BY MARIAM MOHAMMED
On the morning of June 10, 2015, Hon. Yakubu Dogara emerged Speaker of the House of Representatives and made a solemn assertion that the House “shall wage an unrelenting legislative war on Nigeria’s problems”, stressing, “let the word go forth from here that it shall not be legislative business as usual again in Nigeria.”
Three years down the line and counting, the Speaker has demonstrated that his vow of making the Chamber Nigeria’s Green legislative hub was not in jest. Given the activism of the House of Reps, it is not uncommon to find them as ‘enemies’, especially to the executive.
The misunderstanding of the politics of Dogara, perhaps, could be responsible for the position of some of his traducers. Besides, in politics, it is natural to have those who do not buy into your agenda. But to situate it as hate is what is abhorrent and puerile. To gain insight in the nature of Speaker Dogara is to appreciate that the centrality of his service to community and country is empathy; the act of understanding and being sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others.
Like President Barack Obama in “The Audacity of Hope,” one can hear Dogara without saying it that, “A sense of empathy is at the heart of my moral code.”
Coming from a federal constituency, Dass/Tafawa Balewa/Bogoro, that is a mix of Nigeria’s two major religions – Christianity and Islam, Dogara is a child of these two experiences that have as their central message love, charity and being your brother’s keeper.
For the discerning, empathy animates Dogara’s agenda and this he does not take for granted, whether he is talking about the violence that has gripped the country in a stranglehold or stressing a compassionate leadership anchored on personal responsibility or internal in party processes.
It is little wonder that as one of Nigeria’s prime leaders, he continues to work conscientiously on pro-peoples bills and canvasses for a policy change to one of inclusion, rule of law and good governance.
To properly situate how much work the House of Reps has done and achieved in the last three years is to look into the records of the number of bills that have been passed, the countless resolutions, mostly ignored, that have been resolved and the general clarion calls he has made on why things ought to be done differently.
From available records, it is unprecedented that the Speaker Dogara-led House passed into law about 224 bills, of which 21 are Constitutional Amendment Bills; processed about 1,500 motions and handled nearly 700 public petitions.
“At the commencement of our administration, I empanelled a committee of experts consisting of Senior Advocates of Nigeria and law lecturers to look at the entire count of laws that we have in Nigeria since 1800 and recommend to us what we can do to bring them in line with international best practices. They sacrificed so much without much compensation. They devoted their time and at the end of the exercise they turned in about 300 bills, most of which have been processed. In one sitting, we read about 130 bills for the very first time in the history of the House of Representatives. I am not aware of laws that will positively impact on the lives of Nigerians that we haven’t touched,” the Speaker told journalists recently.
What further evidence does one need to appreciate the depth of his commitment to the Nigeria Project than deepening its laws and working to ensure that other arms of government are in accord with legislative work?
It is to his inclusive nature of administration that the House has remained a closed knit unit. Testimonies abound that the Speaker is not only a great listener but also acts on the concerns of those who have made him first among equals. Owing to the uncommon confidence reposed in his leadership, Dogara’s has largely remained insulated from the vagaries of the famed Banana Peel which has seen past leadership of the House of Reps and in general, the National Assembly, swept from their perch of office.
Aware that society is a crucial part of nation building, Speaker Dogara has demonstrated that he is also a moral arbiter. Not too long ago during the National Assembly Open Week, the Speaker brought parents to task on family values and why families must take their role of bringing up children in a non-violent manner more seriously, while not discountenancing government’s role.
“I have said at some fora that if we do not defeat violence, violence will defeat us and will make nonsense of our experience of democracy. Government cannot teach us how to raise our kids, it is not possible. It hasn’t happened in any society. But I believe traditional leaders and leaders of faith can contribute in the manner in which we bring up our children, to raising children in a non-violent way, teaching our families to express immediate disapproval when they witness signs of violence will help in ensuring that we have a peaceful Nigeria where we will live in unity, where development can thrive.”
In like manner, knowing that truth is a shield to those who bear it, the Speaker is not afraid of taking up controversial matters like in seeking for accountability in the recovery of looted funds.
On the flipside, Dogara is not all about lawmaking and legislative duties. He is a man in love with nature and for this reason, he is one of those who believe in organic grown food. His expansive farms on the outskirts of Abuja is a testimony that he walks the talk of self-reliance and giving back to society.
If anything, as an individual with a sense of history and the consequences of its verdict, it is heartwarming to hear him talk about what he wishes to be remembered for: “For this Eighth House of Representatives, I want people to remember us for defending our democracy. I want Nigerians to remember the Eighth Assembly as one that had the courage to say ‘no’ when there was a need to do that. It is a very difficult thing to do. It may sound very ordinary, but it is very difficult. This is due to the fact that we live in the midst of an epidemic of sycophancy.
“When you have sycophants, all they do is to interpret body language and try and read the leader’s mind so that wherever they feel the leader is going, that is where they go. I want Nigerians to remember us as a people of courage and one that fought for the common man.”
And the validation of his fight for the poor and vulnerable was made manifest on July 13 at the Tafawa Balewa Town, Bauchi, when thousands of his constituents described him as their “party”.
“We are here to show our total support for the Speaker for all he has been doing for us. We were taught in school that democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. But we didn’t know what that meant until Dogara became our leader in this constituency,” a supporter, Barnabas Yale, said.
For another supporter, Musa Salisu, “As a Fulani man, I can tell you that Dogara does not segregate. He works for his constituents whether they are Muslims or Christians, it matters less to him. Let’s unite because saboteurs are trying to cause crisis and confusion among us.”
What further verdict does the peoples’ Speaker need when the voice of God is the voice of the people?