By Dominic Alancha
The Federal Legislature is the major crucible where the laws guiding our corporate existence as a nation are enacted. It’s at the National Assembly that we have the highest convergence of elected public officials in Nigeria; making it undoubtedly the key fulcrum of our democracy. Practically every ethnic group and tribe in the country is duly represented at the Federal Parliament.
Interestingly, all the parliamentarians in a particular Chamber are regarded as equals. Therefore by composition and function, the National Assembly as an institution is duly reflective of the Federal Character Principle. However, it’s imperative to delineate functions amongst the various Senators and Members of the House of Reps to foster harmony, coordination, efficiency and focus; necessitating the election of Principal Officers, with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House designated primus inter pares, in other words, first amongst equals.
From the foregoing, what should constitute the basis for determining the Principal Officers of the National Assembly, particularly the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Reps? Should our legislators latch onto the primordial sentiments of religion, ethnicity and regionalism in electing the leaders amongst themselves, or should they consider the competence, experience and capacity of the individual lawmakers jostling for the top positions?
Notwithstanding the equality status enjoyed by all members of a particular Chamber of the National Assembly, not all the parliamentarians are truly equal in terms of their educational qualifications, pedigree, competence, experience and capacity. Hence, it is absolutely important that only the most eligible contenders are elevated to the prime positions of Senate President and Speaker, as only then can they command the loyalty and respect of their fellow lawmakers, as well as the Executive, the Nigerian public and the international community, which is indispensable if they must discharge their functions effectively.
This piece intends to highlight the credentials of Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, the current Deputy Speaker, who was recently re-elected to the House. He is undisputedly a foremost contender for the position of Speaker in the 10th National Assembly, having previously indicated interest for the position in the 9th National Assembly before stepping down for the current Speaker, in deference to the resolve of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A consummate civil engineer, public servant, unionist and alumnus of the prestigious Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University, U.S.A., Rt. Hon. Wase is arguably the highest ranking serving House of Reps Member that would be returning to the 10th National Assembly. He was first elected into the Green Chamber to represent Wase Federal Constituency in 2007, on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He is presently serving his fourth consecutive term as a Member of the House, and billed to return for his fifth term.
With hundreds of relevant Bills and Motions to his credit, Rt. Hon. Wase enjoys the untrammelled respect and admiration of his entire colleagues.
They fondly christened him the “Stabilizer,” in view of his rare comportment, maturity and tact in speech and conduct. These qualities are essential for the holder of the position of Speaker, as it means that he can easily rally his colleagues to a common cause, which would no doubt be in the overall best interest of the nation.
Born 1st of June, 1964 in Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Wase attended the Plateau State Polytechnic, where he obtained an OND in Civil Engineering in 1986, and subsequently the Kaduna State Polytechnic for his HND in Civil Engineering in 1995. He further bagged an Executive Certificate in 2016, following the completion of a course in Strategic Governance at the Harvard University, U.S.A.
The current Deputy Speaker unleashed his innate disposition as an activist/unionist at the Kaduna State Polytechnic, where he served as the President, Civil Engineering Students Association (KADPOLY Branch) between 1994 and 1995; and concurrently as the Director of Organization for the Gamji Memorial Club, Kaduna Polytechnic Branch.
Before his expedition into partisan politics, Rt. Hon. Wase worked with the Bauchi State Ministry of Environment, between 1988 and 2002, rising steadily through the ranks from a Technical Assistant to attain the position of Acting Director of Works, and subsequently Acting Director of Physical Planning. He equally served as a Non-Academic Staff of the College of Education, Gindiri, between 1996 -2005 where he held the position of the Chairman, Non-Academic Staff Union between 1989 and 1994; serving concurrently as the Chairman, Senior Staff Welfare Committee from 1990 to 1993. He was eventually elected Chairman, Joint Academic & Non-Academic Staff Union of the entire tertiary institutions in Plateau State from 1992 to 1994.
His sterling pedigree as an activist/unionist stood him out as a frontline advocate for the masses and members of the working class. Hence, Rt. Hon. Wase was appointed as the Executive Secretary of Plateau State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board from 2005 to 2006.
Following his successful first term at the House of Reps, Rt. Hon. Wase was re-elected in 2015 on the same dais of the defunct ACN, and subsequently in 2015 and 2019 respectively on the platform of the APC. As a clear testament to his astuteness, popularity and acceptability in the House, Hon. Wase was elected UNOPPOSED as Deputy Speaker in 2019. It’s on record that he is the Deputy Speaker with the highest number of Chaired Sessions, and highest number of Reports considered, in the entire history of the Nigerian House of Representatives.
As the Deputy Speaker of the 9th Assembly, Rt. Hon. Wase sponsored several bills targeted at improving access to healthcare in different geopolitical zones of the country. He championed the establishment of Orthopaedic Hospitals in each of the Six Geopolitical Zones by amending the Orthopaedic Hospitals Management Board Act to create 3 additional Orthopaedic Hospitals in geopolitical zones that previously had none, viz: Edo (South South), Jos (North Central) and Jalingo (North East). The Deputy Speaker also sponsored a Bill for an Act to Establish a Federal Medical Centre at Wase, Plateau State, to promote access to quality and affordable healthcare services for his people.
Furthermore, as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris galvanized popular support for the passage of the Companies and Allied Matters (Repeal and Re-enactment) Act, 2020; and the Petroleum Industry Act, 2020 – two critical Acts that became the cornerstones of the Buhari Administration with respect to the national economy.
As the Chairman of the House Committee on Constitution Review, Rt. Hon. Wase championed several constitutional amendments that were meant to entrench true federalism; establish local government autonomy; grant financial autonomy to state legislatures and the Judiciary; ensure devolution of powers from the Centre to the States; allocate special quota of political offices to women and several other far-reaching amendments. On 17th March 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari signed 16 of the 35 amendment bills into Law; making it an unprecedented achievement for the Wase-led Ad hoc Constitution Review Committee of the 9th National Assembly.
Rt. Hon. Idris was appointed in 2015 as a Member of the Governing Board, National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and in June 2018, as the Regional Representative for West Africa to serve on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) International.
In 2017, Rt. Hon. Wase was appointed through popular support as the Deputy House Leader, to replace the late Buba Jubril who passed on in June of the same year. In the first few weeks of his appointment, he led the debate over 5 Executive Bills, including:
DEEP OFFSHORE AND INLAND BASIN PRODUCTION SHARING CONTRACTS (AMENDMENT) BILL 2018 intended to plug leakages in Government revenue streams and ensure that FG maximizes sufficient royalties from Production Sharing Contracts between NNPC and International Oil Companies.
COMPANIES AND ALLIED MATTERS ACT 1990 CAP C.20, LFN 2004 (REPEAL AND RE-ENACTMENT) BILL 2018; a revolutionary bill intended to totally overhaul Nigeria’s corporate regime and promote ease of doing business.
NIGERIAN MINERALS AND MINING BILL 2018, meant to reorganize the Nigerian Mining Industry to effectively develop and harness mining potentials in Nigeria in line with global best practices.
In August 2016, our Deputy Speaker was selected as a member of the FG Delegation to the 89th Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York. He was also elected as 1st Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament in 2019, a position he used to defend and promote the strategic interests of Nigeria within the ECOWAS sub region.
Indeed, it is a herculean task to summarize the stellar pedigree of Rt. Hon. Wase, a man who has undoubtedly brought good governance and quality representation to bear in impacting positively on the lives of not only his immediate constituents, but all Nigerians. However, the aforementioned should suffice to project him as the very best material for the position of Speaker of the 10th House of Reps.
*Dominic Alancha is a Social and Political Commentator*