As the 9th House of Representatives prepares to be sworn in and to elect principal and presiding officers, the Speakership bid of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, current majority leader of the House, has been on the lips of Nigerians.
The 5-time elected Member officially declared his intention to run for Speaker on March 31 and was shortly thereafter endorsed by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the coveted position. Beyond the party endorsement however, the quality of the legislator erases any doubt as to his qualification for the exalted role of Speaker of the House.
He became a member of the House in 2003 at the age 41 and served as House Minority Whip in 2007, a position which he held until becoming House Majority Leader in 2015. Through his 16 years in the House, spanning almost as long as the 4th Republic itself, Gbajabiamila has sponsored over 18 bills. Most notable of which include, the Interest-Free Student Loans Bill allowing Nigerian university students access to interest free loans, the Nigeria Immigration Act Amendment Bill seeking to curb the issuance of work permits to foreigners by the federal government in fields where Nigerians have adequate expertise, the National Minimum Wage Amendment Bill, seeking to compel the federal government to review workers’ salary every 5 years, and the Electric Power Sector Reform Act amendment Bill, seeking to criminalize estimated billing systems by Discos.
For all the legislative, representative and oversight performances of the legislator, including his impressive constituency projects, a common denominator stands out- the People. For 16 years, Gbajabiamila has consistently played a politics of the-people-first, making it clear at every turn that he is driven by public interest and not personal ambition. Indeed, the charismatic law maker captured the hearts and minds of Nigerians when, in 2011, he rejected his nomination as a recipient of the National Honours in the Order of the Federal of Nigeria (OFR) on the ground that the national award process lacked credibility.
Known for his outstanding debating skills, Gbajabiamila’s deliveries on the floor of the House are always an event to look forward to as the weight of his rich legislative experience impressively comes to bare. Leading his party from opposition to majority in the House, has no doubt given him uncanny experience in leadership of the House that could unite legislators across party lines and foster a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with the executive.
Like he mentioned in his official declaration last month,
“In these 16 years I have been a principal officer for 12 years… placing me in a uniquely advantageous position of understanding the nuances and intricacies of this very critical arm of government and the need for its independence and at the same time interdependence with the executive.”
This is in contrast with the acrimonious relationship between the Executive and 8th National Assembly (NASS) which was arguably a cog in the wheel of progress of the nation. It is also an unprecedented level of teamwork that Nigerians look forward to, as a house divided against itself cannot stand.
From where we are seated, APC’s pick for Speaker of the House of Representatives reflects the wishes of Nigerians based on the competence, capacity and compassion of the man, Femi Gbajabiamila.