Jibrin: Undisputed kingmaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives – Part 2
Incidentally, Femi Gbajabiamila, then Majority Leader who was at the time thought to be a political enemy of the Speaker as a result of the previous, bitter speakership battle that lead to the emergence of Dogara, also joined the body of principal officers in denouncing Jibrin. It is however, worth noting that the Lagos lawmaker now speaker, had spoken against the suspension of his Kano counterpart, describing the decision as illegal and unconstitutional.
Furthermore, Jibrin’s party, the ruling APC warned him to ceasefire but Jibrin was defiant and continued his onslaught against the House leadership. He even refused to appear before a disciplinary committee set up in September, 2016 to investigate his claims of budget fraud against the leadership claiming the investigation was a witch-hunt.
On September 28, 2016 the grand finale of the Jibrin saga played out as the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions swiftly concluded its investigations and submitted its report a week after the commencement of the probe.
The Committee’s recommendation that Jibrin be suspended for 180 legislative days was adopted by the entire membership of the House in plenary. He was also barred from positions of responsibility in the House till the end of the 8th assembly. Like the fighter that he is, Jibrin filed an action in court to challenge his suspension.
Whistle-blower banished to the cold…
Despite his suspension and subsequent ‘relocation’ to London, Jibrin refused to pipe down on his attacks on the leadership of the House and maintained forthrightness on the matter.
Even when Jibrin completed his suspension, he still could not resume his duties as a federal lawmaker as the House insisted on an apology which he bluntly refused to offer.
However, on Tuesday, 13th March, 2018 Jibrin finally decided to end his long drawn battle with the House leadership. The following day he was ushered into the green chamber in a manner that demonstrated conciliation and mutual forgiveness. On his return, Jibrin said: “Lessons were learnt by both parties; the leadership and the victim. Lessons on the part of leadership and lessons on the part of members.”
Incidentally, the court at about this time, ruled that his suspension was unconstitutional. He was subsequently appointed as Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport and his entitlements hitherto withheld, paid in full.
2019 elections and the Parliamentary Support Group…
Upon resumption at the House in 2018, Jibrin convened the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG), with the mandate of full loyalty to President Buhari. Notably, the group was already in existence in the Senate. It was seen as a demonstration of courage by his colleagues.
Thus, Jibrin even led over 100 members of the House to pay solidarity to the President in 2018 at a time when the National Assembly Joint executive session issued a 13-point demand to the President. Jibrin had earlier described it as a “PDP executive session” prompting a reproach from the House. Former member, Sunday Karimi moved a motion calling for sanction against Jibrin who just returned from suspension.
Interestingly, the new group also had a subtle leadership tussle with Gbajabiamila who in his position as the Leader of the House, was automatically leader of the APC caucus.
The PSG reportedly made attempts to undermine Gbajabiamila, even though Jibrin, in a tweet attempted to diffuse the tension by saying: “Against the back drop of the media reports, I wish to state that there is no crack in the APC caucus. We have internal issues, and there is nothing unusual about it. However, the issues will be resolved internally. We have one caucus, and Femi is the leader.”
2019 election and Jibrin’s declaration not to re-contest
Jibrin won his re-election in a resounding fashion. He took to Twitter to declare that he will not be re-contesting the post of House of Representatives member again, saying “victory against all odds…the hardest in all elections I ran. Exhausted and utterly worn out! It’s additionally an emotional exit as this shall be my final contest for the House of Representatives.” For Jibrin, the 2019 election was not without some controversy as he was arrested in connection with an alleged attack on Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s convoy.
The 2019 speakership election
Jibrin supported the aspiration of the current Speaker and was promptly offered the position of the Director General of the Campaign, in recognition of his knack for political dexterity, hard work and antecedence of success. Off to work he went, canvassing, persuading, and deploying carefully crafted political strategies that eventually paid off on June 11, 2019.
Jibrin perhaps gave the longest nomination speech ever when nominating a Speaker, engaging in a charm offensive to woo members across party lines on the day of election. Although many pundits predicted the 2019 tussle for speaker would replicate the 2015 scenario, but it turned out the rebellion had lost a fighter in Jibrin.
The same manner he was at the forefront of the action in 2015, he was at the forefront of action in 2019. Bringing energy, doggedness and organisation to the Campaign, something probably missing in 2019.
Maybe learning from the 2015 election of speaker, Jibrin in an interview with Channels Television, disclosed that he had no agreed compensation deal with Gbajabiamila. He even ruled himself out of the post of Leader of the House, the next most powerful position after Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
In a further show of humility and modesty, he related his feeling in a tweet thus: “Twice lucky…it’s fair to say hard work, courage and commitment but honestly I have been so many times lucky…really nothing special about me. Just your regular guy! Best wishes to Yakubu Dogara and congrats to Femi Gbajabiamila. God has been so gracious…humbled!”
After the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker, all eyes have been on Jibrin. What does he want? What will he be offered? Insiders in the Gbajabiamila camp revealed that everyone is confused about what to do with Jibrin. He has held the two most important committees of Finance and Appropriations consecutively with a wide scope of oversight covering almost every sector.
The two committees are even referred to as the 11th and 12th Principal Officers in the House. There is also strong whispering within the House that the Kano born politician may consider an immediate return to his private business or the university to pursue his professorial ambition. The next few days or weeks will tell.
In the long term however, there are other options for Jibrin: maybe he would seek to be governor of Kano or choose to go to the senate. Whatever choice or moves he makes, one thing is certain: opponents will only underestimate him at their own peril.
Omolabake, a public anlyst writes from Abuja
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