The list of those jostling to take over as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 10th Assembly appeared to be on the rise as the count down to end of tenure of the current house continues. JOSHUA EGBODO reviews the latest developments
The roll call
With the National Assembly elections successfully held on February 25, 2023, a clearer shape of membership of the 10th House of Representatives appeared days after the polls. So also the jostle for speakership of the coming House began. Names have continued to drop in the aftermath of the polls.
Though those being speculated to be nursing the ambition have not come out to publicly declare such interests, however, their body languages appeared to be confirming such speculations. More that none had also denied the suggestions already in the public space.
Incumbent Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila was re-elected through the February 25 polls for his Surulere Federal Constituency 1 of Lagos state, but pundits were of opinion that he may not continue in his present position, or even as a member of the House, citing reasons that borders on his coming from same geopolitical zone with the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It is believed that he may concede his parliamentary seat by way of resigning, after which a bye election will bring in his replacement to the green chamber. The unconfirmed belief has been that he may be appointed for a role in the executive arm of the federal government under Tinubu.
He has however, personally denied any knowledge of suggestions that he may be appointed Chief of Staff to the President.
Those aspiring to succeed Gbajabiamila as being speculated include the deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase; Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Muktar Betara; Spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu, former Chairman of the House Committee on National Intelligence in the 8th Assembly, Aminu Jaji, and Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa.
For Doguwa, many are yet doubting the possibility because he has to face a supplementary election to be confirmed the authentic winner of the poll, and also, his ongoing court trial over allegations of crime related offences, as a fallout of the National Assembly election in part of his home state of Kano.
The latest entrant, in the perception of many followers of events in the House, is Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi from Plateau state.
For those promoting the speakership of Gagdi, his entrance into the race may bring in a new twist into the expected exercise. As it is at the moment Betara is from Borno state, (North East geo-political zone) which is the same with that of the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shetima; Wase and Gagdi are both from Plateau state, (North Central), and Kalu, Chairman of the Committee on Media and Publicity of the House is from Abia state, (South East geo-political zone).
While the waiting continues for where the zoning pendulum of the ruling APC may swing, agitators have began the campaign for the north central geo-political zone. They are insisting that since the return of democratic governance in 1999, the said zone has remained the only one yet to produce a Speaker for the House of Representatives.
But the zoning uncertainty
All eyes were on the APC, when it last week announced a meeting of its leadership and the President-elect with all National Assembly’s members-elect on the platform of the party, that the much awaited zoning of leadership of the coming parliament will be arrived at, but it never came. The strategic decision maker and president-elect, Ahmed Bola Tinubu was conspicuously absent at the meeting which held at the Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock State House, Abuja. The party later said it had rested the zoning issue yet.
There have been instances in the past where such zoning arrangements by political parties were defied, and leadership of the House emerged from internal calculations of members based on interests over who gets what, thus leaving uncertainty in the minds of Nigerians at the moment.
There were suggestions also that the President-elect, Tinubu may have opted for neutrality in the process, a reason many adduced to his absence at the very important meeting last week.
Though the APC failed to make a concrete statement after the meeting, suggestions were that the party may settle for the north central zone as far as the House of Representatives speakership is concerned.
The youth factor argument for Gagdi
Beyond the agitation for a speaker of the north central extraction, many promoters have insisted on the need to encourage young generation of leaders. To this end, as the APC is being pressured to reward the north central for its contribution to the development of the party, underground campaigns have been rife for the emergence of Yusuf Gagdi as Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives. The lawmaker is 42 years old.
Though from the same Plateau State as the incumbent deputy speaker Idris Wase, many are defending Gagdi’s aspiration as a paradigm shift towards injecting a breath of fresh air, and not an affront to Wase as being postulated in some quarters.
Pundits say while all the aspirants may have one or two things going for them in the contest, they pointed out some sterling qualities of Gagdi to include his youthfulness and flexility in religious disposition, which though a Muslim, earned him deputy speakership of the Plateau State House of Aasembly, even as a member of an opposition political party, and also in a predominantly Christian state.
The man Gagdi
He is from the Gagdi ward of Kanam local government area, born to the family of a local mosque Imam, Mallam Adamu popularly called mallam and mallama Hauwa on November 5, 1980, did his primary school at LEA Central Primary School Gum-Gagdi before proceeding to GSS Gagdi for his junior secondary education. He later transferred to GSS Dengi where he had his senior secondary education and successfully ended it in 1999. He was to later obtain an NCE certificate from the Federal College of Education at Pankshin.
After a period of teaching expedition, Gagdi progressed in his education pursuit, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics Education and got employed by the Plateau State Teachers’ Service Commission and then posted to GSS Angwan Rogo. He was later seconded to the office of the Head of Service of the state where he served under the then Head of Service, late Dr. Godfrey Mamzhi as a Personal Assistant (P.A).
He was reputed to have made good use of that position in facilitating employment for more than 20 persons in the state civil service. However, his journey in the state civil service was short-lived because to him, he will be of more help to his people in the political scene than in the civil service. He therefore voluntarily resigned from the service of the state and joined the train of politics to serve his people.
His first sojourn in politics started with a determination to serve and learn from those on the turf and that was how he got himself close and became a personal aide to the then Deputy Speaker of Plateau State’s House of Assembly, Hon. Usman Zumunta Musa.
Those close to the lawmaker said he rose through a very challenging background to becoming who is he is today. Such challenges, they said, played a very significant role in shaping his worldview. “It aided in building his ideology of exceptional generosity as he always said that he knows what it means to be poor. He navigated through the initial tough life challenges and difficulties at FCE Pankshin and made a name for himself as one of the most vibrant and outstanding Chief Judges of the Student Union Government in the history of the institution”, his promoters noted.
He was made the chairman of the House committee on the Nigerian Navy by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and a member of 13 other committees of the House of Representatives. Three bills sponsored by Gagdi, which have already been signed into law are: Police Act 2020, the Federal University of Education, Pankshin Act 2021, the National Hydrographic Agency Act 2021 and that for establishment of the Admiralty University, Idusa Delta.
As countdown to the June 2023 inauguration of the 10th House of Representatives continues, analysts believed that the stage is set for a contest that appeared very unpredictable. It is no doubt in the opinion of many however, that Gagdi’s entrance into the race have swelled the list of aspirants. More entrants are likely in the coming days, but who will wear the crown is a question that only time has the answer to.