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Emeka Oluchukwu: Stella Oduah, south-east and prospects for senate leadership

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Could Princess Stella Oduah be south-east’s best shot at the third highest office in the country in 2023? Princess Oduah is a ranking member of the Nigerian Senate, representing Anambra North District in Anambra state. She was first elected in 2015, and in 2019, she was re-elected to the same office owing to her superlative performance. She is one of the very few women in the senate who have chalked up legislative experience and achievements.

Senator Oduah is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and currently one of the very few ranking senators from the south-east.

If the PDP wins the 2023 presidential election and is also able to secure a majority of the seats in the senate, it is expected that the senate-presidency slot is zoned to the south-east as Atiku Abubakar, PDP presidential candidate is from the (north), while the vice-presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa is from the south-south.

Currently, there are a few ranking senators from the south-east – Senator Oduah, former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, and others.

The south-east is the only zone, among the three major ethnic nationalities, that is yet to produce a president or vice-president since the return of democracy in 1999.

The zone appears consigned to the backwaters of national politics. At present, the south-east has no leverage or significant influence in government. The zone has never been so divorced from power before as it is now.

The highest position of authority occupied by a citizen from the south-east used to be deputy senate president, but the zone has lost that altogether.

But despite the current unfavourable political fortunes, one thing is incontrovertible about the south-east and its people; they are intellectually sophisticated, economically significant, and politically aware.

The Igbo are loyal, giving, and unwavering. They have a predilection for going to the grave with a corpse if need be. They are a dependable ally. If you have the Igbo as a consociate, you have an unrelenting sentinel.

In 2015, the south-east lost its default position. And then it consigned itself to the backwaters of opposition, where it does not fare well – historically. The past seven years have been traumatic for the Igbo. It has been enervating. The zone’s political declension is a psychological burden every Igbo bears.

The south-east regaining its place means it must look beyond a solitary party. It must put itself in the thick of things – at the centre — and play realpolitik. To sit at the table, it must wrest itself from the enchantment of distractions and embrace major parties like the PDP.

There is a greater chance for the south-east to return to political reckoning by aligning itself with a major party with tentacular structures than with a party without structures.

The Igbo have conquered commerce, industry, science, and technology, but must apply same skills which account for their success in business in politics.

It will be unwise to change ranking members of the senate from the south-east who have performed excellently like Senator Oduah. National assembly leadership positions and committee chairmanship are often allocated based on ranking. What this implies is that Anambra North and the south-east will have better chances at getting viable positions in the national assembly in 2023 with Princess Oduah as senator representing the district.

At this critical juncture, the south-east must consider political self-preservation. It must deploy certain competencies — diplomacy, tact, temperance, expansiveness, and flexibility – so that it can regain its place in 2023.

Also, at a time the world is becoming more sensitive to gender inclusion in leadership, it will be in the best interest of the south-east to put its best foot forward.

It is possible that the first female senate president in Nigeria will come from the south-east.

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