The three leading candidates vying for the position of Senate President in the upcoming 10th National Assembly have all been embroiled in corruption allegations for between seven to sixteen years.
A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, is in the race for the Senate President’s seat with baggage of corruption allegations. Despite the accusations against him, he has nonetheless been selected by his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as their preferred candidate for the position on Monday. The allegations against Akpabio include claims of misappropriation of state funds during his time as governor from 2007 to 2015. Akpabio has denied all allegations of corruption against him, but several investigations by anti-corruption agencies are reported to be ongoing.
This also extends to Orji Kalu, a former governor of Abia State; and Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara.
None of the frontrunners have been able to fully exonerate themselves from the accusations leveled against them over that lengthy period of time. The Senate President is the third highest political office in Nigeria and is second in line to succeed the President should that office become vacant.
The fact that the top candidates for such an important position have been dogged by corruption allegations for so many years is concerning and raises questions about the integrity and suitability of the individuals seeking to occupy the Senate’s highest office.
Nigerians deserve representatives of the highest moral and ethical caliber, not those mired in controversy and potential wrongdoing. The Senate President’s role in setting the legislative agenda, overseeing the upper house of parliament, and acting as a check on the executive branch demands a person of impeccable character and reputation.
The Senate and indeed all of Nigeria would be well served by candidates for Senate President who can truly claim to be free of corruption and committed to transparency, accountability and the national interest above all else.
It is important to note the challenges this poses for Nigeria’s democracy as Mr Akpabio, Orji Kalu, a former governor of Abia State; and Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara – who are frontrunners in the race for the Senate Presidency – have had corruption investigations hovering over them for between seven to sixteen years. Allowing such individuals to ascend to the highest levels of government sets a troubling precedent and risks undermining the fight against corruption and impunity in Nigerian politics.
On the one hand, it shows there are still loopholes in the system that enable the accused to secure high offices. On the other hand, it signals to the general populace that corruption may pay off in the long run, weakening the social compact between the government and its citizens.