There are strong indications that the South East region may not produce the deputy Senate president of the incoming 9th National Assembly.
Sources within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said that apart from the division in the South East Caucus of the National Assembly on the matter, the only senator-elect on the party’s platform from the zone eyeing the office was unfit for it.
Consequently, APC has ruled out the zone in its search for a new deputy Senate president and opted for the South-South to occupy the office.
The sources said that the decision was reached after the APC discovered that the only senator-elect on its platform from the South East was not likely to sail through if the party offered the zone the job.
The last-minute decision to deny the South East the office may not be unconnected with a report that the only APC senator-elect from the region, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, still has a case of alleged N7.6 billion fraud before the court. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Kalu for the offence which he allegedly committed when he was governor of Abia State.
It was also learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari directed the party leadership not to present any APC senator-elect facing criminal trial for any principal office of the National Assembly.
Kalu has repeatedly asked the APC to consider him for the office as the only APC senator-elect from the zone who has far been issued with a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
One of the sources alleged that APC may have for now ruled out the South East for lack of a credible candidate for the position of deputy senate president.
He said: “Zoning the position to South East where it has only one senator-elect with corruption charges hanging on him may give the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a possible opportunity again to grab the seat the second time .
“The party may have decided to zone the position to the South-South since the only APC senator-elect from the South East is still standing trail over alleged N7.6 billion fraud and his election is also being challenged at the election petitions tribunal and so the party cannot take the risk of presenting him for the job. The best option is to zone it to the South-South.
“The party is now considering the South East for the deputy speaker slot. We don’t know the fate of governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu whose elections are still shrouded in controversies.
“We have nothing against the South East, but we as a party we cannot zone the position of deputy senate president to the region when the only senator-elect from there is yet to clear himself of the alleged N7.6 billion fraud,” he said.
The chairman of the South East Caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abariba, was reported to have said that the “all principal offices in the Senate were up for grab by any senator irrespective of party affiliation.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of Ohanaeze chieftains and human rights lawyers in Abuja has described the development as unfortunate.
The group which had earlier at a press conference in Abuja asked Kalu to stop parading himself as Igbo leader until he clears himself of the corruption charges said that the APC’s decision had “vindicated us.”
“We saw this coming; the former governor has denied us this opportunity due to his pending trial for corruption by the EFCC.”
The leader of the group, Uche Nnadi, said that it would be wrong for the same party that is championing anti-corruption war to have politician with graft charges still hanging on him as a presiding officer of the Senate.”