Hafizu Ibrahim Kawu
The All Progressive Congress (APC) lawmakers across the country are currently preoccupied with the sharing formula for key positions in the 9th National Assembly. Thus Senators –elect and Members-Elect of the House of Representatives from the six geopolitical zones are lobbying for who becomes the President of the Senate, or Deputy Senate President , as well as who becomes the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In every democratic dispensation, the leadership of the legislature should be entrusted on the shoulders of the persons who possess the much needed qualities of moving the legislative body forward. So with our green chamber having 360 members it’s expected to be led by a person with considerable legislative experience and expertise who is able to preside over its affairs and also weather the storms at any given time. One name that keeps ringing bells as the top contender for the Speaker of the House of Representative is Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila, a Lagos Lawmaker with 16 years legislative experience at the green chambers. 14 years of which he was and still is a principal officer moving from minority to majority leader.
He delved into partisan politics and offered himself up for service on the platform of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD). After a rigorous and highly competitive campaign, Gbajabiamila succeeded in ousting the incumbent member of the House of Representatives from Surulere constituency 1, and clinched his party’s nomination for the seat. His party leaders recognized his true commitment to party ideals and worked with him to emerge victorious at the general elections. His first term in the House demonstrated his true passion for issues concerning his constituents and Nigeria as a whole, working passionately to address matters of great concern to him and quickly earning a reputation as a true and brilliant legislator.
A true believer in qualitative representation, he took an active part in debates on the floor of the House and was fast recognized as one of the brilliant minds in the National Assembly. He was always on the side of truth and justice and his view truly reflected the wishes and aspirations of his constituents. This was especially evident during the “third term debate” when he was chairman of the 2007 movement in the House, a group largely credited for ending the “third term agenda” and machinations of the then President Obasanjo to perpetuate his stay in office. He did this at great risk to his life and political career. His exceptional record saw him overwhelmingly re-elected in 2007 and elected as Action Congress leader and Minority Whip of the House. By the end of his second tenure, Gbajabiamila had sponsored the highest number of Bills in the National Assembly amongst all the legislators.
Amongst his Bills and Motions in the House, Gbajabiamila has been very passionate about the Employee Rights Bill, Local content in Construction Industry Bill, Vocational Schools Bill, The Economic Stimulus Bill, Interest-Free Students Loan and Establishment of Nigeria Education Bank Bill, etc. Gbajabiamila fought tirelessly on the floor of the House through motions to compel the National Assembly to recognize the newly created local governments in Lagos State. He has also successfully sponsored several far reaching amendments to the Nigerian Constitution. In 2011, Gbajabiamila for the third term contested on the platform of his party, ACN and won. He was once again re-elected ACN leader and leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives. In the short time he has held this position, Femi Gbajabiamila revived the role of the opposition in the House and continued to maintain a tough stance against the ruling party, PDP.
In a speech announcing his declaration for the Speaker, Gbaja said “stand here today before you hopefully as a symbol of encouragement and point of contact for the many young men and women out there who believe that with hard work and commitment whatever the mind can conceive is possible. As a beacon of hope and faith and a testimony to the endless possibilities that abound in this great country. That you can be whatever and whoever you want and with focus, hardwork and perseverance, the sky can sometimes be the beginning.”
“In these 16 years I have been a principal officer for twelve years. I have occupied the office of leader of the opposition and successfully moved my party from opposition to majority in the House and thereafter assumed the position of House Leader, placing me in a uniquely advantageous position of understanding the nuances and intricacies of this very critical arm of government and the need for its independence and at same time interdependence with the executive. It is this wealth of experience and a burning desire for good governance that I bring to the table. A desire to take the legislature to the next level standing tall and shoulder to shoulder with the most advanced legislatures world over,” Femi added.
Historically the House of Representatives was established to be the People’s House and for the people’s business. It follows therefore that the Speaker must be the people’s Speaker elected to do the people’s business and champion their cause and in doing so fulfilling their hopes and aspiration.
If the postulation is anything to go by, Femi Gbajabiamila is the one who can be entrusted with such a challenging responsibilities of becoming the speaker of the federal House of Representatives, considering the fact that the nation democratic system is in dire needs of reforms that will have the far reaching positive impact on the lives of Nigerians. Looking at his marvelous score card as a legislator he is the one widely acknowledged as a politicians’ worth of his onion in the quest for making the nascent democratic system ticking.
Hafizu Ibrahim Kawu
Hon. Kawu wrote in from Abuja and can be reached at [email protected]