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Overtime legislators: Quiet revolt in constituencies

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David Mark

It started as subdued animus, but the campaign against state governors migrating to the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, after serving their maximum two terms of fours years allowed them by the constitution, is gaining currency.

The level of interest the National Assembly has generated among the electorate gives the impression that the 9th plenary would be peopled by a large number of freshmen and sophomores.

In the legislature, ranking, which depends on the experience in the legislature, determines his/her eligibility for election as floor functionary.

The Nigerian constitution is clear that a legislator could be returned to the state House of Assembly, House of Representatives or Senate for as many times as his/her constituents elect him/her.

However, despite that constitutional license, there are some lawmakers, especially at the National Assembly, that have become permanent features of the legislature.

Moreover, against the background of power sharing arrangements in most states, the constant desire of the lawmakers to return to the legislature is gradually heating up the polity ahead of the 2019.

However, nearly twenty years after the country embraced multi-party presidential system of democracy, some people are kicking against the lack of term limit for lawmakers, especially against the background that few legislators have been recycling themselves.

For instance, in Surulere 1 constituency, there is a quiet agitation against another term in the Green Chamber for the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. Gbajabiamila has been enjoying a repeat tenure at the Green chamber since 2003, when he succeeded Ayoola Oshodi.

As the calculations for the 2019 election mount, some prominent politicians in the down town metropolitan Lagos constituency are kicking, wondering whether the seat is his birthright.

Another metropolitan constituency where the issue of representation has become a source of contention is Onitsha North/South federal constituency. Onitsha South used to be a federal constituency, until it was lumped together with Onitsha North to become one federal constituency seat.

What the leaders in the district did was to ensure that no one person enjoys a repeat tenure. For instance, the first person that represented the constituency was Hon Ezeobi Okpalla, but his tenure was cut short when General Sani Abacha sacked the budding civil rule. 

With the return of democracy in 1999, the current incumbent Rep, Ms Linda Ikpeazu, represented the constituency; Jessie Balonwu, whose tenure was cut short by election petition tribunal, succeeded her. Hon Gozie Agbakoba, completed the term.

But in 2007, Ms. Ikpeazu came back under controversial circumstances. Her tenure was truncated by litigation after two years and Agbakoba came in for the remaining two. In 2011 Mr. Cyril Egwuatu won the election and represented the constituency for four years, spanning 2011 through 2015.

Again Ms. Linda Ikpeazu, who had joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was rewarded with the seat back in 2015.

Now, there is growing disenchantment by voters from Onitsha South axis of the federal constituency, which has 17 out of the total 32 wards of the federal constituency.

Onitsha south people are making a case against the interference by powers that be, which insist that only indigenes should represent the federal constituency.

For instance in 2011 one Mrs. Athonia Tabansi-Okoye won the APGA ticket in an open primary, scoring 832 votes to beat Cy Egwuatu, who got 11 votes. But, instead of upholding the result, the governor, Mr. Peter Obi and leaders of APGA handed the ticket to the man who scored 11 votes, just to respect indigeneship.  

Again, in 2015, after Idu Emeka won the PDP primary election and was declared winner of the main election, he was dispossessed of the victory. Mr. Peter Obi and Olisa Metuh, gifted the current incumbent with the seat.

Peoples Ire, Fire

It has dawned on the people of Onitsha South that apart from being greater in population, they constitute those that have invested most, do business and develop the town called Onitsha, despite not being indigenes.

They claim that having contributed immensely to the socio-economic and political development of Onitsha, they deserve to have a say in how the place is represented in government, especially the legislature. 

As 2019 approaches, the singsong has become, ‘Let the Lagos formula prevail’ in Onitsha North and South Federal Constituency. They allude to the 2015 scenario in Lagos when four non-indigenes were elected into the Federal and State Legislature.

Next to the issue of appropriate distribution is the quality of representation. The voters are demanding from the representatives to show evidence of what they have done for the commercial nerve of Nigeria’s Southeast, as well as what Bills and motions they have moved to help businessmen and women in the constituency or what infrastructure they attracted to the constituency. 

Insisting that 2019 is a time to set aside party sentiments and emotions and speak with one voice, the people of Onitsha North and South insist on the Lagos Formula, demanding that they be shown the constituency’s share of all Federal Government interventions for various constituencies.

Overdue Legislators

WHILE the agitation for qualitative representation continues, the issue of overdue legislators has become a crucial aspect of voter concerns for the 2019. In line with that public thinking, it becomes necessary to have a look at lawmakers that are in line of public fire for their duration in the legislature.

Emeritus President, Senator David Alechenu B. Mark

Benue South Senatorial district has been faithful and bore true allegiance to Dr. Mark. From 1999 to date, the senatorial district has known only one Senator and that is the immediate past President of Senate, who held the Red chamber for eight years, spanning 2007 through 2015.

The process of earning his fifth badge was however tempestuous, because following the overthrow of the former ruling party, PDP, the new ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) attempted to make a bold statement in Benue by netting all the senatorial seats.

It was the combination of his peoples’ love and political network that pulled through in a cheeky challenge from a rookie, Daniel Onje, during a rerun poll ordered by the court.

Although the emeritus Senate President triumphed eventually, it was potent sign that he is due for exit from the stage, whether or not the constitution allows limitless tenure.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu

THE Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, got into the Red chamber out of sheer fortuitous political circumstance in Enugu State.

Midway into his first term in the fourth National Assembly, Rev Hyde Onuaguluchi was sacked by the court, which declared the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ben Collins Ndu, as the winner of the Enugu west Senatorial election of 1999.

In 2003, when the supremacy political battle between former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo and then incumbent governor, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, attempts to placate Onuaguluchi, who had crossed over from All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to PDP, with the Senatorial ticket did not yield positive result.

In the circumstance and to extricate him from Enugu politics, Ekweremadu was gifted the PDP ticket for Enugu West. In the subsequent 2007 poll, Ekweremadu was also shooed back to the Senate and decorated with the position of DSP. His journey back to the Senate in 2015 was fraught with a lot of internal and local disputations, culminating in a stiff political battle between the DSP and the incumbent governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime.

Although it took the intervention of the then President Goodluck Jonathan to settle the ensuing logjam, the DSP, who benefitted from another unplanned political development in 2015 to retain his position, knows that everything that has a start, must have an end.

Senator Ahmed Lawan Ibrahim

Senator Ahmed Lawan is another old-timer in the National Assembly. He is as old as Senator Mark in NASS. However, unlike Mark, he was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999, only to be elevated to the Yobe North Senate seat in 2007.

Currently the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Lawan was at the centre of the uproarious selection process of floor functionaries of the 8th Senate. Although the ruling APC favoured him for the post of President of Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who was coming to the NASS for a second term, beat him to it.

After serving as the Majority Leader in the current 8th Senate, it would be interesting to know what Senator Lawan would desire to come back for in 2019, 20 years after his first entry to the NASS complex.

Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila

Some people at Surulere 1 federal constituency have cause to complain against the current majority leader of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, for his interest to represent them again at the Green Chamber in 2019.

For the past 16 years Gbajabiamila has been the in the Green Chamber, after he succeeded Ayoola Oshodi in 2003.

Just as his attempt to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 8th NASS brought division and climate of suspicion in the lower chamber, the attempt by Gbaja to seek another term at the Green chamber is dividing voters and residents of Surulere 1 Federal Constituency.

As the build up to the 2019 general election gathers momentum, there is no doubt that the issue of term limit would rise to haunt some lawmakers. Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim once said he would die in the Senate.

It would be seen in the expected radical demographic shift in 2019 how many of current legislators would enjoy limitless term in the legislature.


In this article:
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila
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