As the political plot thickens ahead of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, there are strong indications that many state governors whose tenure expires next year may aspire to be in the Senate.
This trend is not new as the Senate since the dawn of the fourth republic in 1999 has seemingly evolved into a political ‘retirement home’ for former governors. This is probably so because of the desire to retain political relevance after their eight-year stint as governors.
In 2007 after serving out the mandatory two terms, six former governors made it to the National Assembly, specifically the Senate which is regarded as the Upper Chamber in the Bi-Camera Legislature practised in Nigeria.
The former governors are: Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu State); Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe State); Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna State); George Akume (Benue State); and Sani Yerima (Zamfara State).
Four of these former governors retained their seats in the 7th Senate (2011-2015) while three new ones: Dr Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa State); Danjuma Goje (Gombe State); Sani Yerima (Zamfara State); and Bukola Saraki (Kwara State) joined them.
The 8th Senate (2015-2019) equally had five former governors bouncing back. They are Senators George Akume, Sani Yerima, Adamu Abdullahi, Danjuma Goje and Bukola Saraki who became President of the 8th Senate. These ex-Governors were joined by others: the “uncommon former Governor” Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom State) Jonah Jang (Plateau state) Theodore Orji (Abia state), Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto State), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi state) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano State).
It is on record however that some sitting governors who attempted to go the same route were resoundingly defeated in 2015 by their rivals from the opposition parties. These include former Governors Gabriel Suswam (Benue State); Dr Babangida Aliyu (Niger State); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi State); and Saidu Dakingari (Kebbi State).
There are no indications therefore that this trend will not change any time soon as former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole openly declared his intention to run for senate in 2023.
The former governor and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC had on Monday (April 4, 2022) made the declaration at his 70th birthday celebration at his Iyamoh residence in Etsako West local government area, which had several leaders of the APC in attendance.
A common trend among these former governors is that they rather opt for the Senate instead of the House of Representatives probably because it is not only perceived as the Upper Chamber but also because it is made up of senior citizens who have more roles to play regarding appointments of the executive cabinet.
In this current Ninth Assembly, 16 former governors are representing their senatorial districts in law-making.
In the North-East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe, three former governors are in the current assembly. They include; Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central), Ibrahim Gaidam (APC Yobe East) and Kashim Shettima (APC Borno Central).
Crucially, since the commencement of the 9th Assembly, Senators Goje and Gaidam have sponsored two bills respectively while Shettima has 7 bills.
The North-West states of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara have four former governors serving at the Upper Chamber: Aliyu Wammako (APC Sokoto North), Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South) and Ibrahim Shekarau (APC Kano Central).
While the first three former governors have so far sponsored six, two and three bills respectively, Senator Shekarau is yet to sponsor any.
In the South East (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo), former Abia Governors, Theodore Orji (PDP Abia Central) and Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North) since their emergence to the Upper Chamber have sponsored 7 and 4 bills respectively.
Sam Ewgu, who represents Ebonyi North, sponsored five bills in the Senate, while Chimaroake Nnamani (Enugu East) has one bill to his credit just as Owelle Rochas Okorocha (APC Imo West) has seven bills.
Senators Ibikunle Amosun (APC Ogun Central) and Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West) are the only former governors representing the South-West and the South-South geopolitical zone respectively.
Since his swearing-in in December 2020, Senator Dickson has not sponsored any bill. But Senator Amosun has so far sponsored 15 bills, the highest among all former governors.
In the North Central (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau); the New APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West) has so far sponsored seven bills while Senator Tanko Al-Makura (APC Nasarawa South) has five bills to his credit.
However, the impact of the former governors in the legislative process cannot be quantified by the number of bills and motions so far sponsored due chiefly to some of their committee work and oversight functions.
With the 2023 general election fast approaching, some former and serving governors are warming up to displace the Senators currently representing their senatorial districts.
Many are wondering if their experiences as chief executives will impact positively Nigeria’s law-making process.