At the N’Assembly, It’s Been One Death Too Many

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No fewer than 10 federal legislators had died since the Ninth National Assembly was inaugurated on June 11, 2019, writes Udora Orizu

Since the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly in 2019, Nigerians have witnessed the death of no fewer than 10 federal legislators. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have grieved over the loss of some of their colleagues. While some died due to old age, others died after suffering one illness or the other.

Although death is inevitable, and a call everyone must answer as and when due, it’s painful for families and friends whenever someone they love dies. The constant deaths of the lawmakers, which happen days or months apart, has given rise to mixed feelings from various quarters.

Lawmakers Who Died in 2019

In December 2019, the National Assembly lost three of its members to the cold hand of death. On December 2, 2019, Hon. Jafa’aru Iliyasu (APC, Niger), who represented Rijau/Magama federal constituency, died after a brief illness.

Two weeks later, on December 18, Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, (APC, Imo) representing Imo North senatorial district, and the Chairman of the Senate committee on employment, labour and productivity, reportedly slumped and died in his Abuja home at the age of 54.

While the lawmakers were still mourning the death of Uwajumogu, another lawmaker, Hon. Mohammed Adamu Fagen Gawo (APC, Jigawa) on December 31, 2019 died of disease associated with his legs. He was 74 years old.

Lawmakers Who Died in 2020

In 2020, the Senate lost three Senators. They were Senator Ignatius Datong Longjan (Plateau South), who died on 10th February, 2020; Senator Rose Okoji Oko (Cross River North), who died on 23rd March 2020 and Senator Adebayo Osinowo (Lagos East), who died on 15th June 2020.

On February 10, Senator Ignatius Longjan representing Plateau South Senatorial District died in a Turkish Hospital after a brief illness. Until his death, he was the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism.

The next month on March 24, another Senator, Rose Oko died. Oko who was the Chairman Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, died at a UK medical facility, where she went for treatment.

Few months later, on June 15, Senator Osinowo, who was popularly known as ‘Pepperito’ died at 65 years-old. Until his death, he was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Industry and Investments.

How the Lawmakers Mourn

At a valedictory session for the late Longjan on February 26, lawmakers lamented the death of good people, while the wicked live on.

It was time for the home truth, as the Senators challenged themselves on the need to live good lives and deliver dividends of democracy to their people so that when they pass on, they would be remembered for their good deeds.

Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while paying tributes to the deceased, asked why good people die and the wicked people don’t die. “Those of us from the South East, say, Death doesn’t know how to make choices on those that he wants to take otherwise he wouldn’t take a nice, humble, unassuming person like Longjan,’’ he said

Senator Gabriel Suswam, who asked the Senate President to lead prayers, said, “We need serious prayers in this chamber. The two major religions should pray that the Almighty God does not continue to take the good people away. Let Him be taking the bad ones as well.”

Senator Ibikunle Amosun pointed out that between 2003 and 2007, there were sad incidences twice until they had the accident in which three of their colleagues died.

He said: “Between that time and now, 21 of us have died. That tells us how ephemeral life is. We pray that we do not keep experiencing things like this.”

Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba South) said good men were not many in society today, adding, “In answer to Abaribe’s question, the good ones are going because God is a patient God.

“He allows the time so they can repent. God will take the good people who are prepared to go so that they don’t dissolve into the multitude. So, for those of us who are still alive, we have a lesson to learn to perfect our ways with God and for believers to remember Thessalonians 4:13-18.”

Senator Opeyemi Bamidele reckoned it was another reminder of the inevitability of death, adding, “It is also for us to put in our best in the service of our fatherland and humanity because of a time like this.”

Senator Oluremi Tinubu, expressed concern over the many deaths of their colleagues within a short interval, saying it was not long Uwajumogu was buried and now Datong, while Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege said it was one death too many.

Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, in closing, said: “This is a lesson to the rest of the country. No matter our differences, we must find common grounds.”

House Has Lost More Members in 2021

Barely three months to the commencement of 2021 legislative year, the House of Representatives has lost four members. They included Ossy Prestige (APGA, Abia), Hon. Yuguda Hassan Kila (APC, Jigawa), Hon. Haruna Maitala (APC, Plateau), and Hon. Suleiman Lere (APC, Kaduna).

Hon. Prestige, died on Sunday, February 7, 2021. Before his demise, Prestige represented Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency of Abia State.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who announced the lawmaker’s demise on the floor of the House, expressed sadness, saying Prestige had been sick since the summer of 2020 and was flown to London for treatment.

A month after Prestige’s death, precisely on March 4, another House member, Hon. Yuguda Hassan Kila died. The lawmaker, who represented Gwaram federal constituency of Jigawa State from 2015 to 2021, was until his death the Chairman of the House Committee on Customs.

Gbajabiamila, who announced the lawmaker’s demise at plenary, expressed sadness over Kila’s death, saying the late lawmaker had been ill and was recovering before his demise.

Hon. Hassan Fulata said Kila was a simple man, who always intervened to settle altercation between people and that the late lawmaker wouldn’t complain about what affected him but rather that of others.

Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Customs, Hon. Leke Abejide, said he and Kila worked very close together as a family. According to him, the late lawmaker was like a father to him and prayed for his soul to rest in peace.

One month later, on April 3, Hon. Haruna Maitala, representing Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency of Plateau State died. Maitala died in a motor accident with his son and aides on his way to Jos from Abuja.

Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, who expressed sadness over the death of Maitala, described the late lawmaker as a hardworking, dedicated and honest politician, who died when his services were needed the most.

Barely four days after the death of Hon Maitala, another lawmaker representing Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State, Hon. Suleiman Aliyu Lere, passed on at the age of 53. Lere died on April 6, at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna State after a brief illness.

Back in February, Gbajabiamila, had sworn in the deceased, who won his case at the Court of Appeal, as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and winner of the House of Representatives election for Lere Federal Constituency, Kaduna.

The late lawmaker’s personal assistant, Mr. Tukura Abdulazeez, told THISDAY that Lere died after battling fever.

Wase, in a condolence message by his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Muhammed Puma, described Lere as a disciplined and upright politician, who contributed immensely to the development of his constituency and the country at large.

Wase said he and the deceased shared a special bond that he would personally miss.

‘’Hon. Lere was a patriot and an exceptional politician, whose dream was always about making his constituency and Nigeria a better place. My condolences go to his immediate family, the Kaduna State government and the good people of Lere federal constituency. I pray that God accepts his good deeds and forgive his shortcomings and reward him with Jannatal Firdaus,” he said.