One Year Of Speaker Tajudeen’s Leadership Of Inclusivity, Disarming Candour

Speaker of House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen

By Hon. Afam Victor Ogene

He cuts the picture of an optical illusion; for a job that appears to favour steely characters, he seems meek; and just as previous contenders to the throne showcase sterner ambition, he simply put forward his credentials: a 12-year record as a competent lawmaker, an amiable personality and, perhaps, much more importantly, an ordinary visage, despite his royal background.

Come D-Day, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, even before the tellers were counted, echoes of T.J… T.J, T.J, had ensured for him a place in record books, as the man who garnered the most votes in a contest for leadership in any parliament in the world. With a total haul of 353 votes, out of a field of 360 legislators, the emergence of Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D as Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives is somewhat surreal.

Seemingly magical as the outcome was, it was, nonetheless, a long, hard road to the throne. On the day in question, across the dais, on the other side of Nigeria’s National Assembly, the Senate, the contest appeared even-matched, with the two leading gladiators standing almost on an even kneel – one from the South of the country, the other from it’s Northern tip; both were former governors and erstwhile parliamentarians, and to wit, the depth of their pockets appeared immeasurable.

In the House of Representatives, however, it was a different ball game. It had been a crowded field of no fewer than six experienced legislators, all except perhaps, Hon. Tajudeen, adroit in House leadership tussles.

Which, in deed, explains why despite holding out as the choice of the new Administration led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a certain foreboding hung in the firmament, especially with the Yakubu Dogara upset eight years earlier – and the Aminu Tambuwal ‘revolt’ before it – still etched in memory.

Today, one year afterwards, the House of Representatives which Rt. Hon. Tajudeen leads, has seamlessly evolved into a Nigerian People’s House, deftly offering it’s hallowed platform to all, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political persuasion.

As a matter of fact, despite the odds, occasioned largely by the rough economic patches which the country is currently undergoing, Speaker Tajudeen has remained steadfast, weathering the storm of public skepticism and criticism leveled against him and the legislature.

His calm and composed demeanour, even in the face of unrelenting attacks on his character before his emergence, has left many in awe, about the obvious calming candour of his personality. One year later, that same leadership style, defined by inclusivity, empathy, and firm resolve, has become a beacon of stability in the House of Representatives, earning him widespread acclaim and admiration.

Speaker Tajudeen’s election to lead a dynamic House of Representatives, made of sizable members from the opposition political parties, including myself, in a time the nation is grueling in economic difficulties and the polity bitterly divided by politics, religion and ethnic differences, marked a new chapter in the country’s legislative history.

A chapter of leadership style characterized by inclusivity, transparency, and a commitment to democratic principles. In doing so, he has fostered a more participatory legislative process, encouraging debate and collaboration among members from diverse political backgrounds.

His laudable leadership principle is fueled by a high propensity for emotional intelligence, that prioritises the interests of the people and the good of the nation.

And he has navigated complex political dynamics, balancing party interests and national imperatives. Even in instances where controversies had arisen for one reason or the other, he has addressed them with grim resolve and integrity.

For instance, one of his first steps in office in reshaping the House and revitalising its legislative roles and oversight functions was the creation of 134 from the previously existing 109 Standing Committees.

But just as many are wont to oppose change without consideration for the underlining benefits such change would offer, some had roundly criticized this policy. But those knowledgeable about the workings of the legislature, know that increasing the number of Committees, was evidently aimed at sharpening the power of the legislature to properly hold the executive accountable to the people.

It should be noted that some of the Committees that were broken to create new committees were previously carrying out oversight on some big ministries with multiple agencies under them, which had led to some oversight gaps as the committees could not efficiently engage with the whole entities, in a manner that would ensure thoroughness that would guarantee democratic accountability. So, the leadership of the 10th House saw wisdom in creating the new committees to effectively cover those previously uncovered areas.

The spokesman for the House who is also the Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Akin Rotimi, had also submitted that “There is no overlap of functions despite an increased number of committees.

“The committees are very important and what you see as an increment is nothing other than the Speaker’s commitment of carrying everyone along,” he emphasized.

So, evidently, over the past year, the Speaker has through this singular policy, strengthened the House’s oversight function, ensuring accountability and transparency in government operations. He has also, within this period empanelled several investigative Committees to look into high-profile corruption and malfeasance in public offices and advocated for good governance practices.

In deed, the 10th House of Representatives has passed a total of 78 bills, consolidated 10, referred 88 to relevant standing committees, rejected one bill, working on 69 others at the Committee of the Whole level, and has 1008 others awaiting second reading.

Also, part of the critical achievements of the House under the leadership of Speaker Abbas, is the Electricity Act 2023 and Electricity Act Amendment Bill 2024, which were signed into into law by President Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The previous Act of 2005, was altered to give birth to this futuristic piece of legislation under Speaker Tajudeen.

One important objective of the Electricity Act, 2023 is the provision of a holistic integrated policy plan, that recognizes diverse sources for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, including the integration of Renewable Energy into Nigeria’s energy mix.

Specifically, the Act has created a comprehensive legal and institutional framework to guide the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), devolve power for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity at the national level, and empower States, companies and individuals to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, for better efficiency and availablity. That’s a big step in solving the nation’s intractable electricity supply challenges.

This remarkable legislative foresight and commitment to national development has been replicated in other key areas of the economy and national.

His laudable understanding of Nigeria’s diversity has also been noted as a valuable asset to national leadership and cohesion. He recently urged Nigerians to prioritise integration in the ongoing constitution review exercise to make the nation work better for all,
as he noted that the legislative agenda of the 10th House was “Strategically designed to address the challenges that slow our unity and journey towards a more perfect union.

“Nigeria’s pluralism, characterised by its vast diversity in ethnicity, language and religion, offers a remarkable asset to the nation. Our cultural diversity can significantly enhance global diplomatic and economic relationships.

“The varied perspectives and skills stemming from this diversity can foster innovative solutions to economic and social challenges, driving sustainable developments,” he said.

The legislature remains the most important symbol of every democracy, as it aggregates the voice and aspirations of the people it represents. And that undoubtedly is the sustaining oxygen of democracy. It been argued elsewhere that responsible Legislature should be a key driver of good governance in a democracy, as it would at all times, uphold the interest of the people, and not, those of a powerful few, for the good of the nation.

Apparently, Speaker Tajudeen’s first year in office has upheld this critical feature of democracy. His leadership has enhanced the House’s effectiveness and reputation. As he continues in office, Nigerians expect sustained progress and effective representation.

* Hon. Ogene, a former newsmagazine Editor, is a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of it’s Committee on Renewable Energy.