The discourse on the leadership of the ninth National Assembly has dominated the public space for some time now. Expectedly, everyone who comments on the topic has begun to assume the status of an aficionado on the topic, muddling the waters and reducing the all-important issue of leading an important arm of government in a democracy to arm-chair analysis.
From hazarding guesses to making generalisations, most of the discussions on the topic have been reduced to the personalities and characters of individuals interested in leading the legislature in the next dispensation, with the narrative made to centre more on politics and intrigues rather than a clear-cut discussion on the merit of those seeking office.
Rather than reading meanings into the contenders’ political leanings and putting so much focus on geopolitical politics, the question Nigerians should be asking ahead of the inauguration of the next Assembly is: who is the most competent and most qualified to lead?
To avoid muddling the waters, I will just limit my scope in this piece to the House of Representatives. The contest for who becomes the next Speaker of the House of Representatives has taken different shapes and colorations, proving to be the epicentre of events in the build-up to the inauguration of the ninth House.
Like the 2015 experience, which threw up the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the contest is fast becoming a political chess game for power brokers, only that this time round the coast appears clearer for party supremacy and meritocracy to reign.
Already, the majority of members-elect have signed up to support Femi Gbajabiamila, a five-term member of the House and obviously the most qualified in terms of experience to take the helm. Though the choice of Gbaja, as he is known, is being portrayed in bad light in some quarters, making it look as if the All Progressives Congress (APC) was trying to force the choice on members, it is clearly in the best interest of the legislature and the country if the most experienced and legislator leads the House.
As Speaker, one is supposed to be primus inter pares, a first among equals. And that personality, beyond politics, should be a man that ticks the most, if not all, boxes. For Gbaja, who was first elected to the House in 2003, the journey to Speakership has been set by his years of garnering experience as a lawmaker, leading others and besting all records in terms of sponsoring bills, motions and even occupying different leadership positions.
In Gbaja’s over a decade and a half stay in the lower chamber, he has chaired different committees, made immense contributions and filled the position of Minority Leader and now Majority Leader. It is only fitting that such a man is considered the best to lead the House after rising through the years and leaving indelible marks in the sands of time.
But of course, those who oppose his candidature, who have been committing fallacies known in philosophy as argumentum ad hominem, leaving the merits of the argument for Gbaja as Speaker to attack personality and other frivolities, will not let the world know that Gbaja beats their candidates in every way thinkable as a legislator.
Nigerians should ask those interested in leading the National Assembly to step forward to tell the world how many motions and bills they have sponsored; how many scaled the hurdles to become laws and what are their impacts on society? They should tell us how and why they are better for the job. If this is done, one can bank on the fact that Gbaja will come out tops. But then, these folks who are hell-bent on anything but Gbaja will not allow the talk about merit.
Despite his huge credentials and merit, however, Gbaja, who is renowned for being consultative and democratic, has continued to reach out to all angles and interests. Surrounded by capable and fitting hands like the Prince of Oyo Kingdom and member representing Oyo Federal Constituency, Akeem Adeyemi, who coordinates the Gbaja for Speaker movement in the South-West, the Gbaja camp continues to swell on a daily basis.
Indeed, people who know have continued to praise Gbajabiamila for having the right set of people in his corner.
As Adeyemi rightly pointed out in a recent interview, that Gbaja’s ambition to be Speaker stemmed out of his love for the country and for its progress, the movement has continued to gain traction among all parties because it is altruistic and in the nation’s interest. Adeyemi had added that all hands would be on deck to ensure that party supremacy and meritocracy, which Gbaja for Speaker symbolises, prevail when the next House is inaugurated.
Like its slogan, “Nation-building: A joint task,” the Gbaja camp has seen beyond the shenanigans of those opposed to the progress of the country and would do anything to sabotage it through the leadership of the Assembly. In response to them, he has continued to build bridges across parties and geopolitical zones, with the hope that, on inauguration day, the bridges would give the House the right leadership, which can, in agreement with the APC’s slogan, take the country to the Next Level.
• Olawoyin writes from Abuja