OrderPaperToday – Most media reports about the National Assembly since the 2019 election has been more of scramble for one position after another.
Prior to the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, the hustle and the scheming was for who would emerge as the President of the Senate, Speaker, and the two deputies. In the Red Chamber, it appears everything ended with the emergence of Ahmed Lawan and Ovie Omo-Agege as presiding officers.
But in the House of Representatives, the ripple effect of the leadership tussle is affecting everything. First with the highly contested Speakership and surprisingly, the emergence of the minority leader appears to be defining the House.
Shortly before it went on annual recess last week, the House amended its standing rules, which among other things, increased the numbers of standing committees from 96 to 105. The new committees created are: North East Development Commission, Ecological Fund, Internal Security of the National Assembly, Inter Party Affairs, Pilgrims, and reformatory institutions.
Along parties lines, the composition of the committee leadership shows no obvious red flag: the ruling party has 80 committee chairmen and 63 deputies; while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got 21 chairmen and 30 deputies. Members from other minority parties got 4 chairperson posts and 11 deputies.
However the devil is in the details they say. And it appears to be along that minority tussle fallout that the shade of the politics of committee composition played out strongly. Recall that the PDP’s choice for the post of minority leader, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), was outmaneuvered by an interplay of forces that led to the emergence of Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta). Consequently as it turned out, Chinda, who has been in the House since 2011 did not get any committee while several ranking members who identified with him during the tussle also conspicuously missed out.
Notably, all minority principal officers from the preceding assembly, including former Minority Leader, Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta), Onyeama Chukwuma (PDP, Enugu), Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) were left in the cold. While the health condition of Ogor could be a logical explanation, others despite being senior ranking members, were all snubbed.
Other ranking members, notably of the minority also missed out: these include Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi), Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia), Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue). However, members who showed solidarity to the Ndudi Elumelu cause such as Linda Ikpeazu (PDP, Anambra) replaced Umar Bago as chairperson of Maritime Safety committee while Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) replaced Chinda at the Public Accounts committee chair, and Jerry Alagbaso (PDP, Imo) also replaced Abonta at public petitions committee chair.
While it will be impossible to satisfactorily fix everyone into ‘juicy’ committees, many expected the composition would have been an opportunity for reconciliation.
Although some reconciliatory gesture could be glanced from the list as several members who earlier vied for the speakership were given ‘big committees,’ such as Muktar Batera who was made chairman, committee on Appropriation, AbdulRasak Namdas; Committee on Army, John Deigh; committee on Human right, but the member that actually challenged the Speaker, Umar Bago lost the ‘juicy’ Maritime Safety to Ikpeazu and was given Cooperation and integration in Africa.
Nonetheless, the Speaker was able to appoint new members as chairmen of committees: Cook Olodo in National Planning and Economic development, Akin Alabi as Inter governmental affairs, wunmi Onanuga as women affairs and Social Developments and Olamide Osoba got the Committee on Sport.
The House will resume on the 17th of September, but with several old members disgruntled, it appears an opportunity has been missed to heal an open wound which could end up defining the 9th House.