Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday night, went down memory lane, taking an evocative trip back to the politics of the speakership of the House in 2011, and said he regretted supporting one of his predecessors and outgoing Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, to emerge then speaker.
Gbajabiamila, who also broke his silence on the current jostle for the 10th National Assembly leadership, said his decision to support the candidacy of Tajudeen Abbas was to build on legislative gains so far recorded by his administration.
That was as Abbas declared that current rebellions against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would not stand, and House Leader, Ado Doguwa, and two others stood down their speakership aspirations and aligned with the zoning decision of the party.
Gbajabiamila spoke publicly for the first time on the candidature of Abbas and Benjamin Kalu since their nomination by APC as for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House, respectively.
The Speaker, who attended a meeting of the aspirants with some opposition members at the instance of Joint Task – 10th Assembly, group of members-elect from across the eight political parties that won seats in the incoming House, said Abbas was a man with tremendous capacity to lead the legislature. He said he was also a loyal partyman, who would never go against the decision of the party, and that his decision did not translate to hatred for other aspirants.
Gbajabiamila recalled giving one of the frontline aspirants the chairmanship of a juicy committee to head even when it was obvious to him that the person worked against his speakership aspiration.
The Speaker told the meeting, “I stand before you here as a testament of what party loyalty and consistency can do in your life. I have a story to tell and I am sure everybody has one story or the other to tell. My story may not be unique. I came here on the platform of a party.
“We don’t have independent candidacy in Nigeria. It’s not in our constitution or laws. Perhaps, one day, we will get to that point. But my core belief is that if you come here on the platform of a party, there is a saying all over the world that your party is always supreme.
“You will disagree with your party just,’ like people will disagree amongst family members, but at the end of the day, the party is an organised structure. Let no one kid you. I am here to offer advice. I have been the pioneer leader of what they call the House project, when we installed Tambuwal as
speaker. I regret it
“The incoming speaker will tell more of the travails and the problems we went through for four years, when we did that the first and the second time. And I want you to hold that and start comparing to what the last four years have been. Now, when you look at those two sessions and the last one that
is just rounding off, you have the benefit of being able to compare and then, you take an informed decision.
“Not when somebody comes and tells you no, no, the independence of the legislature cannot be compromised, thats hogwash. Nobody is compromising the Independence of the legislature. The least person that will do it is me. But the fact that your party says this is where we are going, it doesn’t mean you are compromising the independence of the legislature.
“Many of us are new here. People will talk to you. They will cajole you, say all sorts of things in flowery and romantic language but at the end of the day, we have to be mindful of one thing. The party we represent has its leaders. The governors from the states, whether we like it or not, are very powerful. You can do your own personal bidding today. I share these things just to advise from my own experience.
“In 2015, I ran for the speakership of the House of Representatives. The party nominated me. The whole world was sure that I was gonna win that race. We lost by about six votes. A few of our party members worked against me and combined with the PDP at the time. Four years later, I ran again and won that election with 284 votes, the highest in the history of the Nigerian parliament.
“And what did I do? I think time has come for me to say one or two things I would not have ordinarily said. What did I do? I gave the chairmanship of, perhaps, the most powerful committee in any legislature in the world to one of the prime movers, who fought against me and worked against the party at
“Not only did I give him that committee, I turned my face away and gave him a free hand, just like I gave to every committee chairman. If I don’t support you today, we all have to fear God; it’s for a reason.
It’s not because I have a problem with you. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because as I stand here today, for those who know me, I just won my sixth term, perhaps the oldest legislator, except for one.
“It’s because I eat, drink and sleep and wake up with the legislature in my heart. That’s my constituency and I love that institution so much. So, I decided to support a person that’s least close to me of everybody that is running, because I saw in him a man with tremendous capacity”.
Gbajabiamila urged the opposition members-elect to support Abass and Kalu to emerge as the presiding officers, stressing that they would be carried along.
Abass urged the members-elect to engage in constructive criticism. He denied sharing committee positions already, saying rebellion against the party would not work.
Abass said, “Mr Speaker has not had discussion on interests in the 10th Assembly. The speaker’s support is based on my pedigree and capacity. He believes I would sustain the achievements of the ninth assembly. Let the contestants engage you on the issues. Is he competent, is he transparent, does he have the right temperament, is he just and fair? These are the right questions.
“If anyone is trying to drag you to go for another house project, be mindful. In the past, it did not work, in the eighth Assembly it did not work, what makes you think that in the 10th Assembly under a veteran politician like Asiwaju it will work?
“If you are here to take dividends of democracy to your people, if you are here to contribute your own quota in law-making, believe me, rebellion against the government should not be one of those things you should do.
“What you need is constructive engagement. We need a guided cooperation between the two tiers of government. So, please, take note on that. It is a lie that committees have already been shared among certain members”
Deputy Speaker-nominee, Kalu, called for synergy among the political parties.
Kalu stated, “At this time, a single view will not give us a balanced approach to solve our hydra-headed needs. Joint task is raising a call today and saying come, let us work together as a parliament to give to Nigerians what is best. It’s not about any party. Today, I join my colleagues to say this is your home.
“The home where you will get leaders that go beyond presiding officers. What you do today on these two weeks with us will determine how high you go because you will not achieve alone but we will join our hands to your own hands. We will help you uphold problems of your constituencies, making sure that inequality that exists between the old members and the new members are dissolved so that participatory inequality would be ended, where the voices of various constituencies could be heard on the floor of the parliament.”
Earlier, the APC nominee for Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, charged the members-elect to be mindful of government.
Akpabio said, “Yesterday, I met the party, I actually left a sentence with them or thereabouts, should I leave the sentence with you? In your daily dealings, my late mother told me that I should be aware of the 3Gs: the first G is God; the second G is Gun; and the third G is Government.
“The first G is God Almighty. The second G is what? Gun, and the third one is the government. May you conduct yourself mindful of the admonition of my late mother, by respecting the 3Gs, particularly, the government”.
Meanwhile, declaring his support for Abbas and Kalu at the meeting, Doguwa said he and others, Hon. Makki Yalleman and Abdulraheem Olawuyi, had seen reasons to join the APC preferred candidates.
Doguwa said, “I have benefited from party arrangements, this kind of arrangement. I’m Majority Leader courtesy of my party. So, it’s only fair to stand by my party’s decision. Time has come for me to pay back. We are here individually and collectively to support Tajudeen. We are surrendering our speakership ambitions. The selection process of Abass is not biased and he and Kalu are qualified to be speaker and deputy”.
Udora Orizu and Juliet Akoje