The battle for the soul of the 9th House of Representatives can be likened to the battle between David and Goliath of which David, though the underdog defeated Goliath to create the world most famous sensational upset.
I have it on good authority that Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila may not emerge as the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives despite being red-hot on the race, not because he isn’t qualified but because he is not his own man. Section 50(1b) of the 1999 CFRN as amended provided that members shall elect from among themselves any member with legislative experience to become Speaker. No self respecting legislature will surrender her independence to a ‘Man Friday’ controlled by outside forces. I don’t see the 9th HOR willfully reducing itself to an inferior arm of government. Imposition of leadership is one malady the various assemblies had fought against and this 9th assembly will fight against it upon inauguration.
Make no mistake, Gbajabiamila is a great guy. I like and respect him for his accomplishments. He has the cognate experience to be Speaker being one of the ranking members and a veteran having contested for the position in the past though ending in disappointments.
Defeating Gbajabiamila is not just the floor but the ceiling. The ceiling is to do away with godfathers especially to clip the influence of its chief promoter who never hid his ambition to dominate the ruling party, control the leadership of the National Assembly, manipulate the presidency and hijack the future republic. Such inordinate ambition by a single individual if true is unacceptable and should be resisted otherwise our nation will have bigger trouble.
Interestingly, this resistance was hatched and championed from inside the ruling party and not even by the opposition PDP. It is the resistance that has thrown up the candidacy of Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba; member representing Okigwe South Federal Constituency whose quiet diplomacy is gaining acceptance among his colleagues whose votes will determine who presides over 9th Assembly as Speaker.
We have become a nation that has broken all common sense of fairness and equity otherwise who gets what shouldn’t be a subject of controversy. Were things to be done properly politics of exclusion shouldn’t have a place in our society. Equity demands that each geopolitical zone deserves a representation in the nation’s topmost hierarchy. That is; the President, Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Chief Justice of Nigeria hence the inability of the ruling APC to master the act of balancing is rather bewildering.
The South East which is most disadvantaged is not keeping quiet. The zone is pushing for merit based equity with the hope that others will give them justice hence Hon Emeka Nwajiuba’s challenge should be taken serious even though his strongest point is not the fact that he is a South Easterner but because he is a detribalized Nigeria with poise and intelligence.
In our telephone conversation he told me his ‘joy will be to see Nigerians of various tribe and faith living in peace and unity’. This isn’t a tall order if the elites will take an active role for peace and unity. A fundamental principle of democracy is to grant civic equality to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion and political affiliation. We cannot pretend that we have not failed this basic principle.
I recall growing up in the North, precisely Kano and Kaduna. As Southerners, we dominated the Bayan-Geri neighborhood where we are allowed to practice our culture, faith and trade. Then there were no such words as ‘Igbo must go’. Southerners were welcomed all over the North and vice versa. Then Nigeria was a good place not just because we had a beautiful landscape but because we had leaders who lived by the motto: One Nation under One God with Peace, Unity and Faith. We had citizens who want what everyone wants; peace, unity, security and a better and more dignified way of life. Because we had unity we were feared by our foes and we had allies that respected us.
Also in Lagos and up to 2003, Igbo votes were sought by all the political parties. There were various campaign tools targeting none south western populations. But now rather than seek our votes, the words on the streets of Lagos are ‘Igbo must not vote’.
One of the major flaws of the current administration is the elevation of ethnic bigotry to the act of statecraft which has worsened insecurity across the country. We cannot achieve security in the face of bigotry and ethnic hatred. I think it’s time to tell our leaders, especially the president that without equality there is no democracy. The president has a fundamental choice between running a country where people of different faith and ethnic colorations are able to live in peace and unity or we may continue with a fragmented country populated by disgruntled citizens that are suspicious of each other and killing one another. The alarm bell is clear, and we need to clearly state that we cannot continue to pretend that everything is ok whereas we are on a high speed to Kigali.
To recover our country we need to strengthen our diversity, provide equality and have faith in one another. The starting point to healing our self inflicted wounds is to make Nigerians of all tribes and tongues proud of the outward Nigeria that is fair to all, which will always represent and accommodate the best of our diversity. We must make our democracy work by creating equal opportunity for all.
I like Hon Nwajiuba. I agree with his desire for harmonious co-existence. He is a nice guy who will make an excellent Speaker if he is elected by his colleagues. He is not just a ranking member with experience; and with a PHD in Law but he is also intellectually sound. As Speaker he will strengthen the relationship between the Executive and Legislative arm without compromising the cherished independence and protective integrity of the legislature.
Nwajiuba is a politician with big head mentality. Politicians can be categorized in two broad categories; those with ‘big head’ mentality and those with the mentality of ‘small head’. Unlike politicians with the ‘big head mentality’, those with ‘small head mentality’ are used to cutting corners. They are greedy, selfish and overtly ambitious. They lie easily and can kill for power. They know how to ply the masses, bribe the police and the judiciary. They are given to vain glory. Their self centered politics is all about them, their spouse, their children and their selfish agenda. They are the sort shunned by society yet they are in the majority.
In contrast, politicians with the mentality of the ‘big head’ put the country first. They challenge the godfathers. They ask critical questions and are in the business of proffering solutions for common problems. They worry about the future and their legacies. They understand that government is a joint responsibility and not the operation of one person. The big heads understands the cultural sensitivity of the society and strive for unity, balancing and harmonious co-existence.
The efforts by a group of lawmakers with the big head mentality to enthrone equity and fairness in the National Assembly leadership should be encouraged. No part of Nigeria should be made to feel unwanted. More so, in view of what happened to the failed reelection of Governor Ambode of Lagos, Nigerians should beware of any individual with intent to remote control a ruling party, the executive and the National Assembly as a private estate. I cannot agree less with Governor El-Rufai that time has come for us to do away with godfathers in our politics. This National Assembly leadership election will be a test case to determine if we are ready to prick the hot air out of the arrogant balloon of the godfathers.