By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – By this time next month, 23 out of the 24 Members-elect of the Plateau State House of Assembly might have resumed legislative duties in the ninth Assembly. The Members, 16 of them being first time legislators have so far attended a seminar where they were taken through the rudiments of legislative duties.
But before they would resume duties, the battle for who would become the Speaker of the Assembly is raging with diverse interests seeking to influence the House decision to pick their preferred candidates for the position.
Among the interests seeking to produce their preferred candidates are the All Progressives Congress, APC which has the majority seats in the House, individual Members-elect who think they are qualified to be so-elected, the body of first time legislators who say they are more in number than the old timers and so have the number to influence decisions as well as citizens who feel only the most qualified of the Members should be allowed to lead the House.
Before this dilemma, the position of the Speaker was occupied by Plateau North Senatorial zone; the Governor is from Plateau South and the Deputy is from Plateau Central. The initial Speaker of the eighth Assembly, Mr. Peter Azi who is Member representing Jos North-West constituency was impeached and the incumbent Speaker, Joshua Madaki who is representing Jos East Constituency came on board.
Both Azi and Madaki are not returning to the House as Azi lost his seat to Esther Dusu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP while the zoning formula in Jos East did not favour the return of Madaki who would have continued as the Speaker.
At that time, it was believed that the deceased Member representing Pengana constituency of Bassa local government area, late Ezekiel Afon would likely be the Speaker as he was an experienced lawmaker and from the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Unfortunately, Afon died hours after winning his re-election hence the vacancy which needs to be filled via a bye-election. Before his burial, political permutations began on who would represent the Constituency in the yet to be conducted bye-election and Gondina Sambo from the APC who came second in the primary election which produced Afon as the Constituency’s candidate felt he should automatically take the position but his Party feels otherwise claiming that Pengana constituency has a zoning arrangement that does not favour Sambo and must be obeyed.
However, a former Deputy Speaker of the House, Ibrahim Baba-Hassan representing Jos North-North constituency is rumoured to be very interested in the seat since the position is still zoned to Plateau North but issues of indigene/settler as well as religion which have assumed a frightening dimension in the State may work against Baba-Hassan as he is from the Hausa/Fulani enclave.
So far, nobody can read the body language of the Governor as Saturday Vanguard gathered that he has kept mum over the issue but the APC leadership; we also gathered had thought of jettisoning the zoning arrangement but was cautioned against it for the sake of equity and fairness.
At the time of this report, it was reliably gathered that the Party has shifted its search from Pengana constituency to Jos East constituency and is tilted to supporting Abok Ayuba to emerge as the Speaker. Ayuba is a first timer and may be replacing the incumbent Speaker, Joshua Madaki who did not seek a re-election due to zoning formula in his area.
Although Abok is a young man in his 30s; from Fada-Fobour in Jos East local government area and a student of Law in the University Jos, pundits believe that he lacks the experience that would enable him handle such an assignment.
An APC stalwart who did not want to be named told Vanguard he would suggest the Party leaving the zoning arrangement the way it is where the governor is from South, the Deputy from Central and Speaker from North. “In the event we do not get anyone in Bassa or Jos East, there are other local government areas in the Northern zone. The Member from Barkin Ladi, Peter Gyendeng, though from PDP is an experienced lawmaker, we still need more hands in our fold, he can be prevailed upon to decamp and join us so that he can lead the House in that capacity; instead of denying the Northern zone that opportunity.”
Another lawmaker who also hid his identity said he would advise Gyendeng not to embark in “such a suicide mission because I prefer to see him as a Member in House rather than being a Speaker and be disgraced.”
He asked; “Has Gyendeng been fraternizing with Governor or the APC? On what ground will they trust him enough with the leadership of the House? Again, everyone knows that Barkin Ladi is PDP, how will his people react if he takes such a decision without their blessing?”
This lawmaker lamented that the House is finding itself in the position of waiting to get an anointed candidate from people outside the legislature because of lack of autonomy. “If not, how can we be so controlled without any reaction? Even our legitimate funds are not released to us, we approve the money the executive spends yet we are so starved of funds to the point that we become so subservient.”
One of the lawmakers who is returning for a second term, not wanting to be named, told Vanguard, “From all indication they want to give the guy in Jos East but every member is entitled to be a Speaker, all we want is that the position should be opened for contest and whoever the Members want to be their leaders should emerge and that would be okay. For the Party to impose a Speaker on the Members is not fair.”
One of the 16 new comers to the House who preferred anonymity said; “We all contested and won election on the platform of our respective parties; if our constituencies did not have confidence in us, they wouldn’t have voted us in and in the first place, the Parties themselves wouldn’t have allowed us if we were not competent.
“The issue of House leadership is not for our parties to have a very loud voice in because there are rules guiding the conducts of the House. There is nothing in the House rule that said a first timer cannot be a Speaker after all, the present Speaker was made so in his first time in office. In 1999, who was the first, second or third timer who was experienced enough to be the Speaker, they all learnt on the job.
“We have educated; intelligent people among us here with excellent leadership skills, anyone of us can emerge and I would prefer from among us because we are the majority in the House. The so-called old timers are seven, one constituency is yet to have a representative and they are from different political parties. The best thing is for us to vote and get the leadership of the House in place.”
Citizens like Thomas Kyemut and Bulus Agwom opined that there should be no party influence but the House should vote Members that can give quality leadership to be principal officers of the House so that they can check the executive and give balance in governance. End.