By Bolaji Aladie
Tomorrow, June 8th 2023 marks the termination of the tenure of the 9th National Assembly, as the elected lawmakers across the 469 districts and constituencies of Nigeria will bow out after four years of representing their people’s interests and advancing democracy through the lawmaking arm of the country’s government.
The days, months and years ahead will allow the electorates to appraise the performances of these lawmakers, especially, those amongst them who lost their return bids, since they won’t have the opportunities to perfect their inadequacies and rectify the errors in their representation, unlike their returning colleagues who have the chance to rewrite their stories for another four years.
Over 70 per cent of the 9th Senate lawmakers lost their returning bid due to their defeat in either intra-party or inter-party elections while others sought other positions away from the legislative Chambers. The result of those aspirations also would end or have ended up in a win or loss for those involved.
For some of these outgoing legislators, four years seemed enough for them to showcase their brilliance, capacity and efficiency in delivering the tasks put before them. One such individual is the representative of Kwara Central Senatorial District, Dr Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe who also served as the chairman of the outgoing Senate Health Committee and Vice-Chairman, of the Diaspora and NGOs Committee.
Ironically unfortunate for our Nation, his exceptional performances in the Chambers and unprecedented representation of his constituents could not earn him a return ticket as he lost to our bad politics that doesn’t reward meritorious services.
Dr Oloriegbe, a medical practitioner armed with legislative experience from his stint at the Kwara State House of Assembly about two decades before his elections into the Senate came prepared to the Red Chambers as he then moved an important motion which addressed the need for sufficient security at the Nation’s airports in response to a trending unfortunate occurrence which almost cost one innocent Nigerian lady her life in Saudi Arabia on offence related to drug. That motion that elicited the response it sought from the executive was the first in the history of the 9th Senate led by Ahmad Lawan.
Sen. Oloriegbe went on with all smack of diligence and sagacity to sponsor and co-sponsor more motions not less than twenty, as he also single-handedly sponsored fifteen bills of National importance. This feat rates him among the top newbies with the highest number of bills, moreover, he stood tall amongst his colleagues by having eleven of these bills passed by the Senate, seven concurred with by the House of Representatives, with four of them receiving the assent of the immediate past President of the country, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
Oloriegbe’s bills are not just about their numbers but the progression enjoyed through the quality and zeal put into them for the consensus of his colleagues in both houses. There are many lawmakers with a high number of bills which are wallowing in the first reading stage.
Being a medical practitioner of many years, he ensured through his performance and advocacies that the country’s health sector received proper attention and witnessed reforms, the kind which has never been seen before. The series of interventions and funds that went into the health sector over the last four years towards achieving Universal Health Coverage goals and bringing quality health care closer to the people was unprecedented. One such intervention came directly from the lawmaker as he championed the National Health Insurance bill that became an Act that transformed the scheme into an authority that makes health insurance mandatory for all Nigerians whilst providing funds to take care of the vulnerable among its several benefits.
Another of his bills that became an Act bordered on Mental Health. The previous legislation before the new act was post-independence enacted, it was even a modified version of the 1916 Lunacy Act. The new act proposed by Oloriegbe and signed to law by Buhari on the 5th of January this year was adjudged to be a game-changer in the quest to address the mental health challenges. Several stakeholders could not exhaust their praises for Oloriegbe for overcoming what others failed as the legislation had begun its journey in the National Assembly as far back as 2003. Not even the wife of his predecessor and somewhat rival who led the 8th National Assembly, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki could hide her admiration for the feat as she took to her verified social media page to laud Oloriegbe’s efforts and the stride that birth the signed law. The Act in question establishes a Department of Mental Health Services in the Federal Ministry of Health, to propose national mental health policies, promote mental well-being, and healthcare services and facilitate the provision of humane care including treatment and rehabilitation in the least restrictive environment, among others.
The icing on the cake of all Oloriegbe’s assented bills was the one that established the first Federal Neuropsychiatry Hospital in the whole of the North-Central Geopolitical zone at Budo-Egba village in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State. The institution which has since commenced services is not only bridging the lacuna in the fight against mental illnesses and drug, plus substance abuse amongst the youth of the country, but it is also providing an economic boom to the people of Kwara Central and beyond as hundreds of people have been employed and will continue to be employed there. This is a legacy beyond Oloriegbe’s tenure and time as a living soul.
In the aspect of legislative oversight, Oloriegbe proved himself reliable as a representative. The outspoken lawmaker is a man to watch out for in every one of the committees he belonged to. His oratory and analytical prowess are always in handy for engagement in legislative seating and committee visits to the government MDAs.
It can never be business as usual wherever you have Senator Oloriegbe. You have to be fully prepared for proper drilling and intellectual engagements.
Not carried away by his fantastic legislative achievements in Abuja. He played the local politics the way it should be in a saner clime. He facilitated several intervention projects in different sectors. Several schools and health centres were not only remodelled but also equipped with modern instruments. As lots of communities got provided with drinkable water and electricity transformers, so were thousands of his constituents who got empowered according to their preferred skill whilst hundreds of others got engaged in Federal Civil jobs through the Senator’s intervention. Scores were supported in their educational pursuits as another set got financial support to either tackle health challenges or meet their economic needs.
As he was doing all these, he was there for the party members in their time of need. He collaborated patriotically with the State Government where it matters as well as the traditional institutions in the quest to bring developments home. He was with the party as the coordinator of Kwara National Assembly members throughout its tumultuous period till it gains stability and assurance. Unfortunately, it was he, who contributed so much to the party in its ailing days, that wasn’t found worthy of a return ticket. As it is being said, “It is what it is”. Nonetheless, he left the aftermath of the primary elections behind him as he continued to offer the best to his constituency and worked tirelessly to ensure the party became victorious in the year 2023 elections which were won convincingly by APC, however, some people are not feeling comfortable with his rise in profile across the nation went on to sponsor some nincompoops to suspend him from the party on allegation of anti-party activities. The machinations though fell like a pack of cards.
Not long after, OrderPaper – a reputable media organisation assessing the performances of the National Assembly lawmakers, rated and inducted him alongside two other Senators and two House of Representatives Members into the first-ever Hall of Fame of Most Valuable Parliamentarian’ in recognition of his masterful performance service to the nation as a member of the outgoing National Assembly.
Oloriegbe’s time as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria may have temporarily or permanently comes to an end, but his impressive performance has immortalised and etched his name in the book of history. His outstanding performance in the Upper chamber will continue to serve as a template through which his successors and other lawmakers at least from Kwara State will be gauged onwards.
May Lord reward Oloriegbe for his brilliant service as he bows out of the National Assembly in style.
Bolaji Aladie is the media aide to Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe.