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NGOs Back Betara’s House Speakership Ambition

NGOs Back Betara’s House Speakership Ambition

Juliet Akoje writes that some political Non Governmental Organisations are already canvassing for the emergence of Hon Muktar Aliyu Betara as Speaker of the 10th National Assembly

the speakership race for the 10th House of Representatives is gathering momentum following the zoning arrangement announced last week by the national leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The party had zoned speakership slot to the North – West region with Abass Tajudeen from Kaduna State as the anointed candidate while deputy speakership position was zoned to the South-East with Benjamin Okezie Kalu from Abia State as the preferred candidate.

The sharing formula by the APC seems not to sit well with some  lawmakers who have openly rejected it. The situation has led to alignments and realignments among members.

Expectedly, civil society groups have  intensified their campaigns for the need for an independent legislature.

While reacting to the zoning formula espoused by the APC National Working Committee, seven notable aspirants under the aegis of G7 platform outrightly vowed to disobey the APC leadership as they are set to announce their preferred candidate for the position.

More so, Director General, Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Dr. Nwambu Gabriel, bared his mind on the matter, stating that merchants of anti-democratic forces were hiding under the guise of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to perpetrate selfish biddings which clearly is inimical to the nation’s democracy.

Gabriel appealed to Senator Tinubu to tow the line of honour and provide a level-playing ground for the legislators to exercise their function as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said: “Monday, the 8” of May 2023 was climaxed by a melancholy alleged to have emanated from the National Working Committee (NWC) of a political party, allotting some principal positions in the Senate and House of Representatives to some individuals.

“This announcement has been hit by swift resistance from most members-elect of the 10th National Assembly as they believe that such announcement amounts to an imposition of candidates thereby usurping the powers of the parliament, undermining its sovereignty and independence of the legislature.

“Those who crafted the word democracy and indeed separation of powers wanted to have an independent arm of government called the legislature for the purpose of providing ‘checks and balances’ in such a manner to avoid the concentration of powers in one body as this would lead to usurp of powers and consequently degenerate to dictatorship, tyranny and operation”.

He argued that “the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 As Amended) is superior to every other document including the Senate and House Rules respectively. Section 50 (1a) and (1b) is simple, unambiguous and clear.

“This states that ‘there shall be (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.

“This simply implies that any other person or persons or group of persons nominating the principal officers of both houses other than the representatives themselves is null, void and unconstitutional, therefore, amounts to an aberration which tantamount to usurping the powers of the legislators thereby exposing the fragile democracy of Nigeria to jeopardy.

“We can not be talking about a ‘New Nigeria’, where things are done the right way and we are still seeing the imposition of candidates in our legislators principal offices.

“If the President-elect wants to win the support and interest of Nigerians, then he should be seen to be doing things differently from the old ways to a new Nigeria.”

Gabriel, however, noted that the Coalition has been oserving with keen interest the horse-trading, lobbying and power play associated with the election of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10” National Assembly respectively.

Also, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase and the Majority Leader, Hon. Alhasan Doguwa outrightly rejected the consensus arrangement announced by the party.

Consequently, the National Working Committee of the ruling  All Progressives Congress (APC) had, through the Chairman of the Party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu admitted that adequate consultation on the zoning of national assembly leadership positions was not done.

Political pundits have stressed that the importance of the legislature in a democratic system cannot be overemphasized; which is why it requires its autonomy with courageous, disciplined and skilled legislatures to drive home the vision of the country.

They contended that any attempt to usurp the right of members-elect to determine the trajectory of the 10th House stands against not only the democratic principle of separation of powers, but also the arguments for an open field in the APC presidential primaries that produced Tinubu.

In the mid of the APC internal wrangling, scores of former members and members-elect have endorsed Muktar Aliyu Betara as they described him as a distinguished bridge builder, taciturn strategist and team worker.

They recalled how he perished his ambition in 2019 to support the current speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila. At that time, the party left the door open for all to run that was why Hon. Bago from the North Central ran in a position that should have been exclusively for the South West.

Betara, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations is regarded as the ‘Prince of the House of Reps’, is self-effacing, deliberate, goal-oriented with deep legislative pedigree having being first elected in 2007 to represent Biu/Bayo/Shani federal constituency of Borno state.

Widely perceived as the man of the people, Betara has exceeded expectations in his constituency in terms of constituency projects execution, empowerment and effective representation.

Little wonder that his constituents returned him to continue his impressive legislative duties for an unprecedented fifth term. His fellow lawmakers agree across party lines that he epitomizes intelligence, capacity and foresight in his legislative duties.

At a time such as this that requires officers of deep legislative experience and teamwork, Betara fits the credentials and more to be the  10th House of Representatives Speaker for the greater good of the party and the nation at large.

And for the country to have a new direction, then we need a Speaker with inherent legislative qualities such as  Betara that can work with the new government in a manner that does not border on compromise, but respect, integrity and democratic values of progress, growth and good laws for our country as described by his colleagues.

Betara who was born on November 22, 1966 in Biu, Borno State after his post secondary education joined the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) in 1995 where he worked till 2006.

He sought a new challenge which saw him delving into politics and was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives in 2007 to represent the good people of Biu/Bayo/Kwaya-Kusar and Shani Federal Constituency of Borno State.

While serving in the Green Chambers, Betara distinguished himself as not just an egghead but also cock-of–the-walk among his equals which saw him heading several House Committees and also serving as a member in others.

He was Chairman Sub-committee on NDIC-Banking and Currency between 2007 and 2011, Chairman Sub Committee on Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office (CIPPO) between 2007 and 2011, Chairman House Committee on Army between 2011 and 2015, Chairman House Committee on Defence from 2015 to 2019 and Chairman House Committee on Appropriations from 2019 to date.

It wasn’t surprising that he went ahead to trail-blaze while serving in these capacities. Worthy of note was his ability to galvanize members of the House in facilitating the return of Federal Government Budget cycle to 1st January ending 31st December of the year. It was a feat unheard of in the annals of participatory democracy since 1999.

As a politician with a deep grassroot base, he has impacted positively on his constituents through provision of employment and various empowerment initiatives for Women and Youths.

Betara is also an apostle of developmental governance as exemplified by his commitment to Health care delivery, Education, Social/National security and Equal opportunities for all.

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