DOZIE EMMANUEL looks at the race to succeed Speaker Tambuwal in the 8th Assembly and how the frontline candidates are faring.
No doubt, the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is not only exciting, but also interesting to follow. The intrigues, political calculation and uncertainty that go with it are such that every politically-minded Nigerian would want to follow. In fact, some are bracing up to see a repeat of what played out in 2011.
The race to determine who occupies the position of speaker of the House of Representatives has continued to gather momentum as Nigerians look forward to June 6 with bated breath. The six aspirants eagerly eyeing the seat have been trying to reach out to as many stakeholders as possible in order to garner the much needed support for their candidacy ahead of the inauguration day.
On June 6, one of the aspirants will certainly succeed Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as the next Speaker in the 8th Assembly. They are: the current House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos); Hon. Yakubu Dogara (APC, Bauchi); Hon. Pally Iriase (APC, Edo); Burka Goni (APC, Yobe); Hon Abdulmunmin Jibrin (APC, Kano) and Hon. Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno).
It has been the tradition for the ruling party to zone the various principal positions in the legislature – Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker, but the All Progressives Congress, APC has not been able to make any pronouncement regarding these positions.
Although speculation has it that the Senate President will go to the North-East having failed to occupy such coveted position since the present democratic dispensation, while the Speaker will go to the South-West.
But recently, the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, made it clear that he has no candidate and will support whoever emerges as Senate President and Speaker. He said he would work with lawmakers that the House or Senate selects.
According to Buhari, “I am prepared to work with any leader that the House or Senate selects. It doesn’t matter who the person is or where he or she is from. There is due process for the selection of leaders of the National Assembly and I will not interfere with that process.”
Although PDP caucus in the lower chamber has not officially endorsed any of the candidates, it has been rumoured that they will pitch their tenth with Hon. Dogara, who is seen to be dynamic and possess a likeable personality just like Tambuwal.
Certainly, PDP will not only be in the minority in the 8th National Assembly, but also will determine who become the Senate President and Speaker in both chambers. In the House, for instance, PDP reps are about 142 members out of the 360 members. The caucus leader, Hon Leo Ogor has repeatedly said they are determined to choose leaders that will have support across party lines and will protect the interest of all the members irrespective of party affiliation.
“We are going to elect a Speaker that is going to be based on transparency, accountability and a Speaker we know definitely well that will speak for all of us. We cannot sit down and automatically endorse somebody. It is not done that way.
“Let me also point to one funny thing in the House. They don’t want a scenario where somebody dictates for them. You saw what happened at the Tambuwal era. It is not different. So my appeal is to allow the House choose the candidate so that we don’t end up suffering the wrong candidate out of annoyance,” Ogor asserted.
Surprisingly, many of the new reps members-elect have already started lining behind the candidacy of Hon. Dogara and one of such lawmakers is Hon. Sampson Okwu representing Oju/Obi Federal Constituency of Benue State under the platform of the PDP.
Hon. Okwu hinted that many of them are solidly behind Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House. He said they are determined to deliver him come June. The lawmaker pointed out that his reason for supporting Dogara was that he is somebody who will rally all members and protect the interest of members and all Nigerians.
He stressed that the House has a tradition and it will be strictly followed irrespective of the APC’s zoning arrangement.
“It is no longer about APC or PDP; it is about the House of Representatives and what is happening is not a different thing. By the time the 8th House is inaugurated, we are going to elect a Speaker of our choice.
“Let me say this, let no one make a mistake, the House has a precedence and a scenario that happened in the House since 1999. The PDP then in 1999 wanted Salisu Buhari to become the Speaker, but he didn’t last because he was not the choice of the members; he lasted only two months and Ghali Na’Abba was elected.
“The same scenario played itself in 2003; the party wanted Hon. Hon. Matazu who was even a returning member but the members didn’t want him and they elected Hon. Aminu Bello Masari as Speaker. Similar thing happened in 2007 when Hon. Patricia Etteh was imposed on members; they accepted her but after four months they forced her out and Dimeji Bankole was elected.
“The same scenario or even more worse than the previous ones happened in 2011 when PDP tried to impose Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande and we didn’t want her. So we brought Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as our Speaker. If the party in power is thinking that things have changed, they will surely be proved wrong. It is not about the party, it is the attitude of the House of Representatives to always go its own way in choosing its leadership.
“If APC is thinking that members will abide by its zoning arrangement, the same scenario will play because we are all the same members and nothing has changed. It is not about party but about people. All along it is the House that has been playing progressive roles that Nigerians are happy with.
“We are going to do the same thing, we will bring a Speaker that we want. We are not undermining any party, but House of Representatives members will do what they want. Nobody should be deceived that the 2011 scenario won’t play itself again, it is a lie. Those who want to go and play cheaply to the public will say so but I am telling you today that members of the 8th Assembly will choose the Speaker of their choice irrespective of the zoning.
“The House rules have not changed. It is not about political party; it is about who will have the control of the House and lead us right and protect the interest of Nigerians and not that of his godfather. If the party anoints someone we don’t like, we won’t abide by their zoning more so that we have the number to determine that. The way Nigerians chose General Muhammadu Buhari to become the president, we will also do that.
“We are solidly behind Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker and we are determined to deliver him come June. My reason for supporting Dogara is that we want somebody who will rally all members behind him and I think Dogara is that person who will protect the interest of members and all Nigerians.
“He does not answer to any godfather. He doesn’t take weekly briefings from a godfather who lives hundreds of kilometers from Abuja like a puppet. Dogara looks at the 359 constituencies as his own constituency. Invariably, we are transferring the demands of our constituents to him and we know he is capable of shouldering the responsibilities of the office of the Speaker.
“We want somebody who will be a team player as a Speaker and know what to do to protect and the relationship between the executive and the legislature. We don’t want somebody who will be a rubber stamp.
“We don’t want somebody that will be controlled by a godfather. This is a Federal House and not a State House of Assembly. We cannot allow anybody like that to emerge as Speaker. The APC leadership should be cautious of this fact because anything the party does to undermine Nigerians will be rejected.
“Members already know who is the right person and they are just waiting for the time. That is why you are seeing a lot of endorsements for Dogara from different caucuses across the country. All of us who endorsed Dogara have voting rights in June and it cut across all political parties. But we in the PDP in particular will deliver bloc vote to Dogara.
“Yes, we will vote as a bloc for one person that we want. The person who we have confidence in and even the like-minds in the APC irrespective of the party zoning, we are on the same pace with them. Interest of Nigerians is above every personal interest and they too will vote in the same way. So anybody who tell Nigerians that what played out in 2011 won’t happen again he/she is not being sincere.
“I will advise them to listen carefully to the voice of members-elect and the present members in the House. They should take a lesson from what happened from 1999 to date. Most importantly when you allow members to choose their own Speaker, peace will rein and that person has a duty to respect the party and to also respect the government in power. They should allow members to choose the Speaker of their choice,” Hon. Okwu stated.
So where will the pendulum swing come June 6? Is Dogara likely to succeed Tambuwal as the next Speaker? Obviously, the intrigues and political permutation will certainly be over in the days and weeks to come.