Barely two weeks to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, there are inescapable signals of victory that points in favour of Honourable Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu as lawmakers who will emerge as the two lead principal officers of the House of Representatives when the legislators meet to elect their leadership on 13th June, 2023.
While Abbas who hails from Kaduna State north central is seeking to be elected as the next Speaker, Kalu who represents Abia State southeast is contesting for the position of Deputy speaker in the Green Chamber.
At the center of the race for the next leadership of the National Assembly are issues of competence, ranking, and zoning, already agreed by the lawmakers as set criteria for the election of the principal officers to guarantee justice in terms of balancing the political equation of the country and ensure a peaceful tenure for the current administration.
With Bola Tinubu as Nigeria’s President from the South-west and his running mate, Kashim Shettima from North-east, the thinking of political stakeholders is that the presiding offices in the parliament should be shared among the remaining four geopolitical zones – a reason why Abbas and Kalu also threw their hats in the ring.
Before President Tinubu was sworn-in on 29th May, himself, and the APC leadership at a meeting, precisely on Monday May 8th this year, reportedly endorsed Abbas and Kalu as speaker and deputy speaker respectively. For the Senate, the party was said to have announced Senator-elect, Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin as preferred choices for Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively. This development obviously ignited stiff opposition from a few ranking APC lawmakers who vowed to challenge the party’s decision.
As things stand, especially with the current Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, now appointed as Tinubu’s Chief of Staff (CoS), both Abbas and Kalu could be smiling home in strong hope for victory when the Green Chamber meets on June 13th. The reason is not far-fetched. They now have a dependable ally on the corridors of power to lobby and influence issues in their favour. At the vantage point and with presidential backing, the current speaker could seamlessly reach out to several colleagues, mobilize them, even across party lines to get their buy-in on the Abbas, Kalu project.
Reliable sources also confirm that President Tinubu’s handlers are not taking anything for granted in galvanizing support for these two lawmakers who remain the APC preferred choice. This is in realization that President Tinubu is already comfortable with the candidature of the duo whom he believes have noteworthy track records to lead the House in such a manner that will help achieve the objectives of his government’s “Renew Hope Agenda.”
When the two frontline candidates for the House of Representatives plum jobs met with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, no one was left in doubt of their mission. After two hours of a closed-door session, the legislators told reporters that they were in the Villa to congratulate Tinubu on his inauguration as the 16th President of Nigeria.
Responding to specific questions on their ambition to lead the Green Chamber, Abbas explained that himself, Kalu, relevant stakeholders of caucuses in the House and the APC were working hard for unity of purpose. According to him, having served Nigerians in the ninth National Assembly which is the best that has had harmonious relationship with the executive arm of government, himself and Honourable Kalu intend to lead the 10th House in the interest of Nigerians to help address some national issues challenges such as insecurity facing the country. We have always had autonomy in the National Assembly and that will continue under our leadership,” Abbas noted.
A member of the House of Representatives who does not want to be quoted in print explains that aside presidential support, this is first time that opposition lawmakers are openly supporting a ruling party’s candidate in selection of leadership in the National Assembly. “It what has never happened in the history of the National Assembly. There is the joint task made up of members elect from all the eight political parties that will be in the 10th Assembly. Majority of these group is working to support Abbas and Kalu”, he added.
There is a group called the Minority Parties Forum – led by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Ebonyi State that is also drawing support for the APC’s preferred choice. This is another plus for the Abbas, Kalu team. Many lawmakers on the opposition side have also openly shown support for the Abbas, Kalu project. In the middle of the race, some candidates for the House contest withdrew from the race to support these two lawmakers, a further indication that they may have a smooth sail during the election on 13th June.
Fielding questions from reporters, Honourable Kalu said, his emergence and that of Abbas as leaders of the House of Representatives on 13th June will bring about balancing of the inequality that exists with the country. Nigerians should rest assured that innovation, transformation, and reforms are going to be introduced by us. We believe that nation building should a joint task involving the input of the executive and the contribution of the legislature,” he said.
Unlike former President Mohammadu Buhari who did not show interest in the composition of the 9th National Assembly leadership, President Tinubu, as a core politician and a parliamentarian himself, obviously seems to have taken the Abbas, Kalu ambition as his personal project and may only be working for their emergence behind the scenes.
Whether the election of Honourables Abbas and Kalu will further enhance the democratic principles of the separation of powers or not, is a question on the lips of many Nigerians as they await Tuesday 13th June when the lawmakers cast their ballot on the floor of the Green Chamber.