It’s official that Nigeria’s current senate president, Ahmad Lawan, won’t be on the ballot for re-election to the Senate in 2023. Lawan has been a member of the National Assembly since 1999 living the Nigerian dream: getting credit alerts from the Nigerian treasury.
Unfortunately, for him, his early retirement isn’t by choice. In June 2022, Lawan contested for his political party’s ticket for the Nigerian presidency but lost. To console himself, he went back to pick the ticket for his Senate seat but someone else already won it and refused to let it go. The long and short of Lawan’s sad tale is he tried to have his cake and eat it but it was poisoned.
Lawan’s absence from the next roster of the National Assembly is notable because he’s the second successive senate president who’s failed to win re-election. This made us curious enough to check on how senate presidents have performed since 1999, and we found a very interesting trend of village people at work.
Let’s run down the list.
Evan Enwerem, 1999 — 1999
Evan Enwerem served as Nigeria’s first senate president in the Fourth Republic but he didn’t even finish the interior decoration of his office when a committee started investigating him for corruption.
Lawmakers accused him of falsifying his age and academic qualifications and there was a dispute over if his name was “Evans” or “Evan”. They said:
Five months into his reign as senate president, 90 lawmakers voted to impeach Enwerem. Even though he kept his seat as a senator for the remainder of his four-year term, he didn’t return for another one.
Chuba Okadigbo, 1999 — 2000
Okadigbo lost the first senate presidency election to Enwerem but won on his second attempt after Enwerem got booted out of the position.
But like his predecessor, Okadigbo also lasted only a short time in the position. 81 senators voted to impeach him nine months into his tenure, over allegations of gross abuse of public office. They accused him of personal enrichment including having 32 official vehicles and spending more than $120,000 over the budget authorised for furnishing his official residence.
He contested the 2003 presidential election as a running mate to Muhammadu Buhari and lost. He never returned to the Senate.
Anyim Pius Anyim, 2000 — 2003
Anyim Pius Anyim took over as senate president after Okadigbo’s exit. He led an unsuccessful attempt to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo and survived an attempt by other lawmakers to impeach him too. He didn’t contest for re-election to the Senate in 2003 because his clash with Obasanjo dampened his chances of victory.
Adolphus Wabara, 2003 — 2005
Adolphus Wabara became Nigeria’s senate president at the start of his second term as a senator in 2003. But he resigned from the office two years later, after the Obasanjo administration publicly indicted him over a ₦55 million bribery scandal.
He battled the allegations in court for years and never returned to the Senate when his second term ended in 2007.
Ken Nnamani, 2005 — 2007
Ken Nnamani became the senate president as a first-term senator after Wabara’s resignation in 2005. He remained senate president till 2007 but never returned for another term.
David Mark, 2007 — 2015
David Mark was the first senator in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic to break the senate president’s jinx. After serving two terms in the Senate, he became its president in his third term in 2007 and won re-election in 2011. He couldn’t retain his senate president seat in 2015 because his party lost the majority in the Senate, but he remained a senator till 2019.
Bukola Saraki, 2015 — 2019
After one term as a senator, Bukola Saraki schemed his way to becoming the senate president in 2015. He escaped impeachment moves against him to retain the seat until 2019, but he lost his re-election bid.
Ahmad Lawan, 2019 — 2023
Like most of the other senate presidents on this list, Lawan is facing an unplanned retirement from the Senate just after assuming the top seat. After 24 years in the National Assembly, he’s finally bowing out, reluctantly.
If there’s anything this trend shows, it’s that once you’re a Nigerian senate president, your days in the national assembly are numbered. That’s something for the next senate president to chew on.