The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had in January this released the timetable for the 2019 general elections, fixing the presidential and other polls into the 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies of the country for Saturday, February 16, 2019.
As the date approaches, frantic efforts are being made by the lawmakers to secure their party tickets to return to the parliament. Based on the INEC timetable, all party primaries are to be concluded latest by October 7, this year.
Daily Trust Saturday's analysis revealed that many of the lawmakers may lose their seats based on a number of reasons. The attrition rate in the federal parliament has been on the rise over the years, increasing from one Assembly to the other.
From the seventh (2011-2015) to the current Assembly, a total of 308 out of the 469 federal lawmakers couldn't cross the bridge as they lost their bids to return. At the Senate, 79 lost their seats and in the House, 229 suffered the same fate. Only 161 survived the election battle to cross from the last Assembly to the present one.
A review of the National Assembly records showed that from 1999 to date, the 469 seats at both Senate and House of Reps have been occupied by 2,345 persons. At the Senate, only Senator David Mark (PDP, Benue) retained his seat at the chamber since 1999, a feat that made him 'the most senior lawmaker' in Nigeria.
Also, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe) has been at the National Assembly since 1999, but he was first at the House of Reps before he upped his political career to the Senate in 2007. Like David Mark in the Senate, Nicholas Ebomo Mutu (PDP, Delta) is the one face that has been at the Green Chamber since 1999.
Mark, Lawan and Mutu are the three faces that have been at the National Assembly since 1999.
Unlike what is obtainable at the United States Congress where a similar bicameral legislature is being operated. At Congress, lawmakers spend decades. For instance, Senator Chuck Grassley was first elected to the US senate in 1980 and before then he was a member of the US House of Reps. Grassley, a Republican is one of the old faces at the US senate.
Analysts including serving and former lawmakers told Daily Trust Saturday that the attrition rate in 2015 would be child's play compared to what would happen next year if the signals come to pass. Some of the reasons follow:
1. Poor performance/bad representation
The key function of the National Assembly as stated in the Section 4 (1-9) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria was to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof. The performance of the lawmakers are determined based on bill sponsorship, oversight, contribution to debate on motions and bills, and other legislative intervention.
In August last year, a review of bills sponsorship in the Senate showed that 16 senators had no bills to their credit, 26 months after their inauguration. In the House, only about 160 members out of the 360 have sponsored at least a bill, as at last year.
Lamenting on the performance, a ranking Senator from the North said: "It's unfortunate that we have some of our colleagues that up till this moment are yet to understand what lawmaking is."
A Rep expressed dismay that some of his colleagues cannot second a motion let alone contribute to debate. "Such lawmakers are 'bench-warmers'. Apart from introducing themselves during committee sittings, there is nothing else they know how to do," he said.
While a some constituents always see their representatives on television or read them on the pages of newspapers contributing to one thing or the other, others don't get to their theirs at all. This is likely going to count against some lawmakers come 2019.
2. Change in lifestyle
Another factor that would likely negate the return of some of the lawmakers is the sudden change in their lifestyles. Before becoming lawmakers, some legislators could be described as poor. But soon after becoming lawmakers, they become obviously affluent. Many constituents grumble at the sudden appearance of posh cars and choice real estate, owned by their representatives. It is noteworthy that in 2015, Senators and Reps spent billions of naira to buy official cars.
A lawmaker who does not want to be named, told Daily Trust Saturday that he pities some of his colleagues who suddenly change their lifestyles to that of 'big men'. "Some of them, after leaving office, just give them six months and see what they'll become. I think people should learn to think as adults," he said.
3. Abandoning of constituents
At the beginning of each session, newly-elected lawmakers relocate from their constituencies to Abuja, the seat of power. While some go back to their constituencies, weekly or even occasionally, others don't until elections loom. This usually makes constituents feel 'used and dumped'.
Since the inception of the current 8th Assembly, a number of lawmakers have been attacked in their constituencies for not visiting their constituents. This alone is a pointer to what awaits such lawmakers in the coming elections, should they decide to re-contest.
4. Battle for governorship seats
Already some of the lawmakers at both chambers have indicated interest indirectly to contest for the governorship election of their states. It is believed that in coming days some of them will formally declare their intentions.
The lawmakers have joined the race to succeed their respective governors, in the case of second-termers, while others are going for the jugular to unseat first-term governors.
There are indications that some lawmakers from both the Senate and the House are warming up to contest for governorship in states like Zamfara, Bauchi, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Kogi, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe, Taraba, among others.
This will mean that such lawmakers will lose the opportunity of returning to the National Assembly, whether they succeed or not.
5. Rotational system/local politics
Like at the national level where the presidency is rotated between North and South, in most of the 469 constituencies, similar scenarios are playing out. Stakeholders have adopted rotational system where political offices are rotated among the various local governments or ethnic groups within such areas.
For instance, in Bayelsa East senatorial district, where Senator Ben Murray-Bruce represents, the seat is rotated among Ogbia, Nembe and Brass, the three local government areas that make up the area. In the Senatorial District, it's a one-tenure arrangement. With this arrangement, there is the likelihood that Murray-Bruce's 'Common Sense' contribution may be missing in the next Senate.
6. Clashes with governors
A battle line has been drawn by a number of lawmakers with their state governors, a development that is a serious threat to their return bid. In some cases, the misunderstandings between the lawmakers and the governors have gone beyond reconciliation, as a result of which such legislators face threats of being denied return tickets.
This kind of scenario obtains in states such as Bauchi, Kano, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Jigawa, Gombe, Katsina, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Imo, Rivers, Delta, among many others.
Others that may defect to contest, are likely to meet brick walls, because of the powers governors wield.
A senator from the North-West told Daily Trust Saturday that in 2011 when he had issues with his governor, he narrowly returned to the Upper Chamber. He described governors as "evil".
"Before the election day, over 100 of my supporters were in jail because we had issues with my governor. I spent everything to return to the parliament. But in 2015, when we were on the same page, he spent hundreds of millions for my election," he said.
A governor of a Northeast state recently said that while he is in support of the return bid of all the members of the House of Reps from his state, he could not guarantee that for the three senators.
7. Horns-locking with the Executive
Lawmakers, especially those from the Northern part of the country, that show any dislike for President Muhammadu Buhari in are seen as enemies of the common man. This much could be seen in the way those that go against the president are tagged 'enemies of progress' and often attacked by their constituents.
During a recent outing, a lawmakers from the Northeastern part of the country was attacked for opposing Buhari's position on the plans to change elections sequence in the country.
And many lawmakers are poised to lock horns with the Executive further.
8. Jumbo pay
The perception of the average Nigerian is that lawmakers enjoy huge pay without doing much to earn it. Because of this, the battle to the National Assembly is always a do-or-die affair. Only recently, Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State revealed that a senator takes home N13m monthly, which totals N156m annually. Checks showed that a House of Reps member takes about N8m monthly, amounting to N96m each year.
This development often leads to bad blood, causing some constituents to vote against their representatives.
9. Abuse of constituency projects
Constituency projects are meant to be used by lawmakers to reach out to the various communities in lawmakers' constituencies, possibly evenly. However, some lawmakers abuse the process by concentrating such projects in certain areas, while other localities do not feel the impact of their representatives.
This usually pitch constituents against their reps, which lead to total rejection during subsequent polls.
10. Misconception of Legislature
About years 20 years into the return to democracy, many Nigerians are yet to understand the role of lawmakers in the scheme of things. Despite being the closest elective office holders to the grassroots, many Nigerians don't know the duties of their reps.
Some analysts believe that the confusion is being compounded by the lawmakers in their campaigns. Rather than pledging to enact laws for good governance, the lawmakers campaign to their constituents that they will construct bridges, roads, and schools, among others. The failure to fulfil the pledges is one of the factors that is causing high attrition rate in the legislature.