New Telegraph

Who succeeds Gbajabiamila as Speaker?

With the Governorship/State Assembly elections over, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is set to roll out the zoning formula for National Assembly presiding and principal positions. Already, lawmakers in both chambers have begun consultations and lobbying ahead of the party’s decision. In the House of Representatives, it is clear that Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who has been re-elected may not seek to continue as speaker following the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as president-elect from the South-West. Consequently, at least, six early birds have emerged in the scramble for the exalted position in the lower chamber. Who are these lawmakers and their chances?

Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase

Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase will be 59 years by June when the 10th House of Representatives will be inaugurated and he will be marking his fifth term in the green chamber having been first elected to the parliament in 2007. One of the longest-serving lawmakers in the House, Wase is interested in succeeding Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. As deputy speaker for four years, many may think it will be all rosy for Wase to ride on to the number four position in the nation but he would have some hurdles to cross. First, unless the APC zones the position to the North Central, Wase’s ambition may remain a mirage. However, if the party cedes the position of the Speaker to the North Central, Wase will be a strong candidate in the race. Secondly, he may have the young lawmakers to contend with as there are insinuations that younger lawmakers in the House are rooting for much more younger and vibrant legislators from the same geopolitical zone to slug it out with Wase should the party gives the position to the North Central. Considering the number of young men and women that would populate the 10th Assembly, Wase will have a tough task to unravel. Nevertheless, Wase’s experience cannot be wished away with a wave of the hand having served in the parliament for 16 consecutive years. In fact, he is the most experienced, being the deputy speaker. In these years, Wase had served as chairman of the House Committee on Federal Character as well as deputy leader before becoming deputy speaker in 2019. He was a member of the Federal Government Delegation to the 89th Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York, United States, in 2016 and Governing Council member of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), 2015.

Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji

Making his second appearance in the House, 49-year-old Aminu Sani Jaji the Garkuwan Matasan Arewa represented the Kaura Namoda/Birnin Magaji federal constituency of Zamfara State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 8th Assembly (2015-2019) and served as chairman of the House Committee on National Security, Intelligence and Public Safety. While in the House, he was said to have given a good account of himself serving on several committees and sponsoring many bills among others. A former gubernatorial aspirant in the 2019 elections, he is today the most visible young politician in Zamfara State. Jaji is a serious contender for the position of the speaker and if it is zoned to the North West, he will be the lawmaker to beat. He is said to be close to President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and served as the Director of Contact and Mobilisation, Tinubu and Shettima Presidential Campaign Organisation. He was also a collation agent for Tinubu at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. The governor of Zamfara State, Hon, Mohammed Matawalle is also said to be solidly behind his aspiration. A well-heeled young man, Jaji is presently the National Coordinator of the renowned group, Baba For All, a group, which has traversed the length and breadth f the country reaching out to the needy and distressed people irrespective of religion, political affiliation, or ethnicity. With branches and presence in all 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Jaji’s academic achievements include four master’s degrees: M.Sc in Health Economics at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK) in 2013, M.Sc in Public Health at the Maryam Abacha American University of Niger (MAAUN) in 2017, M.Sc in Environmental Management (BUK) and M.Sc in Criminal Law (ABU). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Walden University in America. He also studied Leadership and Management in Health at Washington University.

Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi

Born 42 years ago, Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi is the Chairman of the House of Representatives committee on the navy and is returning for the second time. Representing the Pankshin/ Kanke/Kanam (PKK) federal constituency of Plateau state, he is from the North Central as Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and is believed to be a project of the younger lawmakers and radical politicians to checkmate Wase’s aspiration should the party zone the position to the region. A staunch supporter of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Gagdi is also said to have the ears of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It is said Tinubu is enthralled with Gagdi’s courage, intelligence and competence. He is also a protegee of the Plateau state governor and director general of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Organisation. Many analysts are of the view that if the APC cedes the speaker to the North Central, Gagdi may have an edge over Wase. He will certainly be Wase’s Achilles heels. A very popular legislator in the current House, Gagdi’s liberal religious disposition have endeared him to the hearts of many. Being a devout Muslim and the son of a renowned Islamic scholar, some of Gagdi’s children are Christians. Perhaps, this explains why he was re-elected to represent PKK, a Christian-dominated constituency, where no legislator has ever been re-elected since 1999. Since 2019, Gagdi has gone down in history as the first lawmaker in Nigeria to sponsor six Private Member Bills to receive Presidential assent within a legislative session, since the establishment of Nigeria’s National Assembly as a bicameral legislature. Three bills sponsored by Gagdi, which have already been signed into law are: the Police Act 2020, the Federal University of Education, the Pankshin Act 2021, the National Hydrographic Agency Act 2021 and Admiralty University, Idusa, Delta. Like Jaji, Gagdi will soon defend his Ph.D. thesis at the Nasarawa State University and has two master’s degrees to his credit A former deputy speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Gagdi represented the Kantana constituency in the State House of Assembly between 2015 and 2019. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2019 and is a member of 13 committees of the House.

Hon. Sada Soli

Representing Jibia/Kaita federal constituency of Katsina state, Hon. Sada Soli is the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on water resources and is already being propped up by some pressure groups to contest the position of the speaker if it is zoned to North West. He also comes into the race with a lot of legislative experience as he returns to the House for the third term. Though a ranking member, Soli seems not to be so popular among his colleagues. And with President Buhari just leaving the scene after two terms, it may be difficult to sell his candidature having come from the same state. Soli was first elected to the House in 2007 and served until 2011 when he could not return but instead served as the chief of staff to Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal between 2011 and 2015. He was with Governor Tambuwal until 2019, when he returned to the chamber and was recently re-elected. A former staff of the National Assembly bureaucracy, Soli is very conversant with the workings of the legislature.

Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara

For keen watchers of developments in the House of Representatives, Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara is the most prepared for the position of speaker. First elected to the House in 2007 to represent the Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno State and currently Chairman, the House Committee on Appropriations, those close to Betara confirmed that the lawmaker’s only wish now is to serve as Speaker since he does not intend to return to the lower chamber after 2027. As chairman appropriation committee, he is the most popular lawmaker after the speaker and commands a large followership from his colleagues. It is generally believed that if the APC zones the position of the speaker to the North East, Betara will have a smooth sail. The lawmaker is also said to share some relationship with Tinubu and may be favoured should the zone gets the party’s nod. Although, there are arguments that with the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima also from Borno state, it will be wrong to also cede the number four position to the region. But Betara’s supporters are quick to cite the example of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who are all from Lagos state. Some have even insinuated that Betara will contest whether the party okays North East or not. The next few months shall tell anyway. Born on 22 November 1966, Betara attended Biu Central Primary School and obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1978. He proceeded to Biu Central Junior Day Secondary School, and then to Government Technical Secondary School Benishek, Borno State graduating in 1983. He obtained an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Business Administration in 1986 at the Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri. He returned to Ramat Polytechnic for his Higher National Diploma in 1990 and obtained an HND in Accounting and Business Administration in 1992. He worked with the Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) programme from 1986 to 1990 and joined the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) in 1993 rising through the ranks to the role of Manager before his voluntary retirement in 2006 to venture into politics. Betara who is coming to the House for the fifth time served as Chairman of the House Committee on Defence and army at different times and as the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations in the 9th House, the committee has succeeded in having the June-to-June budget cycle changed to a preferable January-to-December one for a more effective budget implementation. Widely accepted in his constituency and across the state, Betara has been lauded for his critical decision-making and crisis management skills in the House. He is said to have deployed his personal resources to fund transplant surgeries, empower individuals for business and support local families in his constituency.

Hon. Tajudeen Abass

Popularly referred to as Mr. Bills by most analysts, Hon. Tajudeen Abass represents the Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State in the North-West and is gunning for the position of speaker of the 10th House of Representatives. The Iyan Zazzau has topped the bills sponsorship chart successively in the 7th, 8th and 9th House of Representatives. Riding on the back of his outspoken governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, who is said to be demanding for speakership as compensation for his unflinching support for Tinubu, Abass promises to give a strong fight in the run for the office should the party zone it to the North West. He will however, meet stiff opposition from Hon. Jaji, who is also not a pushover. El-Rufai is not runoff the mills politician and chooses his battles carefully. He will galvanize the support of his colleagues’ governors but whether this can see Abass through, only time will tell. El-Rufai was recently reported to have canvassed as follows: “Finally, I had wanted to travel to Lagos yesterday and see Asiwaju in respect of the Speaker. He said he would be coming to Abuja today. But the most important thing I will request from him, if at all I contributed to his success in the election, the only payback is for Iyan Zazzau to become speaker. “Thank you immensely for casting your votes for him. This is because if you had decided not to vote for him, we wouldn’t have gathered here Alhamdulillahi”. As chairman of the land transport committee in the current assembly, Abass has so far sponsored 74 bills and still counting. Born October 1st, 1965, he attended Katsina Teachers College (KTC) and obtained a Grade II certificate in 1981 and later obtained a B.Sc in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bellu University (ABU), Zaria in 1988. Abass who have master’s (M.Sc) in Business Administration holds a doctorate degree in Business Management from the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto. He began his career as a primary school teacher in 1981 and taught until 1988 when he became a lecturer at the Kaduna Polytechnic before transferring his services to the Kaduna State (KASU) in 1993. He was with KASU till 2001 and left to become a marketing manager at NTC Plc. He was first elected to the House in 2011. Abass has since then served in different committees and was deputy chairman, committee on legislative compliance between 2011 and 2015.

Hon. Miriam Onuoha

Perhaps, the only female lawmaker who has shown interest in vying for any of the presiding positions in the House, Hon. Miriam Odinaka Onuoha represents Okigwe North Federal Constituency of Imo State and came to the lower chamber in January 2020. During the 2019 general elections, Mr. Obinna Onwubuariri of the PDP was declared the winner of the 2019 election, but the National Assembly election petition tribunal in Owerri in September 2019, sacked Onwubuariri and ordered a fresh election for January 2020. Onuoha went ahead to win the election. Since then, the young woman from Imo has made her mark in the House sponsoring many bills and being active on the floor of the chamber. She is indeed one of the shining lights among female lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly. Onuoha has been making a case for gender sensitivity in the sharing of presiding and principal positions in the National Assembly considering the infinitesimal number of females that won elections into the national parliament. The Imo State-born lawmaker may either compete for the speaker or deputy speaker depending on the zoning formula and is actively supported by her governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma. Of course, if any of the positions is zoned to the South-East and she decides to throw her hat in the ring, the gender sentiments will also play to her favour. But whether the party will consider the gender factor, is yet to be seen. A native of Umunachi Osu-Ama in Insiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, Onuoha started her primary education at Central School Umunachi Osu-Ama and then moved to Tilley Gyado College Makurdi in Benue State. She attended Aquinas Model Secondary School Osu-Ama and that was where she got her senior secondary certificate. She proceeded to study at the University of Lagos and graduated with a degree in Estate Management. She went to the University of Abuja and graduated with a master’s degree in Environmental Planning and Protection. Before her elections to the House of Representatives, Onuoha served as a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Bayelsa State on International Development Cooperation amongst other previous political engagements. She is returning to the House for the second time.

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