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Why South-East Deserves House Speakership

Why South-East Deserves House Speakership

Udora Orizu writes that the leadership of the All Progressive Congress should consider zoning the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South east zone in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness

As the race for National Assembly leadership kicks off, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to consider various factors before zoning the position of the Speaker of House of Representatives to a particular area in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.

With the issuance of the certificate of returns to the members-elect of the House of Representatives by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and a meeting between the lawmakers and President-elect, Bola Tinubu; his vice, Kashim Shettima; the race for the principal offices, particularly the Speaker, has begun, ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly on June 13.

Though Tinubu at the meeting said he has no preferred candidates for the leadership of the federal legislature, the party leadership while making decisions on zoning should display integrity, and also strike a balance in terms of geo-political representation in the leadership of the National Assembly. And to ensure this is achieved, the party should back calls for a South East Speakership.

This will not only address the issue of underrepresentation of the Igbo but would also send a message that the party is committed to ensuring that all the citizens are fairly represented.

Since the return of democratic rule in 1999, the Southeast geopolitical zone is yet to have the opportunity to produce a speaker of the House of Representatives, while almost all the other geo-political zones have held that position for several years.

From 1999 to 2007, the position of Speaker was zoned to the North West with SalisuBuhari, Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Aminu Bello Masari taking their turns.

From 2007 to 2011, the South West had it with Patricia Etteh and DimejiBankole presiding, while the position went back to the North West between 2011 and 2015, with AminuWaziriTambuwal presiding.

In 2015, the North East manned the affairs of the Green Chamber again with YakubuDogara as Speaker. By 2019, it returned to the South West again with the current speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

As the race for who will take Gbajabiamila’s seat in the 10th National Assembly has commenced, from established political norms and antecedents, in the spirit of natural justice and equity, the party should bequeath the Speakership of the House of Representatives to Southeast and when done, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, is the right man for the job.

The newly elected members of the green chamber from the six geo-political zones of the country should support the initiative by electing one of her own and member representing Bende federal constituency of Abia State, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, as Speaker.

Kalu who recently won his second term re-election bid was appointed Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs and official spokesperson of the Ninth House by the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

As Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, he launched the first ever magazine publication of the Assembly called, “The Green Chamber Magazine”, which, according to him, would be a tool of transparency for reporting all activities of the House.

In the past three years, his innovative approach towards legislative activities through bills and motions has ranked him as one of the top 10 members of the House by bill sponsorship.

He also attracted various projects to his Bende constituency including road rehabilitation, construction and  rehabilitation of schools and medical centres, and distribution of educational material.

As a first time legislator, he hit the ground running by moving the first motion of the 9th House.

He had since then sponsored several motions. One of his notable motions was the motion praying for the evacuation of Nigerians from China as Coronavirus spread from that country to other parts of the world.

Another notable motion, was the motion on the need for intervention in the public health crises of Tuberculosis in Nigeria.

Some other motions include: Motion on the Need to Suspend the Implementation of the Cashless Policy on Deposits by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Motion on the Urgent Need to Ensure Speedy Reconstruction of the AkanuIbiam International Airport Runway and Installation of Landing Aids, urgent Need to Combat Severe Landslide and Other Threatening Environmental Degradation in Alayi and Other Communities in Bende Federal Constituency, Need to investigate the Failure and Refusal of the Niger-Delta Development Commission to Submit its Budget Estimates for 2019 to the National Assembly for Approval.

The House Spokesman, has also sponsored over 40 bills. Some of the Bills include: Federal College of Education Bende, (Establishment,etc.) Bill 2020, Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (Amendment) Bill, Counterfeit Currency (Special Provisions) Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, Dangerous Drugs Act (Amendment) Bill 2020, Acts Authentication Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Nigerian Meteorological Agency Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Nigerian Communications Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Internal Loans (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development) Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Public Accounts Implementation Tribunal Act (Repeal) Bill 2019, Official Secrets Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, among others.

Throughout his political career, Kalu led by example, demonstrated integrity,  communicated effectively with his fellow lawmakers and the media. He empowered his constituents and has been a source of inspiration for those around him.

He served as the youngest local government chairman of Bende, Abia State at the age of thirty one. At thirty four years, he served as the senior special adviser to the then governor of Abia State Orji UzorKalu on local government and chieftaincy affairs, before becoming the senior special adviser to the governor on Millennium Development Goals and international relations.

Over the years, Kalu worked closely with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who’s known to have somewhat turned around the image of the parliament, given his timely and thoughtful interventions on some issues of national concern.

Kalu is competent, experienced and has proven to be capable of handling delicate and sensitive legislative assignments.

This thoroughbred legislator has paid his dues in the past fiur years, and having worked closely with Gbajabiamila, if elected Speaker, he would be able to deploy his experience to enact enabling laws aimed at tackling the multi-faceted problems bedeviling the country.

The south-easterners are rejoicing and happy that Hon. Benjamin Kalu is in the race for Speakership. He’s believed to be the right man to take over the baton from Gbajabiamila.

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