10th NASS: Capacity, Love For Institution Informed My Choice Of Abbas — Gbajabiamila

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Iyojo Ameh

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has said his decision to support the candidacy of Tajudeen Abbas for the speakership position of the incoming 10th House of Representatives was based on his proven capacity to build on legislative gains so far recorded by his administration.

Breaking his silence for the first time over allegations that he handpicked the party’s choices for the Speaker and Deputy Speakership positions, Gbajabiamila who attended a meeting of the aspirants with second batch of members-elect at the instance of the Joint Task-10th Assembly, a group of members-elect from across the 8 political parties that won seats in the incoming House said that Abbas was a man with tremendous capacity to lead the parliament.

Gbajabiamila said he was also a loyal party man who would never go against the decision of the party, adding however that his decision doesn’t translate to hatred for other aspirants.

He recalled giving one of the frontline aspirants the chairmanship of a juicy committee to head even when it was obvious to him that the person worked against his speakership aspiration in 2019.

Gbajabiamila went memory lane about the speakership politics in the House saying he regretted helping to support a former speaker and outgoing governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

He said: “I stand before you here as a testament of what party loyalty and consistency can do in your life. I have a story to tell and I am sure everybody has one story or the other to tell. My story may not be unique. I came here on the platform of a party. We don’t have independent candidacy in Nigeria. It’s not in our constitution or laws. Perhaps, one day we will get to that point. But my core belief is that if I come here on the platform of a party, there is a saying all over the world that your party is always supreme.

“You will disagree with your party just like people will disagree amongst family members but at the end of the day, the party is an organized structure. Let no one kid you. I am here to offer advice. I have been the pioneer leader of what they called ‘The House Project’ when we installed Tambuwal as speaker. I regret it. The incoming speaker will tell you more of the travails and the problems we went through for 4 years when we did that the first and the second time. And I want you to hold that in stark comparison to what the last 4 years have been. Now, when you look at those two sessions and the last one that is just rounding up, you have the benefit of being able to compare and then, you take an informed decision.

“Not when somebody comes and tells you no, no, the independence of the legislature cannot be compromised, that’s hogwash. Nobody is compromising the independence of the legislature. The least person that will do it is me. But the fact that your party says this is where we are going, it doesn’t mean you are compromising the independence of the legislature. Many of us are new here. People will talk to you. They will cajole you, say all sorts of things in flowery and romantic language but at the end of the day, we have to be mindful of one thing. The party we represent has its leaders. The governors from the state whether we like it or not, are very powerful.

“You can do your own personal bidding today. I share these things just to advise from my own experience. In 2015, I ran for the speakership of the House of Representatives. The party nominated me. The whole world was sure that I was gonna win that race. We lost by about 6 votes. A few of our party members worked against me and combined with the PDP at the time. Four years later, I ran again and won that election with 284 votes, the highest in history of the Nigerian parliament. And what did I do, I think time has come for me to say one or two things I would not have ordinarily said. What did I do? I gave the chairmanship of perhaps the most powerful committee in any legislature in the world to one of the prime movers who fought against me and worked against the party at the time.

“Not only did I give him that committee, I turned my face away and gave him a free hand just like I gave to every committee chairman. If I don’t support you today, we all have to fear God, it’s for a reason. It’s not because I have a problem with you. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because as I stand here today, for those who know me, I just won my sixth term, perhaps the oldest legislator except for one. It’s because I eat, drink and sleep and wake up with the legislature in my heart. That’s my constituency and I love that institution such much. So, I decided to support a person that’s least closest to me of everybody that is running because I saw in him a man with tremendous capacity.”

He appealed to the opposition parties’ members-elect to support Abass and Kalu to emerge as the presiding officers, stressing they will be carried along.

In his remarks at the meeting, the APC speakership nominee, Abass urged the members-elect to engage in constructive criticism, saying he was chosen because of his pedigree, even as he also denied sharing the committees.

He added that rebellion against the party will not work, and that it will pay more dividends to support the party’s decision on zoning.

“Mr speaker has not had discussion on interests in the 10th Assembly. The speaker’s support is based on my pedigree and capacity. He believes I would sustain the achievements of the 9th Assembly. Let the contestants engage you on the issues. Is he competent, is he transparent, does he have the right temperament, is he just and fair? These are the right questions. If anyone is trying to drag you to go for another house projet, be mindful. In the past, it did not work, in the 8th Assembly it did not work, what makes you think that in the 10th Assembly under a veteran politician like Asiwaju it will work? If you are here to take dividends of democracy to your people, if you are here to contribute your own quota in lawmaking, believe me rebellion against government should not be one of those things you should do. What you need is constructive engagement. We need a guided cooperation between the two tiers of government. So, please take note on that. It is a lie that committees have already been shared among certain members”, he said.

Also speaking, his deputy nominee, Kalu from Abia State called for synergy amongst the political parties.

“At this time, a single view will not give us a balanced approach to solve our hydra-headed needs. Joint Task is raising a call today and saying come, let us work together as a parliament to give to Nigerians what is best. It’s not about any party. Today, I join my colleagues to say this is your home. The home where you will get leadership that goes beyond presiding officers. What you do today and in these two weeks with us will determine how high you go because you will not achieve alone but we will join our hands to your own hands. We will help you uphold problems of your constituencies making sure that inequality that exists between the old members and the new members are resolved so that participatory inequality would be ended where the voices of various Constituencies could be heard on the floor of the parliament.

“We are assuring you, my principal has told me that over and over again that we would give you equal platform to showcase the need for which you stood elected for your communities. All you have to do is to work with us and together we will tell Nigerians that parliamentary sovereignty is achievable just like the current leadership has pushed for it, we will sustain it. Together we will tell Nigerians that impartiality of the Speaker is achievable and sustainable just as the Speaker that is here has commenced. Together we will tell Nigerians that the inequalities that we will balance, we would also include gender inequalities. Together we will tell Nigerians that we will innovate and transform through legislative interventions”, Kaku said.

Earlier in his remarks, the APC candidate for Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio charged the members-elect to be mindful of government.

He said: “Yesterday, I met the party, I actually left a sentence with them or thereabouts, should I leave the sentence with you? In your daily dealings. My late mother told me that I should be aware of the 3Gs: The first G is God; the second G is Gun and the third G is Government.

“The first G is God Almighty. The second G is what? Gun and the third one is Government. May you conduct yourselves mindful of the admonition of my late mother, by respecting the 3Gs particularly the Government,” Akpabio said.

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