After all the hullabaloo, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) got what it wanted in terms of the calibre of persons to occupy the seats of principal officers of the National Assembly.While exulting in the party’s recent victory, the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said having installed the preferred candidates the ruling party has no excuses to make if it does not deliver on the promised next level.
However, apprehensions have been rife among Nigerians that by allowing the presidency to have its way in the selection of the principal officers, the ability of the upper chamber of the legislature to perform its constitutional role of providing checks and balances to the executive has been circumscribed.
Nonetheless, the election of Senator Ahmed Lawan as the 9th President of Senate, which came as a kind of indemnity to the party over its loss in 2015, also subtly stoked recollections about the emergence Dr. Bukola Saraki as the president of 8th Senate.
Against the background of those considerations, the question on the minds of Nigerians is, what kind of Senate would the 9th session witness both in terms of relationship with the executive and among members as well as legislative processes.
Apart from the ill-fated and misconceivious decision by the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to re-contest the position of second in command, utterances by the APC chairman, Oshiomhole, that the party would visit consequences on those that disobeyed it gives the impression that the anti-Saraki animus could rear its head one way or another in the 9th Senate.
Would Senator Lawan as Senate President embark on a programme of witch-hunt against all those that sided Saraki to deny him the office of first among equals in the preceding senate? How far would the new Senate leadership fare in averting recriminations over the sharing of committees’ chairmanship?
In as much as it was obvious that pro-Saraki Senators in the 9th Senate voted against Lawan given the number with which he defeated Senator Ali Ndume, there are still fears that some sort of vengeance could be in the offing against those that supported Saraki.
Nevertheless, immediate past Deputy Senate leader, Senator Bala Ibn Nallah, has said that his support for Senator Saraki as Senate President in the 8th Senate was based on trust and not intended to put the Red chamber or APC in disarray.
Nallah, who made the explanations while rendering his scorecard to his constituents in Kebbi, maintained that he acted in good faith and for the interest of APC, adding that though the position was given to Saraki with good intention, things later went wrong which caused rift between the legislature, executive and the party.
Stating further deductions on the lone chapter that almost marred the 8th Senate, Nallah said: “Before the emergence of Bukola (Saraki) as the Senate President, some of my colleagues, Senator Adamu Aliero, two others and I sent delegates to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to ascertain who he wanted, but when they returned the result was different.
“After that episode, the late former Justice Akanbi, who is my political mentor, called me that he had a request to make from me and I asked him what? He said that he wants me to support Bukola Saraki and I had no option than to start the move.”
Be it as it may, the former majority leader expressed optimism that the 9th Senate would be far better than the 8th, assuring that they would support and work very closely with the president and the party in order to meet the next level agenda for the betterment of the people.
The ranking senator told the people of Kebbi State and Zuru in particular that the bill for the establishment of a Federal University of Agriculture in the area would be signed into law next week by President Buhari, even as he urged them to remain law- abiding for more developmental projects to reach them.
Senator Ahmad Lawan as President of Senate
Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan comes off as a seasoned educator and an experienced legislator with over 20 years’ service in both lower and upper legislative chambers.
Representing Yobe North Senatorial District, the new president of senate is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council and unarguably one of the longest serving lawmakers, having been first elected into the House of Representatives in 1999.
As President of 9th Senate, therefore, it could be rightly said that Lawan bears the legislative history of 20 years of Nigeria’s current democratic experience. Born in Yobe in 1959, Senator Lawan attended Government Secondary School, Gashua, and graduated from the University of Maiduguri in 1984 with a BSc (Hons) in Geography before heading to the University of Cranfield (UK), where he earned an MSc (1991) and a PhD (1996) in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems.
His political progression followed the 10 years he spent as a lecturer and research fellow, after he joined and served as Vice Chairman of Yobe State Chapter of All Progressives Party (APP) in 1998.
Lawan was also the Secretary of APP Electoral Committee at the party’s National Convention, Abuja, and was subsequently elected into the House of Representatives, from where he moved to the senate in 2007.
DSP Ovie Omo-Agege
Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege’s election as Deputy Senate President came after much horse-trading and gang-ups. A lawyer by profession, the Delta-born Senator says service defines his politics. He was Commissioner for Special Duties and later Secretary to State Government in 2007, all under James Ibori as governor.
Speaking about his background and person in a recent interview with The Guardian days to his election he said: “I come from a family where public service is everything. My father was a public servant all his life. He retired as a Judge.
“I would not say I was born with silver or golden spoon, but I had some protection and grew up with some comfort. And I have always felt that the least we owe people who never enjoyed such benefits is to give back to those as much as we are able to.”
On the challenges facing his Delta Central, which he represents, Omo-Agege lamented that “where I come from in Delta State, we contribute so much to the economy of this country, but we do not believe that we are getting commensurate returns.
“Growing up as a little boy in a rural community, we had everything. We had streams and rivers that provided everything we needed, good land for agriculture, but because of the degradation of the environment, we no longer have viable land for agriculture.
“We no longer have viable aquatic life and that is the essence of the 13 per cent derivation payment as guaranteed by the constitution. But notwithstanding that, when you go to most of the communities in Delta State, you will weep, because you ask yourself, why is so much coming in (into the federal purse from here) yet nothing is happening.”
In the same vein, the new Deputy Senate President, who defeated his predecessor in office, Senator Ekweremadu, said of his participation in politics: “I see myself as someone in public life, who would fight to ensure that we remedy all of the situations and whatever we are entitled to; we fight for it to come back for the use of the community. That is what drives me.”
Meanwhile, Omo-Agege also spoke of his dual roles as representative of Delta Central and Deputy Senate President, particularly electoral reforms and derivation fund. He said further legislative or constitutional intervention may not be needed “to give to us what we believe we are entitled to.”
His words: “We believe that we deserve more than 13 per cent in the sense that it is inadequate, but the same constitution has made provision for not less than 13 per cent. All that is required now is for people of like minds from the areas they have impacted to continue to persuade our colleagues from other parts of the country that more money is given to these communities. Their development should not be seen as punishment and detrimental to areas that are not so blessed.
“Having said that, almost all parts of the country are blessed with one mineral resource or the other. I believe the number of states that are now viable oil bearing have increased their geometric pace because the last time I checked, Lagos is now an oil bearing community; Imo has always been there. There is now dispute in Enugu, Anambra and Kogi as to who owns what, but the number is expanding everyday, which is good for us.”
The DSP contended, “If everybody has resources, it will make argument for the increase in the derivation fund to be more palatable and easier to drive home with our colleagues. Go to Zamfara right now and you will discover that the battle there is over mineral rights as well. By my understanding of the constitution, the same derivation principle applies to gold and other minerals in Zamfara and other states.”
Nevertheless, as the chairman of Constitution Review Committee, Senator Omo-Agege disclosed that his focus would be on electoral reforms, assuring that work on the Electoral Act amendment, which he said was aborted by the ‘poison pill’ of election sequence would be reactivated and passed.
Omo-Agege said when actions are completed on the Electoral Act, there would be no reason for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to adopt full electronic voting to minimize inbuilt bottlenecks in the country’s electoral processes.
However, as the 9th Senate swings into action, it would be seen in the days to come how robust the debates would be as well as how impactful the legislation in the light of presidential endorsement of its leadership.
From Owerri Imo State Capital
Ikechukwu Chidiebere Okoli
Reporting for Evergreen News Online Media