From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Year 2019 is unique in the House of Representatives as it would witness the end of the 8th Session of the House and the inauguration of the 9th Session.
Basically, the 8th Session of the National Assembly has about five months to wind up. The tenure of the current lawmakers will elapse on May 29, when a new president will assume office. Therefore, there are a lot of expectations from the House in the next few months.
Since its inauguration in 2015, the House has initiated several bills, as well as undertaken several investigations, many of which are yet to be concluded. Expectedly, the House would want to finish works on the outstanding bills and investigations before the tenure of the current members of the House elapses.
Consequently, not a few persons expect that the House will be a beehive of activities as the lawmakers try to put finishing touches to most of the pending legislations, investigations and oversight duties.
However, three things will shape the House in 2019. These are the outcome of the 2019 general elections, the 2019 budget and the succession battle for the 9th Session of the Green Chamber. No doubt, there are other issues that might define the year in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, but principally, the outlook of the House will be determined by the polls, how the House decides to approach the budget, as well as who emerges as the next Speaker of the House.
The 2019 polls
At the moment, members of the House of Representatives, like most other Nigerians have their gaze fixed on February 16, which is the date for the presidential and National Assembly elections. It is one date that will define the rest of the year for the lawmakers and their respective political parties, for two reasons.
One, most of the actions of the House would likely be influenced by whoever emerges the winner of the February 16 presidential poll.
Secondly, next month’s poll will bring to an end the tussle for the control of the House between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as there are likely to be more defection across the political parties after the election.
Whichever of the two parties win the majority of seats in the February 16 legislative election, would control the affairs of the House, beginning from June, when the new president is expected to issue a proclamation for the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
If the APC is able to maintain the majority in the House, it would probably be able to install a leadership of its choice in the Green Chamber, irrespective of whether or not it wins the 2019 presidential election, ditto for the PDP. Whichever party wins the majority will determine the direction of the House for the rest of the year.
Key legislations and motions that will scale through in the House in 2019 will be influenced largely by the composition of the House, especially as it relates to the number of political parties that are able to win election into the Green Chamber and what number of lawmakers, each of the parties produced. How quickly, the 9th Assembly finds its bearing is also going to be determined by the number of old members of the House, who are able to make it back to the parliament after next month’s poll.
Already, out of the 360 members of the House, no fewer than 100 members lost primary election in their respective political parties. Besides, for the members of the 8th Assembly, particularly those who are seeking reelection, their active participation in the House after February 16, will depend to a great extent on whether or not they will win their elections. An All Progressives Congress (APC) member of the House from Kaduna State, Hon Yusuf Bala told Sunday Sun that the 2019 polls is going to make great impact on the activities in the House this year.
He pointed out that at the moment every lawmaker is preoccupied with the general elections.
The lawmaker stated that not much is likely to happen in the parliament in the next couple of months because of the elections, noting that technically the current session has come to an end.
He said: “You know this is a year of election. We don’t expect much to be done in the House because as we are resuming, we are still going go take another break for campaign and electoral activities. To me, the session has already ended. Not much is expected from the House.
“You know that since after the primaries, most members are no longer participating fully in the business of the House, most especially those that lost out in the primaries. Even those that won their primaries are busy campaigning on how to retain their seats. So, as I said earlier, we don’t expect to see much from the House, as the session has ended.”
The 2019 Budget
The 2019 Appropriation Bill laid before the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last December is going to occupy the front burner in the House in the next five months.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon Abdulrasak Namdas told Sunday Sun that the budget will be given priority attention.
The House spokesman said that the target of the Green Chamber is to get the budget passed before the 8th Assembly winds up.
“There are a lot of things, we will focus on. But the budget is the most important thing now. Most of the important bills, we are going to work on them. But we will give key attention to the budget which is very vital because we need to pass the budget before the House winds up,”Namdas stated.
If the drama that characterised the presentation of the 2019 budget is anything to go by, then the Appropriation Bill is bound to generate some interest on the floor. Besides, since it is the last budget in the life of this administration, it is likely going to generate more interest than the previous ones.
Hon Ehiozuwa Agbonnayinma, a member of the APC from Edo State, ruled out the possibility of the budget consideration to be trailed by unnecessary controversies.
Agbonnayinma told Sunday Sun that the lawmakers have put behind them what happened on the day the budget was presented.
According to him, the lawmakers across party lines are going to approach the budget as patriots and ensure that whatever is passed in the Appropriation Bill reflects the concerns of Nigerians.
“The majority will always have their way while the minority will have their say. What happened on the floor of the House when Mr President came, you can see that people were aggrieved. Yes, they have a right to be aggrieved. We have gone past that.
“We are not going to dwell on the issue of Mr President, we are going to be focused on the budget. To make sure that whatever is passed in the budget reflects the concern of all Nigerians. That is our concern. Politics is about reaching out, dialogue, superior argument.
“Above all, we are all Nigerians. If Nigeria succeeds, we will all succeed. If President Buhari succeeds, we all will be glad and happy,” Agbonnayinma stated.
Hon Tajudeen Yusuf, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Kogi State concurred to his position.
He said that irrespective of the misgiving of the PDP caucus on the poor implementation of previous budget by the President Buhari administration, the opposition lawmakers will attend to the current budget with sense of patriotism.
“We will attend to it with every sense of patriotism. Remember it is Nigeria’s budget. So, it has to be treated as such. We will support areas that are beneficial to the people and oppose areas that tend to promote primordial tendencies,” the lawmaker said.
There are also the expectation that the opposition led by the PDP would be more active in the New Year, especially as it concerns taking the executive to task on areas it is perceived not to have done well. The PDP came very close to displacing the APC as the majority party in the House late last year.
Therefore, it is expected that with the recent increase in the number of opposition lawmakers, the opposition will be more vibrant in the remaining part of the 8th Assembly.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor said that the PDP caucus is strategising on how to perform their functions more effectively in the remaining part of the current Assembly.
He dismissed insinuations that the PDP has not been playing its roles as the leading opposition party in the Green Chamber effectively.
“We are planning and we will come out with a very good formulation.
You do know that we are putting our acts together. The beauty of democracy is that the majority definitely will have their way while the minority their say. Anywhere, that democracy is in action, you will have the voice of the minority. Definitely, the opposition will continue to hold the government accountable in the New Year,” Ogor told Sunday Sun in an interview.
Also, Yusuf, who is the secretary of the PDP caucus agreed with Ogor.
He said that the opposition would continue to play its roles responsibly. Specifically, the lawmaker noted that in the New Year, the opposition will do that “by drawing attention to the failure of the government; the under the table subsidy payment to the tune of about 1.2 trillion, even after telling Nigerians that the government is no more paying, the over 13 trillion loan exposure without any project to show.”
One key factor that will define the take off of the 9th Assembly is the succession battle. Immediately after the general elections, the battle to succeed the current leadership of the House will kick-off in earnest.
So, the APC and PDP, which are the two leading political parties are yet to come up with the zoning for the various positions in the House.
Immediately after the February 16 presidential and National Assembly polls, it would clear, which of the parties will have majority of members in the 9th Assembly.
Immediately that is ascertained, the jostling for the Speakership position and other principal offices will begin.
Analysts say how the succession politics plays out in the House and in the respective political parties will greatly be influenced what happens in the House from June onwards.