Race for Senate Presidency: Front-runners and kingmakers (II)

As the race for the Senate presidency in the 10th Assembly gets toughens, TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN examines some of the front-runners in the race and the kingmakers who will influence the outcome of the contest in June

Orji Kalu

Senator Orji Kalu represents Abia North and is one of the front liners in the race for the 10th Assembly Senate presidency. Kalu, who is currently the chief whip of the ninth Senate, began his legislative career in 1992 when he was elected into the House of Representatives. However, the Republic was cut short by a military coup.

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu

He enrolled in the University of Maiduguri, where he studied political science. He became friends with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, while in the university. Kalu became a student activist and participated in the ‘Ali Must Go’ riot against the then education minister. His participation resulted in his suspension. While his fellow students later took the school authorities to court, Kalu left to build his business, which he has grown to prominence today.

Kalu has a certificate in Business Administration from Harvard University and honorary doctorates from two universities. A few months ago, Kalu returned to Harvard to further his studies. Despite his short stint at the House of Representatives, he held two key positions of deputy chairman of the Finance and Internal Affairs committees. He was also known to have moved the famous Dual-Citizenship Rights Bill in the House. Kalu became the governor of Abia State in 1999 and after he completed his second term in 2007, he went to the Red Chamber.

Unlike his colleagues, when he came to the National Assembly, he became one of the principal officers as the chief whip. He was said to have been rewarded with the position based on his contributions to the party.

He was the first to show interest in the leadership of the 10th Assembly which buttressed his reason for supporting and campaigning for Ahmad Lawan’s presidential ambition.

Having secured a second term bid with a total of 30,805 votes to defeat his closet rival, Nnamdi Iroh of the Labour Party, who polled 25,540 votes, while Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party got 15,175 votes, Kalu immediately began the process of emerging as Senate President.

He was the first senator to declare to journalists that he was in the race for the Senate presidency and asked the party to zone the ticket to the South East so that he wouldn’t have any rival. He also met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to inform him of his intention to run for the senate presidency.

Kalu has enjoyed support from his colleagues and other stakeholders, including Senator Chris Adighije, while some of his kinsmen and others, including Ohuabunwa, said he lacked the capacity to be Senate president.

Kalu is said to have a chance of emerging as the Senate President as he is a Christian from the South-East. He also enjoys widespread support from his colleagues, including those in the PDP. He is a close friend of Lawan and has a very close relationship with the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that his protracted case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission may be a major odd against him as the APC may prefer aspirants without such baggage. His major rivals are senators Godswill Akpabio, Osita Izunaso, Dave Umahi and Patrick Ndubueze.

Jibrin Barau

Senator Jibrin Barau represents Kano North Senatorial District. He is the only senator in the All Progressives Congress that survived the New Nigeria People’s Party disruption in Kano State. Having polled 234,652 votes to defeat the candidate of the NNPP, Abdullahi Baffa, who scored 177,014 votes, he was re-elected into the Senate for the third time in a row.

Senator Barau Jibrin
Senator Barau Jibrin

Barau, a renowned businessman with several businesses in Kano, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Master’s degree in Financial Management and Pricing, Master’s degree in Management and Master of Business Administration. He also holds a certificate in Financial Management for Business Decisions from the prestigious Cornell University, United States of America.

Barau, no doubt, is one of the ranking senators, who have declared for the seat of the Senate President. His legislative voyage started in 1999 when he was elected a member of the House of Representatives to represent the Tarauni Federal Constituency. He joined the Senate in 2015 and has retained the seat since then.

Based on his financial acumen, he continually chaired the committee on Appropriation both at the Green and Red Chamber. While away from the parliament, Barau served as the Commissioner for Science and Technology in Kano State. He was appointed in 2001 to serve as a member of a committee set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to review Nigeria’s budgetary process.

He was one of the early lawmakers to declare their intentions to contest. He has emphasised his experience and competence during his consultations.

Since he declared his interest in the position, he has received huge support from a number of northern stakeholders. He is also said to be an ally of the Senate President and one of the favourites of the President-elect. He has a good relationship with his colleagues, particularly the northern bloc and he is said to be widely accepted by the first-timers.

However, he has received a lot of backlash from the National Vice Chairman of the APC, Salihu Lukman, who is also from Kano State, for joining the race. Lukman has consistently called on the party to zone the speakership to the North-West and the Senate presidency to the South-South or South-East. Barau’s major rival is Senator Sani Musa.

Ali Ndume

Senator Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South, is one of the landlords at the National Assembly. He was first elected into the parliament in 2003 as a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s Party. He represented the Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency and was re-elected in April 2007.

Senator Mohammed Ali-Ndume
Senator Mohammed Ali-Ndume

In 2011, he ended his stay at the Green Chamber and crossed to the Red Chamber. He won the seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

In 2015, he was re-elected on the platform of the APC having defected to the party in the build-up to the general election. With his support for the Saraki camp, which later triumphed against party wishes, Ndume was able to clinch the position of Senate Leader. But he was removed in early 2017 in controversial circumstances.

Ndume obtained his Ordinary National Diploma in 1980 and Higher National Diploma in Marketing in 1982 at Upper Credit level. Through a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development, he later studied Business and Computer Education at the University of Toledo, Ohio, United States and graduated with a B.Ed and M.Ed in 1990.

He was awarded the Magna Cum Laude academic honour and practised as a lecturer before venturing into politics.

Ndume declared his interest to join the Senate presidency race with a 10-point agenda.

Although he is from the same state as the Vice-President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, Ndume has argued that people should be treated individually based on their capacity and competence and not based on their tribe or religion.

This is not his first attempt at the Senate presidency, as he contested against Lawan in 2019 but lost after polling 28 votes against Lawan, who had 78 votes.

Ndume hasn’t been lobbying as he claimed to await the party to release the zoning formula. Knowing his zone may not be favoured in the distribution of offices since it produced the vice-president-elect, Ndume has maintained that the party should throw the National Assembly leadership contest open to allow for competent and experienced people to join the race.


Bola Tinubu

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the President-elect and is preparing for his inauguration on May 29. For decades, Tinubu has been known as a kingmaker.

President-elect, Bola Tinubu
President-elect, Bola Tinubu

The former governor of Lagos State is said to have had a say in the emergence of prominent persons in the country into different political offices, including Buhari.

Against all odds, Tinubu emerged winner of the February 25, 2023 elections where he defeated 17 other candidates who took part in the election. He scored a total of 8,794,726 votes, beating his closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, who polled 6,984,520 votes, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came third with 6,101,533 votes, while Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party came fourth with 1,496,687 votes.

While the decision to zone the positions rests on the party, the President-elect will have a say in those to emerge.

This has further come to the fore as most of the aspirants for Senate presidency and speakership have been parading his house and lobbying him and his confidants.

Meanwhile, many people are of the view that the Bukola Saraki-led eighth Senate witnessed a frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature, while the ninth Senate led by Lawan is often described as a rubber stamp for what many describe as its subservience to the executive. Economists and many opinion leaders have contended that Lawan’s leadership of the Senate contributed to the country’s huge debt stock as the lawmakers approved most of Buhari’s loan request.

From his body language, it will seem the President-elect is disposed to running an inclusive government.

Senator Kashim Shettima

Senator Kashim Shettima is the Vice-President-elect and former governor of Borno State. After serving his term as governor, Shettima moved to the Red Chamber as the senator representing Borno Central. He was a member until Tinubu selected him as his running mate in 2022.

Senator Kashim Shettima
Senator Kashim Shettima

His choice was greeted by a lot of criticism over the Muslim-Muslim ticket. However, the party won the election.

Before he became a politician, Shettima was a banker and held various public offices. Having been in the chamber with most of the aspirants when he was a senator, his personal knowledge of their capacities will play an important role in those the party may support for the Senate leadership.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu

Senator Abdullahi Adamu is the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress. Having served as the governor of Nasarawa for two terms, he moved to the Senate like many other former governors.

APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu
APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu

Adamu joined politics in 1977 and was elected into the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the constitution for Nigeria’s short-lived Second Republic (1979–1983). He was a pioneer member of the National Party of Nigeria, and the first Secretary-General of the NPN in Plateau State. In 1994, he was appointed into the National Constitutional Conference by General Sani Abacha’s administration. In March 1995, Adamu was appointed the Minister of State for Works and Housing and he held the position until November 1997. When the ban on political activities was lifted in 1997, he joined the United Nigeria Congress Party. In 1998, Adamu became a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party.

He later joined the APC and became the national chairman at the party’s last convention.

Adamu, like Shettima, was a part of the ninth Senate before leaving to serve as the party’s chairman. He is said to be close to Sani Musa, but he has never openly declared support for the Niger East senator nor has he canvassed for his zone, the North-Central.

With his vantage position, Adamu will play a huge role in the zoning formula the party will come up with.