Dogara’s House: The politics, the compromise
From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
It is already two years since the current members of the House of Representatives were inaugurated. Keen watchers of the 8th House would probably say that the journey for the lawmakers didn’t start smoothly. The first year of the House was characterised by controversy and scandal, following the battle for positions and relevance by the lawmakers.
It was a tough fight for Yakubu Dogara, who represents Bogoro/ Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi state to be elected the Speaker. It took the staunch support of the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the conspiracy of some independent minded lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and more influential pressure from the outside, led by former Speaker of the House, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for Dogara to defeat Femi Gbajabiamila, who represents Surulere Federal Constituency of Lagos State.
Dogara scored 182 votes while Gbajabiamila polled 174. Unlike in the Senate which only recently replaced Senator Ali Ndume with Senator Ahmed Lawan, who lost to Senator Bukola Saraki, as Majority Leader, to calm frayed nerves in the APC, Gbajabiamila got the office of the House Majority Leader soon after he was defeated by Dogara.
The tug-of-war for the positions in the leadership of the House was closely followed by the fierce lobbying over the chairmanships of Standing Committees. By the time the list for the chairmen and vice-chairmen of committees was made public, APC lawmakers who voted for Gbajabiamila said they had been victimised, even as other lawmakers described as highly sacrilegious, the fact that the PDP had almost the same number of chairmen as the ruling party.
Forty-eight members of the APC were picked as chairmen, while 46 PDP lawmakers made the list. For the position of Deputy Chairman 54 APC members were picked, while PDP got 38. With the Monday 9th November 2015 inauguration of the Standing Committees, majority of the complainers gradually accepted their fate.
Though he didn’t win by a wide margin, Dogara deployed the appointment of supportive lawmakers as committee chairmen to gain a strong footing. And he hasn’t looked back, with the Standing Orders of the 8th House giving power that has made even the most recalcitrant of members; tread softly in the Green Chamber. The House adopted the report of an ad hoc committee mandated to review the 2011 edition of the Standing Rules of the House on October 8th 2015 causing some members led by Aliyu Madaki to head to Court to challenge the extensive powers given the Speaker. The new Standing Order gives the Speaker power to suspend any member that approaches the mace with whatever intent. It also empowers the Speaker to suspend a member for 30 plenary days for failing to obey the presiding officer’s directive.
But many members would argue that it would be naive to ascribe Dogara’s staying power to the Standing Order as many of his colleagues would simply say his popularity has grown with time. Although some have accused the Speaker of keeping them waiting when they go to his office, with a few alleging that he was not the humble man, they knew before, it is safe to attribute Dogara’s survival to the healthy level of acceptance among his colleagues, Daily Sun gathered.
As a lawmaker, the Speaker has sponsored seven bills, stepping down for his deputy each time he presented the bills. On an individual level, Dogara has used every public speaking opportunity to portray himself as top soldier of the anti-corruption war, a scholar who understands the problems of the country and what the role the legislature could play in dealing with these challenges. He has also tried to show that he is a strong supporter of the President.
Interestingly, it was also safe to link the Speaker weathering the 2016 budget scandal to his being liked by a good number of