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THE MAKING OF A NEW SPEAKER AND THE INTRIGUES

By NBF News
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For the first time since 1999, the House of Representatives seemed to get its act right with the emergence of its new Speaker. In its previous sixth congresses, primordial interests and sentiments had dictated who emerged the Speaker of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

But yesterday, the story changed. All efforts by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to enforce its zoning formula fell like a pack of cards. The consideration for the South-west zone to fill the slot could not also sail through. The last two occupants of the position, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi-Etteh and Dimeji Bankole, were both from the South-west.

For the past few months, agitation was rife that the Speaker's position should be zoned to the South-west being the only zone yet to get any significant slot in the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The president is from South-south, both the vice-president and the president of the Senate hail from North-central while the head of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) also come from Benue State in the North-central.

Therefore, the North, as a region, could be said to have had its fill already. This must have informed the initial clamour by the South-east to have a shot at the Speakership. But the choice of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) put paid to the zone's demand, brightening the chance of the South-west to retain the position.

But the dream died yesterday as Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, a 45-year-old lawyer from the North-western state of Sokoto emerged the new Speaker. A third-term legislator, Tambuwal defeated Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who was the choice of South-west PDP.

THE INTRIGUES
Many factors informed the choice of Tambuwal as the Speaker. The fact that the zoning formula of the PDP has thrown up incompetent and unfit leadership in the last 12 years led many to oppose it.

The initial endorsement of Mr. Muraina Ajibola from Oyo State at the Abeokuta residence of the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also undoubtedly worked against Ajibola as not a few dissenting voices were against anything Obasanjo.

Even among the chieftains of the ruling PDP, it was agreed that the Abeokuta meeting that endorsed Ajibola was 'politically unwise' as the Speaker's position was an affair of the South-west as a region and not that of an individual.

It was argued that PDP leaders in the state would have gone across all parties to mobilise for Ajibola but for the Abeokuta meeting, which they viewed as an Obasanjo agenda and not PDP's.

To many Nigerians, particularly in the South-west, Obasanjo has little or nothing to offer Nigeria again in term of good governance. The former president is now seen as a political plague that must be avoided by any serious-minded politician from the zone.

It has been said on several occasions that the lingering crises rocking the PDP in all the six states of South-west were the handiwork of the former president. So, with the crises, the South-west PDP could not form a common front to advance the cause of its choice and confront other opposition parties within the National Assembly.

Added to this was Obasanjo's pronouncement that zoning, as enshrined in the PDP constitution, was dead after the demise of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua. This declaration was also said to be his undoing as the North has since posed to thwart any Obasanjo's political move.

Also, the fact that many still perceived Senate President, David Mark, as the creation of Obasanjo was also said to have unsettled the Presidency, which felt that having another sensitive position filled by an Obasanjo candidate could pose a serious threat to it.

Notwithstanding all these factors, non-allied forces and organisations have all along been calling for an independent legislature free from undue interference from the executive arm of government.

Speaking from experience, hours before the election, a former federal lawmaker, representing Oredo Federal Constituency of Edo State, Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, had faulted the zoning arrangement of the PDP, which he said, constituted a stumbling block to the emergence of quality and effective leaders of the law-making chamber.

Arigbe-Osula, who voted for the candidature of Tambuwal, based on his earlier working relationship with him, also recalled the roles the new Speaker played in the third term saga of former president Obasanjo.

'Electing a leader that brings pride, respect and accountability to scandal-riddled House of Representatives should be paramount to all members irrespective of party affiliations and length of time in the chamber.

'The choice available to you is certainly Aminu Tambuwal who stood with us when we risked our lives and ignored mouth watering offers from all the godfathers in PDP to ignore the constitution and keep Chief Obasanjo in office beyond the two-term tenure. It is not just knowing him personally that matters but his quality as a legislator par excellence,' Arigbe-Osula had said hours before the choice of Tambuwal.

Also, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had called for the independence and freedom of the lawmakers to elect those that would lead them.

Speaking through its General Secretary, Mr. Olumuyiwa Akinboro, the NBA frowned at the pressures being mounted by the PDP on members of the lower chamber to vote for a particular candidate from the South-west zone, pointing out that such directive ran contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

According to the body of benchers, members of the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives were elected freely by the people and therefore should not be coerced to elect their Speaker or any other officers to direct the affairs of the House.

'People should be allowed to express themselves without coercion. When you force people to do something, it is no more democratic. If we talk of people elected to make laws for good governance, we should not impose a leader on them. It is not acceptable,' Akinboro stated.