House of Representatives Leader Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday announced his plan to run for Speaker.
The lawmaker, representing Surulere I Federal Constituency, Lagos State, said in Abuja that he was joining the race as a “beacon of hope”.
The fifth-term House member, who is of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), also ran for the position in 2015. He lost to incumbent Yakubu Dogara.
With its overwhelming majority in the Green Chamber, the APC is expected to produce the speaker.
According to the lawmaker, he is contesting as “a symbol of encouragement and point of contact for the many young men and women out there who believe that with hard work and commitment, whatever the mind can conceive is possible”.
He is contesting for speaker to bring government closer to the people and to “galvanise federal lawmakers to make life more abundant for Nigerians”.
Gbajabiamila said: “We are not where we ought to be, considering the abundance of talents and the blessings from God. However, I am rest assured that slowly but surely we will get there.
“It is because of this unshakeable belief in the potential and genius of Nigeria and the majesty of our democracy that I, today, after wide consultations with my colleagues, friends, family, party and stakeholders and in total submission to the will of God, formally declare my intention to seek the position of the office of the speaker of the Ninth Assembly and offer my service to the nation in this capacity.
“With all sense of humility, I seek this office with a rich legislative background and pedigree and having just won a historic fifth term mandate to the House. I have in the last 16 years dedicated my life to the service of my constituents and Nigeria.
“I have studied and understood the intricate workings of the legislature, a critical arm of government and I have come to understand the imperative of striking a delicate balance in the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government without compromising the latter‘s independence.”
Gbajabiamila’s ambition is believed to be enjoying the support of the APC leadership and that of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Gbajabiamila said he will engender the relationship between executive and legislature without surrendering the independence of the latter.
He said: “Having been in opposition and moved to majority places me in a unique position to know the workings of both and that’s what I bring to the table.
“I did my best to stabilise the House and know how legislature can maximise potentials, that is why the theme: ‘Nation building, a joint task’. The Speaker must be for the people to fulfil their hopes and aspirations, he said.
Abdulmumin Jibrin, the Campaign Director-General, said Gbajabiamila’s ambition is not about himself but about “our democracy sanitising, civility and global best practice”.
According to him, the party must be supreme as practised in advance democracies.
He said: “We rely on the advice of the party, not peculiar to us alone, but why is it that when it comes to us we are not likely to follow? We must bring back the practice.
“Without being immodest, he (Gbajabiamila) stands out the best. He has experience, brilliance, astuteness, building relationships, bridges etc. We will not take things for granted because within and without, others are interested.
Jibrin said that Gbajabiamila’s Campaign Organisation “won’t throw muds, no rumours, no blackmail; we plead, for the interest of the country and we’ll run a clean and issue-based campaign.
“Since everyone is qualified, we will lobby and campaign and win hearts. How do you explain a minority aspiring to be speaker? What if a majority party vied for minority leadership, sponsored and supported by us, how would it be?
“But we’ll engage them and a large number of them are convinced that today, they may be in minority but tomorrow night be in the majority. So, they’ll reason for the need to protect the institution.
“They should come and join us and I guarantee Gbaja will be a Speaker for all and ensure the independence and interdependence of the legislature,” Jibrin said.
Da’u Aliyu Magaji, who moderated the event, said that over 170 members across party lines from the House attended the event.
Many members, including former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and member-elect from Yobe State, Hajia Khadijah Abba-Ibrahim, attended.
The former minister said: “We are compliant. To me, whatever the party asks us to do stands because party supremacy supersedes anything personal.
“This man has shown himself that indeed there is no other deserving lawmaker. I appeal to my colleagues to support the party’s decision over his candidacy.”
Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) said Nigeria is at a critical stage and members should consider issues and national interest.
The opposition lawmaker said: “I can’t see any other lawmaker more qualified than him in the House. He knows the job and is a fair minded person, a networker. I’ll be with him all through.”
Hassan Ado Doguwa, the Chief Whip of the House, described Jibrin, who is Gbajabiamila’s Director-General as the “game changer”.
He noted that he (Jibrin) was a figure that was not totally reckoned with in 2015.
“He is a button we didn’t press well in 2015. This is an upright decision by the party as Femi has always played a key role in managing the affairs of the National Assembly.
“He is an experienced lawmaker and a team player. When looked from afar, he looks terrible but very simple when you move close.”
He urged his colleagues to work for the success of the project as Gbajabiamila will be a Speaker for all.
Ismaila Kawu, a former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Repsentatives), was among those who testified to Gbajabiamila’s competence.