Yakubu Dogara: Making a Case for a Speaker from the North-East By Chidubem Michael
A new Speaker of the House of Representatives will emerge in less than a month. The Change promised by the President-Elect General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been apparent in the former’s refusal to meddle in the process of (s)electing a new Speaker. While this does not necessarily prohibit other stakeholders from attempting to install a preferred candidate, it is the hope of many that the eventual choice resonates with Nigerians and inspires hope for the future.
An excellent way to achieve this would be to have a Speaker who represents Nigerians’ common aspirations; a Speaker who is fearless, incorruptible, intellectually sound and inherently pro-people. This description fits Yakubu Dogara – a Northern Christian representing a Muslim majority constituency in Bauchi State – and the reasons stated below further lend credence to his aspiration to the House Speakership.
The Case for Equity
The APC’s victory during the just concluded elections may very well be described as a joint effort between four out of six geopolitical zones; the North-West, contributing the highest number of votes, followed by the North-East, North Central and South-West, in that order. With the President-Elect being from the North-West and his Vice from the South-West, it therefore goes without saying that in the spirit of equity, the other key positions of numbers three and four citizens should be filled by people from the North-Central and North-East.
The Quest to Make History
The APC has made history by unseating a serving president; the people of the North-East – a region that has never produced Speaker or Senate President – also hope to make history in the Eighth Assembly.
It should be recalled that despite being under constant threat from Boko Haram, the people of North-East Nigeria defied the threat of bombs – and other forms of mayhem by mindless lunatics – and turned out en masse to vote for General Muhammadu Buhari. Also, during the campaign, the highest turnout at the APC presidential rallies was recorded in Maiduguri, Borno State, despite security concerns. Thousands of people even trekked 30 kilometres to catch a glimpse of the General.
A Speaker form the North-East would also go a long way in reminding Nigerians from that troubled region that they have not been forgotten and still remain as key stakeholders in the Nigerian Project. It would be a way to acknowledge their suffering and show appreciation for their sacrifice and ultimately, serve as a solemn promise that the security challenge will be at the forefront of issues.
Ethnic Minorities and Northern Christians: Not to be Forgotten
Despite the prevalent perception of Northerners as a homogenous group by most Nigerians in the South, there are scores of ethnic nationalities in Northern Nigeria and Northerners are not all Muslims. The Muslim/Christian divide in the North had previously been a basis for political differences but this time around, Northern Christians supported the APC and the candidacy of General Muhammadu Buhari, with large numbers being recorded in Christian strongholds in states like Plateau, Bauchi, Adamawa, Yobe, Borno and Taraba, among others.
The North-East also has the highest concentration of minority ethnicities, with some states having average of three tribes within each local government.
A good way to silence critics of the APC (especially in light of the “Janjaweed” and “Islamist Agenda” allegations) and proponents of the Hausa/Fulani “Born to Rule” conspiracy is to choose a Speaker who will represent the interests of Northern Christians while simultaneously representing the many ethnic minorities in the North.
Most Importantly, the Case for Merit
The one interest that supersedes all others is that of ALL Nigerians, irrespective of where they are from. Many are averse to zoning because they believe merit and qualification are sacrificed at its altar; while this may be true in many cases, in this case, it is not. In fact, all factors seem to be working together for the good of the North-East – at least, as far as Speakership is concerned.
One son of North-Eastern Nigeria has signified interest in becoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Eighth National Assembly, and his name is Yakubu Dogara, the legislator representing the Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State. Dogara has been a member of the House since 2007 and he is tipped by fellow legislators as the one aspirant to that position who can consolidate on achievements recorded by the 7th Assembly under the able leadership of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and make the Lower House more efficient and responsive to Nigerians’ needs.
Dogara’s sojourn in the House has been strongly pro-people; his legislative interests include regulating monopolies, company law, intellectual property and tenancy. He aims to “enact strong tenancy laws and see to the repeal of obsolete laws”.
Staying true to his legislative aims, he sponsored the Corporate Manslaughter Bill in 2010 to check negligence in corporate organisations which inadvertently leads to loss of lives. Also, in 2013, Dogara sought to have ambiguities regarding the impeachment process removed (through an amendment to section 143), and this earned him sponsored attempts to have him recalled.
Dogara has headed the House Services Committee since 2010, and not one scandal has occurred during his watch. He also headed the House Committee on Customs and Excise, and was said to have turned down a bribe of five million dollars offered by some special interests seeking to conceal the truth. He has also been on the House Committees on Judiciary, Capital Markets, Foreign Affairs, Rural Development and Power, among others.
Dogara has also sponsored motions against the indiscriminate and illegal granting of waivers by the Federal Government.
Dogara is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the International Bar Association, the Nigerian Institute of Management, the Chartered Institute of Mediators and Conciliators, the Cyber Bar Association and the Social Policy Association. He is also an associate member of the Institute of Environment Management and Assessment, and the World Jurist Association.
An alumnus of the University of Jos, Robert Gordons University, Scotland, Oxford University and the Harvard Kennedy School, Dogara is qualified in terms of certificates, deep knowledge of the legislative process, and the desire to enact pro-people laws.
Hon. Yakubu Dogara presents the perfect opportunity for the APC to get it right; to rise above dictatorship, godfatherism and selfish politics and give all Nigerians who played a key role in the APC’s victory a sense of belonging and appreciation. He also presents the perfect opportunity for Nigerians, as a people, to have the most vibrant House of Representatives in the history of our democracy.
If there is one person who can give the kind of purposeful leadership that the Eighth Assembly requires, then that person is Yakubu Dogara.
Chidubem Michael is a student of political science at a Nigerian university, and a grassroots mobiliser when he’s not studying.