so will amount to exclusion of Igbo in the Tinubu administration.

What do you think would be the state of Igbo if Southeast fails to produce the Senate President in June? 

I have the confidence that President Tinubu will not exclude Igbo from occupying the Senate Presidency in June. It will be unfair if he does that as the last administration acted against Igbo under President Muhammadu Buhari. The government and the ruling party are made up of reasonable men and women. Tinubu is a true democrat and I believe he will carry every section of the country along despite the ongoing agitations. He should know the right thing to do in order to unite the country because if he does not, Igbo will see it as the tradition of APC they don’t need the people of Southeast in the party and in the governance of Nigeria. I heard somebody who spoke with anger that those Igbo who came into APC through the window and backdoor should not be trusted. It was a bad statement coming from a chieftain of the ruling party at the present state of the nation. The person that made such statement should be punishable as enshrined in the APC constitution.

How best can Tinubu appease Nigerians and earn their trust and confidence so that Nigeria will be stable politically? 

Like I said earlier, Tinubu is not president of one particular region or section of the country having been sworn in, he is the president of Nigeria including the Southeast. Therefore,  having emerged winner of the February 25 presidential election every Nigerian and every state remains subject to his administration. And all Nigerians must be carried along and every zone should be included in the running of the government. It should not be a matter of who supported or who voted for who. All over the world all the citizens of countries do not vote for the president of their countries, rather whoever get the majority of votes cast is declared winner. That is why it is called democracy, government of the people, by the people and for the people. You cannot expect everybody to vote for a particular candidate or a party. That is why we have over 35 political parties in Nigeria that took part in the just concluded general election. Because we have freedom of association hence you are free to belong to any political party of your choice. You are free to make choice of your preferred candidate, support him or her and vote for the candidate and at the end of the exercise one person must win as the president.

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