The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has many battles ahead of him in winning back the confidence and support of his colleagues in the green chamber. DOZIE EMMANUEL writes that one of such herculean task is his ability to appoint committee chairmen and their deputies and taking care of all interests without hurting anybody
The much-awaited inauguration of the 8th National Assembly has come and gone. While the winners are basking in the euphoria of their new political status, the losers have no choice but to adjust to the current political reality.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the election of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives were keenly contested. In fact, it was said to be the most keenly contested in parliamentary democracy in Nigeria. At the end, Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu emerged as the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, while Hon Yakubu Dogara and Hon. Yusuf Lasun were elected the Speaker and Deputy Speaker by their colleagues.
It is instructive to point out that the two presiding officers in both chambers emerged as a result of the confidence their colleagues repose in them not minding that the All Progressives Congress, APC had earlier pitched tent with Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. So now is the time for the two presiding officers at the National Assembly to pay back by reciprocating the confidence.
In the House of Reps, for instance, all eyes will be on the Speaker to see how he carries all members along irrespective of the camp or party one belongs to. It is just obvious that some lawmakers in the camp of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila are not comfortable with the emergence of Dogara as the Speaker of the House.
While many lawmakers in the anti-Dogara group are at the risk of losing out in the allocation of some ‘juicy committees’, other members in the pro-Dogara group are said to have been lobbying for some chairmanship committees considered to be ‘lucrative’. Tension is high among members as the Speaker sets to announce some of the committee chairmen and deputy chairmen in no distant time. Some desperate allies of the Speaker have been inundating him with deluge of requests to head specific committees. Such committees include: Finance, Customs, House Services, Appropriations, Public Accounts Committee, FCT, Works, Marine Transport, Education, Aviation, Defence, NDDC, Niger Delta, Petroleum Resources (Down Stream), Petroleum Resources (Up Stream), Power, Interior, Health, Gas Resources, Communications and Banking and Currency. In fact, out of the 89 standing committees of the House, these are considered more ‘juicy and lucrative’, thus the need for members to scramble and lobby ahead of time.
Giving an insight into the development, former deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, said it is not unusual to find members angling for one committee position or another at the inception of a new session. He explained that the scrambling is unnecessary because he expects the Speaker to be fair to all sides in appointing the chairmen of the committees. The lawmaker further revealed that there is nothing much the Speaker can do now because the selection committee has not started sitting to deliberate on committees’ appointments.
“Committees are allocated to zones and state caucuses. Every zone will get some committees, as it has been the practice.
“Besides, we are still expecting to have the other principal officers in the office before serious discussions on the issue of committees can start. My advice to members is that they should be patient,” Ogor advised.
Since his emergence as Speaker, many of the state caucuses in the House have been paying him courtesy call, thus making one demand or the other. Those in the know have argued that most of these courtesy calls are not only unnecessary, but also self serving and a distraction. They maintained that it was a subtle way of getting the attention of the Speaker at this critical time. Many have even congratulated him openly on the pages of newspapers as well as had a private session with him.
Political analysts are of the opinion that Hon. Aminu Tambuwal was able to steer the affairs of the House for four good years largely because of the confidence his colleagues reposed in him. Throughout his tenure, he carried all members along irrespective of party affiliation. Nevertheless, they are of the firm conviction that Dogara has a lot to learn from his predecessor, who found himself in a similar position, but was able to steady the ship till the end.
Therefore, the first task for Dogara in the confidence building process will be the manner the principal officers emerge as well as committee chairmen. In the last 16 years, the practice has been that the party in the majority gets the House Leader, Deputy House Leader, Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Whip, while the party in the minority gets the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.
Insiders said in order to avoid further crack in the party, the APC leadership is currently in talks with Dogara and his loyalists to allow Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon Tahir Monguno to emerge as House Leader and deputy House Leader respectively since both of them lost out at the speakership contest. Just like in the Senate, some staunch supporters of Dogara said they will resist any attempt by the party to impose any body on them.
Past experience has clearly shown that this is usually a difficult time for the House presiding officer in trying to balance national interest with personal interest. Interestingly, many of his colleagues, who contributed in no small measure to his emergence as the Speaker both financially and otherwise will naturally want to head some of these committees mentioned above. So in an attempt to please some of them, automatically he will be sacrificing national interest for personal interest.
This was recently re-echoed by the Emir of Dass, Usman Bilyaminu Othman, when the delegation from Bauchi state paid him a courtesy call. The emir cautioned him not to embark on any witch hunt or politics of victimisation; he rather admonished him to regard all members as brothers and sisters and carry everybody along.
Of course, one thing that worked in Dogara’s favour was that he was seen as an efficient and intelligent lawmaker who has the capability of uniting the House and carrying all members along. This is why the PDP caucus in the House voted massively for him to continue where Tambuwal stopped. It will therefore be counter-productive for him to betray this trust and confidence of his colleagues at this critical stage.
It is also worthy of note that in his campaign, Dogara assured that he would not only unite the 8th House, but will also consolidate on the achievements of the 7th Assembly as well as guarantee an independent House devoid of imposition, god-fatherism and external influences.
As the House resumes its legislative business, the Speaker should always remain focused on the task ahead; he should not allow politics of bitterness and rancour distract him or becloud his sense of reasoning. Importantly, he should be mindful of some lawmakers, who are nothing but sycophants and agents of distraction. His success or otherwise in coming days and weeks will largely depend on the support he is able to garner across party line. Now is time for him to match words with action in becoming a Speaker for all Nigerians and not for a select few.