Contest for Reps Speaker gets keener
AS the 7th session of the National Assembly reconvened for the last lap of its activities preparatory to the inauguration of a new session in June, the race for the Speaker of the House of Representatives has become keener and more intriguing especially as the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Abdulmumini Jibrin has indicated interest for the coveted seat.
Jibrin would be slugging it out with Pally Iriase (Edo), Mohammed Tahir Monguno (Borno), Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi), Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos), and Israel Ajibola Famurewa (Osun). Expectedly all of them have begun campaigns to curry support for their occupation of the fourth position in the order of the country’s political hierarchy.
The six lawmakers are returnee-legislators into the House of Representatives after their victories at the March 28 National Assembly elections in which their political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) won majority seats in both chambers.
House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, and his counterpart and Chairman, House Services and Welfare, Yakubu Dogara were the top contenders who showed interest for the coveted seat at the beginning. But The Guardian gathered that Iriase and Monguno have also commenced quiet campaigns among their colleagues waiting for the party to zone the seat to a particular region.
Monguno, like Dogara, has been in the House since 2007. He is the chairman of the House committee on agriculture, while Iriase who first came to the Lower Chamber in 2011 is the Deputy Chairman, House committee on Legislative outreach.
But the chances of Gbajabiamila, who has been at the Green Chamber since 2003 and also eyeing Tambuwal’s seat, appears a little foggy, as his zone has already produced the Vice-President. Although it is still not clear where the party will zone the seat to, Jibrin penultimate week officially declared his intension to run for the position of the Speaker with a pledge to cut down the cost of running the Chamber, publish lawmakers’ take home pay and promote economic diversification among other core national issues.
Jibrin also said he is set to seek audience with various stakeholders including the President-elect, Major-Geneneral Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) and the Vice President-elect Professor Yemi Osinbajo as well as Governors-elect among others in the country to further advocate his candidature for the exalted position.
Declaring his intention with fanfare while addressing newsmen in Abuja, the lawmaker who represents Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency of Kano State, vowed to also take legislative activities to the people by initiating e-parliament among sundry innovations where Nigerians will easily follow legislative activities of the National Assembly.
He said his sojourn in the House in the last four years had equipped him with a solid understanding of the workings of the parliament, a development that has culminated in a 3-point agenda he has designed to improve the performance of the legislature.
Jibrin said Nigerians should be more interested in a system that works, and that the election of Speaker should not be about the zone where he comes from but that the concern should be about his competence, courage and his capacity to deliver as the Speaker of the entire country.
Feelers from the parliament indicate that legislative experience may play a pivotal role, as it did in the 7th Assembly, in the selection of the Speaker. The 8th edition of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives Order 4 simply states that “a member-elect, addressing the Clerk shall propose another member-elect with legislative experience as member of National Assembly to the House to be Speaker and shall move that such member-elect do take the chair as speaker of the House of Representatives.”
This means that the 7th Assembly predicated its position on this Order to produce Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who was not in the reckoning of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party had thrown up Mulikat Akande-Adeola as the Speaker but Tambuwal and his supporters upturned the arrangement.
In the light of this, it therefore means that there will be no let or hindrance as either the majority or minority party could produce the Speaker. What is basically required is that the member must have cognate experience and once this is ascertained, he could be nominated and if the APC-controlled government allows the House to be independent then surprises should be expected in this session.
It is certain that since both the Northwest and Southwest had produced the President and Vice-President, the two zones may not produce any candidate for the position of Speaker. The North-central too may not feature a candidate as the Senate presidency may be retained there. Therefore it seems a straight battle between South-South and the Northeast, as the Southeast does not have any APC Representative. The APC produced only three members of the Lower Chamber from the entire South-South and all of them are from Edo State. They are Iriase, Peter Akpatason and Philip Shuaibu.
If the position is zoned to the South-South, Pally Iriase, a second-term representative of Owan East/West Federal Constituency of Edo state appears good to clinch the coveted position as no other South-South state has any APC returnee that could hold the House.
Iriase has been Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG) between 2008 and 2011, from where he resigned and successfully contested for the membership of the House in 2011.
Born on 19th January 1955, Iriase holds a B.Sc (Second Class Upper Division) in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria Nsukka 1982, M.Sc in Accounting from University of Lagos in 1988 and he is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (Fca). He was Deputy Speaker, Edo House of Assembly from 1999 to 2003, with the distinction of being the only Speaker/Deputy Speaker to have served the full tenure of four years in Edo State so far.
Iriase was a ranking member of the group of politicians who took Edo from the PDP to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2007 general election.
Alhaji Mohammed Tahir Monguno representing Marte, Monhuno and Nganzai Federal Constituency of Borno State is returning to the lower legislative chamber for a third term.
The 48-year old lawmaker would be banking on his wealth of professional and legislative experience and the need to zone the office to the Northeast geo-political zone which had been sidelined in the power sharing scheme to actualize his aspiration.
Monguno who is presently the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture has served in the last eight legislative years as member of the Appropriations, Privatization and Commercialization, Public Petitions, and Rules and Business Committees. He was also the Chairman of the sub-committee on American and Caribbean Affairs under the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House in 1992.
Before his foray into the political terrain, the unassuming lawmaker had served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice between 2003 and 2005, Commissioner For Education, and Commissioner For Water Resources, 2005-2007, in his home State of Borno.
Munguno whose legislative Interests focus on Development of Urban Poor and Rural Dwellers through the full Implementation of Budget Provision of Constituency Project attended the University of Maiduguri where he obtained LLB (Hons.)
The lawmaker who is renowned for his robust contribution at committee sessions and on the floor of the House was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1990 and was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 during the Third Republic. During this Fourth Republic, Monguno was elected to the House in 2007 and got re-elected in 2011.
Another strong contender who may even go ahead to clinch the position is Yakubu Dogara, a lawyer and vibrant voice on the floor of the House. Born 22 December 1966, Dogara’ s leadership disposition will augur well for the Green Chamber if the position is zoned to the North-Central.
Other members who are said to be nursing interest in the seat, The Guardian gathered, are still studying the political setting in the House and will soon declare their positions at the right time. As events at the National Assembly begin to unfold, the coast will become clearer and Nigerians and indeed the parliament will separate the genuine contenders from the pretenders among those eyeing Tambuwal’s seat.