9th Assembly Leadership; Aspirants lay out plans

Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, have more hurdles to scale in his quest to become the speaker of the 9th House.

This emerged, yesterday, as some aspirants, in separate chats with Vanguard unveiled their agenda. One of those who spoke to Vanguard on his plans is Mr.  Olusegun Odebunmi, a third timer representing Surulere/Ogoluwa Federal Constituency of Oyo State, who hails from the same South-West zone as Gbajabiamila.

Indeed, to get the support of their colleagues in the on-going posturing for the speakership of the House of Representatives, six of the 17 lawmakers angling for the top seat have told Vanguard why they are the best for the job in separate interviews.

Members-elect, who shared their plans with Vanguard and what they would do differently, if elected in June include Femi Gbajabiamila, Ado Doguwa,  Nkeiruka Onyejeocha,, Abdulrazaq Namdas, and Bago. They spoke as Senate President Bnukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara urged members-elect to protect the independence of the legislature, adding that the National Assembly is not designed to work for the executive and judiciary.

Saraki said the independence of the legislature was not negotiable, noting that despite the posturing of political party leaders, the lawmakers, themselves, will at the end of the day choose their leaders.

Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has urged the lawmakers to ensure regional and religious balance in the election of the principal officers. Indeed, the member-elect for Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Alhaji Tajudeen Adeyemi, stressed the need for a genuine patriotic speaker to lead the 9th House of Representatives, adding  that he was prepared to rally support for any aspiring speaker of the House that is prepared to ensure timely passage of budgets and maintain robust relationship with the executive to improve the fortune of Nigerians.

NASS not designed to work for Executive, Judiciary

Dogara Speaking at the opening ceremony of the orientation programme for members-elect of the 9th Assembly in Abuja, Dogara said the legislature was not designed to be subservient to the Executive or Judicial arms of government in the discharge of its duties.

He said the three arms of government are rather created to work in tandem as partners to achieve democratic growth and development in Nigeria. He, therefore, urged the members not to be deterred by the oaths that would be administered on them but muster courage even in the face of adversity and challenges to work for the country.

According to him, as representatives of the people, the lack of courage would translate to no service for the people. He said: “Now let me say something about the National Assembly that we may not learn in the course of the lectures that will be delivered.

I have said that the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly require people of courage. Very soon, we, members-elect of the National Assembly, whether distinguished senators and members of the House of Representatives, will be required to take an oath of office.

“But we must always remember that our democracy is organised in such a way that it is made to be driven by consensus. Where consensus fails, it is always the prerogative of the Parliament or the National Assembly to go first, in the sense that when it comes to bills for instance, even where the President has vetoed the bill, if the National Assembly can muster two third of its members, they can override the bill.

“And so, with regard to appropriation, no monies will be appropriated or spent in the absence of express legislative authorisation. That means the budget is the work of the National Parliament. So this work, of course, requires courage.

“And we must always remember that as elected members of the National Assembly, let us do the work of the National Assembly. We are meant, as the first institution of democracy, to work with the Executive and the Judiciary. It was never designed that the National Assembly will work for the Executive or work for the Judiciary. “That is the aspect that I want all of us to pay attention to as we take oath as members of the National Assembly.

We should know that it is about courage. It has been said that internal vigilance is the price for liberty. If liberty must be preserved in Nigeria, it’s because there is an institution that is internally vigilant. That institution has always been the institution of the National Assembly.”

Why we need a patriotic speaker – Adeyemi

Speaking on the raging tussle for the speakership, Alhaji Tajudeen Adeyemi, also known as Small Alhaji said he was prepared to rally support for any aspiring speaker of the House that is prepared to ensure timely passage of budgets and maintain robust relationship with the executive.

“Our focus as elected representatives at this time is a speaker that will not only maintain independence of the House but also someone who will give all needed support to the executive arm of government, so that the country can move forward. We have had enough of ego tripping that is subjecting Nigerians to unfair and needless economic hardship.

“A good number of us who share the same patriotic view have resolved to rally intense support that will cut across party lines for the most patriotic person as speaker of the 9th House. It is a fact that we are first and foremost Nigerians before being elected to represent our respective constituencies. Therefore, any aspiring speaker that is known to be genuinely patriotic and committed to the dream of a better Nigeria should count on my support,” he added.

We need an inclusive leadership – Doguwa

Ado Doguwa, a fifth term member from Kano State, who said he had stepped down for Gbajabiamila in respect of the zoning formula of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which he said had zoned the seat to the South West, however, noted that there was need for an inclusive leadership. Noting that Kano and Jigawa in the North-West account for 36 members-elect or 10 per cent of the 360-member House, he said the zone deserved to produce the Deputy Speaker or Majority Leader of the House.

He said: ‘’I am  a believer in the supremacy of the party, I think I don’t have any cause again to continue to bid for the speakership of the House of Reps. And on that note, I will now like to remain on standby. Just as the speakership is zoned to the South-West, I now wait to take my turn, I now wait for the leadership of my party, the APC under the chairmanship of Adams Oshiomhole to now let us know what is zoned to the North-western party of the country.

Of course, you cannot run a parliament like the Nigerian parliament in a divisive manner. Each time you want to run a parliament, you must be all inclusive because the type of democracy we are running is a federal democracy. Federal in the sense that you have different components that make up the federation.

So as long as you want to run a rancour-free administration in every political setting even in the political party as an institution, even in the legislature and the government itself, you must be reflective and conscious of all the divisions that we have – ethnic division, tribal division, you must  reflect them.

You must also have to accommodate even political associations, and political alliances that we have because you cannot run a parliament like our own, one way, you cannot do it; certainly you have to accommodate everyone.” I will make people part of lawmaking process —Odebunmi

Asked his plan for the House, if elected, Olusegun Odebunmi, a third timer representing Surulere/Ogoluwa Federal Constituency of Oyo State, said: ‘’No matter the agenda you can be thinking of, your agenda as a legislator must be based on conformity with the law.

What are the major functions or duties of the legislature? Good representation and we are here to represent our people and I will make sure that representation is elaborate so that Nigerians will know also that they have a representative representing them somewhere and there will be a periodic report on our proceedings.

I want to base my agenda basically on oversight functions; we are making laws for the people and I want people also to be part of the process.” I am nobody’s anointed, I will carry APC, PDP, others along —Namdas On his part, Abdulrazaq Namdas (APC, Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo federal constituency of Adamawa State), said he was not being sponsored by anybody, and promised to unite all tendencies in the House.

‘’Truly speaking, nobody is sponsoring me to be a speaker. I am the speaker of the people and I have decided to come out on my own, to tell my colleagues that if they want to have the independence of the legislature, the person that will emerge at the end of the day to be speaker is going to be among us and you have to concentrate this discussion on the people you are going to lead.

Of course, you will also speak with your party but the thing is that once you emerge as speaker, everybody will leave you; it is how you are able to manage your colleagues and multi-task that will see you through.

‘’Whatever we want to do, the constitution guarantees the legislature to have its own rules and since there are rules guiding our activities, you can only work within the rules. So, there are things that people outside think that if you get elected as speaker, you must do certain things the way they want it. You must come from a political party, you must take directives but subject to the rules of the House and you must be a Nigerian that has a Pan-African view of the whole thing.

So, people will come with certain issues from their regions, from their blocs, from their caucuses, they will like to be heard because people sent them here, you must not be seen to be a speaker that would be blocking people from ensuring that they air their views and if you do that, your leadership may not last long.’’

I will ensure Legislature-Executive relations – Bago

Mohammed Bago, a third timer representing Chachanga Federal Constituency of Niger State, said if elected, he would ensure a robust relation between the executive and legislative arms of government. ‘’I have what I code named the Bago plan which covers virtually all the segments of government.

My first strategy is to promote and deepen a robust relationship with all arms of government and stake holders. Secondly, there is going to be concerted effort to tangibly impact our constituents and constituencies. I will equally work towards an independent legislature free from rancour.

I will promote an open and transparent legislature with legislative support for the fight against corruption, insecurity and revamping of economy,” he said.

I’ll  run an inclusive, responsive leadership —Onyejeocha

In like manner, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, a fourth timer, representing Isuikwuato/ Umunneochi Federal Constituency of Abia State, said she would ‘’run an inclusive, responsive and transparent leadership to foster harmony in the House. “I will ensure that as much as possible, there’s a conducive environment for legislative work and collaboration across party and ideological lines.

‘’First and foremost, I will adopt a legislative agenda with clear framework for compliance and monitoring. Since the 7th Assembly,  we have adopted a legislative agenda to guide our work. I must say this has been a good initiative by the House and I hope to continue and improve on it.

“I will begin by engaging various stakeholders to seek their input to ensure the agenda for the 9th House is even more robust and promising. I will also ensure that there is improved communications with the general public because we are in the Assembly to represent their various interests.’’

I am running to make life more abundant for Nigerians – Gbajabiamila

For Femi Gbajabiamila, who was re-elected for the fifth time at the last election, he wants to improve the fortunes of Nigerians. His words: “I seek the office of the Speaker to bring our tendencies together and unite us a country.

I seek the office of the Speaker to bring governance even closer to the people. I seek the office of the speaker to mentor the next generation. I seek the office of the Speaker so I can use the bully pulpit to galvanize honourable members to make life more abundant for every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, religious background or political persuasion.

There is much work to be done by way of legislation in many areas of our life including bit not limited to education, health, power, infrastructure and alleviation of poverty. “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. This is the Speaker I intend and hope to be and the House I intend and hope to lead, a people’s House.”

CAN to Lawmakers-elect: Balance NASS leadership across religious divides

Meanwhile, the  Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has advised incoming members of the 9th National Assembly to ensure religious and regional balance in the election of their principal officers in both the Senate and House of Representatives. CAN President, Revd Samson Ayokunle, gave the advice, yesterday, in a goodwill message to all the newly elected federal legislators.

He said: “We congratulate all the newly elected members of the National Assembly on their victory at the recently conducted general election. As you prepare for your inauguration,  CAN urges you to balance the appointments of your Principal Officers across religious divides to avoid domination and marginalisation of any kind.

Independence of legislature not negotiable —Saraki

Insisting on the independence of the legislature, Saraki also noted that the Senate has Powers to reject nominees, and urged President Buhari to lobby the legislature for confirmation of Ibrahim Magu or present someone else as a nominee for the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC.

Speaking in Abuja during the orientation Programme for Senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect, he noted that as lawmakers, they must recognise the fact that there is the principle of separation of powers, and they must assert this in all ramifications and must not allow themselves to be cowed.

He said: “In its constitutional role, the National Assembly carries out oversight, makes laws and ensures constituency representation. In carrying out constitutional functions, lawmakers must always recognise that the independence of the legislature is non-negotiable. It is an independent and co-equal arm of government.

Therefore, it behoves members of the National Assembly to lead the way in asserting the principle of Separation of Powers, thus ensuring accountability in governance. To achieve that, it is expected that members will carry out their duties in a manner that commands that respect from other arms of government as well as the people you represent.”