By Mumini Abdulkareem
It was meant to be the last day for members of the 8th Kwara State House of Assembly but turned out to be one characterised with outpouring of emotions as lawmakers reminiscent with nostalgia memories and experiences of their time in the hallowed red chambers of the Kwara State House of Assembly on Friday.
Ordinarily meant to be a day regarded as “off duty” for the correspondents covering the House activities as the lawmakers only sit for plenary from Tuesday to Thursday, the valedictory of the 8th legislature had all the trappings of a farewell session. There was fun, camaraderie and togetherness as the 24 members, some incoming lawmakers and past legislators from previous houses of assembly in the state converged to pay their last respect to one of the most productive and impactful legislatures in the state.
Initially slated for 10:00am, the event finally commenced some minutes past 11:00am with the laying of two committee reports, that of the House Committee on Public Accounts on Report of the Auditor-General on the Accounts of Miniseries, Department and Agencies of Kwara State in Respect of Queries raised for the year ended December, 2017 and another one from same committee on the Report of Auditor-General for the local governments on the accounts of the sixteen local government councils in Kwara State for the year ended 31st December, 2016.
Behind the scene
In place of the House Leader and his deputy, Hon Hassan Oyeleke and Hon Segilola AbdulKadir respectively who were both absent due to their lesser hajj trips to Saudi Arabia, the baton fell on the House Chief Whip, Hon Umar Gunu Mohammed (Ilesha/Gwanara) to lead in that capacity.
Other absentees include Hon Mobolaji Amasa who is also away on lesser hajj, Hon Ishiaku Aliyu Adams who had to attend to a family at the hospital and Hon Moshood Bakare who was “unavoidably absent”.
From Hon Adamu Usman whose phone rang during plenary against the rules of the House, to the usurping of the delegated duty of the House Leader from Mohammed who appeared not to be alive to his new responsibility by Hon Ebun Owolabi (Deputy Chief Whip) down to Hon Bumni Afolayan addressing Ebun Owolabi as Ebun Afolayan when asked to second the motion raised by the former to Hon Matthew Babaoye calling for his name to be included among those who engaged in one of the last debates in the house during last plenary, it was an event that was conducted in an atmosphere of glee and emotions. And for the speaker of that legislature, Dr Ali Ahmad, it was a day to receive his testimonial from his colleagues who showered praises on him for providing uncommon leadership and guidance with requisite experienced to make the 8th legislature one of the best in the history of the state. According to Ahmad, it was a day of celebration. And so it was as all the members dressed in native attire with the males including the speaker spotting Agbada except Adamu Usman and Ba’Aziki.
In their various comments led by the deputy speaker, Hon Matthew Okedare who thanked the people of his constituency, the state, former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Dr Bukola Saraki and the Ali Ahmad including all the principal officers and his colleagues for providing the required leadership adding that Ali Ahmad will return in higher capacity of service being a “calm, cool and calculated” person whose service cannot be dispensed with by the state this material time.
The outgoing lawmakers who later spoke after one another including Hon Kamal Fagbemi described as the lawyer of the House and the last lawmaker called upon by Ali Ahmad to speak, described the 8th legislature under the watch of Dr Ali Ahmad, as the best legislature, and one of the most vibrant state legislatures in the country.
In his view, the only All progressives Congress (APC) member and returning legislator, Hon Saheed Popoola who is representing Ojomu/Balogun Constituency, described Ali Ahmad as uncommon legislator per excellence. In emotion laden voice, Popoola said “I will continue to emulate your leadership quality and represent what you stand for, because you are an exemplary and different Speaker who is ready to sacrifice his comfort and position for the wellbeing of his members, irrespective of party affiliations”. He particularly noted when the speaker said he would resign instead of suspending Popoola after he chose to remain in APC.
Other members also noted with delight that the 8th legislature under his watch had surpassed the achievements of past legislatures in the passage of bills, private member bills, Resolutions on Motions and interventions which, according to them, had direct impact on the lives of the people of the state and enjoined the incoming 9th assembly to consolidate on the feat.
They equally urged the new administration in the state to ensure continuation of programmes and policies of the previous administration initiated by the law makers like the state Health Insurance Scheme, financial autonomy for the House of Assembly, People With Disability law and Freedom Of Information Law and others which according to them, will help to improve quality of governance in the state.
In their submissions, the former Speakers, Hons. Babatunde Mohammed, Ezekiel Benjamin Yisa, who was represented by Hon. AbdulKareem Ayinde and oldest former member, Alhaji Abdullahi Alaro described the valedictory session as celebration of the best House of Assembly in Nigeria, who had not compromise their mandates as true representatives of the people.
They observed with delight that the passage of 47 people- oriented bills, financial autonomy for legislative arm of government and establishment of Assembly Service Commission among others during the outgoing 8th legislature as great feats which according to them, had uplifted the standard of legislation in the state.
Responding, the Speaker, who extolled the virtues of each member, attributed the successes recorded to the support of the press, resourcefulness of Staff under the leadership of the Clerk, Hajia Halimat Jummai Kperogi and unity of purpose, love, understanding, maturity and commitment manifested by members and enjoined incoming lawmakers to sustain the tempo, to improve quality of governance in the state.
In his speech Ali Ahmad noted that “Indeed, it is a rare privilege for me to serve the state among one of the most vibrant set of legislators Kwara State has ever produced. This set of Hon. Members, like I always say at any opportunity available to me, are patriots who hold service to their constituents in high esteem and whom I am always proud to belong.
“Part of what we are doing here today is to look back at what we have done in the last four years so that the incoming members will avoid our own pitfalls, build on our modest successes and move the State forward. The secret of our own success is that we learnt from the mistakes of our previous predecessors, avoid them and built on their abiding achievements.
“Most interestingly, the incoming 9th Assembly in Kwara State is challenged from the beginning, as all but one of its members are new. Yes, legislative turnover in Nigeria is the highest across the world, in Kwara it is the zenith of the highest of the highest in the world. However, the challenge is not insurmountable and we must all be ready not to allow this highly coveted institution falter.
People who know little about the 8th Assembly say it’s Ali Ahmad. Let me tell you today for the records, there is no Ali Ahmad without 22 of you, including Hon. Popoola of APC making it 23. The record we have established is for all of us. To show my appreciation, I dedicate the largest part of my speech to celebrate each and every one of you individually…
“I must not fail to mention the achievement of Autonomy of Legislature in the State. It gladdens the heart to note that Kwara prides itself as the first State to pass the Law, have it assented to and thereafter implement it. Today, we have our House of Assembly Service Commission to develop a highly skilled legislative bureaucracy and sever the umbilical cord of control from the Executive arm of government. The head of the Commission is a former Speaker of this Assembly, Rt Hon. Babatunde Mohammed who knows the in and out of what it is to have an independent legislature that belongs to the people. I therefore thank the immediate past Governor of Kwara State, His Excellency, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed for his support in that regard. Many of his colleague Governors have deliberately refused to assent to the legislative autonomy bill.
Let me also express my gratitude to our political leader in the Saraki Political Dynasty, Distinguished Senator Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON, the immediate past Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for providing quality leadership and guidance for the delivery of dividends of democracy to our people. Already, Nigerians are just realizing that he is the best Senate President Nigeria ever produced. At the Senate Valedictory Session, no less personality than a former Senate President himself, Senator David Mark was reported to have said: “I have been here for 20 years and I can say without fear that you Bukola Saraki, have developed the Senate to an enviable height.”Thank you, our leader.
“This piece will not be complete if I fail to appreciate the Press for their cooperation and support for the programmes and activities of the House all through the last four years. I thank you immensely. Most importantly, I thank my constituents, I thank the people of Kwara State and above all I thank Almighty Allah, the Majestic, the All-knowing. Hon. colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, life, they say, is a stage where an actor takes exit as soon as he is done playing his role in the drama of life. The bell to exit the 8th Assembly in Kwara State has rang and it is time to leave the stage”.