Lagos State Speakership And The Burden Of Merit
As the day of reckoning beckons for the current administration with the inauguration in less than a week for the executives and legislatures, keen observers of politics in Nigeria are waiting patiently to see the power plays of electing Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and State Assemblies respectively. One state that will most definitely come into analytical reckoning of political analysts is Lagos State.
The Centre of Excellence, being one of the most populated city in Nigeria and the economic nerve centre, often comes under scrutiny not only during the election of the No. 1 citizen - Governor, but also there are concerns as regards who leads the 40 elected honourables at the State's house of assembly.
Reasons for concern cannot be far-fetched; the Speaker of the hallow chamber in the metropolitan city is simply the 3rd most powerful elected official. Again, considering that the functionality of the Executive arm in Lagos State is contingent upon the legerity and flexibility of the Legislative arm, it is important that so many socio-political and economic considerations are attached to the position of the Speaker.
However, without sounding too pompous, every Lagosian (I am proudly one too) understands the enormity of the challenges that confronts governance in the state and over the years have craved for the very best hands amongst the available(s) to run the state. So far, since 1999, the state has not fared badly both at the executive and legislative level; having successfully elected Akinwunmi Ambode as Governor-Elect, the post of Lagos State Speaker cannot be an exception in terms of getting quality hand. Since inauguration of the state house of assembly on October 2, 1979 and subsequent election of Rt. Hon Oladosun Oshinowo as first Speaker down to the incumbent speaker - Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Lagos State House of Assembly (LAHA) Speakers have carved a niche for themselves in composure and brilliance in handling legislative functions in the state.
For Lagos State Chapter of All Progressives Congress and the 8th State Assembly, there lies a huge challenge of who becomes the Speaker. With an overwhelming majority of 32 APC members and 8 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) honourables, the game might not be an unanimous decision as it used to be, particularly during the 6th and 7th assemblies because there are 7 credible candidates who have shown interest in leading the hallow chamber of excellence; Lanre Ogunyemi, Mudasiru Obasa, Rotimi Abiru, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, Funmilayo Tejuosho, Gbolahan Yisawu and S.O.B Agunbiade.
However, majority of the contenders are in the race tentatively on the assumption that the Speakership should be zoned to a particular senatorial district in the state. It is believed that of 3 senatorial districts, the governor-elect, Akinwunmi Ambode, hails from Lagos East while his deputy, Mrs Idiat Adebule, is from Lagos West senatorial district, leaving Lagos Central out of the equation. Thus, it is presumed that, for senatorial balancing, the speaker of LAHA should come from Lagos Central!
But beyond zoning and mere interest and the fact that the 7 contenders are all returning honourables, being the Speaker of LAHA demands much more. Leading the 8th Assembly requires the ability to unravel potentials. Though it has been argued that brilliance and ability to coordinate and carry other members along in the day-to-day running of the House would play a pivotal role, eloquence and charisma alone might not do the complete job.
While speaking to Journalists at the Defence House in Abuja, on Thursday, May 21, 2015, ex-Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressives a Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, emphasized the need to put merit above zoning in electing the leaders of National Assembly. Asiwaju noted that APC will not use the principle of zoning to compromise the quality of leadership for the National Assembly considering the expectations of Nigerians.
Quoting him, Asiwaju said, “the nation is expecting us to take a decisive leadership decision and make one meritoriously. Merit will not be compromised. You have to be competent, you have to posses the kind of character required from leaders. You have to be a pan Nigerian and possess a very solid character to lead the National Assembly. That is what we are talking about. It’s not zoning to compromise quality of leadership and competency of an individual." This is a laudable reaffirmation of APC's seriousness to get things done, same principle as a matter of relativity applies to Lagos State Speakership.
The next Lagos State Speaker must believe in the power of his actions to influence others. Ability to manage filibustering is essential to ensure meticulous passage of bills that progressive Lagos may demands, particularly in the light of PDP honourables, who might want to play "spoiler". In electing Lagos State speaker, it is ideal to evaluate the contending legislators with respect to their previous contributions to legislative activity in the house. Are we to evaluate based on the number of bills that they sponsored? Number of floor speeches they made? Voting pattern during peculiar bills? Such as use of hijab, anti-tobaco bill etc, or based on the ranking of the legislators?
The issue of ranking in the house is often subjective and misleading. That a particular honourable has been able to manipulate his/her to return to the chamber consecutively does not mean such person has better idea of legislative principles. The LAHA leadership should be subjected to tests of integrity, experience and pedigree with little or no consideration for regional alignment or terms spend devouring tax payers’ money.
At what point does a state put its best foot forward, to differentiate politics from merit and meeting the demands of electorates? Giving the dynamics of Lagos State politics and the position it holds as a model to other states, there is the urgent need to segue from its mere megacity appendage to a functional city that meets the demands of 21st century adventurers. Such state needs not just a speaker by political expediency, but a Speaker who knows his onions. APC out of developmental exigency have to be leery of electing just anybody, it will be counterproductive to the mantra of continuity and change.
Should APC believe in credible leadership, constructive legislation and in-depth scrutiny of the executive through oversights, of the contending candidates, Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade, stands a better chance on merit. His analytical and broad view coupled with verse experience and knowledge of the law, ethics and house procedures stands him out. As the chairman, Committee on Judiciary, Human Right and Public Petitions, Hon. Agunbiade has shown his dexterity in law making and crisis management. He engages through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which he played a pivotal role in its formulation, to devise for citizens an amicable out of court conflict resolution for litigants without having to go through the strenuous legal tussle. This has reduced the number of cases ending the courtroom, an attribute the next Speaker must have in abundance.
In 2014, due to his unique style of marshalling his views at the floor of the house; an unbiased, trust-able and critical news body, representing the fourth estate of the realm, Lagos State House of Assembly Correspondence Association (LAHACA), presented Agunbiade with the 'Best Male performing Lawmaker at Plenary' award. In the same year, a notable online news platform, www.gazellenews.com, awarded him 'Best Male Lawmaker for the Year 2014', these are few amongst the laudable and merit-based recognition he has garnered in the cause of time.
Without excluding brilliant motions and bill he has facilitated and the impeccable community engagement with far reaching impacts on the people of his immediate constituency, Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade has the temerity of a 21st century leader, who can effortlessly drive fellowship, inclusiveness and team-spirit that would be crucial to the stability of the incoming executive.
Without mincing words, it would be logical for APC as a party ready to set precedence to do a little homework and feel good about making an educated choice for the people of Lagos State, because in the new economy of Change, information, education, and motivation are everything. Honourable S. O. B Agunbiade can be trusted to deliver the LAHA we want in 'megacity Lagos', as a people and political party.
Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni writes from Abuja via [email protected] . He tweets from @SM_S0407