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Speakership: Intense Lobby Splits Lagos Assembly

Paul Yovo reports on the ongoing jostle for the Speakership of Lagos Assembly

As the 7th session of the Lagos State House of Assembly winds down, old members have intensified lobby for their choice of the candidate for the Speaker’s seat, a worthy successor to Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the longest serving Speaker, serving two uninterrupted terms from 2007 to 2015. But indications at the weekend show that a big hurdle lies ahead as possible candidates were not yielding grounds to the other and opting to go the whole hog in electing Ikuforiji’s successor. Within the Assembly complex itself is a lull that gives a false sense of calm and peace, whereas the inner recesses of the Assembly Complex is on the boil; there is intense lobbying going on within

The lobbying is even more intense with some external forces already pulling the strings. For one Ikuforiji had been able to get himself the Speakership position due to the influence and word from former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu who calls the shots in the party.

Part of the reason for the intense lobby is the dislocation of an earlier plan for easy succession. But with the unforeseen victory of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in some of the ruling party’s stronghold and candidates, things are not what they seem. In the end, only one of the five elected principal officers in the Assembly was able to survive electoral defeat, which the party suffered in some areas where the PDP was able to win some seats. Swept away in the defeat were the Deputy Speaker of the House, Musibau Kolawole Taiwo, who many analysts had felt would succeed Ikuforiji as next Speaker. Also among those that were affected by the tsunami are the Chief Whip, Majority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader. For the ruling APC which has a brand new Governor- elect, that would assume office on May 29, the support of the Assembly is therefore very crucial and indispensable, particularly now that the opposition PDP would be entering the House with some recognition. In the legislature the Speaker presides over the Chamber and weighs enormous influence in the affairs of the state. Though the Speaker is only next to the governor and the deputy in hierarchy, the executive arm of government needs the speaker’s blessings to perform sensitive functions. He decides the conduct of the House, bills to be debated as well as heads of various House Committees, overseas trips for members and even who has the floor during debates. The yearly budget of the House (N9 billion for Year 2015) is largely at the disposal of the Speaker.

Following the new order occasioned by the list of new entrants into the legislative chamber, one of the 40 members who were once in the Assembly between 1999 and 2003, Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni, may also be slugging it out with the old legislators such as Hon Funmilayo Tejuosho and Masah Agboola who have also got the necessary legislative experience to steer the affairs of the Assembly.

Eshinlokun was formerly the Council Chairman of Lagos Island and the immediate past Lagos state All Progressives Congress (APC) Secretary.

There are indications that some power brokers would push him forward from Lagos Central Senatorial District, having close ties with Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor-elect who also have a sizeable political clout on the Island including the overwhelming support of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.

According to a reliable source, who prefers anonymity, the preference of Eshinlokun ahead of Masha Agboola as the candidate of Lagos Island constituency in the House of Assembly by the party in the primaries was a plot powerfully staged managed by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who is a political figure in the senatorial district to ensure that Eshinlokun succeeds Ikuforiji as Speaker of the Assembly.

Nonetheless, he faces serious challenge from other returning legislators of the Assembly who may be jostling for the speakership position, among who are Rotimi Abiru from Somolu; Yishawu Gbolahan from Eti-Osa; Moshood Olanrewaju Oshun from Lagos Mainland; Funmilayo Tejuosho from Mushin; Sani Agunbiade and Adebayo Sikiru Oshinowo. They have the experience in the legislative business of the state and secondly they have made their marks in the Assembly.

Oshinowo is one of the longest serving lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly, as he has been in the Assembly since 2003. He was instrumental to the emergence of the incumbent Speaker Ikuforiji when the deal for Ikuforiji’s emergence began in 2003. Popularly called” Agba-Egba” by his colleagues in the chamber, simply because he always adhere strictly to the party’s guidelines, he is staking his claim for the exalted position. He is a party man and highly regarded by the leadership of the Lagos APC. But he has a weakness that may work against him: he is from Kosofe Local government area of Lagos East Senatorial district, the Senatorial district which has produce the governor-elect Ambode.

Another second term lawmaker in the Assembly that is eying the position is Agunbiade who was a legal practitioner before he opted for politics and is noted for making robust contribution at the floor of the Assembly, most especially on knotty legal issues. Although, he has not openly shown any interest in the position, some party leaders in his constituency are said to be creating a soft landing for him by lobbying the power-brokers in the party on his behalf. The only female in the race for the Speakership is Funmilayo Tejuosho, who has also been in the Assembly for three terms. Tejuosho, who is an experienced lawmaker, represents Mushin Constituency 11 of Lagos West Senatorial District. She has the backing of some of the former lawmakers of the House in influencing the leadership of the party to support her candidature but the senatorial district she comes from may really dash her hope since it produced the Deputy Governor elect, Mrs. Idiat Aderanti Adebule. Tejuoso, one of the strong contenders for the speakership seat, made the remark during an interview with The UNION recently.

She said: “I think it is time for change. We talk about change as All Progressives Congress and it is time a woman takes position as the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly. I think it is time we support women to excel.”

When asked why she really wanted to be the Speaker of the 8th Assembly, she replied: “I think everybody I am a potential speaker in this House of Assembly. I believe I have served this House diligently for several years. I believe that I’m qualified and capable to occupy that position.

According to her, women have more to prove when they are given leadership position, and should be appreciated for that.

“I want to believe that there is nothing that is extraordinary in a man that a woman doesn’t have intelligent wise and I believe that it is not a chore to be a woman in a man’s world but it is for us to appreciate that there is equality now. We even have laws that talk about equality in Nigeria. We have people talking about affirmative actions because they appreciate the fact that women have had the short end of the stick for a very long time.

“We must also appreciate that when a woman is given opportunity to lead, we have more to prove. So, we put in extra efforts and make sure that we succeed,” she stated.

From Lagos Central Senatorial District, Oshun, who is representing Lagos Mainland in the Assembly, seems to have the backing of the leadership of the party in his constituency to clinch the speakership position. But Oshun can only be favoured if the speakership position is zoned to Lagos Central by the party’s leadership as it is currently speculated. A reliable source in the party said that the return of Oshun was to ensure that the Speakership position comes from Lagos Mainland. Oshun’s paternal link remains relevant in Lagos Mainland for him to achieve his dream of becoming the Speaker of the House.

One major factor that may work against him is the fact that Ehinlokun who has the backing of Senator Oluremi Tinubu to clinch the party ticket during the controversial primaries may give him a tough time to become the next Speaker.

In the ring from Lagos Central is Gbolahan who narrowly won his re-election into the Assembly with 200 differential votes ahead of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro’s son, Babajide Obanikoro to represent Eti-Osa constituency 11. Gbolahon who is one of the youngest members of the House may as well be jostling for the Speakership of the House of Assembly because he possesses the needed charisma and required fitness for the job.

He may however have problem- convincing majority of the lawmakers that he has a mind of his own because of the perception about him. Political analysts argued that virtually all the returning lawmakers are qualified to hold the position, but there are clear hurdles to cross for whoever that emerges as the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly. As things stand now, there is only one man and a word that would make the difference and out the jostling to an end: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is yet to speak on it because his attention is on the national politicking within the party for national appointive and elected offices for now. Until then, the jostling, lobbying and ambling continues.

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