talkofnaija.com presents the longest-serving lawmakers: When the ninth National Assembly is inaugurated this month, some of its longest-serving members are expected to return to the hallowed chambers and play crucial roles in the next legislative session. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI looks at some of the antecedents of affected lawmakers and the parts they would play in the assembly.
ALL over the world, lawmaking is regarded as one of democracy’s worthiest pursuits. Like old wine, legislators mature the longer they serve. While new legislators bring fresh ideas, experience matters when it comes to crafting legislative proposals. Frequent kicking out of popular and competent lawmakers ultimately results in a bad return on the investment of time spent learning and mastering the ins and outs of policymaking at that level.
But, in Nigeria, an opportunity to serve at the National Assembly is often regarded as a way of rewarding committed party stalwarts or political protégées. As a result, politicians often frown at the idea of lawmakers serving multiple terms, because a chance to serve is widely seen as a form of empowerment. So, frequent change of candidates by ruling parties would make the largesse go round.
Nevertheless, Nigeria has a crop of long-serving legislators that have been at the National Assembly since the country returned to civil rule in 1999. One of such, Senator David Mark, has just retired from active politics to become a peace ambassador for Benue State and the country. With his retirement, the ninth National Assembly has been robbed one of the longest-serving legislators.
The retirement of the former Senate President was perhaps facilitated by the loss of power of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) four years ago. Indeed, Mark who represented Benue South senatorial district from 1999 to 2019 did not contribute much to debates on the floor of the Red Chamber in his last tenure from 2015 to 2019 and he was not a member of any standing committee.
Others in Mark’s category that would play key roles in the ninth National Assembly include Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), Senator Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West), Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), Senator James Manager (Delta South), Senator John Owan Enoh (Cross River Central) and Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda (FCT). The list also includes the following members of the House of Representatives: Nicholas Ebomo Mutu (Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency, Delta State), Femi Gbajabiamila (Surulere Federal Constituency 1, Lagos State), Leo Ogor (Isoko Federal Constituency, Delta State), Yakubu Barde (Chikun/Kajuru Federal Constituency, Kaduna State), Kabiru Marafa Achida (Wurno/Rabbah Federal Constituency, Sokoto State) and Adams Jagaba (Kachia/Kagarko, Federal Constituency, Kaduna State).
Senator Ahmed Lawan
Lawan, who represents Yobe North in the Senate, is one of the most experienced lawmakers in the National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He came to the National Assembly in 1999, as a member of the House of Representatives, on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP), which transformed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later merged with two other parties to form the ruling APC in 2014.
Thus, Lawan, 60, is one of the few lawmakers that have been part of the National Assembly since the return to civil rule in 1999. Today, he is the Majority Leader of the outgoing eighth Assembly and is poised to become the Senate President, after the inauguration of the ninth Assembly this month. He appears to have the backing of the APC national leadership, including President Muhammadu Buhari.
The teacher-turned politician has a doctorate degree in Remote Sensing. His knowledge of the workings of the legislature is superb.
Ekweremadu, who represents Enugu West senatorial zone, is the longest-serving presiding officer in the National Assembly. He served for eight years as Deputy Senate President (2007 to 2015) under Mark and in the last four years under outgoing Senate President Bukola Saraki.
By 2023, he would have completed the fifth term in office, making 20 years. The lawyer-turned-politician has been a member of the National Assembly since 2003. He entered politics as chairman of the Aninri Local Government Area in 1997. He is very familiar with letters of the constitution and rules of the Senate.
Ekweremadu who was born in born in 1962 at Amachara Mpu, in Aninri Local Government, declared recently that he would not re-contest the Senate seat for Enugu West senatorial zone in 2023. He made the declaration during his 57th birthday celebrations. The lawmaker elected on the platform of the PDP said he was grateful that God for using him to solve certain infrastructural challenges in his constituency.
He has perhaps sensed that returning to the Senate in 2023 would be difficult. This is going by the level of disenchantment and the political battle he had weathered to be where he is today, especially from the people of his constituency. A segment of his constituency, especially in Udi, believes they have been stagnated, while one person, who is not even more experienced and knowledgeable than others, had usurped their opportunities to his advantage for 20 years.
He holds both Bachelors and master’s degree in Law from the University of Nigeria, Nigeria and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987. He also holds Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from the University of Abuja, Nigeria.
Ndume, who represents Borno South in the upper legislative chamber, was first sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives in 2003, to represent Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency. He contested on the platform of the defunct ANPP. On the inauguration of the sixth (6th) Assembly in 2007, he emerged as the Minority Leader of the Senate.
Ndume is a serial defector. In December 2010, he defected from the ANPP to the PDP, citing the injustices going on in the party as his reason for leaving. He contested the Borno South senatorial election in 2011 on the ticket of the PDP and won.
He was one of those who left the PDP on the eve of the 2015 general election, to join the APC. He was re-elected in 2015 made the Senate Leader at the inauguration of the 8th Senate; a position he occupied until January 10, this year when he was removed.
The lawmaker is one of those that have indicated his interest to contest the presidency of the ninth Senate. Although the party has already thrown its weight behind Lawan for the position, Ndume is insisting on running. After a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently, the senator told reporters that he would still contest for the number one position in the Senate.
Ndume was born on November 20, 1959, in Gwoza, Borno State. He has a 1982 Higher National Diploma (HND) in Marketing from Kaduna Polytechnic. He also acquired a B.Ed and M.Ed in Business and Computer Education from the University of Toledo Ohio, United States of America in 1990 and was awarded Magna Cum Laude academic honor.
Senator James Manager
Senator Manager, 56, is also one of the longest-serving legislators in the country. He was sworn in as a senator in 2003 to represent Delta South senatorial district and since then he has been at the Senate, chairing various committees.
By the time the eighth Senate winds up, he would have completed his fourth term of 16 years at the apex lawmaking chamber.
He would begin a fresh term next month. He secured a fresh term when he defeated former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the APC during the recent general elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Manager the winner, after polling a total of 258, 812 votes, while Uduaghan got 125,776 votes.
A graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he studied law, he currently chairs the Senate committee on solid minerals. He is respected by his colleagues for his grasp of the workings of the Senate.
Aduda, who represents the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is the bona fide ‘landlord’ of the National Assembly. Aduda, 47, was first sworn in at the House of Representatives in 2003 and he was there until 2011 when he stepped up to the upper legislative chamber, the Senate. At the inauguration of the 8th Senate, he was made the Minority Whip.
Mutu, the incumbent House of Representatives member representing Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency also secured his sixth term mandate during the just-concluded general elections.
With this record, Mutu has become the longest and highest serving federal lawmaker in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly.
The 57-year-old lawmaker came to the House at the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999. He won an election to represent Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State at the age of 39. He has been winning elections since then. Mutu has been operating underground, so to speak, and has been heading the house committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2009 to date.
The soft-spoken Delta lawmaker rarely contributes to debate on the floor of the House and hardly grants interviews, but he appears to be in the firm grip of his committee.
Gbajabiamila came to the House in 2003 to represent Surulere 1 Federal Constituency of Lagos State at the age of 40, on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (AC), one of the legacy parties that metamorphosed into the APC in 2014.
Gbaja, as he is popularly known, served as Minority Whip from 2007 and later became Minority Leader, a position he held up to 2015. He is one lawmaker that commands a lot of respect from his colleagues, largely due to the way he articulates his ideas and thoughts each time he speaks on the floor of the House.
Upon his re-election into the House in 2015, Gbajabiamila presented himself to his colleagues as an aspirant for the Speakership seat. He narrowly lost to the outgoing Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Due to his wide acceptance within the party and his members, he was overwhelmingly elected Leader of the 8th House of Representatives on July 28, 2015.
Indications are that Gbajabiamila would eventually emerge as the Speaker of the 9th National Assembly. The ruling APC announced mid-April that it has adopted him as its candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th assembly. The party affirmed that the decision was reached after an ”intensive” deliberation with its House of Reps members-elect during a dinner with President Buhari.
Born June 25, 1962, he has become an authority of sorts, as far as lawmaking is concerned. A lawyer by profession, he graduated from the University of Lagos with honors in 1983 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1984. He has greatly improved on his innate leadership skills by attending various leadership courses at Stanford University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, and the world respected Said Business School.
Hon. Leonard Okuwe Ogor
Like Gbajabiamila, Leonard Okuweh Ogor, popularly known as Leo Ogor, is one of the most outspoken members of the House. The lawmaker has been representing Isoko North/Isoko South Federal Constituency of Delta State since 2003.
Ogor is the Minority Leader of the House. He had served as Deputy House Leader in the seventh assembly.
Born in 1959, Ogor is one lawmaker that easily convinces his colleagues by arguing a matter logically. Not only does he command respect among his colleagues, he wields a lot of influence in the House and attracts lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to his office at all times.
HonYakubu Umar Barde
Barde has been representing Chikun/Kajuru Federal Constituency of Kaduna State since 2003. The lawmaker, who is a member of the PDP, is the current Minority Whip. Vocal and outspoken, Barde has been a frequent face on the floor of the House as he hardly misses plenary sittings, except on few occasions. By virtue of his long stay in the House and the role he played during the last leadership contest in the chamber, Barde is considered one of the power brokers in the lower chamber.
Hon. Achida Mafara Kabiru
Achida has been representing Wurno/Rabbah Federal Constituency, Sokoto State, since 2003. He is one lawmaker that does not play to the gallery. He has been a constant election winner since then. He has been a member of committees such as appropriations, civil society and donor agencies, information and national orientation, interior, NDDC, public petitions, among others. Always sitting at the front row alongside other ranking members of the House, Achida does not attract much attention to himself, but he is certainly one of the silent power brokers in the House owing to his long stay in the Green Chambers.
Hon. Adams Jagaba
Jagaba was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1999. After serving his four-year term, he re-contested the election in 2003 but lost. However, he staged a comeback in 2011 and has been in the house since then. A close ally of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Jagaba is considered one of the strong men of the current house. He is equally outspoken and a no-nonsense person in nature.