Following last week’s endorsement of Femi Gbajabiamila for the position of speaker by not less than 178 new members-elect for the coming House, JOSHUA EGBODO and Patrick Andrew writes on likely implication.
The number required to emerge Speaker
The majority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila may be inching closer to realizing his dream of becoming speaker of the 9th assembly of the House. The endorsement, by no fewer than 178 members, points clearly to the likelihood of him emerging the speaker come June 9.
Besides, the recent actualisation of a collaborative pact between two key geo-political divides: South-west and South-east to produce the speaker and deputy respectively may further boost and bolter Gbajabiamila’s aspiration.
Specifically, the extant rules governing the activities of the House, for a member-elect just require anything more than one-half of the 360-member chamber to be declared speaker-elect.
Order Two, Rule 3(g) of the Standing Orders of the house reads in part; “When more than two members-elect are nominated and seconded to be speaker and where two or more accept……., the member-elect who has received more than one-half of the votes in the division shall be the Speaker-elect…..”.
And 178 endorse Gbajabiamila
New members-elect for the ninth assembly of the house numbering up to 178, last Thursday reportedly endorsed the speakership bid of Gbajabiamila. This, the man who spoke on behalf of the group, membership of which cuts across political parties’ divides, doubling also as incumbent speaker of the Akwa-Ibom state House of Aasembly, Hon Onofiok Duke said they have all resolved to vote for Femi Gbajabiamila as the next speaker.
Luke, elected on platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made the disclosure at a press briefing shortly after a meeting held with Gbajabiamila at the New Chelsea Hotel, located at the Central Business Area of Abuja, the nation’s capital.
“This is a conglomeration of people of different parties. I am of the PDP, we have members of APC here, we have members of APGA and we have people from A.A, we have people from SDP and we have people from ADC. It’s a multi-party arrangement.
“We decided to convene ourselves as newly elected members of the National Assembly. We have acknowledged the fact that this country today for the challenges that we have, we need a bi-partisan approach to solve the problem of Nigeria and the only person that show that credibility, that has shown that capacity, that has all it takes even as reflected in his manifesto to carry the entire parties along in resolving and solving the issues of Nigeria.
“This is a man who will not mortgage the independence of the legislature, but will at the same time not engage the executive in a fiasco: a man who will build a good relationship between the executive and the legislature, between the legislature and the judiciary.
“A man who will care about the welfare of Nigerians, a man who will put the interest of Nigerians above his personal interest and a man who will put the interest of Nigeria above the interest of a party..
“We have resolved today, to have come from our different constituencies. We have come as newly elected members having looked through the credentials and the CV we have found in Right Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as a man who has the capacity to lead the 9th National Assembly as the speaker of House of Representatives.
“And we know that he is not going to let Nigerians down and we know and believed that he is not going to let us down and we know and believe that he is not going to let God down”, the lawmaker stated.
But the phone gifts
The genuineness of the group of lawmakers’ resolve has been questioned on the basis of Techno Y7 mobile phones apparently gifted each of them by the four-term member- Gbajabiamila- as each of the members-elect at the meeting was seen clutching a pack of the device. Sources close to the speakership only described the items as souvenirs.
Though not seen as anything illegal, many analysts have described the action as bribery, something akin to the vote buying technique widely deployed in recent electoral processes in Nigeria.
Mum as the game
On whether the phone gift arrangement was a scheme to woo or buy over the lawmakers, none of them was willing to speak on the matter.
Gbajabiamila almost there?
With the endorsement by 178 members-elect last week, Gbajabiamila in all reasonable calculations may need just three more votes to clinch victory on the day of inauguration, that is if the members who endorsed him, all cast their votes in his favour. But how realistic is this endorsement?
Politicians in this clime, as experience has repeatedly shown, do not always stick to their words, and there is always a ready defence; ‘acting based on the information available at the time’. Followers of the politics going on in the house, therefore, have opined that it was unlikely that the said endorsement would pay off, and might also be dangerous for Gbajabiamila to rely on such, by going to sleep.
As the proclamation for dissolution of the outgoing assembly, and subsequent inauguration of the ninth one is being expected from President Muhammadu Buhari, which may be coming after taking oath of office for his second term on May 29, twists and turns to events and politicking in the lower chamber of the National Assembly may also not be in short supply.
Pact with Wase
Against the backdrop of the pact forge by national caucus of the APC between the South-west and north-central zone, the formal merger of the structures of Gbajabimila and Ahmed Idris Wase no doubt further strengthened the bond and should engender representatives who had hitherto vowed their support for Wase to close ranks and rally support for the pact.
Dependable sources hinted that Wase has already set machine in motion to persuade his supporters to line up behind Gbajabiamila. Series of meetings to that effect have ensured that his loyalists are already looking beyond June 9 when the house would be inaugurated to settling down for the actual commencement of the business of legislating purposefully to enhance good governance and promote the growth of democracy in the country.
With the pact, however, the camp of those opposed to Gbajabiamila has been thrown into great confusion, seeing the overwhelming numbers that the current
big numbers in the united Gbaja-Wase camp has.
South-west/North-west pact: A Gbajabiamila home run?
Recall that the APC had narrowed down the choice of speakership to South-west in accord with North-central. Consideration was based on the zones being the ones with the highest ranking officers of the party in the House.
Gbajabiamila, the majority leader and, therefore, the highest ranking member from the South-west, while Wase, the deputy majority leader, the highest ranking member from the North-central were persuaded to collapse their structures should the party eventually gave nod to either of the duo to produce the speaker.
The pact between both geo-political zones naturally narrowed down to these ranking members in the House based on competence, experience and clout.
The APC believes having persuaded the zones to adopt a workable cordial relationship that protects party interest and is equally agreeable to the presidency, it would nip in the bud any recalcitrant attitude some that may not readily side with its decision would throw up on June 9 when the House is to be inaugurated.
Objections to the pact
However, a seemingly major obstacle as raised by those opposed to the collaboration between Gbaja and Wase is the agitation against the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Gbajabiamila favoured to emerge speaker is a Muslim and his likely deputy Wase is also a Muslim. Some have accordingly raised eyebrows claiming that it does not reflect well on the religious complexity of the country.
Albeit, they think it may not really matter in advanced democracies, but taking the Nigerian factor into consideration these antagonists are of the position that Nigerian has not risen above such complex.
The APC South-East Renaissance Group does not even think Gbajabiamila should be in the picture of those vying for the speakership, instead the reasons that the position of the Speaker, House of Representatives in the Ninth National Assembly should go to the South-east.
The group’s convener, Chris Onyemechara said recently: “A situation where the same geopolitical zone which produced the Vice-President of the country and the national leader of our party is seen scheming and demanding, with a bloated sense of entitlement, the speakership of the House of Representatives, smacks of political avarice, brazen injustice and grave disservice to good conscience,” Onyemechara said.
He claimed the APC members in the South-East had shown capacity and leadership, hence they should be encouraged with such strategic position. He therefore called on all party members jostling for the position from other geopolitical zones to withdraw from the race and support the South-East.
“Politics of exclusion did not yield much political dividends for our party in the South-East in the last election. Wisdom will advise that our party embraces politics of inclusion. Politics of exclusion did not work, why don’t we try politics of inclusion?
“Under the circumstance, the best way to start is to zone the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the South-east.
“We therefore call on our party members from other geopolitical zones jostling for the Speakership of the House of Representatives to forthwith withdraw from the race and support the South-East in the spirit of fairness, justice and equity.”
This position was equally adopted by Representatives Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Abia, APC) who argues that it is politically incongruent for the speaker and vice president to come from a zone out of the six geo-political divide.
She said, “I respect my party chairman and what the party has said it intends to do but I am appealing to them, it is not yet late to withdraw their decision and include a woman from the two geo-political zones left out in 2015.
“I know that the leader of the house, Femi Gbajabiamila, is a good gentleman and good leader but there is a time when any man who is a leader indeed needs to make necessary sacrifice and that time is now for the leader of my party in the house of representatives.
“This opportunity comes only once when a leader will look at himself and say, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about Nigeria.’ I also believe that Nigeria needs healing and somebody has to pay the sacrifice for us to move to the next level, even if it means deciding that speakership should go to another zone.”
No to religious card
Nonetheless, certain group have risen in stout support of the Muslim-Muslim ticket in their believe that competence, cogent parliamentary experience and integrity should not, for the sake of satisfying inferiority complex, be sacrificed for mediocrity.
The new group is affirming that religion should not by any circumstance be used to deprive the nation of a golden opportunity to change the current narrative about unemployment, rising insecurity, and engender good governance for the teeming citizens of Nigeria, through robust legislation, which the combination of Gbajabiamila and Wase has the potential to deliver.
It (the new pact) has great prospects of ensuring stability in the House by galvanising majority of members towards working for the nation.
Besides, those currently introducing religious sentiments in this matter should recall that at some point in the Senate, David Mark (a Christian) was Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (a Christian) was Deputy Senate President, and Victor Ndoma-Egba (a Christian) was Senate Leader.
Then, there was no fuse from Muslims over this, neither was there evidence that the trio used their offices to convert some Muslims to Christianity. Rather, many citizens believe that the Mark-led leadership worked for the overall good of the nation.
A similar scenario played out when Dimeji Bankole (a Muslim) led the House of Representatives as speaker with Usman Bayero Nafada (also a Muslim) as deputy. There was no evidence that the duo took advantage of the offices convert some Nigerians to Islam. Thus, development analysts believe those promoting religiosity in this matter should restrain themselves and join the league of those working for the greater good of Nigerians.
What the accord offers
Besides and beyond the political dynamics thrown into the deliberations on the next level leadership structure of the 9th House, salient questions lingers on the lips of many as to the probable impact the combination of Gbajabiamila and Wase parliamentary experiences could have on functional legislature, executive relationship, initiation of bills on policies and programmes of the government with the masses in view.
Those that have closely followed developments in the country are unanimous that the new pact has great prospects of ensuring stability in the House. Primarily, no fewer than 178 members have openly lined up behind Gbajabiamila and it is expected that the pact would further galvanise the majority of members towards working for the nation.
The argument here is, while Gbajabiamila is a visionary lawyer whose passion for the greater good imbues him towards aggressive and somewhat impatient drive for excellence, Wase, and equally patriotic ranking lawmaker is however, calm, collected and measured in his steps, thereby revealing a tendency to ensure a tranquil atmosphere in the House, even in the face of a storm in the Green Chamber. Besides, both are loyal party men meaning that the tendency towards unnecessary and irritant altercations with the executive, while the business of governance suffers, will be reduced.
The duo are, therefore, ready and willing to address the ugly trend of governors fiddling with local government funds with the sole intent of impacting rather than incapacitating the LG administration, which is the first point of contact with majority of citizens of this country.
Issues of insecurity: kidnapping, cattle rustling, insurgence, herdsmen/farmers clashes, among others would be their primary concern and they have promised combined efforts to curb the nation of these irritancies by looking piously at funding and its application for that specific purpose.
Much more importantly, there’s groundswell of evidence that what is uppermost in the minds of Gbajabiamila and Wase is the setting up of a vibrant Legislative.