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Speaker: Why Wase is the best choice

On Tuesday, June 13, 2023, the 10th National Assembly will be inaugurated. This will follow its formal proclamation by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, exactly two…

On Tuesday, June 13, 2023, the 10th National Assembly will be inaugurated. This will follow its formal proclamation by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, exactly two weeks after he is sworn in as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Expectedly, therefore, attention has shifted from the post-election hullabaloos to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, being the most strategic of the tripodal governance structure in our democratic setting. The parliament is the bastion of democracy, as they say. And expectedly, too, competition for the leadership positions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives is becoming intense. At least, half a dozen senators have indicated interest in becoming president of the Senate, while nine members-elect have thrown their proverbial hats in the jockeying over who becomes Speaker of the lower arm.

It is thus, imperative at this juncture for us as a nation to reflect deeply on the quality of the leadership to emerge for our parliament, being the bastion of our democratic journey. As the popular saying goes, “better parliament, stronger democracy”.

Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the most vibrant of the two arms of our parliament, has undoubtedly improved significantly. It has nudged higher in the past four years towards meeting the yearnings and aspirations of citizens. Equally, the Green Chamber, as it is often described, is quite stable and progressive.

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This transformation of the House of Representatives is not an accident. It is the result of conscientious efforts of many members of the 9th House, but most especially the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as his trusted and dependable deputy, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase.

Keen observers of the trajectory of the 9th House of Representatives have acknowledged its vivacity in championing noble causes in a manner that is a clear departure from what obtained in the past. Under the Gbajabiamila/Wase stewardship, Nigerians witnessed consequential legislative interventions in numerous strategic spheres of public life.

It is equally on record that this leadership initiated several essential reforms that lay the foundation for future growth and prosperity of our country. For want of space, I will highlight only a few of such legislative interventions and reform initiatives.

It is to the credit of the 9th Parliament that the annual budget process of the federal government was reformed, and returned to the January-December fiscal calendar. Again, this very parliament made history in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (now an Act), a seeming insurmountable task, given the 20-year rough course of that piece of legislation at the National Assembly.

Other notable bills passed under this leadership of the House of Representatives include the Police Service Commission Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment) Bill, and the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act (Amendment) Bill.

In the area of critical interventions, Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry that it was the House’s intervention that helped to resolve the seeming intractable impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government, which kept students at home for more than eight months.

Significantly, the House pushed for inclusion of the sum of N170 billion in the 2023 Budget to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers. This is aside the inclusion of an additional N300 billion in revitalisation funds in the Budget, to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.

Now, the current Speaker, Hon. Gbajabiamila, has been “excluded” from the contest for the same position in the 10th Assembly, by virtue of the emergence of the First Citizen, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also from the South West geopolitical zone. It is only natural, therefore, that Wase, on whose shoulder the famed anchor of stability of the 9th House has been resting, should emerge as the next Speaker.

And this proposition is based primarily on the character, competence and capacity of Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, who will be a 5th termer by the time the 10th Assembly is inaugurated. He is the most experienced of all the nine aspirants currently eyeing the seat of Speaker.

With 16 years’ cognate experience in the parliament holding key positions, Wase stands miles ahead of his competitors. In his four terms as a le    gislator, he held chairmanship of certain key committees, and sponsored at least a dozen bills.

As Chair of the Federal Character Commission, for instance, the current deputy speaker paid no attention to “connections” by ensuring that Nigerians from different ethnic and religious backgrounds get employed in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government, strictly based on merit. This endeared Wase to many children of less-privileged Nigerians.

As the Chair of the House Committee of the Whole, he was key to the passage of critical bills such as the PIB, and the amendments to the new Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which has already been noted to be easing doing business in Nigeria.

As the chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Wase, achieved uncommon milestones. President Muhammadu Buhari has just assented to some of the bills passed in the amendment of the constitution. Some of these assented bills will promote true federalism, devolution of powers from the centre to the states, as well as strengthen government institutions.

At the continental level, Wase is currently the first deputy speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. This is a no mean feat. As the first deputy speaker of that parliament, he has been a champion of Nigeria’s national interests within the broader interests of the West African sub-region.

These are particular reasons why the president-elect, the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership, as well as the members-elect of the lower chamber need microscopic eyes, to pick the best, which is clearly Wase. The other contenders, viz: Hon. Mukhtar Aliyu Betara, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, Hon. Sada Soli Jibiya, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, Hon. AbdulRaheem Olawuyi, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, Hon. Abubakar Yalleman, and Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji, are all eminent members-elect, whose inalienable rights to vie for the speakership position are indisputable. But while these aspirants strut through the market square jockeying for the coveted office, it is pertinent for other members-elect to remember that Nigerians’ higher yearnings for good governance can best be served by the very best, and not just the good within their fold.

And the stark reality, which cannot be distorted, is that none of the eight other aspirants listed as contenders has the pedigree, impeccable record and capacity of Wase.

Danladi Ibrahim wrote from Lokogoma, Kabusa District, Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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