OBITUARY: Ghali Na’Abba, ex-reps speaker who was a thorn in Obasanjo’s flesh

Ghali Umar Na’Abba was of multiple personas to different people, depending on their political leanings, during his tenure as Nigeria’s fourth speaker of the house of representatives.

Some regarded him as a foremost lawmaker who fought for the autonomy of the legislature against an overbearing executive, while others might style him as a rabble-rouser who whipped up emotions against the executive for personal vendetta.

On Wednesday, his name surfaced on top stories of national news once again, this time with an undisputed impression: Na’Abba is dead.

The political scientist died at the National Hospital in Abuja at age 65. A son of a wealthy aristocrat from Kano, Na’Abba was clear about his goals and dreams from an early age and went after them with vigour.


A man of steeled conviction who fought the executive led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo throughout his tenure as speaker of the green chamber. He fancied himself a fierce defender of democracy and was one of the major players who thwarted Obasanjo’s purported third-term agenda.


Na’abba with Umar Ganduje, former governor of Kano, and Abdula Samad Rabiu, CEO of BUA

Na’Abba was born on September 27, 1958, in Tudun Wada LGA of Kano. He was born into a family blessed with riches and proximity to power. His father was Umar Na’Abba, a prominent businessman and the founder of Na’Abba Commercial Trading Company, and Rabi, his mother, was a sibling to Bashir Tofa, the presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) during the annulled June 12, 1993, election.


A young Na’Abba grew up in an affluent mansion at the heart of bubbling mid-20th century Kano. The city was one of the attractive epicentres of commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa at the time, and his father’s company was at the forefront of the windfall.

Like moths enthralled by fire, politicians covet relationships with wealthy magnates, and Na’Abba’s father had plenty of powerful friends. The hobnobbing with those high and mighty ignited the flair for politics in young Na’Abba, and he was inspired to study political science.

Na’abba:” I grew up in a family that was rich but also radical.’

“I grew up in a family that was rich but also radical – that influenced a lot about my life,” he told Abusites in 2021.

“I used to have a lot of friends and was very liberal with money. When I was growing up in my family, I met a lot of people who were not even members of the family but were bearing the family’s name. Not only were my parents rich, but they were also community leaders.


“My grandfather was close to the Emir and big politicians. I used to see most of the ministers from Kano in my grandfather’s house. All the ministers came from time to time. I used to see the late Maitama Sule, the late Ibrahim Musa Kashashi, and so on. Right then, I started entertaining the idea that I should be a minister.

“In fact, that inspired me a lot to study political science.”

After attending Mayanka Primary School and Rumfa College, Na’Abba gained admission to study political science at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, in 1976.

As a student, he was allowed to flex his political muscle and became a secretary of the ABU chapter of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).




Upon graduation, Na’Abba was employed in his father’s business. He became the secretary of Na’Abba Commercial Trading Company and held the position until 1983. He earned vital roles in companies under his Na’Abba chain of businesses for another 15 years.

However, he moved into politics afterwards. He joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 at the dawn of Nigeria’s transition from military government to civilian rule for the second time.


In 1999, he was elected a lawmaker from the Kano Municipal federal constituency in the house of representatives. He initially ran for the house speakership, but Salisu Buhari won the seat.

Na’Abba was compensated with the role of chairman of the appropriations committee of the green chamber. He held the post until Buhari resigned as speaker of the house of representatives after he was enmeshed in a document forgery scandal.


Na’Abba became the leader of the lower chamber shortly after.


Na’Abba’s tenure as the fourth citizen in the country was typified by his protracted fight with the executive arm of government led by Obasanjo.

The issue began after Obasanjo accused the legislature of delving into matters beyond its jurisdiction. Na’Abba shot back at the president, claiming that the executive was still plagued with military dogma.

“The condition of the country gives one concern. Nobody feels safe enough to caution those in authority for fear of being harassed by the executive and their agents,” Na’Abba said.

“The problem with Nigeria is that, though we claim to have a constitution and civilian rule, the system of government we are operating is neither military nor democratic. It is confusion.”

Shortly thereafter, Na’Abba was slammed with the allegation of misappropriating the finances of the house of representatives. There were calls for a public probe of the house’s finances, but the lawmakers led by Na’Abba kicked against the request.

Na’abba with Ahmad Lawan, immediate past senate president

In October 2000, the development led to an exchange of punches between pro-Obasanjo and pro-Na’Abba lawmakers on the floor of the lower legislative chamber.

After the back and forth, Na’Abba began the move to impeach Obasanjo from office. The former speaker said it took the intervention of former heads of state for the lawmakers to halt the impeachment process.

“Really, I regret that the impeachment was not able to go through on the advice of certain former heads of state that we had tremendous respect for,” he told Punch in 2018.

Na’Abba remained a significant inconvenience for Obasanjo until he lost his re-election bid to the national assembly in 2003. The former speaker believed the former president worked against him during the election out of spite.


Obasanjo was president of Nigeria from 1999 – 2007

After Na’Abba was ousted from the national assembly, Obasanjo concocted a bill to amend the 1999 constitution and extend term limits by another four years. The proposed constitutional amendment was presented to the national assembly, and what followed was months of political brinkmanship.

Na’Abba, although out of office, claimed he played a vital role in halting the bill.

“What came to my mind was that the third term agenda was undemocratic, and since it involved a constitutional amendment that would eliminate constitutional term limits, it was not going to be an agenda for the president to have a third term, it was for him to be president for life,” he said.

Na’abba with Nyesom WIke, former governor of Rivers, inaugurating the Edeoha-Ikata-Ochigba Road in Ahoada East LGA

“So, my first instinct was to be wary of it, and I thought that I must fight to ensure that it did not see the light of day. So, that was how other Nigerians and I collaborated to help campaign against it and eventually cause the National Assembly to vote against the constitutional amendment that could have allowed it.

“As a politician, I don’t have to be a member of the legislature for me to be able to promote democratic causes. At the legislature, I also did a lot of things and influenced the way the legislature did its work, and it is very remarkable that we gathered together as politicians and imposed our views on the legislature at that time. And luckily for us, quite a substantial number of the legislators did not like the idea, even though the majority of them wanted it passed.”

He added that he was one of the politicians who “started our propaganda” to counter the narrative and throw support against the third-term bid.

“When we got substantial information and proof that the constitutional amendment was going to take place, we started our propaganda. We went to many places to campaign against it; we were holding meetings, press conferences, visiting institutions, and doing all sorts of things to nip that idea in the bud,” Na’Abba said.

On May 16, 2006, the national assembly rejected the proposed constitutional amendment for Obasanjo’s third term bid.

Add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected from copying.