By Amby Uneze
When the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated by June 6, 2019, Nigerians would feel the pulse of the nation coming together as one by recognizing equitable inclusion of federating units of the country in line with the provisions of the constitution of the country, even as it affects sharing of political offices. And that is, when the South East geo-political zone must have been fully reintegrated into the main stream of political equation by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, the quest of a few of those federal legislators from the South-east zone expressing interest in the Speakership of the 9th Assembly can therefore be welcome by well-meaning Nigerians who want the country to remain one united and indivisible nation where equity, fairness and justice prevail.
Granted that the people of the South-east are predominately lean on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but there are those who have worked assiduously to stamp the name of APC permanently in the zone, and those people are still very much around in the 9th Assembly. Persons like Chike Okafor, a two-term APC member representing Okigwe South Federal Constituency; comprising Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma and Obowo in Imo State, Nkiru Onyejeocha, a four-term member representing Umunneoche/Isiukwuato Federal Constituency of Abia state. These federal lawmakers have significantly stamped the name of the APC in their various constituencies in the South-east.
As an effective lawmaker, Okafor has shown that even as a first-term legislator (2015), he exhibited impressive legislative knowledge that won the heart of his colleagues. He was made the Chairman, House Committee on Health. Within this short period, Okafor presented a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs And Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap C34, Laws of the Federal of Nigeria, 2004 and to make Comprehensive Provisions for the Prohibition and Control of Counterfeit and Products, 2012 (Still in the House).
He also proposed an Act to Establish the Institute of Customer and Commercial Accountants of Nigeria and for other Related Matters Connected Therewith. Among other proposal to his credit are; An Act to Amend the Dangerous Drugs Act Cap DI Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to give Powers to the Minister of Health to Regulate Certain Classes of Drugs, Allow Arrests to be affected by the Members of the Public and Review the Prescribed Penalty provided under the Act; And for Related Matters. (This has been passed, waiting to be signed into law by Mr. President).
Okafor has since 2015 embarked on Annual Free Medical Outreach in Okigwe South Federal Constituency; with the aim to empower his constituents and entrench his commitment to improving the lives and wellbeing of the communities in his constituency and Nigeria at large. This outreach programmes have the supports of relevant stakeholders (including UNICEF, NPHCDA, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria, NCDC, FMOH, NACA, NAFDAC and the NHIS) for expanding the scope of the outreach programmes, incorporating community based health insurance, nutrition programmes and many more.
In a letter to the National Chairman of his party APC, Adams Oshiomhole where he appealed the national leadership for support to be elected the Speaker of the 9th House, he said, “We have willing men and women in the South-east who passionately desire to change the perception that APC is unpopular in the South-east, but we need encouragement; we need to be able to show our people that this party truly means well for our region.
“And be able to point to tangible gestures of goodwill from the centre. At a time like this, such gestures as zoning the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the South-East will indeed suffice. I believe in APC so strongly that I am confident that the APC can rule Nigeria for the next 40 years. But we must assume and sustain the disposition for winning. Such disposition that accommodates all stakeholders; that opens up the space for wider participation at the centre, growing the party across every geopolitical zone and allowing every tribe and tongue the opportunity to have a voice in the party, and a sense of belonging”, he stated.
On Public hearing, Okafor has conducted among others Public Hearing on Financing Healthcare and Revitalization of Primary Health Care System in Nigeria; Public Hearing on the Need to Investigate the Compliance Rate of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to the NHIS Contributions and Utilization of Funds by the Healthcare Providers And Inhumane Treatment of Enrolees; The Investigative Hearing on the Illegal Withdrawal of the Sum of N10 billion “Insured Persons” Funds from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); Investigative Public Hearing Against NAFDAC and Alleged Conspiracy with Tomato Paste Companies By Erisco Foods Limited; Investigative Public Hearing on Importation of Fake, Substandard and Cancer causing Tomato Paste into Nigeria; and Public hearing on a bill to amend NAFDAC Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria