BY OBUTE JAMES
The 10th National Assembly was inaugurated on Tuesday 13th June, 2023. The Nigeria legislature consists of two chambers, the Senate (109 Senators) and House of Representatives (360 Members). The legislature at the state level is unicameral while National Assembly serves as parliament for Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The political atmosphere was charged prior to the election of the principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly. However, at the Senate, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio was elected President of the Senate having polled 63 votes to defeat his rival, a former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulazeez Yari who got 46 votes. The former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jubrin Barau emerged as Deputy Senate President. In the House of Representatives, Dr. Tajudeen Abbas, Ph.D got 353 votes to emerge the winner while two other contestants, former Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase and Sani Jaji, polled three votes each.
In his acceptance speech, the House of Representatives Speaker, Rt. Hon. Abbas pledged that the 10th House of Representatives under his watch will not only sustain but will surpass the gains of the Ninth House of Representatives. He said he will work with members to introduce reforms and innovations for the benefit of Nigerians.
The Speaker noted that they will work closely and interdependently with the executive and judiciary arms to give Nigerians the good governance they deserve.
“We stand at a crucial juncture in our nation’s history, where challenges abound, but so do opportunities. We will champion legislation that will uplift the lives of our fellow citizens, promote social justice, and drive sustainable development.
“We will focus on strengthening our security apparatus, collaborating with relevant stakeholders to combat insurgency, terrorism, and all forms of criminalities. We aim to help create a safe and secure environment that fosters economic growth and social stability,” he said.
Abbas who said he is not unaware of the challenges in education, healthcare and infrastructure sectors, amongst others, noted that they will work in harmony with the executive arm while upholding the principles of checks and balances and that their collaboration will be anchored on the principles of transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law in order to achieve the desired results.
Different people in different leadership positions use different leadership styles in order to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives. Some of these leadership styles include autocratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, democratic /participative, transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles. Others include people-oriented or relations-oriented, servant, task-oriented and transformational leadership styles. The emphasis here is not explanation of these leadership styles and which among them the Speaker, Abbas uses, however, the focus is how he uses eclectic or combination of these leadership styles in an attempt to reshape or change certain norms or tradition in the Nigerian parliament.
While in the previous assemblies winners seemed to take all, in the present House of Representatives under Dr. Abbas, people from different backgrounds, irrespective of political parties, tribes and religions were brought on board. These were visible in his appointments and delegation of authority.
Constitution of 7 Ad hoc Committees within 72 Hours of 10th National Assembly:
Within 72 hours after taking the oath of office and allegiance, Abbas constituted seven ad hoc committees to run the affairs of the House. These committees took care of the House’s affairs until the announcement and constitution of the standing committees. The 7 ad hoc committees constituted on Thursday 15th June, 2023 include Internal Security, led by Mohammed Danjuma Hassan (NNPP, Kano), his deputy Alao Ayodeji (APC ,Oyo); Selection Committee headed by the Speaker himself and Deputy Speaker, Rt. Benjamin Kalu while state caucuses presented one nominee each and Media and Publicity chaired by Khadija Bukar Abba (APC, Yobe), Ikenga Ugo Chinyere (PDP, Imo) deputy chairman. Others include Legislative Agenda – Prof. Julius Ihonbvare (APC Edo); Rules & Business – Igariwe Iduma (PDP, Ebonyi); Ethics and Privileges – Abdulraheem Olawuyi (APC, Kwara) and Welfare Committee – Wale Raji (APC, Lagos).
Unveiling of Principal Officers
On Tuesday July 4, 2023 the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas unveiled the eight principal officers. They include Hon. Julius Ihonvbere (Edo) as the House Majority Leader and Hon. Usman Kumo (Gombe) as Chief Whip; Hon. Halims Abdulahi (Kogi) as Deputy Majority Leader and Hon. Oriyomi Onanuga (Ogun) as the Deputy Chief Whip; Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) Minority Leader and Hon. Ali Isah (Gombe) Minority Whip; Madaki Aliyu (NNPP, Kano) Deputy Minority Leader and George Adegeye (LP, Lagos), Deputy Minority Whip.
Unveiling of Six-point Legislative Agenda
On Monday 24 July, 2023 the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas unveiled six-point Legislative Agenda. “Healthcare for All” is one of its legislative agenda items.
This was unveiled on Monday during a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja on the development of the legislative agenda.
In a statement during a stakeholders’ meeting, Majority Leader Julius Ihonvbere said the pillars of the legislative agenda will focus on the economy, human capital development, education, accountability, and security; On “healthcare for all,” he said the legislature will ensure an increment in allocation to the health and education sectors.
The pillars of the proposed legislative agenda according to him include economic empowerment and diversification, infrastructure development, education and human capital development, healthcare for all, transparent governance and accountability, and the security and safety of persons and properties.
Announcement & Constitution of Standing Committees
Some analysts and political commentators prior to the announcement and constitution of the standing committees argued that it will result into serious crisis that will probably affect the business of the House under the leadership of Abbas. However, both the acclaimed foes and allies of the Speaker, Abbas seemed to be properly captured in the appointment of the chairmanship of these committees. Similarly, lawmakers from other political parties apart from the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC were carried along in the appointment of chairmen and deputy chairmen of both the statutory and standing committees of the House.
On Thursday July 27, 2023 before proceeding on annual break, the House Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas announced and constituted these committees.
Before making the announcement, Abbas abrogated the term “juicy” or “grade A” committees. He appealed to the lawmakers to accept the appointments as a “fair and just” list.
“My dear Colleagues, you would recall that the leadership of the House has consistently assured Members of its resolve to be fair to all, irrespective of political leanings and affiliations.
“There are no grade ‘A’ nor the so-called ‘juicy committees’ as some erroneously often think. Every committee of the House enjoys equal status, powers and privileges as mere working groups to discharge the mandate given to us by our constituents,” the Speaker said.
Former Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, Yusuf Gagdi and Musa Betara, all of who aspired to the speakership seat against Abbas are among those heading the committees. Gagdi, Betara, former Leader of the House, Alhassan Doguwa and Abubakar Makki Yalleman later withdrew from the race. Wase (APC, Plateau) heads Federal Character; Betara (APC, Borno), Federal Capital Territory; Doguwa (APC, Kano), Petroleum (Upstream) and Yalleman (APC Jigawa) heads Police Affairs Committee.
In an attempt to be fair to all irrespective of political parties in line with his campaign and acceptance speech, Abbas ensured all the political parties were captured in the appointment of the chairmen of the committees. The ruling APC got the highest number of chairmanship positions with 80 lawmakers; 39 PDP lawmakers chair committees, while six chairmen are members of NNPP and six from the Labour Party (LP). The Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Peoples Party (YPP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) got one committee chairman each.
Halt to Flamboyant Birthday Celebration
In the past, some public figures sometime chattered aircrafts to celebrate birthday abroad. However, in a dramatic move, few days to his birthday the Speaker, Abbas urged that all funds meant to commemorate his birthday be used for charity. He stated that no one should place adverts or organise any social event to commemorate his birthday.
The Speaker took to his X account on Thursday 29 September, 2023 to make the call, while stressing on the country’s current challenges and the need to ensure that the country’s limited funds are judiciously used.
The statement read, “Call to Refrain from Adverts’ Placements, Other Activities in Honour of my Birthday. I kindly request that those planning to place congratulatory adverts on the pages of newspapers, TV stations, or any other paid platform(s) for my birthday on the 1st of October, should refrain from doing so, in view of the current situation in the country and in line with prudent management of the meager resources at our disposal.”
“Also, those planning to buy gifts, organize receptions, or any form of event to celebrate my birthday are requested to refrain from such. Instead, funds meant for all of the above should be properly channeled for charity. Once again, I appreciate everyone for their well wishes and prayers at this moment,” he said.
More about the Speaker, Abbas in respect of his leadership qualities and styles will continue to unfold in the life of the 10th House of Representatives.