The story of the emergence of former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and his successor, Femi Gbajabiamila, will be incomplete without adequate mention of the exploits of Abdulmumuni Jibrin, an influential member of the House of Representatives from Kano State.
Jibrin has succeeded in ‘installing’ two different Speakers of the House of Representatives in two different circumstances, first through a rebellion against the establishment, and the other in enforcing the position of the same establishment.
In 2015, the youthful Jibrin, who only joined the House in 2011, played a prominent role in the leadership tussle between then ‘Equity Group’ headed by Dogara and the ‘Loyalist Group’ headed by Gbajabiamila. That struggle eventually produced Dogara as Speaker, thereby causing a major rift within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Fast-forward to 2019, Jibrin, who served as the campaign director general for the election of Gbajabiamila like he did for Dogara in 2015, has also delivered the incumbent Speaker. This is a feat exclusive to him, as no one person has delivered two Speakers consecutively in the history of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.
Jibrin is a Nigerian politician and a third-term member of the House of Representatives from Kofa, Bebeji LGA, Kano State. He is 42 years of age. He was at various times chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Appropriation and Land Transport, with oversight on Nigeria’s revenue, expenditure, railways and rail projects, respectively. He is a globally trained business executive, academic-turned-politician. He holds a BSc, MSc and PhD in Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations from the University of Abuja and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was at various times trained at the London Business School, Harvard Business School and Swiss Business School, Zurich, Switzerland – where he obtained SEP, PLD and MBA, respectively. He is an alumnus of the Harvard, London and Swiss business schools.
Prior to entering politics, Jibrin played an active role in the private sector as chairman/CEO Green Forest Group Ltd, running a Nigerian conglomerate in diverse fields. He served as chairman (Nigeria) of Turkish construction giant, Tasyapi, and chairman of the Abuja branch of Nigeria-British Chamber of Commerce. He also lectured at the university, with publications to his credit. A consummate mobiliser, he was the director, media and strategic communication of the Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team and, most recently, director-general of Femi Gbajabiamila for Speaker Campaign Council. He is a public finance and foreign policy expert and has shown significant interest and contributed to improving Nigeria’s revenue and expenditure process. He has won numerous awards and he is a fellow of many professional bodies, including the Chartered Institute of Finance and Control.
Jibrin is a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. He holds the traditional title of Jarman Bebeji conferred on him with the approval of the Kano Emirate Council. It is a title reserved for the courageous and generous.
Prior to his emergence on the federal parliamentary scene, Jibrin had been involved in national politics, especially during the presidential campaigns in 2003 and 2007. In 2011, Jibrin won election to represent Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency under the banner of the PDP, and later defected to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014. It is worth noting that he led the first set of 37 lawmakers who defected in a massive swoop that shook the political landscape. Not surprisingly, he won re-election into the House on the new platform in 2015.
2015 speakership election
In 2015, the APC, like in 2019, zoned the position of Senate President to the North-East geo-political zone and specifically chose Ahmed Lawan, while the post of Speaker, the South-West zone, was favoured with Gbajabiamila anointed. However, the rebellion against the party’s position led by immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Equity Group in the House of Representatives, where Jibrin played prominent roles, eventually led to a defeat of the choices of the party. Suffice to say that it was the same Jibrin who nominated Dogara for the post on that historic day thereby ending months of chaperoning an arduous campaign that eventually paid off.
In the political preamble to the election, Jibrin reportedly led a walkout of the mock primary organised by the party at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. This much was amplified in an apology letter he wrote to former APC national chairman, John Oyegun, in 2018, when he needed forgiveness and a relaunch into reckoning after a political drought that almost ended his public life.
He wrote then: “I recollect with deep regret and pains and can still hear the echo of your voice in the make-or-mar meeting at the ICC shouting “sit down Jibrin, sit down Jibrin, Jibrin sit down”; “you dare not walk out of this hall Jibrin”! Sen. Lawali Shuaibu watched helplessly with the box of ballot meant for the mock elections as I forced myself up, stood my ground, made my points, held the hands of Yakubu Dagara, and pulled him out of the hall.”
Jibrin and his group were able to garner votes across the two political parties to pave the way for Dogara to emerge Speaker. After the election, he was offered the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee of the House, a position that became the springboard to the travails that bedevilled him for much of that 8th Assembly.
Indeed, his journey into the wilderness kicked off with his resignation as the chairman, House Committee on Appropriation as announced by the Speaker on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. He described the Speaker’s speech announcing his exit as the chairman of the committee as “a misrepresentation of the facts, false, mischievous, unfair and a calculated attempt” to bring his name to “disrepute.”
That disputation led to weeks, if not months, of rancorous exchanges between him and the leadership of the House.
Between late July and early August 2016, Jibrin visited several law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies of government, including the Department of State Services (DSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigeria Police with a wounding petition that contained purported gross misconduct on the part of the accused lawmakers. But it was unclear if any of the agencies acted on the documents submitted with so much fanfare.
Before he was eventually banished by the House, Jibrin was left in the cold as 10 principal officers of the House rallied in support of Dogara and denounced Jibrin. Incidentally, Gbajabiamila, then Majority Leader, who was at the time thought to be a political enemy of the Speaker as a result of the previous bitter speakership battle that led to the emergence of Dogara, also joined the body of principal officers in denouncing Jibrin. It is worth noting that the Lagos lawmaker now Speaker had spoken against the suspension of his Kano counterpart, describing the decision as illegal and unconstitutional.
Furthermore, Jibrin’s party, the ruling APC, warned him to cease fire, but Jibrin was defiant and continued his onslaught against the House leadership. He even refused to appear before a disciplinary committee set up in September 2016 to investigate his claims of budget fraud against the leadership, claiming the investigation was a witch-hunt. On September 28, 2016, the grand finale of the Jibrin saga played out as the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions swiftly concluded its investigations and submitted its report a week after the commencement of the probe.
The committee’s recommendation that Jibrin be suspended for 180 legislative days was adopted by the entire membership of the House in plenary. He was also barred from positions of responsibility in the House till the end of the 8th Assembly. Like the fighter that he is, Jibrin filed an action in court to challenge his suspension.
Despite his suspension and subsequent ‘relocation’ to London, Jibrin refused to pipe down in his attacks on the leadership of the House and maintained forthrightness on the matter. Even when he completed his suspension, he still could not resume his duties as a federal lawmaker as the House insisted on an apology, which he bluntly refused to offer.
However, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, Jibrin finally decided to end his long-drawn battle with the House leadership. The following day, he was ushered into the Green Chamber in a manner that demonstrated conciliation and mutual forgiveness. On his return, Jibrin said: “Lessons were learnt by both parties; the leadership and the victim. Lessons on the part of leadership and lessons on the part of members.” Incidentally, the court at about this time, ruled that his suspension was unconstitutional. He was subsequently appointed as chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport and his entitlements hitherto withheld paid in full.
Upon resumption at the House in 2018, Jibrin convened the Parliamentary Support Group, with the mandate of full loyalty to President Buhari. Notably, the group was already in existence in the Senate. It was seen as a demonstration of courage by his colleagues. Thus, Jibrin led over 100 members of the House to pay solidarity to the President in 2018 at a time when the National Assembly Joint executive session issued a 13-point demand to the President. Jibrin had earlier described it as a “PDP executive session” prompting a reproach from the House. Former member, Sunday Karimi moved a motion calling for sanctions against Jibrin who just returned from suspension.
Interestingly, the new group also had a subtle leadership tussle with Gbajabiamila who in his position as the Leader of the House, was automatically leader of the APC caucus. The PSG reportedly made attempts to undermine Gbajabiamila, even though Jibrin, in a tweet, attempted to diffuse the tension by saying: “Against the backdrop of the media reports, I wish to state that there is no crack in the APC caucus. We have internal issues, and there is nothing unusual about it. However, the issues will be resolved internally. We have one caucus, and Femi is the leader.”
Jibrin won his re-election in a resounding fashion. He took to Twitter to declare that he will not be re-contesting the post of House of Representatives member again, saying “victory against all odds…the hardest in all elections I ran. Exhausted and utterly worn out! It’s additionally an emotional exit as this shall be my final contest for the House of Representatives.” For Jibrin, the 2019 election was not without some controversy as he was arrested in connection with an alleged attack on Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s convoy.
Jibrin supported the aspiration of the current Speaker and was promptly offered the position of the director-general of the campaign, in recognition of his political dexterity, hard work and antecedence of success. Off to work he went, canvassing, persuading, and deploying carefully crafted political strategies that eventually paid off on June 11, 2019.
Jibrin, perhaps, gave the longest nomination speech ever when nominating a Speaker, engaging in a charm offensive to woo members across party lines on the day of election. Although many pundits predicted the 2019 tussle for Speaker would replicate the 2015 scenario, it turned out the rebellion had lost a fighter in Jibrin.
The same manner he was at the forefront of the action in 2015, he was at the forefront of action in 2019. Bringing energy, doggedness and organisation to the Campaign, something probably missing in 2019.
Maybe learning from the 2015 election of the Speaker, Jibrin, in an interview with Channels Television, disclosed that he had no agreed compensation deal with Gbajabiamila. He even ruled himself out of the post of Leader of the House, the next most powerful position after Speaker and Deputy Speaker. In a further show of humility and modesty, he related his feeling in a tweet thus: “Twice lucky…it’s fair to say hard work, courage and commitment BUT honestly I have been so many times lucky…really nothing special about me. Just your regular guy! Best wishes to Yakubu Dogara and congrats to Femi Gbajabiamila. God has been so gracious…humbled!”
After the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker, all eyes have been on Jibrin. What does he want? What will he be offered? Insiders in the Gbajabiamila camp revealed that everyone is confused about what to do with Jibrin. He has held the two most important committees of Finance and Appropriations consecutively with a wide scope of oversight covering almost every sector. The two committees are even referred to as the 11th and 12th Principal Officers in the House. There is also strong whispering within the House that the Kano Born politician may consider an immediate return to his private business or the university to pursue his professorial ambition. The next few days or weeks will tell.
In the long term, however, there are other options for Jibrin: maybe he would seek to be governor of Kano or choose to go to the Senate. Whatever choice or moves he makes, one thing is certain: opponents will only underestimate him at their own peril.
•Omolabake, a public analyst, writes from Abuja