Senate President in Nigeria From 1999 Till Date
In every country where democracy is practiced, the legislature is one of the important branches of the government. Others are the executive and the judiciary. In Nigeria, the legislature is called the National Assembly which is divided into two – The Senate and the House of Representatives.
It’s imperative to point out that the composition of the legislature varies from country to country. Some countries provide for a single house while some others provide for two houses of legislature. The single legislature is called unicameral while the two houses of the legislature is known as bicameral
In Nigeria’s situation, it is bicameralism (two houses of legislature). The Senate is also called the Upper Legislative Chamber and it’s headed by a Senate President.
Powers of the Senate President
In order of political hierarchy in Nigeria, the Senate President is the number three most powerful political officeholder, which means in a situation whereby the president and the vice president are concurrently absent, the Senate President can step in as the acting president like in the case of Nwafor Orizu in the 1960s
In a situation whereby both houses (house of reps and senate) hold a joint session, the Senate President presides over the meeting.
Senate President in Nigeria, like others around the world, has so much power while playing his lawmaking role that he could bring the president of the federal republic of Nigeria unto his knees.
Nigeria witnessed the core power of the president of the senate between 2015 to 2019 when Senator Bukola Saraki was the Commander-In-Chief of the Upper Legislative Chamber of the 8th National Assembly.
He made sure that budgets of the Executive were properly scrutinized such that President Muhammadu Buhari and his party loyalists claimed that his action “jeopardized” dividends of democracy the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) would have delivered to the Nigerian people.
Process of Electing Senate President in Nigeria
Nigeria has 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Each of the 36 states in Nigeria is represented by three senators while one represents the FCT. As such, Nigeria and its National Assembly has 109 senators.
The party with the majority produces the President of the Senate after much politicking and political calculation and strategic geometric by political stakeholders within the party with the majority in the Upper Legislative Chamber.
Even within the party that produced the highest number of senators, the party members meet to share major offices of the senate using the six geopolitical zones in the country for equity purposes or to limit the level of lopsidedness in the leadership of the Senate.
Oppositions within the “ruling party” are usually pacified with juicy committees or some undisclosed and unofficial monetary compensation simply to allow the consensus candidate to emerge as the Senate president.
In fact, the post of Nigeria’s president of Senate is also highly politicized that they embark on another campaign after winning their senatorial district election. Political onlookers and analysts saw this played out before the emergence of Ahmad Lawal on June 11, 2019, as the head of the senate.
Lawan, one of the longest-serving members of the National Assembly had lost the seat to a colleague and politically lawmaker, Bukola Saraki, in 2015, when Lawan and his supporters were somewhere at a truce meeting at a Conference Hall some kilometres away from the national assembly complex.
While Lawan was hoping to come back to be announced as Senate President, Bukola who had secretly persuaded most of his PDP senators to wait behind, Bukola emerged as the President of the Senate.
At the time of this research, Nigeria has produced 14 presidents of the Senate since 1960 till date. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first President of the Senate in Nigeria during the first republic.
He was succeeded by Dennis Osadebey while Nwafor Orizu was the last Senate President during the first republic, and as the acting president, he was forced to hand over power to the military.
Senate President in Nigeria from 1999 till date
Since the return to democracy on May 29, 1999, Nigeria has produced 8 presidents of the senate. They are:
- Evan Enwerem
- Chuba Okadigbo
- Anyim Pius Anyim
- Adolphus Wabara
- Ken Nnamani
- David Mark
- Bukola Saraki
- Ahmed Lawan
So, let’s take a peep into the tenure of Senate Presidents from 1999 till date and how some of them were impeached, and the political drama that led to their emergence as Nigeria’s No. 3 most powerful political office holder in Nigeria.
Enwerem was a former governor of Imo State during the failed Third Republic era of Ibrahim Babangida. He was elected to the Nigerian Senate in 1999 to represent the Imo-East Senatorial Zone. He became the first President of the Nigerian Senate during Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
Upon his emergence as Senate President in Nigeria on June 3, 1999, under the People Democratic Party (PDP), issues of conflicting spelling of his name – Evan or Evans – surfaced and he couldn’t win the battle as he was booted out of office on November 18, 1999, through an impeachment process.
His strongest rival on the June 3, 1999 election within the floor of the house was accused of plotting the impeachment process. Enwerem was the first senate president to be impeached since the return of Nigeria to a democratic rule in 1999.
Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, a political scientist and strategist who was a member of the “kitchen cabinets” of President Shehu Shagari in the second republic would not relent despite his first loss to Enwerem. Okadigbo was 37 when he was appointed as political adviser to Shagari.
Some political analysts said Okadigbo strategically plotted the downfall of Enwerem and he succeeded him as the senate president on November 18, 1999.
Similarly, Okadigbo was impeached on August 8, 2000, 10 days before celebrating his one-year anniversary as the president of the senate. He was accused of corruption and embezzlement that he spent NGN50,000,000 to buy ram during one of the Muslim’s festivals.
His ascendancy to the Senate President seat was interesting. He was eloquent and had a bountiful political charisma, unfortunately, his incredible political sagacity failed to save him from Nigeria’s volatile political system.
Okadigbo’s wife Margery represented Anambra North in the 2015 elections. To date, they are the only married couple to achieve this feat.
He would later decamp to the opposition at the time All Nigeria Peoples Party (defunct) and emerged as the running mate to Muhammadu Buhari in the 2003 Presidential elections.
Anyim Pius Anyim
Anyim succeeded Okadigbo, thereby becoming the 9th President of the Senate. He held office till May 2003. There was some political flavour that he added to his regime as the head of the Upper Legislative chamber.
He allegedly aligned with some party members to get President Olusegun Obasanjo removed so that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President, would become president, but all his plans were neutralised by Obasanjo’s foot soldiers.
Anyim voluntarily went on a political hibernation after excusing himself from contesting the 2003 elections. Political analysts believed that he had a “brighter chance” of losing the election due to Obasanjo’s political missile that was already set in motion to spoil his show at the polls in the 2003 general elections.
Anyim who would later be appointed as the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was famous for intimating a seating judge of an Abuja High Court Justice Egbo Egbo for his contrary view about the law setting up Independent Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He also suspended a fellow senator Senator Arthur Nzeribe of Imo State from the floor of the house over an allegation of N22 million fraud.
Wabara, who was elected to the Senate in the 1999 elections, was the 10th senate president in Nigeria between 2003 to 2005. He also found himself in political mud as he was accused of expounding his powers beyond the ordinary.
In a financial mismanagement allegation levelled against him, OBJ, the man behind the scene, supported the investigation.
While the allegation of financial mismanagement was hanging on his neck, a fresh one merged that he alongside some of his colleagues took a bribe of $400,000 (NGN55,000,000) from the education minister, Fabian Osuji, to have his budget passed
Due to the pressure, Wabara bowed out of his seat as president of the senate in April 2005. Fabian Osuji was also sacked by Obasanjo after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission indicted him that he submitted an inflated budget and bribed the lawmakers.
The 11th Senate President in Nigeria was Ken Nnamani. He had been on the floor of the house since 2003, representing Enugu East. He succeeded Wabara on April 5, 2005, the position he held till 2007.
Born David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, he’s the 12th head of the senate. The retired Army General was an align of former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida. He was a former head of the Ministry of Communications
He succeeded Nnamani as President of the Senate of Nigeria on June 6, 2007. He was the longest-serving senior lawmaker until the 2019 elections when he voluntarily step aside to allow someone else to represent Benue South Senatorial District.
Since 1999, David Mark was the longest-serving Senate president in Nigeria, retaining the seat for eight years (2007 to 2015).
Bukola Saraki is the son of Kwara political elder statesman Olusola Saraki aka Baba Oloye. After completing his second term as the governor of Kwara State (May 2003 till May 2011), he went to the Senate where he represented Kwara Central Senatorial District from May 29, 2011, till 2019. Before the 2015 general elections, he led a faction of PDP to join the All Progressive Congress (APC).
In this same year, he strategically planned what APC later described as a “legislative coup” against the anointed candidate for the president of the senate Ahmad Lawan to become senate president when the latter was at another truce meeting called by party executives
While his father was former Senate Leader during the second republic, his sister Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki was also a former senator and presently a cabinet member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Lawan is the 14th Senate President in Nigeria and holds the title of one of the longest-serving members of the National Assembly. He has been in the National Assembly since 1999, first as a member of the House of Representatives. He spent two-term at the lower chamber from 1999 till 2007 when he was elected as a Senator for Yobe North Senatorial District.
Saraki “hijacked” the position of the president from Lawan during the 2015 senate president election while he was attending a meeting somewhere in Abuja on June 9, 2015, Saraki, a quasi APC member had conspired with PDP members and he emerged while Lawan was at the International Conference Centre waiting for a truce meeting.
However, he was re-elected in the 2019 elections and on June 11, 2019, he emerged as the Senate President of the Nigerian 9th Assembly, after defeating his opponent, Senator Ali Ndume with 79 votes to 28 votes.
When a Senate President is impeached, the impeachment doesn’t affect his senatorial district, it only deprived him of being the third most powerful political officeholder.