Kehinde Akintola – Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila on Wednesday gave vivid account of the reasons why most of the proactive members of the 9th Assembly lost re-election bid during the party primaries.
According to the details released by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), over 200 members of the House of Representatives failed to secure return tickets, thereby entrenching the culture of high turnover rate in the Nigeria Parliament.
As reflected in the previous studies conducted on previous general elections, in 2003 elections, only 35 senators were reelected out of 109, posting an average retention of 32.11 percent, while 27 and 35 were re-elected in 2003 and 2011 respectively leaving a retention rate of 24.77 and 32.11 percent. Finally, between 2011-2015, 35 Senators were re-elected (82.1 percent retention rate).
In the House of Representatives, only 108 out of the 360 lawmakers were re-elected in 2003 giving a percentage of 30 while 110 and 103 lawmakers were re-elected in 2007 and 2011 posting a percentage of 30.6 and 28.7 respectively. In elections held from 2003-2007, of 360 seats in the Nigerian House of Representatives, 108 members were re-elected (80 percent retention rate). 2007-2011, 110 members were re-elected (30.6 retention rate), 2011-2015, 103 members were reelected (28.7 percent).
The Speaker who spoke during a reception of the Executive and members of the House of Representatives’ Press Corps led by Comrade Grace Ike, also hinted on plans to revisit the Electoral Act, 2023 with a view to address some of the grey areas observed during the party primaries
He said: “This is very, very touching. It’s a card, but it’s face behind it is perhaps what’s more important. You guys have been very supportive, very supportive, play a critical role in the House of Representatives. My prayer is that you continue to play the role that you’re playing contribution to ‘nation building’, which is our mantra here cannot be quantified.
“So I thank you very much.He said, “It was a hard won battle not just for me but for many of our colleagues on the floor there. All 360 of us. Many were unlucky. Some were lucky. I used the word ‘lucky’ deliberately because this election was not as it should be, not so much about the performance of members whether on the floor or in their constituencies. It was about a lot of other things. It was about religion. It was about ethnicity. It was about so many other things which I hope that as we develop as a nation, one’s election would be based solely, or at least mostly on his or her performance on the floor and in the constituency. That is what I hope would happen as we move along and that is why he mentioned the Electoral Act that was just passed. That is why I fought tooth and nail to make sure the Electoral Act adopted strictly the direct mode for primaries because of elections. Even though at the general elections members lost, a lot of members actually lost their elections at the primaries, where their acceptance by the constituents was not put to test. What was put to test was what one or two leaders in their constituencies determined whether they were returning or not. So we lost a lot of legislators even at the primaries level, and that does not help our democracy.
“So hopefully moving forward, we would perfect that document, the Electoral Act, which many people have celebrated but still not perfect yet. Hopefully we would be able to perfect it. So I thank you profusely for all the support you have given us, myself, the leadership and the House. Over the years, the last four years, you are part of this institution and I have enjoyed working with. I would continue to enjoy working with you. As many of you know, I would probably be a floor member now, which is how our democracy works. But being a floor member is not about what position you occupy but it is about what you contribute to law making and governance and I will continue to do that irrespective of wherever I find myself.
“My colleagues have been very supportive. I have through no magic of mine but through the benevolence of God been able to hold the House together and hold my colleagues together, which in itself is a tall order if you follow the National Assembly over the years. Managing 359 other members is not an easy thing and I have always said that if you can be the Speaker of the Nigerian parliament you can thrive in any organization anywhere in the world. God has been so good that together with my colleagues, one has been able to do that. My hope is that whoever comes in as the next Speaker would be able to continue in that trajectory and build on the foundations that we have laid for the institution and even do better. So I thank you.”
Speaking earlier, Chairman, House of Representatives Press Corps, Comrade Grace Ike, congratulated the Speaker on his victory at the elections.
She lauded the Speaker on the leadership of the House by ensuring everyone is carried along, as well as his contribution to lawmaking and governance.
She commended him particularly for his efforts to the successful passage of the Electoral Act, which would ensure the right leaders are chosen by the people.
Ike said the corps will continue do its best to ensure the progress of democracy in the country.
Highlights of the visit included a presentation of a congratulatory card to the Speaker, as well as group photographs.
“But through the benevolence of God in able to hold the house together and hold my colleagues together, which in itself is a tall order. If you follow National Assembly over the years, managing 359 members is not an easy thing. I’ve always said that. If you can be the speaker of the Nigerian parliament, you can thrive any organization anywhere in the world. God has been so good that we together with my colleagues want us to do that hoping whoever comes in as the next Speaker will be able to continue that trajectory and build the foundations that we have laid for the institution and even better that’s that’s that’s my institution. So I thank you ladies and gentlemen of the press as we say thank you very much.
In her remarks, Chairman, House of Representatives’ Press Corps, Ms. Grace Ike
So we’re just here to say congratulation. As one of us, we are still hopeful that with you.
Nigeria is going to be a better place, the election has come and gone. And we all prayed and hoped for a better election which has come and gone. So for us, it’s a work on development to come and say congratulation, and to also give you our card, no matter how small it is, or to let you know that the press corps identifies with you. And we’re happy that as a speaker, the talk Congress speaker, who says and he talks,