By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas is a ranking member of the House of Representatives from Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo federal constituency of Adamawa State. He is currently the spokesperson of the House. In this interview he spoke on why he is running for the speakership of the incoming 9th Assembly, saying that legislature/executive harmony is his priority.
What informed your decision to contest for the speakership of the House of Reps?
I have been a ranking member of the House of Reps, a member of the Pan African Parliament and served one time as the vice chairman of the caucus of the Pan African Parliament. I have got the necessary legislative experience. I am the spokesman of the House of Reps. It is not easy to speak on behalf of the House especially when we are having issues with the Nigerian public on the way they look at us as legislators. To have navigated all these without issues shows that if I become the speaker, I will invest seriously in this image issue.
If I am elected as a speaker I will make sure that we are on the same page with the executive without necessarily compromising our independence as a legislature because the entire thing about legislature is the lobby. So we would tell the executives since we are in the majority if you have something tell us beforehand, we will lobby our colleagues that are in the opposition to support some of those laudable projects of the government and together we would be able to achieve a lot.
Last time you said that you are nobody’s anointed, you are running on your own and you have the people with you. How much of this contact among your colleagues have you made?
Truly speaking, nobody is sponsoring me to be a speaker. I am the speaker of the people and I have decided to come out on my own, to tell my colleagues that if you want to have the independence of the legislature, the person that will emerge at the end of the day to be speaker is going to be among us and you have to concentrate this discussion on the people you are going to lead. Of course, you will also speak with your party but the thing is that once you emerge as speaker, everybody will leave you; how you are able to manage your colleagues and the multitask is where the politics of the legislature is.
The party has zoned the Senate presidency to your zone, North-East; do you think you still stand a chance?
The more the merrier. I am not a senator but a member of the House of Reps. The zoning I am talking about is the one that affects my house as a person. Even if I eventually continue, I am not the only person contesting and I think even if the Senate president is zoned to the North-East, we are happy that we have number three, but I am not sure there are unopposed candidates, he or one other person may be contesting. So, if on account that it is zoned to my side and I refuse to contest, what happens if the person goes to the polls and didn’t make it? We will lose everything? So if he gets it I am happy that we have number three and if I get it, then we have more because it is an election, it is not an appointment.
My interaction with my party officials is that they are going to be fair in their decision and I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, I have no reason to doubt their fairness. I am very serious about my aspiration.
If the party approaches you and asks you to settle for another position instead of a speaker, will you do so?
The election is what you think you can afford and for now, I believe I can lead the House and let us get to the river before we cross it. The national chairman of your party said PDP is inconsequential, you can do your elections and leaders emerge without their input…
The national chairman is a politician and we are politicians and sometimes we make some of these statements to see how we can keep and motivate our members. But I think right now when you become speaker certainly you cannot work in isolation, you have to work with everybody, in fact not only PDP, there are other parties in the House as well, everybody matters. The last time Dogara won the election it was with just eight votes. Of course, we are looking at the majority that we are and I believe that the majority is good for us but everybody should run in a manner that you will be happy with everybody because we all are equal.
Conventionally, the majority party has always produced the speaker of the House and Deputy speaker but we saw things change in 2015 in the Senate; the provision of the law says that members of both chambers shall elect for themselves leaders and it was not narrowed to a political party.
What does this mean to you?
It is not a constitutional matter, the law doesn’t stop anybody from contesting but the truth is that we are not independent candidates. We contested under a platform of a political party and it has been a convention all through that if you enjoy such majority in the house at least it is your member that should produce the speaker or the Senate president. So, I think for the good of the parliament, even the opposition with the numbers we have today, it is only fair that we are allowed to produce a leader and when we produce that leader, it is also fair on the part of the leader to carry everybody on board because that is what leadership is all about.
What is your assessment of 2019 elections?
There is actually room for improvement because they have tried but we could see challenges right from the first time the election was postponed, we felt it was not well managed and the spate of inconclusive elections and some challenges in terms of crises across a few states. I think we really need to do more and I feel here it is not the issue of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. I think both the National Assembly and INEC should be on the same page; we should be able to come out with a good electoral act. Of course, we believed that if the earlier electoral act that we passed was signed probably, we may not have experienced what we experienced.
Would you now crave for the presidential assent to the electoral bill?
I think that now that it has not been assented to, we should take advantage as new members returning, coming with new ideas, and look at the electoral act again. What we had experience now probably we didn’t include it in the electoral act, this will give us an opportunity to introduce some of the things that we think we could do. For instance, the last time we had this electronic voting system that is by transmitting the results from units toward, from ward to local government collation centres electronically, this would have reduced the level of corruption because whether you run away with the ballot box or not, by electronic means people would have the result.
Most Nigerians are of the view that the current INEC has taken the country back like when democracy was birthed in 1999…
I would say the system is getting complex on a daily basis, even the electorates are getting even more sophisticated. So, what happened in 2015 may not necessarily occur. I can assure you that they have tried but they need to do more, we want the best.
When you were going for the elections, did you anticipate the number of victories the PDP got?
To be sincere, as a member of APC, I believe that just like the kind of majority we have in the National Assembly, I thought that was how we will get across the states, that we would get more governors and the PDP less but we are politicians and the PDP has ambushed us in some areas. In Adamawa State, I never believed that with a sitting governor and we would lose the state to PDP. But it actually happened. The first time I noticed there was a problem was when in the presidential and National Assembly elections, I was the only APC candidate that won in the entire southern senatorial zone of Adamawa. PDP took two of the three senators and four of the eight members of the House of Representatives. It was then I knew that we needed to work hard.
You are from Adamawa state and of the APC and the PDP has produced the governor there. How do you intend to work for the common good of the people?
I am APC and I still believe in the manifesto of the APC and we have promised to take Nigeria to the next level and that next level included my constituency. The most important thing is that we are not opposition at the national level and I am a member of the House of Reps at the federal level so I am not in opposition but when I get back home I am seen as an opposition. I think the most important thing is that there are some bi-partisan things we do as politicians, when it comes to critical national issues and state matters; that is for the development of the people, I think we would be able to put aside our differences to work towards promoting one goal and after that we can go back to our partisan issues when the time comes.