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9th House: Meet Gbajabiamila’s men (and women)

Newly elected Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila (2nd right) takes his oath of office before the clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori (right), during the inauguration of the 9th House of Representatives, in Abuja yesterday. With them is the Director-General, Gbajabiamila’s Speakership Campaign Group, Rep. Abdulmunini Jubrin (2nd left) and others

With the election of Femi Gbajabiamila as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, our correspondent peeps into the future of the 9th House, and some lawmakers who would likely run the show under him because of the roles they played, directly or indirectly in his emergence.

The change of leadership in the House of Representatives from Yakubu Dogara (PDP, Bauchi) to former House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), has no doubt, altered the power equation in the Green Chamber.

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As with every new administration, a fresh set of lawmakers have lined up in the contest of who gets what in the House in the next four years.

These vigorous gladiators, called “Gbajabiamila’s boys” cut across party lines in the lower chamber, and include men and women who have invested time and energy to ensure the triumph of the fifth term Lagos lawmaker against his main challenger, Umaru Bago (APC, Niger).

It would be recalled that the new speaker had, during campaigns and in his maiden inaugural address, pledged to run an all inclusive and reformed 9th House, which would carry everyone along, including the opposition.

“This delicate balance must be struck, and it is absolutely important for nation building as a joint task since the opposition has a critical role to play in the 9th Assembly,” he assured.

But even at that, Daily Trust gathered that, just like the Orwellian principle, some lawmakers will certainly be more equal than others in the sharing of principal positions, as well as appointments to juicy committees in the 9th House, a source who pleaded anonymity said.

The exception, however, are such committees statutorily reserved for minority parties in the lower house, such as the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

James Faleke (APC, Lagos)

The Kogi-born Lagos lawmaker is not only Gbajabiamila’s right hand man but also a core follower of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.

As expected, Faleke featured prominently during the speakership campaign that brought Gbajabiamila to office as speaker.

As such, those in the know opine that the ranking lawmaker would be rewarded for his loyalty and steadfastness when the standing committees are constituted.

However, Faleke, who comes from the same South West as the speaker, is not expected to land any of the principal positions yet to be filled.

Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano)

Apart from being the Director-General of the Gbajabiamila/Wase Campaign Council, Jibrin, the “Mr Fix it” of the 9th House is no doubt one of those who will run the show in the lower chamber in the next four years, all things being equal.

The calculation is that if the position of House Leader eludes him, he is sure to head the influential House Committee on Appropriations, which he briefly occupied in the 8th House before he fell out with the former speaker, Yakubu Dogara, over budget padding. Yet, while some argue that the three-term lawmaker, despite his reach and sagacity, will not be a good fit to head the Appropriations Committee for lack of financial background, others believe that loyalty, rather than expertise, counts most.

Alhassan Doguwa (APC, Kano)

A notable grassroots politician, Doguwa, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, and has been re-elected since 2007, was one of the powerful forces behind Gbajabiamila’s emergence as speaker. He was the immediate past Chief Whip of the 8th House, and is well-placed to emerge as House Leader in the 9th House, especially given his political clout, influence and popularity with the lawmakers.

Mustapha Dawaki (APC, Kano)

Like Doguwa, Dawaki, who is also from Kano State, is strongly in the contest for the House Majority Leader. A financial expert and immediate past chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the 8th House, Dawaki is Gbajabiamila’s man. According to knowledgeable sources, the three-term lawmaker is sure to retain the Appropriations Committee under worst-case scenario.

Ali Monguno (APC, Borno)

This ranking lawmaker was one of the most consistent voices in the 8th House, not only for the APC caucus but also for the entire House. He is also Gbajabiamila’s man, in terms of loyalty and support. Sources believe that the efforts of the Borno lawmaker, who was lined up by the APC as deputy speaker to Gbajabiamila in the ill-fated 2015 bid, would certainly be rewarded this time.

Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa)

The immediate past spokesman and image-maker of the 8th House and frontline contender for speaker in the 9th House, was persuaded to step down for Gbajabiamila under an undisclosed deal.

Until then, Namdas, although of the ruling APC, may not be said to be Gbajabiamila’s man, however, with the new deal on the table, Daily Trust gathered that the young Adamawa lawmaker hopes to move from the Media Committee to something higher.

Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia)

Like Namdas, Onyejeocha also stepped down for Gbajabiamila at the last minute of the speakership race under undisclosed terms.

Thus, sources say if the South East is to be considered in the allocation of principal offices in the 9th House, this fourth term most ranking APC lawmaker from the zone stands a good chance to emerge either as the House Leader or Chief Whip. Besides, the clamour for gender balance in the House leadership makes her chances brighter.

Linda Ikpeazu (PDP, Anambra)

The Anambra lawmaker was one of the earliest PDP supporters of Gbajabiamila’s speakership campaign. Aside party affiliation, she was consistent in the tedious campaign tours across the geopolitical zones of the country, and will very likely land committee chairmanship when constituted.

Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau)

This PDP lawmaker and advocate of more women’s inclusion in sensitive leadership positions of the 9th House never hid her support for the Gbajabiamila/Wase joint ticket.

Apart from unalloyed allegiance, the immediate past chairman of the Science and Technology Committee in the 8th House is set to reap from what some of her colleagues described as “superlative performance” in her past role.

Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo (APC, Ondo)

This first term lawmaker from Ondo State and chairman of the Forum of First Term Lawmakers is a core Gbajabiamila man. His forum of first-termers was an influential powerhouse that passionately championed the speakership campaign. Although unranked, he is sure to play a role in the 9th House.

Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom)

Like Tunji-Ojo, this immediate past speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly was the engine room that spearheaded the Gbajabiamila/Wase campaign in the South South zone. Of the PDP, Luke’s early endorsement of the APC candidate perhaps put the PDP caucus in the House in a difficult position that they never recovered from until Tuesday’s decisive election of Gbajabiamila as speaker.

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