By Lere Ojedokun
The highly influential American newspaper, The New York Times, on June 14, 1964, published one of the most illuminating articles, ‘What Makes a Great Senator’.
A scholarly masterpiece, the article was a good attempt at unravelling the myths about the uniqueness of the Senate of the United States – arguably the world’s most revered legislative chamber.
Among other things, the newspaper opined that it might be possible some senators get elected into the U.S. Senate because they are ‘names’ in other fields. However, it interrogated this supposition by asking of what benefit that is to the law-making chamber and how it broadens it.
It went further by examining if any special qualifications were required for membership of the elitist U.S. Senate. The publication submitted that, ‘‘to raise these questions is to suggest that there is room in a 100-man Senate for men of differing tastes and talents. Any arbitrary standard that ignores these individual variations is certain to be wrong.’’
So, it alluded that, ‘‘personal qualities and political circumstances’’ feature prominently among the marks of the best members of the senior legislature in America.
The Nigerian Senate – a 109-member upper legislative chamber – is every way the carbon copy of the American Senate, but certainly not in the rank of the U.S. Senate by all standard.
Notwithstanding, our upper legislative passes as ‘a room’ for men of differing tastes and talents. Analysis and profiling of the men and few women in the red chamber show it is so.
Like the practice in the world’s most advanced Senate, ‘‘seniority, talent, diligence, breadth of vision and a grasp of major issues’’ are unassailable qualities that a Senator needs to possess in order to ‘‘contribute his (or her) full share to the making of national policy.’’
Senator (Dr.) Abdulfatai Omotayo Buhari, the two-term senator currently representing Oyo North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, aptly fits The New York Times’ architype of ‘What Makes a Great Senator’on all fronts.
On seniority point, he is a ranking member of the National Assembly. He combines robust academic qualifications, cognate work and legislative experience; call it talent. Senator Buhari possesses depth and knowledge of governance; that is breath of vision. He also has connection with the people. Above all, he has the grasp of what should and ought to be done to be a people’s representative.
Born in 1965, in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, he attended the University of Ilorin where he obtained Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, in 1985. He proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for the Masters in Business Administration and graduated in 1993. In 2009, Senator Buhari obtained a Ph.D in Public Policy from the University of Abuja.
His work experience includes Deputy General Manager at SCOA, a division of UTC Nigeria Plc, and Managing Director, Abapat Nigeria Limited. A well-grounded politician, political strategist and administrator, Senator Buhari served as Special Adviser on Water Resources under late Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, and as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, in 2003.
His sojourn to the National Assembly began in 2003 when he was elected as the member, House of Representatives for Ogbomoso North/Ogbomoso South/Oriire Federal Constituency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), serving from 2003 – 2007.
Since 2015 to date, he has served as the Senator representing Oyo North Senatorial District on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while his contributions to the enactment of laws for good governance and development, and oversight legislative functions are salutary.
With legislative interests spanning Appropriation, Petroleum, Navy, Industry, Transportation, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Senator Buhari has served in key roles including Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport; Chairman, Senate Committee on ICT & Cybercrime and Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Industry respectively.
Being in the parliament at a time most Nigerians are displeased with the low quality of representation they get from their elected representatives to the National Assembly, a number of things, however, seems to make the Oyo North senator truly distinguished.
The numerous sponsored and co-sponsored bills and quality contributions on the floor of the Senate, constituency projects facilitated, empowerment programmes, personal funded projects and job creation initiatives, to mention a few, are eloquent testimonials of the ‘Omoluabi’ in lawmaker Buhari.
It is well documented that the Oyo North Senator loves development and progress of his constituents with passion. Most recently, he was instrumental to the establishment and formal take-off of the Federal Polytechnic, Ayede, Ogbomoso. The media also reported that the bill for the establishment of the Federal University of Agriculture and Technology in core Oke Ogun axis, which he sponsored, has passed third reading in the upper chamber.
As the Chairman of Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime, Senator Buhari facilitated the establishment of well-equipped ICT Centres including Computer Based Test (CBT) Centres across the 13 local government areas that make up the senatorial district.
His quality representation has also impacted positively on road infrastructure including the Federal Government’s contract award for the completion of strategic Oyo-Ogbomoso expressway. His intervention has also resulted in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of some other roads not just in the senatorial district, but in Oyo State in general.
Senator Buhari’s footprints are also largely imprinted on community development landscape through the provision of boreholes, healthcare facilities, distribution of empowerment tools to women and farmers, and hosting of skill acquisition programmes for youth among others.
His compassionate nature was also well demonstrated during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic with the distribution of palliatives such as bags of rice, Semovita, noodles and cash to his constituents at three different times. He made additional donation of materials including nose masks, hand sanitizers, liquid soaps, hand gloves etc worth millions of naira to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital in Ogbomoso.
In October 2016, Senator Buhari sponsored a bill that could have strengthened our electoral system significantly. The bill entitled ‘Nigerian Political Debates Commission Bill 2015’, was aimed at making it mandatory for all prospective candidates for elective positions to pass through a debate overseen by a commission. The bill passed second reading but was rejected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
For me, the most important gain of that bill was that it undeniably showed the quality of thinking, breadth of vision and a grasp of issues that Senator Buhari typifies as a federal legislator.
Indeed, if The New York Times were to organise a poll and nominate the winner of ‘Who Makes a Great Senator’, this distinguished senator for Oyo North would certainly be the winner.
Ojedokun, a brand communication strategist and public commentator, contributes this article from Lagos.