The 2019 National Assembly elections have been largely won and lost, but there are indications that another round of contests will move to the courtrooms. Whatever the outcomes of the expected legal contests, they cannot detract from the foibles of the main elections.
However, over the years, Nigerians have always wished for representatives that trade ideas but sadly what they get in return are lawmakers skillful in trading punches. Regrettably, the reasons the lawmakers are embroiled in commotion might just be over trivial issues like positions that contribute nothing to nation building. Yet, it costs a fortune to maintain the National Assembly, to keep it running in the belief that it would stand up to the task of reversing the fortune of the citizenry.
As the 8th National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which was inaugurated on June 9, 2015 gradually wind up by June 9, 2019, comprising 469 members elected across the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria, it has been filled with so many intriguing events. It should be of note that the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria created the National Assembly to make necessary laws for the country.
The membership of the National Assembly include 109 Senators at the equal rate of three per each of the 36 states of the federation and one for the Federal Capital Territory while the House of Representatives consists of 360 members based on the federal constituencies in each state.
Since its inauguration on June 9, 2015, the 8th Senate has so far passed about 220 bills, including Senate bills, concurrence bills and constitution amendment bills. However, pending bills at committee stages are about 167; those awaiting first reading and second reading at the Senate and House of Representatives are 95 and 236 respectively, while pending bills for concurrence are 48. President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have so far assented to about 33 of the 78 bills transmitted to him, declining assent to about 40.
Since the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly on June 9, 2015, the lawmakers led by a former two-time governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki as Chairman of the National Assembly had performed their legislative duties to the best of their abilities in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
Indication that the 8th National Assembly was going to be peculiar one was discernible from its inception, particularly with the manner in which Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as President and Speaker of both legislative house, which many saw as a break with tradition. They emerged against the expectation of their party – the APC. And, for the first time since the reestablishment of democracy in 1999, Saraki’s alliance with the opposition PDP also cost his party the position of the Deputy Senate President.
It should be recalled that at the end of the 1979 general elections, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which won the presidency and majority of the seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives, could not meet the constitutionally required conditions to form government on its own. It went into an accord with the party that came third – the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Both parties entered into a power-sharing arrangement, which produced Joseph Ways of the NPN as Senate President and John Wash Pam, of the NPP, as Deputy Senate President. In the House of Representatives, NPP’s Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was made the Speaker. However, when the accord broke down in 1982 prior to the next general elections, neither Pam nor Ume-Ezeoke resigned his position.
In 2015, PDP’s Aminu Tambuwal, who was then the Speaker of the House of Representatives held on to the position even when he defected to the APC. Also, before Saraki left the APC with his hold on the Senate Presidency, the seat of the Deputy Senate President was already being held by a member of the minority PDP. Saraki was unanimously elected the President of 8th session of the Senate of Nigeria National Assembly by less than 60 senators who were present at the inauguration of the new session of the Senate and was subsequently sworn in by Abubakar Sani, the clerk of the National Assembly.
The emergence of Saraki as the Senate President was the actualisation of a coup plotted against the APC by PDP Senators elected on the platform of the opposition party on Monday night. At the end of the meeting which ended on Tuesday morning, the PDP Senators had endorsed the candidature Saraki as President of the Senate and Honourable Yakubu Dogara as the speaker of the House of Representatives. This is against the preference of Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila respectively for the same position.
However, the road to emergence of a new senate president has been full of intrigues and subterranean plots coalesced in the weeks before the actual election. The listed below are the newly elected senators for the 9th National assembly:
APC, PDP And The Battle For 9th National Assembly
Right now, the APC has 65 Senators-elect, the PDP has 42, while the Young Progressives Party (YPP) has one senator-elect. So far, only six women are among the members of the ninth Senate. They include three new senators (Aisha Dahiru, Adamawa Central; Akon Eyakenyi, Akwa Ibom South; and Uche Ekwunife, Anambra Central) and three returning lawmakers (Oluremi Tinubu of Lagos West, Rose Oko of Cross River North and Stella Oduah of Anambra North).
As of the last count, at least four senators-elect of the ninth Senate had indicated interest in contesting the post of Senate President. They include the incumbent Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan; his predecessor in that office, Senator Ali Ndume, as well as the Chairman of Appropriations Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje and a former Governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Adamu Abdullahi. Of the four, Lawan was adopted on Monday, March 18, as the preferred candidate, just as he got the party’s nod though belatedly in 2015.
The APC’s anointed candidate at the House of Representatives is also billed to trade tackles with Abdulrazak Namdas (Adamawa), Nkeiruka Onyejiocha (Abia), Chike Okafor (Imo), Mohammed Tahir Monguno (Borno), Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Mark Terser Gbillah (Benue), and Ado Alhassan Doguwa (Kano) who are all opposed to the zoning of the speakership to the South West.
Senator Ndume, one of the contestants for the top job, who has declared his opposition to the unilateral adoption of Lawan for the nation’s number three job said immediately that attempt by the party was unconstitutional. He also declared that the bid would only open room for enmity and undue rivalry in the Senate such that claimed the tenures of three Senate Presidents under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Since 1999, there has been no imposition of leadership on the National Assembly by the presidency or the ruling party which did not boomerang, and very badly too. When the country returned to civil rule 1999, Alhaji Salisu Buhari was imposed by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on members of the House of Representatives.
Sadly, neither the ruling party nor the presidency showed that it had learnt any lessons from the Salisu Buhari saga. The PDP imposed Patricia Etteh as the Speaker of the House, but she was removed from office following yet another scandal. This paved the way for Rt. Hon Dimeji Bankole to become the Speaker in 2007. In 2015, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola was imposed by the party on her colleagues, but members rebelled against her choice by working with the opposition to produce Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker.
The story was the same in the Senate where the late Evans Enwerem was imposed on his colleagues in 1999. He was replaced by Dr. Chuba Okadigbo following a scandal over his real name (Evan or Evans?) and an alleged crime that happened almost 50 years prior to that time. Yet the presidency did not want Okadigbo and did everything to undermine his position while he himself did not help matters with his poor disposition to things.
Ahmed Lawan is a ranking Senator since 2007 and current Senate Leader, representing Yobe North Senatorial District. In the wake of the election of the principal officers of the 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015, Lawan was favoured by some APC Senators and leaders, who claimed he was the preferred choice of President Muhammadu Buhari as Senate President. Lawan was elected into the house of representatives in 1999 and got into the senate in 2007. The 60-year-old is a graduate of the University of Maiduguri where he read geography. He also has a postgraduate diploma in land survey, an MSc and PhD in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS), all from the University of Cranfield, United Kingdom.
As Senate Leader, he introduces bills and motions before the upper chamber of the National Assembly for debate by Senators. He is also always willing to defend President Buhari’s administration at every point in time at plenary and He is the arrow head of all Executive bills before the Senate.
Ndume, a ranking two-term Senator became Senate Leader of the 8th National Assembly but was removed on January 10, 2017. He was suspended in March, 2017 for six months by the Senate committee on ethics and privileges headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu, for calling for a probe into the allegations of imported bullet proof range rover with fake documents allegedly involving Senate President Bukola Saraki and seized by the Nigerian Customs.
This also included alleged perjury involving Senator Dino Melaye. But after exonerating Saraki and Melaye, the Committee recommended a one year suspension of Ndume, claiming the former Senate Leader failed to conduct proper investigation before making the said allegations.
Senator Danjuma Goje is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation. His committee will be busy once Senate resumes plenary on March 12 scrutinising the 2019 Appropriation Bill submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly last December. Goje who represents APC Gombe Central has been in the Senate since 2011. He was a two-time governor of Gombe state from 2003 to 2011.
Femi Gbajabiamila – House of Representatives
Gbajabiamila is one strong factor in the eighth House of Representatives. Representing Surulere I federal constituency, Gbajabiamila is a fourth term member of the House, who was penciled down for the speakership before Hon. Dogara clinched it. He is an advocate of qualitative representation, took an active part in debates on the floor and is known to always be on the side of ‘truth and justice’ even as his views were believed to truly reflect the wishes and aspirations of his constituents.
A law graduate from the University of Lagos, he started his career with the Bentley, Edu and Co law firm in Lagos before he established his own firm, Femi Gbaja and Co. where he was principal partner. Gbajabiamila later returned to John Marshall Law School in the US and was said to have graduated top of his class, earning himself a juris doctorate. He set up a law firm and had a brief stint of practice in the US after he passed his Georgia bar exams in 2001. Later, he returned to Nigeria to join politics.
Members of the House in the ruling party would say “the fear of Gbajabiamila is the beginning of wisdom,” not necessarily because they fear him but out of the profound respect his colleagues accord him. He also enjoys robust relationship with people of his constituency. He is the initiator of Lagos Job Fair, the first of its kind in South-west, Nigeria. The job fair brought employers of labor drawn from public/private sectors.
Alhaji Umar Bago
Bago is a ranking House of Representatives member that has represented Chanchaga federal constituency, Niger state in the lower chamber since 2015.
In the 2019 National Assembly elections, Hon. Umar Bago scored 39,391 votes, to defeat Alhaji Abubakar Buba of the Peoples Democratic Party, who came second with 17,869 votes.
Onyejeocha is serving her fourth term in the House of Representatives where she is representing Isiukwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency of Abia State.
She is the current chairperson of the House Committee on Aviation and so far, the only female candidate for the position of speaker.
Onyejeocha had been a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member until August 2018 when she dumped the umbrella party and joined the APC.
She is a graduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Imo State University, and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology from where she obtained her bachelor’s degree and two masters degrees respectively.
Okafor represents Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency of Imo State, and also serves as the chairman, House Committee on Health Care Services.
Declaring his intention to contest for the position of speaker, Okafor said he would provide competent and experienced leadership, adding that it was time that someone from the South East become speaker.
Okafor had a successful career in the banking sector, having held senior managerial positions in the All States Bank, Oceanic Bank and Zenith Bank, before delving into politics. He also served as a commissioner for Finance in Imo State during Rochas Okorocha’s first tenure in office.
It is, however, unlikely that Okafor would win the position for speaker if he eventually contests. He is just a two-time member of House of Reps which is likely going to count against him if members decide to choose based on seniority.
Honourable Abdulrazak Namdas
Namdas is also a two-time member of the House of Reps. He hails from Adamawa State, North East Nigeria, and is representing Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo Federal Constituency. He was the House spokesperson in the 8th House of Representatives.
He declared his intention to contest for the post of speaker on Tuesday, saying he believed that he had all that it takes to lead the House to a greater height.
“I have the legislative experience having been the spokesman for the house in the last four years; I have what it takes to lead the house as the speaker,” Namdas said.
But again, the number of years he has spent as a legislator could count against him.
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