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2019: Jitters In NASS Over Death Wave

The 8th National Assembly has recorded bizarre deaths in quick succession which has created palpable fear among the lawmakers especially as 2019 approaches. SOLOMON AYADO writes.

It is a fact that nobody wish to die and everyone naturally desires to live long and happy. However, it is a reality that there is time to live and time to die. No matter how long a person lives, as soon as it is time to leave this world, there is no other alternative than to die, no matter the circumstance. The 8th National Assembly was recently thrown into mourning with death visiting three of it members. Among the many fears, the living lawmakers are not sure whether it is their political enemies that are at work to tactically elimate them before the 2019 election year or not, and they are also unsure who is the next to respond to the natural call just as their deceased colleagues. In more specific terms, death visited the National Assembly thrice in quick succession and no one seems to understand the real cause of these deaths, be it medical or otherwise. Although the lawmakers that died recently were said to have slumped and died or had a brief unacertain illnesses before their death. Of course, with regard to causes of death, nature provides for different circumstances in which one can die.

In a time like this, especially with the stressful political activities ahead of 2019, harsh economic conditions, and hidden health challegens, it would be difficult to lay blames or make allegations regarding whose hand is involved in one death or the other. Similarly, the politicians themselves and the institution of government seem not to be doing enough to make life better and improve the general healthcare delivery system in the country. The moneybags including government functionaries preffer medical tourism in foreign countries than salvaging the our decayed national health system. This is coupled with the practice by some medical personnel, who misappropriate government’s medical equipment to boost their private hospitals. It is therefore not a surprise that a sizeable number of Nigerians have resorted to desperate means to exit the country in search of greener pastures.  Aside the fact that privileged Nigerians travel abroad for medical reasons, not a few wonder whether the leaders have the interest of the generality of Nigerians at heart towards building the health institution. Indeed, to the National Assembly, it is no gainsaid the fact that these are no good times for the legislative house, hence the plight of some of its members.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is the chairman of the National Assembly is obviously saddened by the ugly development. He described the death wave as “one too many”. Looking back in the life of this Assembly, within a space of three years now, the death toll in the 8th National Assembly has risen to 9. The latest in the wave is that of Senator Mustapha Bukar (Katsina North). Until his death, he was the chairman of Senate Committee on Capital Market. According to sources, he died at a private hospital in Abuja after a brief illness.  He was aged 63. Sadly, the death of Senator Bukar came exactly five days after that of another lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Hon. Umar Buba Jibril, who represented Lokoja/Kogi Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He died precisely on Friday, March 30, 2018. Jibril’s death came on the heels of Senator Ali Wakili’s death two weeks earlier. He represented Bauchi South in the Senate. He was reported to have slumped and died at his Gwarimpa residence in Abuja at the age 58. Waikili was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Poverty Alleviation and a member of APC. He was also a retired Comptroller at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) before he delved into politics. It is on record and arguable that the first death in the current National Assembly took place before it was inaugurated on June 9, 2015.

That was the death of Senator-elect Ahmed Zanna, who was re-elected to represent Borno Central in the Senate in 2015 but died a month to the inauguration of the 8th Assembly. On March 17, 2016, Hon. Musa BabaOnwana, who represented Nasarawa/Toto Federal Constituency on the platform of the APC, passed away at the age of 50. Although the cause of his death was not ascertained. Similarly, the member representing Ifako Ijaiye Federal Constituency, Mr. Elijah Adewale, had also slumped and died at the early hours of Thursday, July 21, 2016 in his house in Abuja. He was a member of the ruling APC in Lagos state. Also, in February 15, 2017, Hon. Bello Sani (Mashi/Dutsi Federal Constituency) from Katsina State passed away. Same year in April, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who represented Osun West on the platform of the APC, equally died at the age of 62. Although there was controversy over his death and an investigative panel was set up on the matter. While it was alleged that he died of poison in some quarters, a medical personnel later declared that it was as a result of excessive dose of analgesics, sedatives and alcohol. Also, on July 14, 2017, Abdullahi Wamakko, a member of the House of Representatives, who represented Kware/Wamakko Federal Constituency from Sokoto State, died at an Abuja Hospital, after a brief illness. Because of the latest death wave and in quick succession, the Upper Chamber resolved to set up an Endowment Fund to cater for the families of all deceased members of the National Assembly.

The Senate also set aside a day to specially pay tribute to the Late Bukar and other Senators who passed away. Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), who read the biography of the late legislator, urged the Chamber to expeditiously pass all the bills being sponsored by deceased Senators, before they died, as one of the ways to appreciate their contributions to the Senate and the country in general. The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, while making contribution, described the deaths as a heavy blow to the Senate and the entire nation. Also, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio (PDP, Akwa Ibom), in his contribution, lamented that the death was very painful. For his part, Saraki lauded the quality of contributions of the deceased lawmakers, pragmatism and their work towards strengthening the institution of the legislature. At the moment, one can conveniently say that the deaths in NASS is one to many. Now that the 2019 is fast approaching, the lawmakers are jittery over who would be the next to die and in what manner. Meanwhile, the public wishes that the death should not come again but it is left to be seen as events unfold.