With the election of the principal officers of the Senate and House of Representatives done and dusted, the two chambers of the National Assembly are set to settle down into legislative business. This is in spite of the crisis that has engulfed the caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the two chambers, who are divided over their members that emerged as the minority leaders.
While Nigerians look eagerly forward to a National Assembly that will be devoid of the rancours of the last dispensation, there are lawmakers in the two chambers who are of particular interest on the basis of their antecedents in the previous dispensations or the character traits already exhibited by some new members on account of which members of the public has formed certain opinions about them.
In the next four years or thereabout, the observing public will look to see whether the lawmakers who public impressions about them are negative can seize the opportunity offered by the 9th Assembly to correct such impressions, and whether those who have already left positive impressions on the people’s minds can prove that the deeds upon which such impressions were formed were not a fluke.
If things had gone in the direction desired by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 8th Assembly, the newly elected president of the Senate would have been the Senate President instead of Dr. Bukola Saraki. The party was rooting for his candidacy and indeed thought they had everything under control until Saraki pulled a fast one, allying with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to ensure his emergence as the Senate President.
But as if destined for the seat, Lawan has regained the loss of 2015 with his recent election as the President of the 9thSenate. The development, however, comes with a challenge to the new Senate President: the onus is on him to prove that the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari and other Nigerians who supported his aspiration in 2015 and in the last election did not make a mistake. This he can do by carrying the Senate in a manner that will advance national governance and erase all the shortcomings of the last dispensation.
Working under the template of “a National Assembly that works for Nigeria” the Yobe North senator has already unveiled his legislative agenda. With its core objective as repositioning the Senate to carry out its constitutional duties of legislation, oversight and representation in an open and transparent manner, the agenda raises the hope of well-meaning Nigerians. But will he walk the talk?
The new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, ascended the throne in the same circumstances as the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan. Like Lawan, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari and other influential party members were rooting for him to become the Speaker of the House in the 8th Assembly.
But like Dr. Bukola Saraki in the Senate, another APC member, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, pulled the rug from under their feet in an electoral coup against his party. But in an instance of the saying that what would be would be, Gbajabiamila became the Speaker in with an emphatic victory in the election of the principal officers of the lower chamber on June 11.
Now that he is the Speaker, he will have to prove to his party and Nigerians in general that there was something they missed in him not realising his ambition to occupy the seat in 2015. He is now saddled with the task of proving that he is a better Speaker than his immediate predecessor. And given that some members of the lower chamber who did support his aspiration or even worked against it were said to have cited his inability to relate well with other members, the onus is on him to prove them wrong, particularly now that he is the father of all members.
As the Speaker, are we still going to see the same spirit he exhibited in his brilliant deliverables while he was Minority and Majority Leader? Evidently, the Speaker is aware of the huge responsibility he carries and knows he must not fail.
Based on his antecedents as a member of the House of Representatives and a senator, Senator Dino Melaye comes across to the average Nigerian as a rascally, cantankerous individual within and outside the chambers of the National Assembly.
As a member of the House of Representatives, he was the symbol of the affray that characterised the House under the leadership of the then Speaker, Hon. Patricia Etteh. And he did not slow down on his aggressive instincts even when he stepped up to the upper chamber as he courted one controversy after the other.
Among his well-documented antics are his confrontations with the police from his vehicle he jumped out while he was being driven from Abuja to Lokoja to answer to criminal charges filed against him at the high court in the Kogi State capital, as well as his assault on the hapless female senator representing Lagos Central, Oluremi Tinubu.
Many people are, however, of the opinion that the antics of the Kogi West senator were encouraged by the backing he got from the leadership of the 8th Senate as he was known to be very close to the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
To some, Melaye has been everything but decent in the chamber. But the news dispensation provides him an opportunity that he can be a decent lawmaker and that his past actions were not necessarily impelled by his closeness to the powers that be.
But if it is true that the morning tells what the day will be like, his countenance in the upper chamber since the new Senate was inaugurated could be an indication that Melaye may have learnt to tread with caution.
Mohammed Ali Ndume
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, is not new to controversy as far as his stay in the upper chamber of the National Assembly is concerned. In the heady days of the dreaded terror group, Boko Haram, allegations surfaced from nowhere that the Borno South senator was one of the group’s sponsors, and he had to fight tooth and nail to extricate himself from the ugly insinuation.
In the 8th Senate, he contested and lost the position of deputy Senate President, but was compensated with the post of Senate Leader which he later lost to Senator Ahmad Lawan when he fell out with the Saraki leadership. He felicitously tagged his ouster a “palace coup” and attributed his ordeal to the Senate leadership.
In 2019, against all entreaties from high quarters, Ndume insisted and contested the position of Senate Presidency. He lost to Lawan but quickly pledged his loyalty to him as soon as he emerged the winner. Observers are, however, wondering whether his failure to clinch the position of Senate President would dampen his morale in the chamber. They also fear a possible backlash of his insistence to contest the position of Senate President after his party, the APC, had made it clear that Lawan was its preferred candidate.
More importantly, observers are wondering if the Borno South senator will remain a loyal APC member after losing the contest for the seat of the Senate President to party-backed Lawan. The onus is on him to prove them right or wrong.
Senator Elisha Abbo is one lawmaker who has become a household name even before the Senate he has just been elected into could start any serious business. But it was for all the wrong reasons.
For many days recently, the video in which he mercilessly beat a nursing mother attendant at a sex toy shop in Abuja where he had gone with three other women dominated the social media. And since then, there have been many reports portraying him as a highly temperamental individual who can hardly control his emotion whenever he is angry.
And the Adamawa senator did little to correct that impression when he appeared before the Senate investigative panel probing the adult shop incident on Tuesday. Not only was he defiant, insolent and totally uncouth at the session, he looked every bit as one who was yet to come to terms with the fact that he is now a senator.
There are fears now that the youngest senator in the current dispensation may have done a lot of damage to the not-too-young-to rum campaign which seeks bigger inclusion of young men in the nation’s politics.
Now standing trial at an Abuja magistrate court for assault, the onus is on the youthful senator to prove that he is not a querulous and temperamental bunch as many are now wont to think.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu
Former Nasarawa State governor and senator representing Nasarawa West, Abdullahi Adamu, is renowned for his role in the 8th Assembly as the leader of President Buhari Legislative Support Group. He was totally unapologetic about his role as an unrepentant supporter of President Buhari and only escaped suspension by a whisker following the perception that he was the arrow head of the Saraki Must Go campaign in the Senate.
Before the leadership election that produced Ahmad Lawan as the Senate President, it was widely rumoured that the Nasarawa west senator was interested in the seat, and not a few believed that it was nothing more than he deserved considering all the persecution he endured on account of his support for the President.
Surprisingly, he did not declare interest in the position when the chips were down. The rumour also that he was being considered appointment as Senate Leader ended in the realm of conjecture.
The question now being asked is whether he will support Buhari in the 9th Senate with the same fervour as he did in the Eighth. Only he can offer an answer.
Uzoma Ikem Abonta
Uzoma Abonta, the House of Representatives member representing Ukwa East/West Federal Constituency in Abia State, enjoys the reputation of being the lawmaker with the highest number of bills in the 8th House of Representatives. And this was in spite of the fact that his committee then (Public Petitions) received the highest volume of work in the House; a feat only rivalled by the House Committee on Rules and Business.
As a lawyer, he also never shied away from guiding the House right on issues of constitutionality. The lawmaker has been relied on to make far reaching decisions in concert with members of his committee of public petitions in the 8th House.
His re-election could not have come as a surprise to anyone who followed the goings on in the House in the last dispensation. The challenge now is for him to continue from where he stopped in the 8th Assembly. Expectedly, many believe that he will excel in his new assignment no matter which committee he gets.
Heram Hembe, the lawmaker representing Konshisha/Yandekiya Federal Constituency in Benue State, was the Chairman House of Reps Committee in the 8th Assembly before a court case truncated his stay in the National Assembly at the tail end of his stay in the 8th Assembly.
As goal getter, he was a reliable influence in liasing with the Federal Capital Territory to make life bearable for members of the House in terms of plot allocations and other goodies. However, he has a penchant for courting controversies.
As the Chairman of the House committee on Capital Market and Institutions in the 6th House, a spat with the former Director-General of the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC became a scandal that tainted the House and caused him to step aside.
Similarly, as the Chairman House Committee on FCT, he also courted controversy while investigating the Centenary City Project. It eventually became a spat between himself and the Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.
Hembe has proven that he is a grassroots politician by moving from All Progressives Congress (APC) to All Progresses Grand Alliance (APGA) and wining his election, but can he prove in the 9th Assembly that he is capable of avoiding controversies?
Ossai Nicholas Ossai
Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai was always in the public eye in the 8th House because of his active nature in terms of bills, motions and contributions. He is renowned for his penchant for raising points of order and for his pointed and incisive contributions.
Recall that Ossai, who has been in the House since 2011 representing Ndokwa/Ukwani Federal Constituency of Delta State, was the Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, which probed the allegation that the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation in the 8th House, Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin, had a foreign account.
Similarly, Ossai headed the probe panel that facilitated the suspension of Abdulmumin Jibrin for 180 legislative days for his allegation of budget padding against the House. The scandal that followed the allegation had many members hiding their faces in public.
Should the public expect a different Ossai or the same one in the 9th Assembly?
Nkiriuka Onyejeocha, a former chairperson of the House Committee on Aviation and a known workaholic who is not easily intimidated, is now the substantive Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives.
The lawmaker, who represents Isikwuato/Umumneochi Federal Constituency in Abia State, is known for her drive. She had in the past surprised pundits by winning her election in Abia shortly after she jumped ship from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Earlier, the lawmaker had expressed her intention to vie for the position of Speaker of the House and had put all structures in place for the race. She eventually got the post of Deputy Chief Whip.
Will her confidence and commitment move her popularity up some notches in the 9h House? Only time will tell.