By G9ija

The race for the Speakership of the 10th National Assembly has begun in earnest.

The commencement of the race followed the conclusion of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the poll, which produced Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, also birthed the House of Representatives members.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the APC in the last elections, on March 13 met with the President-elect at the State House Conference Hall in Abuja to chart a course for the selection of the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

At the meeting, Tinubu enjoined the elected legislators that he has no preferred candidate for the leadership of the National Assembly, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Tinubu was quoted as saying: “I have no preferred candidate for the 10th National Assembly leadership. I wish all the contenders well.”

However, a few returning lawmakers in the Green Chamber have indicated interest in the number four job. Amongst them is Rep. Yusuf Gagdi, a former Speaker of Plateau House of Assembly; Rep. Ahmed Wase, the incumbent Deputy Speaker of the House and five time lawmaker in the National Assembly.

Other contenders include Rep. Tunji Olawuyi, the current Chairman, House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness; Rep. Aliyu Betara, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation; and Rep. Benjamin Kalu, the Spokesperson of the House.

Rep. Gagdi, a 42-year-old member representing Panskhin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency of Plateau State, contested in March 2019 and got inaugurated in June 2019. Gagdi came with legislative experience having served as the Deputy Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly. He was appointed the Chairman of the House Committee on Nigerian Navy and a member of 13 other committees of the House of Representatives.

Gagdi told NAN that he has become a talking point of what it means to represent people. He enumerated a record of excellent performance in constituency outreach, project execution, as well as human development and empowerment.

Since his foray into the Green Chamber, Gagdi has gone down in history as the first lawmaker in Nigeria to sponsor six Private Member Bills to receive Presidential assent within a legislative session. The four Bills sponsored by Gagdi, which have already been signed into law, are: Police Act 2020; Federal University of Education, Pankshin Act 2021; National Hydrographic Agency Act 2022; and Admiralty University, Idusa, Delta State.

Another lawmaker to watch out for in the contest for the 10th House of Reps speaker is the incumbent Deputy Speaker of the House, who has not hidden his intention to vie for the number four job. Andrew Agbese, a Public Affairs Analyst, in making case for Wase, who represent Wase Federal Constituency of Plateau North Central Senatorial District, said ranking lawmakers such as Wase, who is a fifth termer, is capable of leading the House. Agbese said Wase stands out because of his current position as the Deputy Speaker of the House and will use the experience and knowledge garnered serving in the current position to give the House an efficient and effective leadership. According to him, this will be the best way to compensate the North Central geopolitical for both its shortfall in occupying the office and for its contribution to the success of the All Progressives Congress in the just concluded elections.

Faliya Sharon, a public affairs analyst, also called on the leadership of APC to support the aspiration of Wase to emerge Speaker of the 10th Assembly. Sharon said that the APC should as a matter of reward for loyalty and faith in its ideologies, zone the position to the North Central and support Wase as its preferred choice for the seat.

According to Sharon, supporting Wase for Speaker should be considered an exercise of recognition and reward for loyalty and sacrifice. Sharon said Wase should be rewarded for his loyalty, dedication, legislative dexterity and competence in co-running the affairs of the 9th House for the benefits of the party, the House and Nigeria as a whole.

Olawuyi, popularly known as Ajuloopin, is representing Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin and Oke-ero Federal Constituency of Kwara State. He is a third termer and not new to legislative business. Ajuloopin is also giving a nod to the top job and he believes that Kwara State in the North Central should take the position of the Speaker because of the huge votes the state delivered to the APC in the February 25 poll. Kwara State APC in the last election won all the six House of Reps and three senatorial seats and delivered the votes for the president-elect.

The lawmaker, who symbolised the Otoge struggle in Kwara State that ended the Saraki dynasty political dominance in Kwara State, is putting his hat in the ring because he believes with his legislative experience, he will be able to deliver the much dividends of democracy.

Abiola Farounbi, one of the supporters of the aspirant, said Ajuloopin has proved his mettle, adding that it is the turn of North Central and in particular Kwara State to produce the speaker. Farounbi therefore urged the leadership of the APC to consider the state in the choice of the speaker, adding that he has no doubt that Ajuloopin will surpass the performance of his predecessors.

Rep. Betara, the incumbent Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, representing Biu/Bayo/Kwaya/Kusar/Shani Federal constituency of Borno State, is another top contender for the job. Betara has headed several committees such as Public Accounts, Special Duties, Army and Defence. His legislative interest includes appropriation, customs, electoral matters and public accountability.

Though he is from the North East where the Vice President-elect, Senator Shetima Kashim, hails from, he seems undeterred, vowing to pursue his agenda without recourse to that fact. Betara appeared spurred by the scenario that played out in 2019, where in spite Vice President Yemi Osinbajo being from the South West, also produced Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila from same zone.

A Coalition of Pro-Democracy Groups in Nigeria on February 12 declared its support for Betara for the position of Speaker in the 10th National Assembly, urging the APC to enthrone competence, credibility and experience in its choice of leaders. Dr. Ben Ahmodu, the President of the groups, said the age-long tradition of zoning should be jettisoned in the interest of Nigeria and its citizens. Ahmodu noted that the coalition’s endorsement of Betara was borne out of extensive scrutiny of the returning legislator’s pedigree, capacity and leadership qualities, adding that the astute accountant is unmatched.

Rep. Kalu, the spokesperson of the House, representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, is also interested in the top job. Kalu, no doubt, has performed creditably well as the chief spokesperson for the 9th assembly. He no doubt stands shoulder high to seek the coveted job.

A group, Coalition of South Eastern Young Leaders Association, while making a case for the region, urged the APC to zone the Speaker of the House of Reps to the South East, having secured a majority in the 10th National Assembly. Okechukwu Kalu, leader of the CSYLA, said of all contenders from the region, Kalu is best suited for the position, adding that it came to such conclusion after a mid-week meeting of stakeholders from the South East region.

He said: “We are of the firm belief that the leadership of the House of Reps would be better under Rep. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, who is the current spokesperson of the House of Reps. Our position is hinged on our confidence that he will build on the landmark achievements of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila and Rep. Wase, who brought great innovations on better ways of getting.”

Though some of them said should the party eventually agree on zoning and it fails to meet their expectations, they would have no choice than to pander to the party’s choice. They noted that there won’t be a repeat of the scenario of 2019 where some lawmakers were said to be attending a meeting at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, but unknown to them, the opposition had joined hands to produce the Senate President. It however remained to be seen where the pendulum will swing should the party eventually agree on zoning formula.