By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Nothing short of a political tsunami was anticipated as an aftermath in the quagmire. The best, however, was a virulent political division or factionalism that would’ve lingered and perhaps, torn them into shreds and consequently weakened their unanimity on legislative resolutions. The effect, ultimately, would ‘ve also been an unending feast on them by the ruling party.
But then, that was not to be or was rather short-lived as the palpations and perspiration generated by their nominations, earlier, quickly petered out.
No doubts, the minority caucus in the 9th House of Representatives had a rough start. It took off on a perfidious note. There were variegated interests. And expectedly so. Outwitting, outmaneuvering and outflanking were subtle words yet conspicuously pronounced in the melee. Therefore, things went south, awry and topsy-turvy within the ranks and file of the opposition.
The reason was not farfetched. On July 3, 2019, the speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, elected only a fortnight earlier nominated Hon. Ndudi Elumelu as the minority leader against the choice of his party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Then, all hell was let loose. Of course, the party’s main choice, Hon. Kingsley Chinda wouldn’t budge. He put up some resistance, insisting that he be named as the valid choice of the party, stressing that preferred names had been forwarded to the Speaker.
But both Elumelu and the Speaker Gbajabiamila held on to their submission that 90 lawmakers in the league of the minority caucus had already made their choice in the newly nominated minority leader.
To show their resentment and also accentuate their anger on the development, the PDP slammed a suspension order on Elumelu and 5 others, citing anti party activities.
Though lifted since February 2021, the effect was the faceoff that ensued between Elumelu and Hon. Kingsley Chinda. For a long while, Chinda spoke for PDP lawmakers while Elumelu was effectively leading and speaking for the minority caucus made up of other parties. Even though, he was officially recognized by the House leadership, there was no gainsaying the fact that the faceoff didn’t rub off negatively on the internal doings of the PDP.
But while many had thought it would fester, the opposition quickly mended fences and renewed their synergy for the common goal of effectively keeping the All Progressives Congress, APC led 9th House of Representatives, and indeed, the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government constantly on their toes to deliver on the mandate to the people of Nigeria.
That was the task Elumelu was saddled with and so far, the feeling amongst his colleagues was that he had courageously discharged it.
For sure, Elumelu was no neophyte to the House. Elected first into the House in 2007, Elumelu swiftly distingushed himself in a manner that gave him a comeback in 2011. Though he ran unsuccessfully for governorship in 2015, Elumelu however returned to the Green Chamber in 2019 to become the minority leader of the House.
In his first legislative journey in the sixth assembly, Elumelu chaired the House Committee on Power. He was later to also chair the House Committee on Health and possessed the membership the information, Climate change, Interior, Water Resources, Science and Technology, National Security and Public Safety committees.
Elumelu has also thriven on presentation of motions and bills which were the core legislative functions of any parliamentarian. So, he knows his onion and expeditious brought his experience to bear on his job as the minority leader.
For the 3 and half years in the saddle, Elumelu has piloted the affairs of the opposition with utmost finesse and decency, developing a style that was neither so naked nor confrontational yet so effective to achieve the desired results as against expectations from some quarters.
One of those opposition jabs Elumelu pulled that paid off was leading the minority caucus to stage a walkout to protest the controversy that trailed the voting pattern on the electronic transmission of election results clause in the 2022 electoral act. Another one was also the disputed percentage for the host communities in the now Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). In fact, the protest provided a dias for a formal reunion of Elumelu and Chinda as both were joined by many other lawmakers from especially the minority caucus to protest the ruling of the deputy speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase who presided over the Committee of the whole during the clause by clause voting.
Wase had hit the gavel contrary to an loud voice vote of acceptability on the two clauses and that prompted a spontaneous reaction of protest by the lawmakers. Of course, the eventually decision was the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the new electoral act.
Similarly, Elumelu had been also been systematic fierce in his motions. Recall his motion to probe the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC on the alleged directive to corps to pay ransom in the event of their kidnap. It was titled “Need to Investigate the Alleged Insertion of the Advice for Payment of Ransom into the National Youth Service Corps Pamphlets Containing Security Tips”. The leader was resolute and that eventually paid off.
There were also others which included motion to investigate the alleged lockup of about 1000 Nigerian workers by a Chinese company operating a steel plant in Edo state; motion to stop the entry of herdsmen from other African countries into Nigeria; motion on “Rampant Cases of Violence, Incessant Rape and Ritual Killing of Our Women Folks, a Call for Urgent Intervention” which came on the heels of the killing of BRT passenger Miss Oluwabamise Ayanwola last year.
Elumelu can also strike the cord of controversy sometimes. Recall the motion on the resignation of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami over the terrorism comment. Recall also the motion to stop the disbursement of repatriated £4.2 million looted by ex-governor of Delta State, James Ibori and return it to Delta.
That wasn’t all. Elumelu also sponsored the motion to urge the security agencies to find the whereabouts of a former Vanguard Newspapers reporter, covering the House, Tordue Salem who was later found dead in Abuja.
In some of forms, the lawmaker has not stopped chiding the ruling APC for the way it runs the economy and fights corruption. The minority leader has also continued to criticize the administration to keep it on its toes for good governance. Elumelu is also an incurable optimist in the believe that PDP will return to the center in 2023. This played out during the PDP convention in Abuja on October 30, 2021 where he said that APC has led Nigeria to precipices.
He said:”Leaders of our party, the APC has led our nation to the precipices. Their ugly agenda to balkanize and push our nation into a failed state is too evident to ignore. There is anger, frustration and hopelessness everywhere, but hope comes for our nation with our readiness to return to power”.
Recently, Elumelu was miffed by crude oil theft in Nigeria and subsequently called for open inquest on MV Heroic Idun. Also, on the heels of Owo church terrorist attack, Elumelu asked the federal government to stay alive on its duty and prioritize the security of lives and property.
The minority leader did not also keep quiet on the report of Kaduna airport and train attacks. He roared against the seeming docility of the government.
The warning by the airline operators also got a reaction from the minority leader.
On several occasions, Elumelu has called on the government to resolve the now embarrassing strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
Perhaps, the biggest audacious move by the minority caucus came in July when Elumelu endorsed the move to serve President Buhari an impeachment notice should the insecurity snag continue abated after a timeline of about 8 weeks. All those were the imprints of an opponent leaders.
For sure, Elumelu may not be the type of a loud noise maker in opposition but in some obvious ways, he has shown audacity and tenacity of purpose by constantly keeping the ruling party on their toes.
This could just be one of the reasons he won his primary election with wide margin to return to the House for the forth time in February, 2023, hopefully after the general elections.
But before then, Elumelu still has 8 months ahead of him to continue his fight as an opposition leader to ensure Nigeria works for all.