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10th Assembly: Can Tinubu win?

By Joshua Ocheja The storm is gathering. The leadership of the National Assembly is about to be decided but not without rancor. The recent announcement…

By Joshua Ocheja

The storm is gathering. The leadership of the National Assembly is about to be decided but not without rancor. The recent announcement by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has made it so. We should not expect more drama from the Senate. But the House of Representatives. Very typical from time immemorial. Maybe that is why it is called the House with many occupants and its tendency to get rowdy is commonplace.

From the template agreed by APC’s NWC, Hon Tajudeen Abass, will be for Speaker, and Hon Benjamin Kalu will be for Deputy Speaker. But Hon Muktar Betera has said he is “better.” And he is leaving no stone unturned. Those in support of Hon Muktar Betera have advocated for competence and capacity rather than ethnic and geographical considerations. The APC presidential ticket didn’t factor religion with its Muslim-Muslim ticket. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.

Hon Tajudeen Abass is the anointed one. But Hon Muktar Betera is the special one who attracts support similar to the rallying of bees to their queen in a hive. Something tells me the President-Elect has told Betera to try his luck. Aside from his popularity among his colleagues, he is not your everyday politician that can be pushed aside. He seems to have won the new members-elect to his side.
Insider sources also say the opposition prefers Betera over Abass. And if that happens, Betera is likely the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Unless Betera backtracks and walks away from his ambition, but this seems unlikely. Remember the meeting he had with the President-Elect? It shows he is solid, and he is not known to be rebellious.

I smell a rat. I assume the President-Elect said to him. ” Betera, I don’t mind having you as the Speaker. But you are from the same ethnicity as my Vice President. I can’t support you, and I can’t stop you, either. I know you, and you know me” That is the quintessential Tinubu. I believe Betera is his buddy. He has made his permutations. He has done his homework. And he remembers his buddies.
Back to Tajudeen Abass. Nasir El-rufai may have an interest. The powerful Nasir el-Rufai. Underestimate him at your peril. As far as the APC as a party is structured, he is one of the power brokers. Another buddy of Tinubu. A very strong one. Can he win this for Tinubu?

I assume the vice president-elect is watching closely. Would he be comfortable with a Betera as Speaker? That would mean too much power in Borno state. The more, the merrier, they say. It may be their turn. I trust the Borno guys. They are good. They are loyal, but when all seems fair. In this circumstance, who defines fair play when the North West got two slots ( deputy senate president and speaker) and the North Central got none?
Some have said the leadership of the National Assembly should be left for the lawmakers to decide. I agree. This is because the APC is not the absolute majority. And the decision of the party is not binding on other parties. From history, the opposition always goes against the ruling party’s choice. But only succeeds if the candidate is popular and commands respect. Can that be said of Tajudeen Abass? I am not sure. But I stand to be corrected.
It seems like a game. Maybe Betera is preferred. But it has to happen through a process that seems like going against the party. Sense will not kill Tinubu. It is also a tough one. Unless Betera backs out, I see nothing stopping him from clinching the speakership position for two reasons. The majority of the returning members are his buddies. The bulk of the new members see him as their own. This is across party lines.

He has other aspirants on his side. They are the G-4. The outgoing deputy speaker of the House, Hon. Idris Wase; the leader of the House, Hon. Ado Doguwa; the Chairman House Committee on Navy, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi and Hon. Sada Soli. You probably know what this means.

On the other hand, Abbas will primarily rely on the party structure to win. He is less popular than Betera. He would not cut deals directly with the opposition. The party will do that on his behalf. And that puts him in a tight corner because the APC has won 162 seats out of the 325 seats declared while PDP won 102. LP and NNPP have 34 and 18 seats, respectively, APGA four seats, ADC and SDP two each, while YPP got one seat. It won’t be a smooth ride; I can bet for Tajudeen Abass.

The APC rule book does not bond these parties. As a fact, they will go against the choice of the APC. And Betera might be the beneficiary. I am excited by the various permutations. Either way, Tinubu will win. But what if he fails? Very unlikely.

Betera will make a powerful speaker of the House of Representatives. And Tinubu needs such to drive his plans and policies given the urgency of now. Those who know Tinubu say he does not like unnecessary drama. For him, it’s getting the job done.

Will Tinubu allow ethnicity or religion to get in his way in delivering results? That Betera and the vice president-elect are from Borno state is happenstance. But the job must be done by those with the capacity. And who has the capacity as it stands? Did you say Abass or Betera?

Ocheja wrote from Abuja and can be reached through [email protected]

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