Distinguished Senator Joy Emodi’s name rings a bell for the good reasons in Nigeria. Thus, the National Assembly was elated when the news of her nomination as Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) by President of the 8th Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, broke. Unfortunately, conspiracy, prejudice, and nepotism truncated that joy.
According to an exclusive story by The Sun Newspapers, Saraki wrote to President Buhari on December 20, 2018, nominating members of the NASC. Section 3 (3) of the NASC Act provides that “the President of the Senate shall, upon consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, submit to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria a proposal list out of which the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall nominate for appointment, the chairman and members of the commission.”
Section 5 (3) clearly states, “the President shall send the appropriate nominations to the National Assembly within 30 days of being requested to do so”. The wisdom in this is that the Senate President could not be the nominating authority, when the Senate, which he presides over, is the confirming authority.
However, information soon filtered in that some divisive interests within the National Assembly and the presidency were unhappy about the emergence of a South East woman as Chairman of the Commission, given the strategic nature of the Commission. NASS bureaucracy is heavily skewed against South East and they feared Emodi could bring redresses. So, all they needed to do was to ensure that the president sat on Saraki’s letter for about six months until the 8th Senate expired and Senator Ahmed Lawan emerged Senate President.
Expectedly, Lawan withdrew the earlier nominations and made fresh ones. His Senior Legislative Aide, Ahmed Kadi Amsi, who is also from his Bade LGA of Yobe State, was nominated as Commission Chairman. Former two-term Senator from South East, Julius Ucha, was nominated as a floor member. Interestingly, the last Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Adamu Fika, also hails from Yobe. Fika’s predecessor, Aliyu Dogondaji, 2006-2011, was from Sokoko State, while the pioneer Chairman, Mr. Ishaya Akau, 2001-2006, hails from Kaduna. So, just like the EFCC, no Southerner has headed the Commission.
On Emodi’s 65th birthday, one cannot but imagine what the nation had lost in denying her the opportunity to bring her wealth of experience, integrity, charisma, and passion to bear on this important job.
A former student activist and Aminu Kano’s disciple, filled with welfarist and egalitarian ideologies, Emodi ventured into partisan politics during the Transition to Civil Rule programme of the Abacha Administration. Before then, the educationist and lawyer had worked as an educational administrator in the old Anambra State. Emodi won election into the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference. She later became the National Legal Adviser and Deputy National Chairman of the Congress for National Consensus (CNC), the highest political party offices ever to be occupied by any Nigerian woman politician as at then. She was a member of Nigeria’s Expert Team to the popular 1995 World Women Conference in Beijing, China.
But for Abacha’s death and consequent truncation of the transition programme, Emodi already had one leg in Anambra State Government House, Awka. A veteran, Emodi is one politician, who has practically fought political godfatherism in Anambra’s turbulent politics to standstill, although she has often paid the price for her non-conformity. One of such prices was the daylight robbery of her people-given mandate in the 1998 Anambra governorship election that ushered in the current democratic era.
She later vied for the Senate in 2003, but only for INEC to reverse itself after announcing her the winner. INEC issued Certificate of Return to someone, who did not even buy PDP nomination form for Senate. But the lioness fought fiercely and reclaimed her mandate at the tribunal to become the first Igbo female Senator.
She was re-elected in 2007 despite all the odds staked against her even by her own party for refusing to play the Third Term agenda. She nevertheless cruised to victory, but only for her stay to be magically truncated by one Chief Alphonsus Igbeke, whose judicial wonders had earlier taken him to the House of Representatives without standing for any elections. Igbeke tried to repeat the “wonder” after the 2011 election, but nemesis caught up with him.
Emodi was appointed the Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan after the 2011 elections. Under her watch, no single executive bill failed. No presidential veto was upturned. 99.9% of the President’s ministerial, ambassadorial, and Commission nominees, etc, were all confirmed. Only one ministerial nominee (Taraba) and a Commissioner (Delta) were rejected due to their states’ internal political wrangling. Also, contrary to the “historic feat” ascribed to the 2020 budget, the 2013 Budget was actually passed in record time, ready for implementation by the beginning of the year for the first time since 1999.
Emodi was so loved and popular among lawmakers that former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, upgraded her from Joy of the Senate once bestowed by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora (now Minister of State for Health) in the 6th Senate to Joy of the Villa and Joy of the National Assembly. Shouts of “Aye” and clapping of hands rented the Green Chambers amid standing ovations when Tambuwal jokingly put to question the new title. It was during the event marking the Second Session of the 6th House.
Emodi also pulled through a historic international conference on “Strengthening Executive-Legislative Collaboration in Governance”, which brought scholarly and legislative eggheads from the U.S, South Africa, Jamaica, etc.
Although of different branches, Emodi did not believe the executive and NASS should be at daggers drawn. Never your “O yes” kind of person, she would rather thaw the ice. On one of the occasions that Labaran Maku and Ahmed Gulak badmouthed NASS, a pained Senate President, David Mark, advised Jonathan to beware of fifth columnists. Emodi unequivocally repudiated the offensive comments, declaring that “those to whom the statements were credited, are on their own and never spoke the mind of Mr. President”.
Emodi was eventually removed rather unceremoniously, but left with head high. Unfortunately for Jonathan, he was misled, and couldn’t venture into NASS after Emodi’s removal. Ex-Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, performed the budget laying, as NASS became too hot for him. Sometimes, you don’t know the value of what you have until you lose it.
Today also, Emodi’s wealth of experience couldn’t be brought to bear on NASC, but this time for the reason of coming from the wrong tribe and region. Sadly, it’s Nigeria that lost out, not Emodi, for she has nothing more to prove. Posterity will remember her as a sound administrator, lawmaker per excellence, and icon of integrity, who served God, country, and humanity unimpeachably.
Happy 65th birthday, Distinguished Senator Joy Senator, CON, Ada-Di-Ora-Mma Anaocha, Ada-Eji-Eje-Mba Aguleri, Kpakpando of Urum, Ada-Igbo-Gburu-Gburu of Umuchu. Long may you live!
• Ideagu writes from Onitsha