Garlands to Speaker Dogara @49
By Turaki A. Hassan Forty nine years ago today, a humble child was born in the back waters of what is today north eastern Nigeria. That child, against all odds is today one of Nigeria's shinning stars, a beacon of hope, icon of transparency and progressive leader- Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who by the special grace of God occupies the seat of the Speaker of the House of Representatives- The people's chamber. Dogara, a determined go-getter, an embodiment of moral rectitude; epitome of humility and repository of knowledge is a child of destiny. Coming from a very humble background, breed in the rural community of Tafawa-Balewa, Bauchi state, northeastern Nigeria, Dogara, is leaving to the expectations of the people. Here is a man who after excelling in university was sought after and offered automatic lucrative jobs in multinational oil companies but declined because he strongly believes that there is more to life than money and rather opted to practice law with all the attendant consequences and uncertainties which permeates our society. Propelled and motivated by the urge and the desire to help and offer selfless service to mankind; he took his destiny into his hands. Indeed, men are the masters of their fate. That singular decision, not to be lured by lucre; even in a society whose values are measured in how much material possession one garners, tells volumes about his inner man, thoughts, traits, personality, and the selfless character of Dogara. His incorruptible character came to bear in the 6th Assembly, while serving as chairman of the Customs and Excise committee, he rejected a $5 million bribe offered in a desperate move to thwart investigation in the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service by some inept, corrupt and unpatriotic contractors and their collaborators within the service then. Again, in the wake of his defection from the then ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), N500 million and an automatic return ticket was offered to him; only if he returns to the PDP, yet he declined the offer and moved on. The ability and courage to resist mouth-watering and tempting offers of that nature and magnitude; not because he had gathered enough but for the fear of God and the love of country is what defines the personae and character of Dogara as a patriotic and incorruptible leader. He believes and practices politics of give and take, consensus building and compromise-accommodating both friends and foes-putting aside that which is personal for the collective interests of the Nigerian people. The Speaker strongly believes in dialogue, negotiation and consensus building, which are the cardinal pillars of his leadership. His quality of being peaceful and one who strongly believes in building bridges of friendship and love across the divides has in no small way, helped in bringing the desired stability in the House Thus, he has continued to enjoy enormous support and loyalty from his colleagues, who acknowledge his transparency and open-door policy. No wonder, the House in just one and half years has achieved many firsts and surpassed records sets by all previous assemblies put together. In 18 months of its tenure, the House has passed into law about 150 bills some of which have either been signed into law or are awaiting Senate's concurrence. Prominent among these is the North East Development Commission Establishment bill, the bill he conceived, personally sponsored and galvanised support from his colleagues in both chambers. The Speaker also empanelled a high-powered committee of renown and erudite scholars and legal luminaries to clean up Nigeria's statues books from 1900 to date which turned in hundreds of bills that are going through the legislative mills in the House. In total, about 800 bills and almost 1000 motions were introduced in just one and half years. Not only that, the Speaker embarked upon visitations to Internally Displaced Persons' camps across the country, providing succor and giving them messages of hope that although weeping may last in the night, joy cometh in the morning because according to him, the worst that can happen to a people is to lose hope. In one such visit to an IDP camp in Edo state, Dogara broke down in tears after seeing a crowd of over 2000 young children aged 3 to 18, orphaned by Boko Haram insurgency and offered to pay for WEAC and NECO examination fees of those finishing secondary school. Thus, he continued his push for the convocation of international donor conference to rebuild the north east apart from monthly financial contribution by all MPs from the region which he is spearheading. Instructively, for the first time in the legislative history of Nigeria since independence, the House under Dogara, introduced Sectoral Debates last May where ministers appeared before the lawmakers and told Nigerians about the Federal government's economic and social policies aimed at diversifying and revamping the economy and putting the country back to the path of growth, development and economic prosperity. Similarly, he has been leading campaigns for the deepening of the Nigerian capital market and even made history as the first presiding officer of the National Assembly to visit the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos where he sounded the closing gong and assured investors that the House will pass legislation that will ease business, attract foreign direct investment and create jobs for the teaming millions of our youths. Talking about youths, the speaker is also at the forefront of campaign to pass the #NotTooYoungToRun bill aimed at reducing the minimum age required by law to stand for elections in Nigeria. Already, the bill has since scaled second reading. Also for the first time, over 100 students from over 100 public and private Nigerian Universities on the invitation of the Speaker converged on Abuja- the National Assembly in specific where he interacted with them for two days. Gave them insight to the running and activities of the parliament and answered their questions- a similar meeting is in the offing for Polytechnic students which is unprecedented. Additionally, the Speaker continued to mediate between the Federal government and the young resident doctors with marathon meetings spanning through weeks and months which resulted in calling off the strike and averted future industrial actions. His interventionist meetings with the Nigerian Labour Congress helped in averting a major national industrial action early in the year following removal of fuel subsidies. On the political front, the House under Dogara, is stable and at peace with itself-busy discharging its roles and responsibilities to the electorate, thanks to his political sagacity and leadership prowess. It is also his belief that the Executive and the Legislature must not fight or be engaged in a supremacy battle before they can work to move the nation forward. Dogara believes that justice is needed in building a civil society and that for societies to grow, leaders must understand the workings of justice which is necessary in any democracy for equality to thrive. At every opportunity, he emphasises that the primary interest of leaders at all levels should be the people and not their ego or power tussle. He would insist that the bickering and animosity that characterised the relationship between the two arms of government in the past should never be allowed to rear its head again under the change administration of the APC because this government, which came on the promises of change, cannot afford to fail the people. This has earned him commendations from many quarters including the All Progressives Governors Forum chairman, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state who while addressing a team of visiting federal MPs in Owerri recently showered enconiums of him saying: “I commend the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara for the patriotic role he played towards reconciling the National Assembly with the Presidency." His honesty, patriotism, sterling leadership qualities and political sagacity are being recognised, commended thus earning him awards and honours. In March this year, Dogara was honoured by the Royal Commonwealth Society for leading the House to pass an unprecedented 130 bills in one legislative sitting which they acknowledged is no small feat. "We looked at the feat, it is an all-inclusive kind of governance for Nigerian people and he deserved that recognition and that is why the Commonwealth gave him that recognition." The Speaker also received the Zik Leadership Award for Public Service 2015, Leadership Newspapers Group Politician of the Year 2015 and has just been named the Sun Newspaper Group Political Icon of the Year 2016. What more can one say about such an unassuming personality, master tactician, progressive, vibrant politician, erudite scholar of high repute, lawyer per excellence and one who has achieved these feats and greatness through hard work, honesty, and fear of God as is required of leaders in these trying times in Nigeria. It was Josiah Gilbert Holland who aptly cried unto God to give us men as like this. “Men with Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands. Men whom the lust of office does not kill. Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy. Men who possess opinions and a will. Men who have honor...." Happy 49th birthday Mr. Speaker. Turaki Adamu Hassan Special Adviser Media & Public Affairs to the Rt. Hon. Speaker.