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10th National Assembly leadership should be based on capacity, not zoning – Agbese

Chief Philip Agbese is a lawyer, an expert in digital communication, and a certified security specialist. He is the member-elect representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of…

Chief Philip Agbese is a lawyer, an expert in digital communication, and a certified security specialist. He is the member-elect representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State in the 10th House of Representatives. In this interview, he speaks on the need for competence and capacity in choosing the 10th National Assembly leadership; what Nigerians should expect from the next parliament, among other issues.

What should Nigerians expect from the 10th National Assembly when it is inaugurated on June 13?   

In a sustainable democracy, social protection is an integral part of the law-making process to safeguard social justice for marginalised groups and the poor. Sadly, the current policy on social protection for the poor is fragmented and has no human face, so, we need legislation with a robust and inclusive approach that can, to a large extent, alleviate poverty and deprivation. So, it is hoped that as we settle down for legislative duties, issues such as this will be adequately addressed. Going forward, comprehensive and people-driven legislation that guarantees employment, basic social services, and income security will be the top priority legislative agenda. And to ensure that these priorities are achieved, critical oversight functions that cannot be compromised on the altar of parochial politics will be the order of the day.

You are an expert on security; how do you think the 10th National Assembly should approach the security situation in the country with kidnapping, rustling, and banditry ravaging communities?  

Interestingly, the role of parliamentarians is critical in turning the tide of insecurity and violence. And you and I know that the government is doing all that is possible to ensure that these issues are addressed. However, when you talk about security, you juxtapose it with the economy. Someone might say that because many young people are unemployed, there’s no money therefore they are looking towards crime. That may be an excuse but not the position because the government is at the same time addressing these areas by way of investment in agriculture as a means of providing employment. Consequently, it is hoped that the 10th National Assembly will do everything within its power to ensure that identified large-scale farmers are given incentives to further accelerate development in the Agricultural sub-sector of the economy.

The 10th National Assembly will be faced with a plethora of challenges ranging from security, and economy to infrastructure deficit. What kind of leadership would you propose?                

First, it is important to state that there are no quick fixes to Nigeria’s problems. We will have to find a way to fabricate legislation that works for all. Therefore, the 10th National Assembly needs a dependable and sincere leader, a leader that is prepared to take responsibility, and this is the more reason why it must clamour for a more conscious personality as a Speaker, whose honesty and sincerity are not in doubt. Fortunately for us, we have Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara, the current Chairman of the House standing committee on appropriation; and by the assessment of most Nigerians, including my humble self, he will make a good Speaker of the 10th National Assembly. Nigeria has remarkably honest men and women just waiting for an opportunity to contribute positively to the growth of the country. Sincerely speaking, Hon Betara is better positioned to assume the speakership of the 10th National Assembly because he has dignified himself as a selfless fellow. His service to the 9th NASS as chairman of the House standing committee on appropriation gives him away as someone who is well prepared to take responsibility in any situation.

What makes you think that Hon Betara would make a good Speaker considering that there are other experienced returning members who have made marks in the 9th Assembly too?

You will agree with me that we are in a digital age and only a digital Speaker can make a rewarding difference in contemporary legislative business. We need someone with a productive mindset, not those who merely allocate and appropriate resources or what is left of proceeds from government revenue. Hon Betara no doubt is a modern-breed leader. He understands strategic governance which can bring about the needed unity of purpose to the 10th National Assembly for valuable use to sustain our democracy and polity. I want you to understand that the National Assembly has had a colorization of leadership; some shy away from taking aggressive decisions and this has greatly affected progressive development.

But don’t you think that the 10th National Assembly will be plunged into crises if Hon Betara who is from the same geopolitical zone as the Vice-president elect is made Speaker without recourse to the zoning principle which has been in practice in our democracy since 1999?               

No, I don’t think so. Look, the product of any leadership should be based on individual’s interest and contest. We must look beyond mere zoning of sensitive leadership positions such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In fact, leadership ought to be performance-based. It must be merited and not just to favour a certain geopolitical zone because of some zoning principle. Beyond zoning, the issue of capacity should take prominence in legislative business. And so, in my view, the emancipatory goal of the National Assembly must be built along a more systematic dimension instead of pushing for zoning of sensitive leadership positions such as the speakership of the 10th National Assembly. Therefore, I want to appeal to both returning and new members of the 10th National Assembly to rise up against any divisive sentiments.

How would you rate the performance of the 9th National Assembly?                 

In my candid opinion and assessment, they have done well, taking into account the challenges they met on ground after assumption of legislative duties. So, what the incoming 10th National Assembly needs to do is to improve on and sustain the progress they have made. The vision ought to be how to leave the state of infrastructure in the National Assembly and law-making making rudiments better than we met it, and this is why we need a man with a vision and impeccable integrity like Hon Betara as Speaker of the 10th National Assembly. He has shown character, humility and above all, capacity.

 

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