There is this saying in Igboland that when the big masquerade emerges, the small ones take to their heels. This adage clearly explains what is happening today at the Federal House of Representatives as the contest for who becomes the Speaker of the 9th Assembly intensifies, with honourable members interested in the plum job making last-minute horse-trading, lobbying and consultations.
Before now, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was said to have endorsed the sole candidature of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere Federal Constituency of Lagos State, south-west Nigeria, for the position of Speaker of the 9th Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Unfortunately, this party’s position has been roundly criticised, condemned and rejected by not a few members of the party and the opposition.
At the time of going to press, some other House of Representatives members-elect had declared interest to contest for the position of Speaker, citing different reasons for this. While some reasoned that it was within their constitutional rights to contest for the office, others hinged their decision on ethnic balance in the distribution of national political offices, built on justice, equity and fairness.
Now, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (HCN), member representing Okigwe South Federal Constituency, has joined the race for the position of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. Like a divine project, Nwajiuba has overcome all the political battles unleashed on him by the outgoing Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and is today on the verge of becoming the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
Nwajiuba has been described in many quarters as a very decent and enlightened man of letters. This quality alone has endeared him to so many of his colleagues in the National Assembly and politicians across the country. Little wonder his quest for this plum office is receiving a groundswell of endorsements and support from all the nooks and crannies of the country.
Political watchers see Nwajiuba’s emergence as upsetting all calculations, permutations and zoning arrangements in the House of Representatives. Already, those who are advocating justice, equity and fairness in the distribution of public offices are quick to point out that North-West has produced the President; South-West, Vice President; Senate President, North-East; South-South, Deputy Senate President, which also has the party’s chairman; it is only logical, in the name of equity and fairness, to zone the Speaker’s position to the South-East.
Nwajiuba, in his days in the House, was one of the most effective and efficient legislators who initiated ground-breaking reforms, engaged in robust debates and kept the executive on its toes, even when he supported and promoted cordial relations between the executive and the legislature. He was said to have played the non-conformist without making non-conformity a principle in an age when innocence, probity and prudence were the order of the day in the Green Chamber.
Nwajiuba was a member of the House between 1999 and 2003 and was rated the best legislator in Nigeria by a United Nations Democracy Study, published in The Guardian of September 30, 2002. He was then chairman, Works, Lands and Housing Committee and was instrumental to the construction of the three major roads in Imo State. This stood him out not just as an astute politician and legislator, but also a great mobiliser, who knows his way around people and can rally colleagues to his cause, which is essentially what lawmaking is about.
Analysts believe that, if Nwajiuba clinches the plum speakership position, it will undoubtedly integrate the Igbo in the top hierarchy of the country, from which they have been excluded since the inception of this current government. It has become a matter of right that the third leg of the tripod on which Nigeria stands should not be pushed away like that, if the nation must remain one indivisible entity. The Igbo have no doubt paid their dues in the country and with the marked improvement of the APC in the South East in the just-concluded elections over the previous one, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba must be supported to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Good enough, with Nwajiuba’s faultless goodwill and nationwide appeal, as a political strategist, it is expected that his emergence will speed up the reintegration of Ndigbo into Nigeria’s mainstream political leadership. He has over the years built an enviable network of friends across the geo-political zones, across party lines and across all peoples with varied persuasions. This is where his political sagacity and suaveness come in.
It is expected that the eventual realisation of the Nwajiuba speakership project will be dependent on the formidable and unassailable network of political friendships Nwajiuba has built across virtually all the geopolitical zones of the country over the years. His acclaimed closeness to those at the helm of affairs in the country will certainly guarantee cordial relations between the executive and the legislature.
Highly cerebral and astute, Nwajiuba has proved his mettle in virtually all endeavours he has been involved in. He was an outstanding parliamentarian during his first sojourn in the House of Representatives, and in his current assignment as chairman of the Tertiary Education Trustfund (TETFund).
He is dependable, reliable, a bridge builder. His tenure as Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives promises to be the best Nigeria as a country will ever have.
•Chuks is editor-in-chief, Newsfield magazine