By Mohammed Jamu
Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senate Majority Leader and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, House of Representatives Majority Leader, apparently share a common string in the National Assembly. Apart from the fact that both are principal officers in the federal parliament, they have bestridden the legislature like giants for more than a decade, remaining stabilizing forces on account of their profound and intellectual input into the legislative process and governance.
For the second time, both are pushing to be Senate President and Speaker respectively. While Lawan is rallying support to take over from Bukola Saraki, Gbajabiamila wants to succeed Yakubu Dogara. Their efforts at clinching the seats in June 2015 at the commencement of the 8th National assembly landed them in the position of majority leader. Now the 9th Assembly is unfolding with poise, they are on the march again saturated with greater experience, more vigour and enhanced vision to revitalize the parliament for greater results and outputs
Evidently, the duo are most suitable for the positions they have expressed interest for. Drawing on my 20-year stint and experience in the National Assembly with a break between 2011-2015 and having worked in various positions with different presiding officers of the House, I am well-positioned to make fair, objective and logical assessment about them. This is more so, as I have followed their first-rate legislative records for almost two decades. It is therefore unassailable and incontrovertible that currently the two are the best choices of the members, if they desire accomplished and erudite hands to lead them resourcefully and robustly in the next four years.
However, in the last 20 years, Nigerian democracy and the legislature have witnessed for the first time since the history of the country unbroken chain of existence. As the parliament is about to begin a new decade and realizing that the legislature is the bedrock of democracy it is compelling for it to move into the era rejuvenated and determined to fast-track national development through concrete legislative agenda and actions. The two chambers therefore require forward-looking, visionary, focused and proactive leadership to drive the process. For a great number of parliamentary watchers, Lawan and Gbajebiamila are the leaders most desirable for the new epoch National Assembly.
A closer look at the remarkable pedigree, uncommon legislative record, appreciable character and deep academic background of Lawan and Gbajabiamila further substantiate my strong and well-based case for them. Since 1999 when Senator Lawan was elected into the House to represent Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency, Yobe State, he has excelled enormously in legislative business
Lawan is one of the few legislators who have enjoyed consistent re-election into the National Assembly. Since 1999, he has enjoyed uninterrupted re-elections. The result is that he was a two-time member of the House, and from June 11 this year, a four-time member of the Senate. As at today, Lawan has had 20 years straight stint in the National Assembly. This is instructive of his effective representation, results-oriented and selfless touch with his people and significant legislative governance
When Lawan arrived in the National Assembly in 1999, he came well made, clearly prepared. With a doctorate degree in Remote Sensing; as well as political party administration experience, great vision, commitment to legislative business and outspokenness, he was able to make his mark within a short period of time in the House.
In spite of being in opposition at that time, having been elected on the platform of the then All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), he was one of those who constituted the former Speaker Ghali Na’Abba’s think tank and intellectual team.
Imbued with the legislative experience, he amassed from the House, he came into the Senate in 2007 like a colossus. He was elected to represent Yobe North senatorial district. He has since remained one of the senators who have provided direction and stability through scholarly and lucid contributions on the floor of the Senate. His views are usually robust and respected by his colleagues and the successive Senate presidents
His outstanding performance in the Senate earned him the headship of the intricate Senate Public Accounts Committee for eight years and membership of the Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review. As Public Accounts Committee head, he has continually taken on the executive to instill fiscal discipline and to work out a framework to scale down public waste.
Lawan’s ultimate goal is to ensure transparency and accountability in the oil industry, being the bastion of the nation’s revenue generation. He notes, “I want to see an oil industry that is very transparent; as crystal transparent as possible, where revenues and resources generated are known to citizens.”
Similarly, for 12 years Gbajabiamila was in the House on the opposition platform. He provided credible and bold alternative views. As a minority leader he threw up effective leadership that translated into a united, cohesive and virile base. As Majority Leader for four years he forged a unifying and rallying point for all the legislators including those in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He pursued a vibrant and accountable legislature and legislative process.
It is evident that Lawan and Gbajabiamila are infused with desirable integrity, practical legislative experience, intellect and remarkable parliamentary leadership qualities needed to effectively lead the National Assembly into the new decade for far-reaching positive impact on national development.
Jamu, a policy analyst writes from Abuja