Osun speakership: Who wears the crown?

As the new legislative year begins in Osun state in a matter of weeks, LATEEF DADA writes on who the cap fits as speaker of the state assembly even in the midst of serious lobby.

The race for the speakership position of Osun state House of Assembly has begun as major contestants in the race are leaving no stone unturned to get the support of party and those likely to have a say in who leads the assembly.

The position of speaker is a very important one being the head of the legislative arm saddled with the responsibility of conducting legislative functions. The position does not only require good legislative experience, competency and good command of language have been the requisite to lead legislators in any part of the world.

However, the involvement of the party in the selection of leadership of the law-making organ has created room for lobby by legislators, hence, giving chance to unqualified member to emerge in some instances. Investigation by Blueprint confirms that party or godfather factor has usually been a condition for endorsing candidate to fill the position in some states.

As it is, the issue of who becomes the next speaker has generated debate among members of the public and the All Progressives Congress, (APC) who has the majority in the coming assembly.

The speakership position will likely go to either of the three members that are returning to the assembly. Only Olatunji Babatunde ‘Lekan, (Ife North constituency); Timothy Owoeye, (Ilesha East constituency) and Babatunde Festus Komolafe, (Atakunmosa East/West constituency) who are returning out of the 23 APC members with three PDP.

From all indications, it is, however, very clear that Ife/Ijesa which is Osun East Senatorial district will produce the next speaker because the three legislators are from the zone, hence qualified to have automatic candidates to contest the seat. Another factor that qualified them is the fact that the incumbent governor is from Osun Central and his vice hails from the West. It was authoritatively gathered that the position is between Owoeye and Olatunji due to the interest of leadership of the party.

The APC, being the party with the majority, has a choice of choosing between a fourth timer who is the most senior and a second timer who some people believe is competent to lead the assembly.

A source hinted Blueprint that Owoeye, who is the present leader of the house, is likely to emerge considering the seniority and interest of the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who also hails from Ilesa, the constituency Owoeye represents. Owoeye is retuning for the fourth term in the next dispensation and this has been the reason some people believed that he is qualified to occupy the seat being the most senior legislator.

But some political gladiators have kicked against the agitation that seniority should be considered for a position that is likely to have a profound effect on the success of the governor. Those agitating for Olatunji believe that he is vibrant and talented especially when it comes to addressing issues publicly, a quality some people believe he possesses over other colleagues.

Looking at the history of speakership position in Osun, some of the past speakers either have little or no legislative experience before their emergence. Hon Wale Afolabi and Prof Mojeed Alabi are good examples. Also, the current speaker, Hon Najeem Salaam, only spent two years during his first term in office. History has shown that the most experienced lawmaker to become speaker was Adejare Bello with a full term legislative experience.

Opinions differ

A journalist and political analyst, Comrade Akinola Adenitan, condemned the consideration of seniority as consideration for the position, insisting that seniority has nothing to do with the task before the speaker of any assembly.

“It was Mao Zedong who once retorted that the success of society depends on the ability of the leader. The inherent capacity of such leadership which is adjudged as competence is the most required quality to provide service for the people and not seniority. In terms of speakership of a parliament, seniority adds no value, what adds value is the quality/competence of the individual which are acquired through education, experience and exposure.”

A political analyst, Comrade Adediran Jelili, maintained that the involvement of party in the selection of principal officers of the house cannot be ruled out, noting that the best might not be the senior.

He said, “There are two types of constitutional democracy viz; parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy. Under parliamentary democracy, the speaker and all other executives are chosen by the party with highest numbers of members. The prime minister, who is the head of the executive, is a member of the parliament.  So the ruling party will put forward their executive in the chambers. However, under presidential system, there is clear cut separation of power and personnel  the parliament is largely different from the executive.

“In the presidential system, all members come together irrespective of their part line to select or rather appoint their leaders. However, conventionally world over, it is expected that the party with the highest number of members will dictate the turn of event when it comes to that. This is to align their party’s manifesto to governance at all levels. If Saraki were to be appointed by APC then, we would have solved many problems as enshrined in their manifesto. The parliament is to direct, review and appraises the performance of government. So, it makes sense when the party shows direction as to who among them can easily incorporate their party’s agenda to deliver dividends of democracy to all.

“All party members must be committed to signing a terms and agreement with their party to do the party’s bidding when it comes to something like this. Any party member who is rocking the boat should be made to step down. To do this they need a serious adjustment to their party constitution going forward.

“It always makes sense to consider experience in all that we do as human. However it does not mean that if you were not in the house before you cannot make a better speaker. A leader anywhere is leader. Experience anywhere is an experience so restricting the qualified experience to the assembly work is questionable.  For me, it is uncalled for. The best might be from among the freshmen.

“So far in Nigeria, Salisu Buhari, in my own opinion, is still the best performing speaker of House of Representative. Before his enemies dug out his certificate scandal, he was able to adjudicate, control and manage the house without any rancor. What else do we want? This man was never in any house before then.

“So in conclusion, it is undemocratic to fence some people out of contest in this manner.”

A human right activist, Comrade Waheed Saka, said the involvement of party in the selection of assembly leadership is the best to institutionalise party democracy. Saka, who is the convener of Dialogue 365, said the practice all over is to consider ranking members as leaderships of the assembly, stressing that those that have capacity can also be considered.

He said, “Perceptions may differ but the truth is that by the provision of our electoral laws, the party owns the ticket; the party rather than individuals get elected. How are you going to turn back and say the same vehicle that got you elected won’t have a say in who gets the leadership? Unfortunately for us in Nigeria, every good thing here have demerits and every bad things here have merits, some may argue that it will encourage interference and god-fatherism, but it is also the best to institutionalise party democracy and strong institutions rather than strong men. For me, it is best for the party to determine who gets what in the house.

“The years/terms is also a fundamental gauge for competency in the assembly; in fact competence in legislation is not the same as competence in leadership of the assembly. It is an established norm of the legislature world- over to have ranking members taking up the leadership based on years/terms served.

“However, others who may not be top-most ranking member who also have capacity to lead can also be considered. The leadership of the house is sustained based on bi-partisan approach which required legislative maturity. “The bulk stops on the majority party in the house to present their best hands in terms of experience, capacity and competency to lead the house.”

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