1 November 2007

Nigeria: Race for House Speaker - Bankole Leads the Pack

Ogun — Dimeji Saburi Bankole, a 38-year old lawyer from Ogun State, may be elected the new speaker of the House of Representatives today.

The position of speaker of the house is zoned to the South-West geopolitical zone of the country by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, hence the jostle by members of the house from the

zone to occupy the seat Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh was forced to vacate on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the house has begun to purge itself of the old leadership which helped Etteh to almost hold the nation to ransom by her refusal to resign.

As a fall-out of the consideration of the Idoko panel report, the house yesterday sacked all principal officers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Those removed from office are the majority leader, Hon. Tunde Akogun, deputy majority leader, Hon. Baba Shehu Agaie, Chief Whip, Bethel Amadi and deputy whip, Aminu Tambuwal.

This is just as five major contenders will square up today for the position of speaker as the house is set to elect new officers. Those gunning for the position are Dimeji Bankole (Ogun), Olugbenga Onigbogi (Osun), Leo Awoyemi (Osun), Oluwole Oke (Osun) and George Jolaoye (Osun).

The decision to relieve the principal officers of their duties was taken at the executive session of the house, which considered the various roles they played in the N628 million contract scam that led to the forced resignation of Mrs Patricia Olubunmi Etteh and Hon. Babangida Sa'idu Nguroje. The sacked principal officers have been directed to seek re-election from their zonal caucuses in the house.

Meanwhile, the house, presided by speaker pro-tempore, Hon. Terngu Tsegba, yesterday considered the Idoko panel report in the committee of the whole and adopted four resolutions. The house resolved that the National Assembly should prescribe appropriate operational procedure for the award of contract in the house in line with extant laws.

The house also ordered the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to take steps to make habitable for immediate occupation the official residences of speaker and deputy speaker.

It also revoked the contracts awarded for the upgrade of speaker and deputy speaker's official residences and directed the management of the National Assembly to evaluate the contracts.

The house will however elect new principal officers to fill all the vacant positions. The speaker pro-tempore announced this at yesterday's plenary following the receipt of a letter from the clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim Arab, calling for the election into the vacant position in line with order 2 (8) of the house rules.

The race to the position of speaker is the most contentious and as at last night, no consensus candidate had emerged as the various caucuses were meeting to perfect their positions.

  • The leading contender, Dimeji Saburi Bankole, was born in 1969. he represents Abeokuta South Federal Constituency of Ogun State and was first elected to the house in 2003. A lawyer by training, he had sound education, with first and second degrees obtained at the University of Reading and University of Oxford, both in the UK. He holds a professional certificate in public finance from Harvard University, USA, and a post-graduate diploma in military tactic.

LEADERSHIP WEEKEND first published the likelihood of Bankole clinching the house's top job in its October 6, lead story titled "Bankole Leads In Speakership Race."

Bankole is favoured to carry the day and is said to have been endorsed by several northern caucuses of the house.

Both the Northern caucus of the PDP and the entire 99-member strong ANPP caucus in the house are behind him. Also, many senior traditional rulers in the North have called out the troops for him.

Bankole, who is the chairman, House Committee on Land Transportation, is the son of Chief Alani Bankole, a former NPN chieftain in the Second Republic and later APP.

• Leo Awoyemi was born on January 30, 1949. he represents Osogbo/Orolu/Olorunda/Irepodun Federal Constituency of Osun State and first came to the house in 2003. He received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the University of Lagos in 1977 and worked with Longman Publishers, Consolidated Breweries, Lagos, and Continental Breweries, Ijebu-Ode, before retiring into politics.

He was the chairman, House Committee on Public Service between 2003 and 2007. He is presently chairman, Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and leader of the Osun State caucus in the house.

Awoyemi is a very experienced man and may be elected if the house insists on having someone from Osun State.

  • Olugbenga Onigbogi, born November 18, 1955, is a chartered accountant and studied Economics at the University of Ife (now OAU). He was first elected to the house in 1999 on the platform of AD, representing Atakumosa East/West, Ilesha East and West Federal Constituency of Osun State. He was the sub-committee chairman for Finance on Federal Capital Territory, as well as sub-committee chairman for the CBN in charge of currency. He is the deputy chairman, Committee on Solid Minerals.Onigbogi could not come back in 2003 but returned in 2007 on the platform of PDP. He is also said to be enjoying wide acceptance amongst members.
  • Wole Busayo Oke, born April 28, 1967, represents Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State and is a second timer, having been elected in 2003. Since 2003 he has been the chairman of the House Committee on Defence. Oke is a well experienced politician and is very gregarious. He speaks Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo fluently. He is said to have the support of many members from both the northern and eastern states and may also be a hard nut to crack.
  • George Jolaoyemi Oyewole, who represents Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State and like his co-contesters is a second timer, came to the house in 2003. He is the deputy chairman, house Committee on Education.

He is said to be the PDP's anointed candidate. This factor may work against him on the floor as the lawmakers have decided to elect their leaders independently in order to forestall further crisis in the house.

Attempts by the hierarchy of the PDP to foist a new speaker on the house were rejected yesterday by the speaker pro-tempore and members of the Integrity Group.

National chairman of the party, Dr Ahmadu Ali, had summoned the party caucus in the house to the party's national secretariat to advise them on how to get a replacement for Etteh and Nguroje.

Ali, who chaired the meeting, told the lawmakers that the zoning formula of the party should be retained and that the former speaker's replacement should come from Osun State where she hails from.

Responding on behalf of the lawmakers, Hon. Tsegba assured the national chairman that the party's zoning formula would be adhered to, but added that the house members would be at liberty to elect whoever they feel that has the requisite capacity to lead them.

According to sources at the meeting, the speaker pro-tempore made it clear that any lawmaker on the platform of the party is qualified and the decision on who succeeds Etteh will be the responsibility of members on the floor of the house.

Tsegba also explained to the party leadership that the house had been involved in crisis for almost three months and would not accept the foisting of new leaders by the party.

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