In this interview with Sundiata Post Political Editor, Chibuike Nwabuko, Hon. Afam Victor Ogene who is the Leader of the Labour Party caucus for the incoming House of Representatives and Spokesman of the minority caucus otherwise called “Greater Majority”, said that the duo of Honourables Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu, both of whom were endorsed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for Speaker and deputy speaker of the 10th House, have shown reasons to earn their votes.
Come along with me as the interview promises to make an interesting read.
Qstn: Honourable, for sometime now, nothing has been heard about your group, the Greater Majority. Have you caved in?
No, no no, nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, what you see at play is the full unraveling of what a democratic process should be: aspiration, fierce contestation, consensus building, and ultimately, the free expression of choice, which is at the core of any democratic process. In the instant scenario, several persons put themselves forward with a desire to superintendent over their colleagues as Presiding Officers and what followed was fierce struggle by each and every contestant to reach the ultimate goal.
This state of affairs was later to trigger attempts at consensus building, leading to an expected expression of individual choices, when Members-Elect converge on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 to elect its leaders.
Qstn: But we remember having the minority caucuses gear up towards presenting one of its own as Speakership candidate; whatever happened to that quest?
Although the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unambiguously directed, in Section 50(1)(b) that “Members of the House of Representatives shall elect a Speaker and deputy Speaker from among themselves,” I suspect that most members of the Greater Majority, simply decided to adorn the toga of statesmen and women, by deciding not to put forward candidates for the Speaker and deputy Speaker positions.
This stance, I envisage, was taken to prevent the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC from having a ready-made excuse in the event of the administration not leaving up to expectations. So, essentially, it wasn’t a case of abandoning an opportunity to present a Speaker, but rather a patriotic decision, by the Greater Majority, to allow the incoming Government take off on a smooth sail.
Qstn: So, in effect, could it be said that you have endorsed the candidature of Honourables Tajudeen Abass and Benjamin Kalu preferred by the APC, as Speaker and deputy Speaker?
Beyond mere endorsement, I think that the emergence of both men as leaders of the emergent 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives is already a fait accompli. Why? In spite of the wave of condemnations that attended their ‘adoption’, they remained focussed, and kept their eyes on the ball. In fact, I can say, with every emphasis at my disposal, that both men ran the most pragmatic campaigns, in terms of engagement with Members-Elect. They were neither laid-back nor sat in any comfort zone as anointed candidates. Besides the Rt.Hon. Aliyu Muktar Betara, whose aspiration attracted the most support from both returning and new members because of his own parsonage, the duo of T.J Abass and Benjamin Kalu, eventually earned their own stripes.
Qstn: So, are you saying that Members-Elect would be going for both men willingly, and not because of imposition?
Let me reiterate, I had earlier explained the raison d’etre for the opposition to their candidature in the early days of their adoption by the APC. But rather than relax and bask in the euphoria of the adoption, they rather stepped up consultations amongst Members-Elect, showcasing in the process what the famed novelist, Chinua Achebe, described as “solid personal achievements.” For an Abass, who in one legislative cycle of four years, sponsored a total of 74 Bills – 22 of which received Presidential assent – and Kalu, with over 40 Bills, both men, I dare say, appear to have fulfilled the conditions precedent for their emergence as Speaker and deputy Speaker.
Qstn: What other factors do you think would eventually determine how a winner would emerge?
In deed, for the Abass/Kalu ticket, the inclusion of the South East in the equation is a major master stroke. Till date, no other Speakership aspirant has offered the zone anything. Then, of course, the much-hyped G-6 eventually failed to live up to expectation, in terms of providing a credible alternative, leading up to a denouncement. But be that as it may, the outcome of the power-play in the Senate may ultimately influence, one way or another, the final outcome of the race.