At the moment, four returning Honourable members have signalled their intention to contest the position in which the 360 House members will vote to decide who becomes the first among equals. They include Hon. Abdulmumin JIbrin (Kano), Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos), Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi) and Mohammed Monguno (Borno).
However, as the race gathers momentum with intense lobbying and fine-tuning of strategies, it is important to highlight one singular factor that should determine the choice of Speaker of the House: Merit.
The 7th House of Representatives deserves commendation for breaking new ground and making history when, in its wisdom, it decided to elect its Speaker on the basis of merit. It was the first time the House would take such a gallant step in electing its Speaker since democracy began in 1999.
And happily, the Nigerian people have come to appreciate the reward for that move. By taking the bull by the horns to uphold the independence of the legislature, the Honourable members jettisoned region, religion, ethnicity, party interference and other external influences to identify and choose somebody who, again in their wisdom, they felt would lead the House in a non-partisan manner, somebody who has served as the Speaker of Nigeria, and not of any political party.
Today, it will be difficult for anyone to accuse the House of making a wrong choice in Tambuwal. All through, he has shown convincing proficiency, maturity, dedication and even-handedness. The result of this has been the substantial stability the House has witnessed over the years. This is how it should be.
This is the lesson the incoming governing All Progressives Congress, APC, whose members will be in the majority in the House, should take to heart. Fortunately, the party has shown tremendous insight by adopting a captivating word, CHANGE, as its slogan. It is advised that the ‘Change’ be given full effect by completely avoiding the ways of the outgoing PDP regime.
For example, it will be a grave mistake for the APC to insist that the Speaker of the House must come from a particular zone. That will be a despicable violation of the message of ‘Change’ that the party enthusiastically preaches and which encouraged Nigerians to vote massively for the party. Nigerians want to see ‘Change’ in its full colour, not a shade of it, or anything passed off as such.
Nigerians of today expect a complete break from the odious past. Therefore, they are more preoccupied with issues that will improve their existential lives than whether the President or the Senate president or the Speaker is from the north or from the south, from the east or the west, or which faith he or she professes. Issues of poverty, unemployment, poor healthcare delivery, corruption and the like bother them much more than region, ethnicity or religion.
The people have now realised that the concept of zoning not only forecloses the emergence of the best person who can genuinely deliver; it also reinforces incentives for divisiveness.
The APC demonstrated a hint of its determination to re-open a fresh chapter in national life with its widely celebrated presidential primaries which allowed all interested members of the party, regardless of where they come from, to have a shot at the presidency. For this gesture, the party was loudly applauded across the country. Still, the party will do well to build on this token of renewal by toeing the same honourable path of giving their members in the House the free rein to decide who their Speaker will be by merit. That is one of the significant ways the much-talked-about ‘Change’ can be meaningful.
Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on email@example.com