With the ninth National Assembly still struggling to settle down, some of the lawmakers have already begun to show the stuff they were made of, report Deji Elumoye and Adedayo Akinwale
As the National Assembly members prepare to resume from their Christmas and New Year break on Tuesday, January 28, all eyes will be on them to get cracking and attend to some of the urgent legislative duties before them.
This, however, brings to the fore, question of the lawmakers that made the first six months of the Ninth Assembly worth the while. These were lawmakers who contributed in no small measure to the takeoff of the legislature last June.
With the election of presiding and principal officers for the two chambers of the National Assembly on June 11, 2019, all was set for the Senators and House members to begin to discharge their legislative duties, which was the basis of their being elected into the federal parliament.
The election of Dr. Ahmad Lawan, a ranking Senator from Yobe North, who has spent a record 20 years in the federal parliament, as Senate President sent a clear signal to the public that the Ninth Senate and by extension National Assembly would not unnecessarily engage the Executive on issues unlike the eighth assembly chaired by Dr. Senator Bukola Saraki.
From the word go, Lawan had expressed the readiness of the legislative arm to collaborate with the Executive as represented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
At every given opportunity, the Senate President always stressed the fact that the current National Assembly was on the same page with the Presidency. This much was displayed in the course of considering Executive communications in the form of confirmation of appointments into boards and parastatals.
In most instances, due processes were not followed with relevant committees being given barely a week to screen the nominees and report back to plenary.
Some Senators have had cause in private discussions in the past to complain of the high handedness of Lawan in the conduct of affairs at plenary, saying he only recognised Senators that were considered pro-establishment, when it comes to debating issues on the floor of the upper chamber.
They also cited instances, when members raised Point of Order and the Senate President would overrule the Senators concerned without recourse to the Senate standing Rules.
On his part, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, a second term Senator, and Deputy Senate President, is known to be passionate about Electoral reforms and have had cause to present a bill in this regard, which has passed first reading.
He is also known to have also presented another Bill on sex for marks, which stipulates punishment for lecturers in higher institutions soliciting for sex in exchange for marks from female students for the consideration of the Red Chamber.
Omo-Agege, a lawyer, who is always eager to contribute on the floor of the Senate to bills and motions bordering on law and judicial system has, however, not had the opportunity of acting for the Senate President at plenary as Lawan was always on hand to preside over the sittings of the upper legislative chamber.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader, also stands out as a lawmaker to watch out for in the current Assembly. At every opportunity, he was always ready to speak truth to the powers that be.
Of particular note was when the anti-social media bill was presented before the Senate, Abaribe stated emphatically that the minority Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate will not support the gagging of people’s views through any legislation.
He was also particular about the suffering of the citizenry in his debate on the general principle of 2020 budget, when he said the budget should have human face by addressing the myriad of problems facing the average Nigerian man on the street. He is known to be very frank about issues and will not hesitate to say the truth to power as the year progresses.
Former three-time Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, although rarely talks at plenary, whenever he does he brings his wealth of experience to bear on the debate. As a ranking sixth term Senator, Ekweremadu, who sits at the rear of the opposition PDP Senators wing, has sponsored a bill for the amendment of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).
As Chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Constitutional Amendments for a record 12 years from 2007 to 2019, he is in a better position to know other areas of the constitution that requires further amendment and this may have informed his sponsoring another bill to this effect in the Senate.
Former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, is another lawmaker who knows his onions, when it comes to parliamentary work. A dogged ranking Senator, who on principle stood his ground to contest against Lawan for the coveted position of Ninth Senate President on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 and lost, Ndume, who is Chairman of Senate committee on Army is also not afraid to speak the truth to power.
He had on several occasions spoken against the hardship Nigerians are going through and the need for government to urgently address the issues. He is also concerned about how Constituency Projects of federal lawmakers were executed annually by the Executive and come up with a Bill that has passed through first reading for the establishment of a Commission to handle such projects.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu, former Chairman of the Senate Committees on Women Affairs and Environment, has been in the forefront of the campaign for a special status and vote to be accorded Lagos as a former capital of Nigeria.
Although she presented a bill to that effect before the Eighth Senate, which failed to scale through, the Chairman of Senate committee on Communications is re-introducing the bill and had commenced lobbying her colleagues so that the bill could see the light of the day this year.
On his part, former Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, is well known for coming up with Hate Speech Bill which generated a lot of uproar with the death sentence penalty prescribed for promoters of hate speech in the bill. Abdullahi, who is the Deputy Senate Whip and sponsor of the Bill, has however given assurance that he might expunge the death penalty prescribed in the bill.
Senator Sani Musa sponsored the anti-social media bill and got the greater bashing from the public, including his colleagues, who asked him to back down on the bill, which had passed through first reading. He would be a character to watch out for in the ninth senate.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, is one of the intelligentsias of the current senate, with sound and enviable legal background. A former House of Representatives in the seventh assembly, Bamidele was recently made a member of the Body of Benchers, an appointment that confirmed his legal relevance. He definitely has a lot to offer in the ninth assembly, although he has remained on the quiet side, intervening only in critical debates with collective interest and value.
In the Green chamber, Speaker Femi Gbaiabimila, is one of the most experienced lawmakers in the House.
It is therefore not surprising that his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was hell bent on him leading the Ninth House as Speaker.
Although he sometimes allows contributions from lawmakers to drag for so long on some bills that have not been passed or motions of urgent national importance, what you can not take away from Gbajabiamila is his sense of humour, when directing the affairs on the floor of the House.
His diplomacy and maturity in handling issues that are even against the party in power which he belongs to showed that he is by far a much better leader than the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who always kicked against issues or motions perceived to be against President Buhari or his party without considering the argument being put forward by his colleagues.
The leadership style of the Speaker has made him a friend to all, he is adored by the lawmakers in his party and even in the opposition.
Idris Wase, the Deputy Speaker is another experienced lawmaker in the House. However, unlike Gbajabiamila, who allows his colleagues to debate for too long on a bill or an issue during plenary, Wase appears not to have the temperament for that on the few occasions he had presided over plenary in the absence of Gbajabiamila.
His style too has endeared him to his colleagues and even journalists. Journalists, most times, like Wase presiding over the plenary, because he has no time to waste. His leadership style has earned him the nickname “Sharp Sharp Wase” among journalists covering the Green chamber.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, is another outspoken lawmaker, whose debate and contributions to issues had not gone unnoticed.
Though his emergence was the shock of the century to his party, the PDP, what his party and Nigerians cannot fault is that he has been a worthy representative.
Getting him to respond to issues or reply to text messages may have been an easy one to many journalists, however, picking calls is not one of his positive attributes.
Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader always makes meaningful contributions to issues to the extent that he will always find a related account of event that happened to one of his constituents to drive home his point. With him, there is no dull moment in the House.
House spokesman, Hon Ben Kalu is another regular voice in the House, who can never be found wanting when issues that affect the country are being discussed.
Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha is a ranking member in the House and over the years, she has remained a household name and one of the most vocal female lawmakers in the House. There is hardly any issue that is being discussed at plenary that she would not make useful contributions.
Hon Taiwo Oluga is though quiet, however, always makes meaningful contributions whenever she stands up to contribute to issues on the floor. She recently sponsored a bill on the need to establish a Federal College of Education in her constituency.
Hon Bamidele Salam has never been afraid to speak out his mind on the floor of the House, no matter whose ox is gored. In as much as it is an issue that concerns the development of Nigeria, he doesn’t mind stepping on the toes of even the President to drive home his point. He has given a good account of himself thus far.
Hon Kingsley Chinda may not have had the blessing of his colleagues, especially the minority lawmakers to be their leader, but that has not deterred him nor affected his morale as the representative of his people.
Actually, he has given Elumelu-led minority caucus a run for their money and forced the minority caucus in the House to be alive to its responsibility.
Hon Yusuf Datti has always been alive to his responsibility as a lawmaker. Most times, his loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari can becloud his reasoning and the way he contributes to issues on the floor.
The Chief Whip of the House, Hon Muhammed Monguno, despite being a member of the APC, his loyalty to Nigeria is never in doubt.
He believes more in the development of the country. Monguno doesn’t allow his emotional attachment to the ruling party to affect his contribution to issues of national importance.
Shetimma Ali usually contributes on the floor whenever a particular motion or issue targeted at the President, which may attract his ire, is being discussed. He values his loyalty to President Buhari more than anything else. His commitment to the development of his people is the least on his scale of preference, when it comes to the issue of the President.
Hon Leke Abejide’s presence in the House is usually well pronounced especially, when it comes to debate on the issue of decongesting Nigeria ports. His experience in the maritime sector always comes handy.