by Deji Abiodun
The House of Representatives is set to elect its 8th assembly Speaker, as well as the deputy Speaker, by June this year.
Two of the major contenders in the coming election include Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin. But some members fear that the process may not be completely democratic.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged the new majority by winning over 210 of the seats at the House of Representatives.
In the coming race to elect its principal officers, recent information by top sources of the National Assembly has shown that the idea of Hon. Gbajabiamila and Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin is a widely accepted one, but most members still hold that, should there be any subsequent attempt by party leadership to force a consensus candidate on the lawmakers, such a move is likely to backfire.
Such an occurrence, however, is not new to the politics of the assembly. Patricia Etteh, a former leader of the House and first female House of Reps leader, is one of such examples. Etteh, who received official backing from former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership against the popular majority of the green chamber, was eventually impeached.
Her reign witnessed opposition from the members of her party and then opposition members, who felt her leadership was not one elected by the lawmakers, hence the backlash she eventually suffered, ranging from financial scandals to questions surrounding her qualifications to preside over the green chamber.
The business of the legislators was in a halt for a while, as members battled to allow their will prevail of that of the party.
As a backdrop of the Etteh fallout, the legislators acquired a newfound taste for mutuality of candidates by a majority vote.
This was quickly displayed in the unanimous support for Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the outgoing leader of the House, against the PDP anointed candidate, Mulikat Akande Adeola.
His election brought an end to a long drawn battle for the position occasioned by a controversial zoning of the Speakership to Nigeria’s South West by the PDP.
But even if the House is allowed to elect its own, internal politicking by members of the House to suit political party interests still remains a significant threat.
For most members of the House who have reacted to questions arising over the leadership of the 8th assembly, the returning lawmakers to the House of Representatives and first-time members are reportedly rooting for the candidacy of Femi Gbajabiamila, a fourth-time representative and the current minority leader of the House.
An exclusive opinion poll of several members has revealed that the most favorable contenders for the positions of the Speaker and the deputy Speaker include Gbajabiamila (Lagos) and Jibrin (Kano), who has chaired the committee of finance for four years.
The duo represent the most populated states controlled by the APC.
A reputable source within the party hierarchy has said that Jibrin also stands more than a fair chance of representing the House as its Speaker. This he maintains on Jibrin’s records over the last four years.
Under Hon. Jibrin, the members of the House Committee on Finance discovered when they summoned some agencies in 2014; that Section 22 (1) and (2) of the 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act created some unbelievable loopholes that allowed these agencies remit almost nothing to the government treasury.
Jibrin’s further declaration less than a week ago, that he would make public the running cost of the House of Representatives, is undeniably a good platform given the dwindling oil prices, and the president-elect’s tilt towards cutting down the cost of governance.
Whereas other politicians have been locked down on monolith calculations about regions and zones, Jibrin has perhaps pointed at the real elephant in the room: What will be done about the salaries of those in the House? And what options are available to reduce the enormous cost of governance? A choice, which means that if elected leader, it may come at a paltry salary.
But the elections within the House of Representatives have also been popular for radical backdoor alliances and significant influence of the ruling party, as well as the president.
Tambuwal’s appointment set the stage for a more free and fair elections within the House; an event, which has undeniably reshaped the momentum, the party now carries.
“We understand the desire of the ruling party to influence who becomes what in the ruling structure of the House, but this must also be done with a spirit of fairness and due process,” a first time elected member of the House said on condition of anonymity.
“A failure to allow the democratic process which culminated in the victory the president-elect now enjoys to thrive will clearly be a set-back for the House, and nobody wants this,” he added.