By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Next month kick-starts a remarkable political encore for two of the country’s foremost parliamentarians. Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of the House of Representatives and former Speaker Aminu Bello Masari will become the first presiding officers of the House ever to become governors.
The two men also share the uncommon virtue of having presided over the most stable chambers of the House of Representatives in the Fourth Republic. Speaker Masari was the first and only one to complete a four-year stint as a speaker without being removed from office. Tambuwal, however, would miss that mark by a few days as he would be sworn in as governor of Sokoto State few days to reaching the four year mark.
All other presiding officers of the House had their stewardships truncated or were called in to complete the tenure earlier commenced by someone else.
The first speaker of the House in the Fourth Republic, Alhaji Salisu Buhari was forced out of office after only few months in office and was replaced by Alhaji Ghali Na‘abba who completed the tenure of the House. Na‘abba’s bid to return to office was swallowed in deep political intrigues as he lost the main election after easily winning the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP ticket. It was widely alleged that his party worked against him in the election as it was claimed that the leadership of the party did not want him back in the House as a punishment for the troubles he caused to President Olusegun Obasanjo in the first term.
In his place, Masari from Katsina State emerged as speaker. Masari rode out controversies that emerged towards the end of his tenure after he made a bid for the governorship of his state on the platform of the PDP.
His bold attempt, however, ended in a political calamity as he was reportedly schemed out by the then governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Umaru Yar‘adua. A bitter Masari took his own pound of flesh when he openly sided with Governor Peter Odili against Governor Yar‘adua in the presidential primaries of the PDP. His bid failed and it was not surprising that after Yar‘adua emerged as president of the country that he went into near political oblivion.
Following the death of Yar‘adua there were reports of him trying to emerge among the reformists group in the PDP but their efforts were largely ignored by President Goodluck Jonathan who eventually sided with the powerful gang of governors who wanted a sustenance of the status quo. In apparent frustration, Masari crossed over to team up with General Muhammadu Buhari and became fanatically involved in the movement to enthrone Buhari as president on the platform of the newly registered Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
He also aspired to the governorship of Katsina State on the platform of CPC, however, his bid was swallowed up in the intra-party crisis that bedevilled the party in Katsina State. Senator Garba Lado, a one-time close associate of Yar‘adua who lost out in the PDP after the death of the president had muscled his way into the CPC leading to the party’s presentation of two slates of candidates for the governorship and National Assembly elections.
It was no surprise that in the general election that the divided ranks of the CPC lost the governorship of the state to Governor Ibrahim Shema of the PDP in 2011. Masari, however, abided and was able to weather the storm this time to emerge first as the APC candidate and then governor-elect.
Speaker Tambuwal’s road to the governorship of Sokoto was, however, not as troubled as Masari’s. Tambuwal’s emergence as governor-elect yesterday was shaped by many political intrigues weaved around a seeming romantic affection for one of the most energetic presiding officers of the Fourth Republic.
Tambuwal’s engagement with parliament ironically was helped by the man he defeated in the governorship contest last Saturday. Tambuwal had relocated from Sokoto to Abuja at the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to work as the senior legislative aide to Senator Abdallah Wali, the First Senate leader in 1999.
He remained in that office even after Wali took the unprecedented decision to resign as Senate Leader when Enwerem was removed from office despite the fact that, he Wali, was not indicted for any offence. Tambuwal remained in office until he decided to seek election to the House of Representatives in the Tambuwal Federal Constituency. His decision, however, stoked the beginning of his departure from the political path of Wali as he sought election on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
Tambuwal was the energetic legislator whose prospects for higher office were easy to decipher. In 2007 he again shifted allegiance to the PDP after the political meltdown of the ANPP in Sokoto State. He emerged as deputy whip of the House that same year despite being new in the PDP.
At the beginning of his third term in 2011, Tambuwal weaved a political alliance with PDP members in the House to frustrate the zoning permutation of his party and emerge speaker of the House despite the party’s preference for a candidate from the Southwest.
The party leadership apparently did not forgive him. Tambuwal’s tactful response to the hostility of the establishment was to endear himself to all House members creating one of the most stable chambers of the Fourth Republic. His diplomacy and discretion easily overwhelmed the subterfuges that laid against him. Last November, Tambuwal eventually sought political shelter in the newly created APC and became the first speaker of the House of Representatives in the Fourth Republic to have flown the flag of the PDP.
Vengance was quick in coming, but he weathered it all including a calculated attempt last year to fence him out from a House sitting last December. His security details were also withdrawn.
At a point as his popularity soared within and outside the House, Tambuwal became the focus of political pundits for the 2015 presidential contest and it was not surprising when more than two dozen House members bought the presidential form of the APC for him last November. However, in the end, with the Sokoto governorship zoned to him as a person by his benefactors in Sokoto, and with the party establishment determined to reap the benefits of the Buhari phenomenon, the speaker opted for Sokoto governorship.
Yesterday, his quest came to fruition to the consternation of his one-time mentor, Wali. But almost everyone who has felt the dexterity of Mr. Speaker knows that the Sokoto governorship is a stepping stone to further heights.