In a matter of days President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will by proclamation dissolve the 9th National Assembly. The dissolution would mark the complete end of the Muhammadu Buhari government and the dawn of full complement of the new administration. With politics and politicking shifted to the National Assembly and the battle to enthrone new sets of leadership at its feverish tempo, clearer pictures are beginning to emerge on how the contest for the President of the Senate and the Speakership of the House of Representatives would be lost and won.
In a deft political maneuvering President Tinubu Wednesday scheduled a meeting with National Assembly members-elect who are aspiring to preside of the 10th Assembly in both chambers.
He would meet with the members-elect of the House of Representatives on Thursday. Invited to the meeting are members-elect from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Peoples Party (YPP). The minority parties put together constitute majority in the yet to be inaugurated 10th National Assembly.
Tinubu has resolved to establish an all-inclusive government that would cut across party line. The latest move is intended to encourage same in the legislature. This, perhaps, explains the delay in the announcement of cabinet ministers contrary to earlier projection. Earlier in the week, the president met with some PDP stakeholders including the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, former governor of Rivers and Delta, Nyesom Wike and James Ibori respectively. He had also met with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP and some other stakeholder.
The Thursday parley with members-elect, inside source said, was also meant to douse the tension that has crystalized into sharp division within the fold of the APC legislators-elect since the decision of the party to macro-zone the presiding officers’ seats. Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa Ibom) and Senator Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano) have been endorsed as Senate President and Deputy Senate President while Hon. Tajudeen Abbas (APC, Kaduna) and Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) were favoured as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. The strategic aim of the parley, analysts said, was to break the ranks of the dissident APC G7 lawmakers that have so far rejected entreaties but vowed to feed candidates against the party’s choices and their hold on opposition lawmakers. Similarly meeting is expected to hold with senators-elect in the days ahead.
However, unlike in the senate where Senator Akpabio has strong contenders like Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia), Senator Sani Bello (APC, Niger) and Senator Osita Isinazo (APC, Imo) with no remarkable marketing edge over them, Rep. Tajudeen Abbas and his running mate clearly towered high above their rivals in records of achievements. Already, the Usman Bello Kumo led “Joint Task 10th National Assembly,” a parliamentary lobbyist forum has equally endorsed Abbas and Kalu and are vigorously rooting to elect both as speaker and deputy. They have also met with some governors and stakeholders. In furtherance of this, they are networking through the states and zonal caucuses to win members to their side and are now confident of a comfortable majority.
The reason for their optimism is simple. Hon. Abbas possesses some unique selling point that is second to none. The Kaduna-born ranking lawmaker has an unmatched record of law making. ln the 9th Assembly alone, Abbas sponsored a total of 73 bills with 21 assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
APC with a fragmented majority in the 10th Assembly requires more than endorsement to push through their anointed candidates. Part of its intention was to set the stage for a process that could guarantee party discipline and supremacy. But with ambitious lawmakers within its fold already declaring their opposition to the party zoning arrangement, Tinubu must quickly intervene to give a direction.
With dissenting voices gaining ground, Abass and Akpabio, would need more than APC endorsement. The minority parties namely PDP, LP, SDP, APGA,NNPP and YPP coming together constitute majority. They have become the beautiful brides and the President has what it takes to take substantial numbers to bed.
Another joker that works for Abbas and Kalu is the House Rule which prescribes open ballot for election of the presiding officers in the House of Representatives. This reality may have dawn too late for the oppositions. The last amendment that adopted the open ballot system was carried in July 2019 shortly after the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and remained unchanged till date. The negative impact to the calculations of Hon. Idris Wase, the deputy speaker and his group is becoming more obvious. Hence, Wase who in recent futile moves having failed to get the opportunity to amend the rule verbalized his frustration when he pointedly challenged the decision of speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to adjourn the House sine die.
Since 2011 when he was first elected to the National Assembly, Abbas has remained an enigma with unimpeachable character. He has been described as a perfect gentleman scrupulously committed to what is just and fair.
The 59 year-old Abbas had served in various House committees such as National Planning & Economic Development, Public Procurement, Defense, Social Duties, Finance and Commerce. He also served as Vice Chairman at Legislative Compliance Committee from May 2011 to May 2015. In the 9th Assembly served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport, an assignment he discharged with utmost diligence. Hon. Afolabi Afuape, a member-elect representing Abeokuta South described Abbas as the ideal speaker. “Going by the record available to us, I can tell boldly that he is the ideal man for the speakership.”
Abbas record-breaking number of bills sponsored in one legislative calendar year include: Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, HB 112: Public Procurement Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, National Youths Welfare Scheme Fund (Establishment) Bill, 2019, Nigerian National Honours and Merit Award Commission Bill, 2019, National Universities Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Federal University of Technology, Lagos (Establishment) Bill, 2019, National Blood Service Commission, Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2019.
Federal Medical Centre, Abakaliki (Establishment) Bill, 2019, Federal Medical Centre, Yola (Establishment) Bill, 2019, Federal Medical Centre, Gusau (Establishment) Bill, 2019 and Federal Medical Centre, Ado Ekiti (Establishment) Bill, 2019, Aso Villa Hospital, Abuja (Establishment) Bill, 2019, among others.
Abass who holds a Ph.D in Business Management from Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto in 2010, obtained a Masters of Business Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 1993. He earlier earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the same University in 1988. Prior to his election into the National Assembly, he was a lecturer at the Kaduna State University where served as the pioneer Head of Department of Accounting. He earlier worked as senor lecturer at Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria, Kaduna State. His flair for teaching began to blossom when he started as a classroom teacher with Education Department, Zaria Local Government Area in 1981. Since then, he has been in the classroom except for his foray into the corporate world between 1993 and 2001 when he worked at Nigerian Tobacco Distribution Company (British-American Tobacco).
For Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the preferred party choice for the position of deputy speaker, his four-year record as lawmaker has been quite remarkable. Having sponsored over 40 bills within the legislative year, a feat many of his long serving lawmakers could not achieve, Kalu, a loyal partyman has endeared himself into the heart of many. In the event leading to the last general elections, Kalu in defiance to the wave of opposition in his Abia state and entire south east, openly declared his loyalty to Bola Ahmed Tinubu vowing to work for his election as president. Hon. Kalu who was elected to the House of Representatives represents Bende federal constituency, Abia State. He applied himself dutifully as Chairman Committee on Media and Public Affairs to the admiration of his colleagues.
The contest promises to be interesting. The G7 lawmakers remain unyielding in their quest for the speakership seat. Carrots have been dangled and sticks await recalcitrant partyman in an open ballot contest. Will Tinubu successful placate Hon. Idris Wase, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara, Hon. Sada Soli, Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji, Hon. Miriam Onuoha and Hon. Makki Yalleman to drop their ambition, which some said fueled by certain interest order than what we know?
Regardless, the pendulum is fast swinging. The permutation has shifted, the odds favour Abbas and Kalu.