Today is exactly one month that Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila emerged as the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives in a grand style. When the 358 members of the House out of the 360 members provided for in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) gathered on June 11, 2019 during the auspicious and historic inauguration of the 9th House, they made no mistake in deciding who will lead them.
In taking that decision, 281 members of the House, which represents 78 percent of the members present at the inauguration voted for the Speaker in an unprecedented manner. But immediately after his emergence, the Speaker, as someone who knows his onions in legislative business and how to lead people, made it clear that he would be the Speaker for the entire 360 members of the House irrespective of party affiliations.
To buttress his point, the Speaker made good his promise contained in his campaign slogan ‘Nation Building: A Joint Task’ by displaying behind the Speaker’s chair the bold logo depicting the task ahead and how members of the House, with their parties’ logos, will together join hands to build the Nigerian nation as far as legislation is concerned in the next four years.
The Speaker has so far lived up to his pledge and all expectations by carrying everybody among his colleagues along, including those that were perceived to be against him, in all his dealings so far in the last one month. Not only that, Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila has so far proven that he is a listening leader with the way he pays attention and listens to his colleagues.
Since his emergence, the Speaker does not mince words wherever he goes. His single biggest appeal so far has been that ‘The job of making Nigeria better in the House of Representatives is for us all irrespective of our party affiliations.’ This message has resonated well in the minds of all members of the House as every one of them has already keyed into the project of making Nigeria better.
Part of the reforms that Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila promised was to ensure the full introduction of e-voting during plenary of the House where every member would vote on issues electronically so that Nigerians would see where each member stands on when voting on any national issue as is the practice in serious Parliaments all over the world.
In matching his words with action, Gbajabiamila did not only ensure the use of electronic voting in the House, he did so within just three weeks.
On Tuesday, July 2, Speaker Gbajabiamila announced at plenary during the resumption of members from their break that the House would commence electronic voting the following day. The e-voting system would also allow for e-chamber attendance register for members.
“The e-voting system will not be applied on all bills and motion but some selected national issues for accuracy,” the Speaker said.
In keeping with that promise, on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 the House commenced a test-run of the e-voting platform provided for in the chamber. This was achieved in less than a month.
Another aspect of the reforms was the announcement made by the Speaker that lawmakers, their aides, support staff, among others could access WiFi from any location within the House premises to enable them carry out any form of research on the Internet without much hassle.
Mr. Speaker also promised that the House would provide a veritable ground for the review of Nigeria’s electoral laws in view of the lapses observed in the existing legislation. The Speaker made the promise when the EU Observer Mission for the 2019 general elections presented its report to him on June 18.
The Speaker has since set the machinery for achieving that in place, and very soon Nigerians will see the pragmatic reviews that the Electoral Act will undergo in the 9th House of Representatives under Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
Just last Saturday, the Speaker led the Federal Government’s delegation that cheered the Super Eagles to a historic victory over the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) taking place in Egypt.
The Speaker led top government officials to that trip, including Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and others . Their presence boosted the morale of the Super Eagles players who did not waste time in defeating their opponents in the presence of the Number 4 Citizen.
As part of keeping up with his promise of leading a united 9th House of Representatives, the Speaker on Tuesday demonstrated courage and uncommon leadership style when he pleaded with his colleagues that raised a valid point against Hon. Mark Gbillah from Benue State, who made several scathing comments on both print and electronic media against the House and some individual members. Whilst also put it out clearly to his colleagues, his tilt in adherence to the Rule book guiding activities of the House. That singular action of the Speaker, exhibited in the spirit of oneness, saved the member from being referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House, which, if found wanting, may make recommendations of sanctions against him.
Less than two weeks after his emergence as Speaker, the Lagos State Government and indeed the Lagos people rolled out the drums in celebrating this celebral Lawmaker Per Excellence. It was a memorable gathering to show support for the Speaker as he matches on as the Number 4 Citizen in the next four years.
In the aftermath of the protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shiites, which resulted in some security men sustaining various degrees of injury, Gbajabiamila suspended all that he was doing to visit the victims at the National Assembly clinic.
He did so in company of the Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase and several members of the House. This, by no means, is a way of showing compassion to the victims, appreciating their job and giving them hope at the same time.
The Speaker addressed the country on the imperativeness of changing the budget cycle of Nigeria. Gbajabiamila requested for quick submission of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF by the Presidency to enable the President lay the 2020 national budget by September, 2019 , consequently Gbajabiamila assured the country of the readiness of the House under his watch to pass the budget by December 2019 for the 2020 Appropriation Act to take effect from January 1, 2020. A very historic move to revamp the economy and policy direction of Nigeria.
If the Rt. Hon. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila was able to achieve all of this in just 30 days, Nigerians could relax and enjoy the ride in the next four years as their 360 Representatives are determined to work for them in all ramifications with the lawmaker representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the saddle.
Olanrewaju Smart, wrote from Abuja.