The Speakership struggles !
The amendment of the House rules made the contest for the office of the speaker opened to all Intrested members, especially those from the Daura zone. Many members indicated their interest to contest. Notable among them were Hon. Members from Dutsi, Bindawa, Mani, Daura and Kusada, with Hon. Mani and Kusada appearing to be leading the contest.
With the exception of Hon. Abubakar Yahya Kusada who has been a long time acquaintance and a very active and committed comrade in the opposition struggle to oust the then considered monstrous PDP, I have never met any of the other contestants. So, I had nothing personal against any of the other contestants. So naturally, my sympathy would go to Hon. Kusada.
Initially, I thought the cabals main objective in amending the house rules was more about stopping Hon. Dutsi than supporting a particular candidate. But subsequent happenings indicated that Hon. Mani enjoyed the support of the strong interest group.
The first sign that the government had an ace up its sleeve was when we were invited to the government house to discuss what the party called the ‘zoning arrangements ‘ of the principal officers of the House. The party chairman explained that because the governor and the deputy governor came from Funtua and Katsina zones respectively, naturally the speaker would come from the Daura zone. That was understandable. But he went ahead and also said that because President Buhari came from the Daura emirate, they decided to exclude members from the 5 LGAs of the emirate and move the seat of the speaker to the other 7 local governments outside the emirate. That was laughable.
Expectedly and rightly, Hon. Daura protested saying that was an unjust decision which, he believed, was designed to get him out of the contest. The party chairman said that was the national policy of the party. At that moment I raised my hands and spoke for the first time. I said I was surprised that we were even invited for the meeting on that issue when the president said he could work with anybody and that he believed there are rules governing the elections of the principal officers of the legislature. The president said he came to promote the rule of law so let the laws be applied and that he would not intefere. I said I expected no less commitments from the president’s state.
Continuing, I asked that if that was the national policy of the party, how could the party be supporting and promoting the speakership of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila at the national Assembly when he came from the same place with the vice president? At that moment, the Governor intervened and said that the president’s statement was political. I responded with: “Sir, does that mean the president lied to the nation?” Without an answer to my question, the meeting ended in gridlock with everyone suspecting that the government and the party had a particular candidate in mind.
At this juncture, let me make one point clear. No one; absolutely no one, neither from within the government nor the party, had ever approached me personally to support the candidature of Hon. Mani. The closest call was when the party dispatched the three zonal vice chairmen of the party to have separate meetings with the members elect from the respective zones and inform them about the party’s decision to support the candidature of Hon Mani. And unfortunately, I was not able to attend our zonal meeting. When Hon. Bala Abu Musawa called and informed me about the meeting, on the very day the meeting was supposed to hold, I was already far away from Katsina and I told him that. We agreed to meet later which we never did until a day later when we were again summoned for another meeting. The only other person was Dr. Sheriff Almuhajir who called me from far away Malasia and asked for my support for Hon. Mani.
At the second meeting, the three zonal vice chairmen of the party submitted their respective reports. I was sitting there when I, surprisingly, heard my name mentioned together with the names of 9 other members elect who said that they would not support the candidature of Hon Mani. Though that was my decision, I did not tell any government or party official that, but I also did not protest that. I accepted the role I was given. That was when the line was drawned.
At that moment I had two objectives: to make sure that there must be free and fair elections of speaker and his deputy on the floor of the chamber even if the government had interest in a particular candidate. I wanted to make sure that the old and inherited traditions of the party sending names of particular people to be announced as principal officers of the House is halted. The second objective was to ensure the independence of the House and the only way to do that was to defeat the government’s candidate.
I had nothing personal against Hon. Mani. To me he was a ‘casualty of war’. He was young and inexperienced in both legislative and administrative activities. He was about the youngest of us all and never worked before. I didn’t know what his promoters wanted to achieve by his speakership? Whatever was it certainly it was not the interest of Katsina state. I knew he was not the Governor’s particular candidate. He was being forced on him by some strong interest group who were obviously planning to exploit the young honourable’s kuruciya and inexperience to their advantage. I knew governor Masari, with his rich legislative background and simple character, could work with anyone of the members. At a point I met the Governor and expressed my concerns to him. I believed Katsina State deserved more . I even recommended Hon. Bindawa who I believed was elderly, more exposed and experienced as a retired director.
When it was clear that the government had made up it’s mind, we also decided to concentrate on our struggle. Hon. Daura pitched his tent with the government. With the strong political relationship between his elder sister, Hajiya Ambaru and the governor, that was expected. That left three other independent candidates: Dutsi, Bindawa and Kusada. Bindawa was the most qualified, but he lacked the support of the majority of the members. They felt intimidated by his age and his towering credentials. They felt more at home with honourable Kusada. He had more appeal and acceptance by the majority of the members.
But one thing was clear and discomforting. There was no way, the Hon. Mani would not win if we go into the election with three other candidates. So I had to do something to stop that. I met Hon. Dutsi and Bindawa. I convinced them to drop their ambitions and merge with Hon. Kusada. Eventually I succeeded in convincing them to support Kusada. Just when we were ready and confident to go into the election, another wahala kuma. Hon. Kusada called me to his room and told me that Architect Dangiwa had just called him and asked him to drop his ambition and support the candidature of Hon Mani. He was visibly disturbed, but he told me that he could not say no to his political godfather.
I was mad and frustrated. Just when the victory appeared so close and then that again. I said no, it wouldn’t be. I put a call to architect Dangiwa. We were on a very good term with him then before we gradually drifted apart. We served together in many committees during the campaign and also in the transition committee after the elections. I knew him as a reasonable and objective person. I put a call to him and he didn’t betray my perception of him. After a long discussion, I was able to convince him to allow Hon. Kusada to contest. He agreed. I begged him to put a call to Hon. Kusada to reassure him that he was with him and thankfully, he also did that. Finally, we were back on track and ready and confident to go into the elections…
On the election day…….to be continued