Press Statement, Friday, May 15, 2020: A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, has called on the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and indeed the 9th House of Representatives, to rise above personal sentiment in the discharge of their official duties.
Speaking against the backdrop of the House response to the position of the Nigerian Governors Forum(NGF), on the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, Hon. Ogene wondered how what ought to be a measured reaction to an issue of public interest turned out to be a platform for scapegoating.
In contending that the governors were “misguided by the biased position of a former Speaker”, the House obviously chose to demean the fact that no fewer than 12 of the governors had left indelible imprints as former legislators as well as many others who served as Speakers of the federal and state parliaments.
All the NGF had requested was that the Bill be stepped down for wider consultations, a position already widely canvassed by the media, civil society and concerned Nigerians.
In fact, the Bill which in an audacious manner seeks to abridge the rights of Nigerians has generated so much furore that former Senator Dino Melaye besides describing it as “satanic” went ahead to initiate court processes to halt its further consideration.
It is rather unfortunate that instead of heeding these voices of restraints and reasoning, Speaker Gbajabiamila through the House Spokesman, Hon. Ben Kalu (APC, Abia), decided to engage in a roforofo fight with an imaginary enemy.In choosing to blame Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state, and vice chairman of the NGF for whatever his political woes were, Speaker Gbajabiamila perhaps unwittingly lent credence to the widely held view among parliamentarians that he hardly rises above self.
Nigerians would recall that the opposition against Gbajabiamila’s quest for Speakership centred around the issue of being not just fit but also proper for the position, hence the coinage, “fit and proper.”
Thus, while many may readily agree that the Speaker, given his long presence in the nation’s legislature, may be fit for the job, the reality remains that he is yet to prove that he is proper for the Speakership role thrust upon him.
Indeed, anyone who is integrity-challenged ought not engage in a needless public spar.
As a stakeholder in the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, it is my feeling that the 9th House still has enough time to devote itself to pro-people legislations, as against dwelling upon elections far gone by.
Hon. Victor Afam Ogene
Former Deputy Chairman, Media and Public Affairs, House of Representatives, 7th National Assembly, Abuja.