By Emman Ovuakporie &Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Since the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly on the 9th of June, 2015, following the proclamation issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, the House of Representatives has weathered at least two serious storms. The first was the emergence of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara contrary to the zoning arrangement of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which had preferred the incumbent Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker. In fact, the alleged ‘recalcitrant’ posture of Dogara and some APC members in collusion with the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, members pitched him (Dogara) against the APC leadership and the presidency. Another major controversy that hit the House was the alleged budget padding which again subjected the battered image of the National Assembly to further attack.
In the midst of these stormy waters however were some principal actors.
Before the inauguration of the current assembly, the Bauchi State-born politician was not among the heavy weight lawmakers considered for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives. Though Femi Gbajabiamila was the preferred candidate for the position, and stood a bright chance to emerge the Speaker, the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki from the Yoruba speaking area of Kwara State in the North Central geopolitical zone as the Senate President altered the equation in the House as members from the North who had queued behind Gbajabiamila felt that supporting him would amount to having two persons from the same ethnic group controlling both legislative arms of government, hence the switch-over to Dogara.
His emergence generated a lot of heat both in the House and the ruling party but he was able to weather the storm with the support of the lawmakers from the opposition political parties and some members of his party had defied the directive of the APC leadership. The political bickering and animosity that followed the leadership tussle was carried over to 2016 by the anti-Dogara elements though with insignificant effect. The alleged padding of the 2016 budget however was just the needed trigger to once again rock the boat.
When the then Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin was removed from the headship of the committee, he accused Dogara of being behind the padding of the budget. The barrage of attacks from Jibrin appeared to have rattled Dogara, but he was once again able to withstand the storm. At the tail end of the year, Dogara became a beautiful bride to be courted by the presidency while he always got standing ovation from his colleagues during national events hosted in the House.
Lasun like Dogara was not among the members expected to constitute the leadership of the House but again, providence made it so as he became the Deputy Speaker. Nevertheless, he has not disappointed those who chose him. Any time Lasun was presiding there was the tendency that the session or plenary will not last too long as unlike when Dogara was presiding. He also tried to stamp his authority whenever he had the opportunity to be on the hot seat during plenary. Besides, as the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review, he displayed high sense of maturity in handling the exercise. He was accused by Jibrin of hijacking the 2016 appropriation from him and allegedly changed some of the figures in the budget but the entire House has debunked the allegation.
He was the Minority Leader in the 7th assembly and was positioned to become the Speaker. But his closeness to the leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu affected his chances of emerging as Speaker. Tinubu, as a politician wields tremendous influence in political arena and his profile had become a big threat to many who felt that allowing any of his ‘political sons’ to assume the leadership of the National Assembly would amount to surrendering the party machinery to him as such person could be taking instructions from the party leader. Emergence of Saraki as the Senate President also affected him.
However, after the politicking and manoeuvring, he emerged as the Majority leader. He exhibits intelligence when he is debating on any national issue although most times his argument like other of his colleagues tilts towards the interest of his political party instead of the larger interest of the masses. He was opposed to the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal which some persons had argued was to favour the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who is facing trial at the CCT.
Ogor who was most times called “the General” by his colleagues, is the Minority Leader of the House. This Isoko-born politician was the Deputy Majority Leader in the 7th assembly. Though, he is not a lawyer, but his full grasp of the Constitution especially whenever he was making contributions on the floor of the House will make one think that he is of the legal profession.
Ogor has become the rallying point of the opposition parties in the House and the role he played alongside his PDP members contributed to the emergence of Dogara. In most of the elections conducted in the country in recent times by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ogor has always expressed his displeasure on the outcome. He is one of those accused by Jibrin as being behind the budget padding controversy even as Jibrin described him as a ‘bully’. One thing about Ogor is that he associates with everybody irrespective of class. His presence in the House always give the opposition confidence.
This is one member of the House who in recent times appears to be the most controversial. He contributed to the emergence of Dogara as the Speaker and he was compensated with the Chairmanship of Appropriation Committee which has been considered as the most juicy committee.
He took any job given to him with all seriousness. He identified with the interest of some of the members of the appropriation committee when he was in charge and looked for opportunities to carry his constituents along through constituency projects. He was accused of being behind the controversy trailing the 2016 budget which led to his removal.
As a result of corruption allegations he levelled against the House leadership after his removal as Committee Chairman, and the alleged institutional corruption, Jibrin was suspended for about 180 legislative days. But his suspension emboldened him more as he dragged the speaker and some principal officers to the anti-graft agencies. In fact, Jibrin has remained the most controversial member of the House.