A desperate search by members of the House of Representatives for a return ticket in 2019 has begun, The PUNCH learnt on Sunday.
The elections are about 10 months away, but many members are said to be unsure of the road ahead, with the primaries of the political parties not too far off.
Findings indicated that the development had also led to a sharp drop in legislative duties by members at the National Assembly.
“Out of the 360 members, they are barely able to form a quorum at most sessions of the plenary these days.
“At the committee sittings, the story is not different because the majority of members are back in their constituencies, fighting for a return ticket.
“The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who has also launched a massive re-election campaign for himself, has also noticed the near-empty chamber he presides over these days and has been heard complaining too,” a senior parliamentary official, told The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday.
Investigations showed that about 223 lawmakers in the 7th Assembly set (2011-2015), failed to return to the current 8th Assembly.
The PUNCH gathered that the members either failed to secure their parties’ return ticket or lost in the main elections in 2015.
“As things stand today, both the 137 members, who were able to return from the last Assembly, and the 223 first timers, are nervous about their return in 2019.
“A lot of uncertainties in the major political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress, has forced the members to begin an aggressive search for a return ticket.
“The picture ahead suggests that there will be a lot of defections in the weeks from now.
“As soon as the APC conducts its congresses and the primaries for all the political parties have taken place, there will be defections.
“The desperation to secure a ticket will result in mass movements across parties,” another legislative source informed The PUNCH.
Findings also revealed that in some states, a major hurdle for the lawmakers was the political disagreement between them and their governors.
“In the states, the governors already have their preferred candidates for the seats in 2019.
“In Bauchi, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano; these are a few examples, the governors will do all within their powers to stop some of the lawmakers from returning in 2019.
“The members are fighting back by reaching out to the electorate and initiating more constituency projects to woo them.
“One member from Bauchi-South Senatorial District, for example, and the state governor, are sworn enemies.
“His backbone for coming back in 2019 remains his constituency projects. Many members face this problem,” the legislative source added on Sunday.
However, when contacted for his comments, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, tried to downplay the seriousness of the matter.
Namdas stated that while getting a return ticket was important to members, it did not imply that they had “sleepless nights over it or that they have abandoned their legislative duties.”
He also pointed out that a member visiting his constituency was part of legislative duties.
Namdas added, “It is not true that we have abandoned legislative duties. I will prefer to say that members are carrying out their re-election plans side-by-side their law making functions.
“Our work as legislators is not suffering at all. If you do not see members in the chambers, it is possible that they are away for the same legislative duties.
“Don’t forget that many committees have had to conduct extensive oversight tours recently, particularly because of the 2018 budget, which will soon be passed.”
On the strained relationship between some members and their governors, Namdas responded that the re-election of a member did not rely solely on the wish of the governor.
“If the people that you represent want you to come back, they will still vote for you. That is why members are working, just like the governors too have been working to woo the electorate,” he said.
Namdas claimed to be aware that many members were working in harmony with their governors.
“Let me cite the example of Adamawa State. All the eight members are on the same page with the governor. They are working together,” he stated.
When asked whether his example implied that all the eight members in Adamawa State would return in 2019, Namdas replied, “I didn’t say so. But, they are on the same page with the governor.”