Akande-Adeola: Waiting for an amazon as Speaker
When Mulikat Akande-Adeola assumed office as a member of the House of Representatives on May 29, 2011, it was almost certain that she was going to make history as Nigeria’s second woman Speaker. Her party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), appeared to have settled it for her by zoning the position to the South West, where she hails from. She was just waiting to be crowned.
The then acting Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Bello Haliru, after attending a meeting convened by the PDP governors at the Rivers State Governors Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja in May 2011, said the meeting resolved that the positions of Senate President and Speaker should not be contested by any lawmaker elected on its platform because David Mark and Akande-Adeola were the party’s choices.
Haliru added that he led a delegation of the PDP, which comprised Vice President Namadi Sambo and the then National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, to intimate the governors with the party’s position on the issue of zoning.
He noted that the party’s decision to endorse the female lawmaker, who is representing Ogbomoso North/Ogbomoso South/Orire Federal Constituency of Oyo State, for the number four leadership position in the country, was informed by its belief in 35 per cent affirmative action on women representation.
The PDP acting national chairman added that the party instructed the governors to go to their various geopolitical zones to prevail on their elected representatives to support the party’s position.
With this level of support, it was hardly foreseen that things would not go the party’s way. On May 24, 2011, Akande-Adeola had on her Facebook page articulated what she would do with the position. She said: ‘’As your servant in the position of the Speaker, I intend to champion the course of our journey of self-discovery, god-fearing, caring, sincere, honest, accountable in all my dealings with the public, building trust in us and in one another, leading to our pride and heritage as a people and an assembly.’’
In settling for her, the party was not unmindful of the fact that she came fully made. She has been a member of the House representing Ogbomosho North, South/Orire Federal Constituency since 2007. So, experience, which is key to holding that position, was not in want.
She had also served as a member, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Governing Council from 2004-2006. This Amazon, whose legislative interest spans, women employment, poverty alleviation, Infrastructural development and foreign affairs, is also well-educated. She holds an LLM, University of Lagos, Lagos State, 1984-1985; LLB, Nigerian Law School, 1982-1983 and B.L, Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna State, 1979 -1982.
With such intimidating credentials, she was set to lead the House aright. Then the bubble burst. Some of her colleagues in the PDP decided to join forces with the opposition to work against their party’s interest. The result was the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker, with 252 votes. Akande-Adeola scored 90 votes.
The PDP, in a six-paragraph statement, condemned the action of members of the House of Representatives who voted for Tambuwal against the candidate of the party.
The statement reads: “The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) notes with great concern the unfolding developments in the House of Representatives, especially the outcome of the election of principal officers on Monday, 6th June, 2011.
“While the party believes in, and indeed encourages the exercise of freedom of choice for all Nigerians, including members of the National Assembly, it is important to reiterate that the principle of zoning is still an integral part of the PDP Constitution.
“The idea of zoning is a well thought-out philosophy for national stability and integration. It is the only guarantee that every segment of Nigeria enjoys a sense of belonging by being represented in all the decision-making organs of the government of Nigeria.
“Consequently, prior to the election of Principal Officers that took place in the Senate and the House of Representatives on the 6th of June, 2011, the NWC, in collaboration with other decision-making bodies of our party, made spirited efforts to build a consensus around the zoning formula.
“The NWC is currently consulting other organs of the party to re-assess the entire scenario and will come up with an appropriate policy in due course.”
Now that Tambuwal has left the PDP for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), his days as Speaker seem numbered; analysts say the opportunity for Akande-Adeola to take what rightfully belongs to her beckons. It is not too late to reverse the injustice she suffered as a result of Tambuwal’s emergence, they argue.
It is not only Akande-Adeola, who will be taking what rightfully belongs to her; the South West will too. By cheating her out of the position, in the first place, the geo-political zone was also robbed because she was only meant to represent the zone, which the North ended up appropriating to swell its basket of political offices.
With the present arrangement, the North has the Vice-President, the country’s number two position, the Senate President, the country’s number three position and the Speaker, the country’s number four position. It is a known reality that the region is unfairly marginalised in the political arrangement of the nation. So, getting Akande-Adeola to take over from Tambuwal will help in making the South West feel belonged.
Aside the South West, the women will also feel a sense of belonging. The present arrangement is clearly anti-gender balancing. Yet, women are known to be more than men in terms of voting power. This demands that a woman like Akande-Adeola should occupy the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
As the House Leader, the compromised position she was given after being denied her right, she has rich experiences in parliamentarian politics and procedures. Her emergence as Speaker will further enrich debates and leadership of the House. As a lawyer with years of practice, the House will also be benefitting a lot from her leadership.
She has also shown that she is a woman who does not believe in do-or-die politics, because despite the fact that she was cheated from benefitting from a zoning arrangement that favoured her, she has co-operated with Tambuwal in the interest of the House. Some desperate politicians would have posed a threat to Tambuwal.
In a rare show of sportsmanship, Akande-Adeola, in a post on her Facebook page, on June 7, 2011, canvassed support for Tambuwal.
She wrote: “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the love, support, kindness and understanding you have shown to me.
“I am using this opportunity to urge all Nigerians who supported me, to join me in not just congratulating Hon Tambuwal, but also offering him our support, good will and genuine effort towards finding lasting solutions to corruption, restoring dilapidated infrastructures, revamping education and improving our health care institutions.
“These problems have plagued our country and hopefully with renewed attention and action we can leave our children and grandchildren a better and stronger Nigeria than what we inherited.
“We may have our differences as politicians, but believe me when I say Nigeria is greater than any one individual and its progress means more to me than anything else.
“It is natural to feel some disappointment but, I have moved beyond it and am looking forward to working together with my colleagues in the House to get our country moving again.
“Once again, I sincerely thank you all for your love and prayers. May God bless you and your family immensely.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) member, was so pissed with the turn of events, that he openly called on Tambuwal and others to give up their seats in 2013, which meant they should only occupy the seats for two years. He was the BoT chairman at the time.
He said: “Having laid out the positions of the party’s constitution, we should realise that what happened on 5th June 2011 when the House of Representatives set aside the zoning, rotation, and federal character policy and programme of the party and seemingly went against the party policy, programme and decision is a very serious issue that the party cannot sweep under the carpet. Let me repeat that all-inclusive policy and programme of the party have been the vital and critical pillar on which PDP stands since its inception.
“Mr. President, it is that policy that brought me up as President in 1999 and brought President Yar’Adua up in 2007 and you up in 2011. It has given us some element of predictability, stability and order.
“I, as the Chairman of the BOT, decided to point the attention of the party and the government to this issue not because it affects the zone, which by accident of birth I come from, but because it has grave implication for the future of the PDP as a political party, the PDP government and, by extension, for the country.
“If the situation is left unattended and uncorrected, we may take it that the pillar on which PDP stands is mortally impaired. A bad precedent would have been created and, in due course more will follow and before long, the edifice will collapse.
“We can save the edifice by correcting what has gone wrong or by deciding to formally jettison zoning, rotation and, by extension, federal character. After all, other political parties have not instituted it in their constitution or been so vocal about it. It is better we jettison than observance by breach.
“Since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, six offices are known to be zoned and/or rotated by PDP among the six geopolitical zones i.e. President, Vice –President by election, and normally followed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by election at the National Assembly, but in line with the direction of the party, followed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by appointment and finally the Chairman of the party by appointment confirmed by election.
“Until now, on no account have two of these offices gone to one zone. It has been carefully observed and kept sacrosanct.”
He went on: “I am not recommending collective punishment or individual punishment for what happened that should not have happened. Rather, I am recommending that the party, as a family, should put its house in order. We should appreciate where and how the party has failed and correct ourselves. We should not do anything to put insult on injury. That will do more harm than the harm already done.
“I believe that we should seek a win-win remedy to get us out of the situation we found ourselves. It is a quagmire and to do nothing is to sink deeper in it.
“The present PDP officers of the House of Representatives and all their supporters-open and covert- should express the reasons for doing what they did and the party, with government, should see their point of view or explain things where necessary. The party should then seek remedy.
“But let me suggest one possible remedy, but members of BOT and the party may suggest better remedies.
“The present Speaker and other PDP officers of the House of Representatives should remain in their respective positions for two years, up to 5th June 2013 when the party policy, programme and decision of zoning to South-West should be implemented.
“Any other adjustments that may be deemed necessary may be carried out thereafter and in some future date.
“Whatever the grievances on the side of the PDP members of the House of Representatives, should be addressed and their points of view noted. With this remedy or any other acceptable remedy, approved by the party and the legislature, the issue should be put behind us for now as a party and then we move forward sure-footedly together.
“Failure to address this issue, with an acceptable remedy, will mean that PDP, as a political party, has said goodbye to the platform of zoning and rotation upon which it came into being and which has stood it in good stead up till now. That could be a serious and deadly mistake.”
His advice was not taken and now that Tambuwal has chosen to dump the PDP, things are looking up for the South West, which has not gained much despite its massive support for the PDP and the Presidency. Findings show that major stakeholders in the South West favour her suitability for the office.
Leading Yoruba Obas, politicians and opinion leaders are rooting for her. Many of them felt bad when the region was cheated out of the arrangement then. Now, they feel the time has come for the wrong to be made right.
Many Yoruba leaders were also angry like Obasanjo and they spoke out loud and clear. They described Tambuwal’s emergence as the Speaker instead of Akande-Adeola as one injustice too many.
The leader of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, faulted Tambuwal’s election.
Fasoranti said it was time for the South-West to go back to the drawing board and regain her lost place in the nation’s polity.
Second Republic governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, said he was disturbed by the development.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo also condemned the turn of events, saying it was pure injustice to the South West.
The PDP stands to gain a lot from re-integrating the South West, which contributed greatly to President Goodluck Jonathan’s emergence. The South-West has the second largest voting population in Nigeria, second only to the North-West. Her emergence as Speaker from the South-West will boost the electoral fortunes of her party.
Former Minister of Transportation and PDP chieftain from the South-West, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, in a newspaper interview, said it was unfair the South-West was denied the Speaker slot after it was zoned to it. He looks forward to Jonathan helping to correct the anomaly. He blamed former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu for Adeola-Akande’s and South West’s loss.
“Bola Tinubu led the APC into alliance with a group of PDP members in the House of Representatives who do not want the position of Speaker to go to the South-West. The party decided that the South-West PDP will lose the position of Speaker. Honourable Mulikat was recommended, but Tinubu moved against that. He got some members among the PDP members in the House to go with them to Tambuwal.
“The President has come to the stark reality that the Yoruba people were not given their share. For instance, now the DG of the NTA is a Yoruba man, the Chief of Staff to the President is a Yoruba man. The executive secretaries of four parastatals like the Petroleum Trust Fund are Yoruba. We are still begging the President for more,” he said.
In another interview, Babatope said: “The leadership of the House of Representatives did not agree with the National Working Committee for the South-West to produce the Speaker. Instead of giving the slot to the South-West, they voted for Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal. In fairness, President Goodluck Jonathan supported the bid to have a South-West legislator emerge as Speaker. The President has, however, promised to assist the region in getting a political post. The South-West is a politically sophisticated, volatile mature region. We know the President will do something about the matter.”
The South West is waiting to see how the matter will be handled.