Following the 2019 general election, more and more members of the House of Representatives have indicated interests in becoming speaker of Ninth assembly of the House. JOSHUA EGBODO in this piece x-rays the contenders.
The frontline contenders
Several members have so far indicated interest for the speakership, but among them are those followers of events in the House have tagged the real contenders. This piece may not be exhaustive in the review of the aspirants who are already in the race. However, it seeks to X-ray their chances, based on the opinion of pundits who are conversant with the politics of the House over the years.
The Lagos state-born lawmaker, who represents the Surulere II federal constituency and would be returning to the House for Fifth consecutive terms, has been a key player in the House. He has held the minority leadership of the House since the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held sway as the ruling party at the Centre of power.
Gbajabiamila, who formally made his ambition for the speakership known on Sunday, said he was seeking the office “with a rich legislative background and pedigree, and having just won a historic 5th term mandate to the House”. According to him, he had in the last 16 years dedicated his life to the service of his constituents, and Nigeria.
As the majority leader, he “spent the last four years in doing my best to stabilise the House, whilst exploring and studying how best we as legislators can unleash the potentials of this country. I have taken coupons of mental and physical notes and it’s time for implementation”.
His chances at the moment appeared to be a sealed and possibly delivered deal, more with the open endorsement of his candidature by chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
However, there have been stiff opposition to the party’s suggestion, with the argument that the lawmakers should be allowed to make their independent choices.
While the APC’s arrangement was still being debated, even with open threats of punishment against its members who may defy the party’s position, spokesman of the House, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas last Tuesday formally declared his intention to run for the speakership.
While Namdas declared, a key member of his support team present during the event in Abuja, Hon. Abdulrahman Abubakar, canvassed that the APC should give its members the freedom to elect anybody they choose to be their leaders, He cautioned against imposition of persons especially if the pitfalls of the 2015 leadership emergence are to be avoided.
While insisting that members would rather opt for a leader they can trust, and a person they can freely relate with, the lawmaker called on the APC to consult widely on the issue of speakership of the House, and “not rush into zoning”, as according to him, members know themselves better.
Why he wants the job
Namdas who many have seen as a possible good hand for the post, in his declaration speech said he was seeking the post because the coming assembly of the House deserved the best in terms of leadership.
“I am offering myself for the position of speaker because the 9th Assembly deserves the best of leadership. I am convinced and I believe you are aware that I possess the necessary legislative and personal credentials to effectively lead the House to enviable heights.
“As spokesperson for the House, I represented and defended the legislature effectively for four years hence I am better positioned to preside and speak for the House as speaker”, he stated.
One of the lawmakers who have seemingly been calm in the pursuit of an ambition to become speaker of the next House is Hon Aliyu Betara. Representing Biu/Kwaya Kusar/Bayo/Shani federal constituency of Borno state, he is considered a formidable but silent mover in the race.
But for the uncertainty of outcome of the much expected APC zoning formula, which unofficially at the moment may have favoured Senator Ahmed Lawan for the Senate Presidency, Betara, who is from the same North-east geo-political zone with Lawan could easily have been tipped as an aspirant to beat in the race for speakership of the House.
Pressured to stand against party decision
There were recent reports suggesting that the lawmaker, who is coming back to the House for a fourth consecutive term, was under pressure by some of his colleagues, both returning and freshly elected, to join in the speakership race.
“Some of those rooting for him for the position (speaker) are also of the understanding he will bring his wealth of experience as chairman of one of the most important committees (Defence) in the House to use, if elected speaker”, his promoters said.
It is believed that he remains one name that may not ring bell, but may spring surprises in the contest. He commands the kind of support that has enough muscle to threaten party position.
The incumbent Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Hon Idris Wase, who took the reins as a principal officer of the House, following the demise of his predecessor on the post, Hon Buba Jibril, is believed to be enjoying a massive support of his colleagues from the North-central geo-political zone.
The caucus of the zone, about a forthright ago, had appealed to the APC, to, in its planned zoning arrangement, concede the speakership position to the North-central, however did not disclose the member it is rooting for.
“We are confident of the ability and capacity of the national leadership of the APC to do the right thing to all in order to advance national cohesion, balance of power and federal character,” Hon John Dyegh, who led the caucus at a media briefing on the matter, stated.
Chief Whip of the House Hon Ado Doguwa is a man many have seen as one of the frontliners in the contest. But for the perception that the APC may not zone the position to the North-west, the Kano lawmaker has been seen by many as one with the cognate experience for the speakership post.
Also, his recent political moves have suggested that he may after all not be too keen on the speakership bid. He was one of the visible members who appeared in solidarity with Gbajabiamila, when the later on Sunday, formally declared his intention for speakership of the Ninth assembly of the House
The lawmaker vied for the speakership of the Eighth House, and was considered one of the most loyal members of the APC. He is though yet to make his intentions public.
But the lawmaker, who hails from Borno state, is seen as one of the leading aspirants in the race. It is at the moment unclear, if he is determined to pursue the ambition through this time.
He was also a part of the Gbajabiamila declaration event, where he read citations of the House leader, signalling he may have bowed to the party’s endorsement of the Lagos lawmaker.
To analysts, there are many who have signified their interest for the speakership, but are considered not to be on the list of the serious contenders.
The lawmaker is seen by many as the unofficial comedian of the Eighth House of Representatives. The self acclaimed professional hunter, was recently quoted in media reports to have asked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s permission to go and finish up the Boko Haram in the aftermath of one its deadly attacks in North-east.
He is said to be in the race for the speakership, but analysts have dismissed him as somebody with no chance in the race.
The Delta state lawmaker, who is staging a comeback, after a break, is an experienced legislator in the eyes of many.
He led the controversial power sector probe during the Sixth assembly, and was later chairman of the Committee on Health.
Seen as a well composed personae, but his attempt to many could not be taken seriously, especially since he is of the minority political party’s extraction. He is yet to make public the rumoured plan to be speaker.
Formally of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the lawmaker, who currently chairs the committee on aviation, joined the ruling APC in the build up to the elections and got re-elected to the House.
She pledged in her campaign document for the speakership to among other things, if elected speaker, improve the House’s communication with the general public, improve internal communication and members relationships, adopt a legislative agenda with clear framework for compliance and monitoring, and improve lawmaking.
Though an experienced lawmaker, many said she is one of those who stand no chance in the race, especially that in the expected zoning plan, the South-east may not be one of the zones in the consideration of the APC.