Tajudeen Abass: A Symbol Of Parliamentary Stability

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By Toby Prince

To whom much is given, much is expected, so they say. But if much is given to you and you’re empty, you will dash the expectations of the waiting public.

For Rt. Hon Tajudeen Abbas, much was given to him and daily, he has continued to surpass all expectations. The number of votes he garnered to emerge Speaker of the 10th Assembly and the 15th Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, 353 out of 359, speaks volumes about his personality and his acceptability by his colleagues. He left his other two challengers with only six votes to share among themselves to preserve their dignity.

For every election circle in the last 13 years, of which we have had 4 of them, Hon Abbas has been consistently elected by the people of Zaria Federal Constituency to represent them in the Green Chamber. Coming from the Zazzau Emirate in Kaduna State that boasts of so many intellectuals and electable materials, the confidence reposed in him by his people is a testament to his strength of character and expertise in the management of human resources and relations.

Rt. Hon Abbas was first elected in 2011 on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at a time when the ruling Party in Kaduna State was PDP and one of their son and former Governor of the State, Arc. Namadi Sambo was the Vice President of Nigeria and running mate of the PDP presidential candidate in that year’s election.

A crown prince of the Zazzau Emirate otherwise known as Zaria, with the traditional title of Iyan Zazzau, Hon Abbas’ organic relationship with his people which he has now deployed in managing the House of Representatives can not be divorced from the career path he chose for himself after school. With all the opportunities available for a prince like him, he waved the privileges and went back to his roots to share the little knowledge he had acquired with the future generation by becoming a primary school teacher. He moved from there to become a lecturer at the Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic otherwise known as the Kaduna State Polytechnic and later moved to the Kaduna State University where he taught between 1993 to 2001. Today, there’s no facet of life in his community where you will not find one of his former students. That’s how to lay a solid and lasting foundation.

With a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and a Doctorate Degree in Business Management from the Usman Danfodio University Sokoto, Rt. Hon Abbas is the first Doctorate Degree holder to be elected Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives. Coming from the Northern region believed to be backwards educationally, this is indeed a commendable feat.

Before venturing into politics in 2010, Hon Abbas had a brief stint in the private sector as he worked as a Marketing Manager at the Nigerian Tobacco Company, now known as the British-American Tobacco Company of Nigeria. His vast experience as a classroom teacher saddled with the responsibility of managing pupils and moulding their character and future, and his marketing skills in selling products prepared him adequately for the position he occupies today and the maturity he brings to the job is glaring for all to see.

Of his activities in parliament, between 2015 and 2019, Dr. Abbas is reported to have sponsored the highest number of bills in the 8th Assembly. Coming to the 9th Assembly between 2019 and 2023, he broke the glass ceiling by sponsoring a total of 74 bills out of which 21 were approved by the two chambers of the National Assembly, forwarded to the then President, Muhammadu Buhari for his assent and were signed into law. This is a new record for a legislator in any parliament across the continent of Africa.
He also served in different committees in the House between 2011 and 2023 and has an in-depth knowledge of the workings and functions of every committee in the House. He was the chairman of the House Standing Committee on Land Transport in the 9th Assembly, his last position before emerging as Speaker of the House. As Speaker, he saw the need to create monitoring and evaluation committees to help the House follow the implementation of projects to its logical conclusions which has given the House a handle on their oversight responsibilities.

Considering the amount of peace and tranquillity brought to the House by the Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila’s tenure as Speaker of the 9th Assembly, which was a sharp departure from what was obtainable in the 8th Assembly headed by Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Dr Abbas was stepping into a big shoe that many would have thought was oversized for him. But as gentle as a dove, he has raised the bar of leadership by being inclusive and embarking on extensive consultation with his colleagues before making decisions that impact everyone.

Hon Abbas sees himself as primus inter pares. He knows he’s first a representative of a federal constituency like all his other colleagues and his position as Speaker is as a result of the trust of his colleagues. In less than one year into the life of this parliamentary assembly populated by many freshers, Hon Abbas knows every one of the other 359 members by name, thereby giving every member a sense of belonging. This indeed can only be the hallmark of a teacher. As an experienced parliamentarian, the Speaker know exactly what his new colleagues need to know to excel in their legislative and oversight responsibilities and has continued to organise seminars, conferences and workshops for them to acquire these needed skills.

Considering the aloofness of the Executive arm of government to the immediate and peculiar needs of the different constituencies, the honourable speaker insists that constituency projects will continue to be part of the budgeting process. In his words, “By tailoring projects to the local context, we ensure that development is not just a concept discussed in the halls of the legislature but a reality experienced in the streets, villages and towns in Nigeria”. He made this statement at the inauguration of some constituency projects attracted by his predecessor and current Chief of Staff to the president, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila in Lagos. He derided critics of the scheme and promised to revive the ”Constituency Development Fund Bill” to institutionalise the scheme. This indeed gladdens the heart of his colleagues who know that without the Zonal Intervention Projects otherwise known as constituency projects, government presence will never be felt in their various communities that are not very visible on the national map.

At the presentation of the 2024 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly which was President Tinubu’s first since assuming office, Hon Abbas emphasised the importance of a peaceful working relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government. He promised that “the national assembly will support the government’s policies and programmes targeted at alleviating poverty, economic restructuring and diversification, as well as general social sector reform and development”.
But in working with the executive, Mr Speaker knows that the ultimate goal is the people and that’s why he informed the president and his entourage that “while we’ll give the budget accelerated consideration, we will diligently scrutinize it alongside Nigerians to ensure that when it is passed, it will be a budget that best addresses the most critical needs of our people”.

To the delight of his colleagues, Rt Hon Abbas has pushed over 50% of votes allocated to his office as Speaker to his fellow members and has continued to dip into his reserves to intervene on behalf of any member in critical or urgent need of a project. The Speaker considers the constituents of his colleagues as his and goes the extra mile to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. 

As we approach the first anniversary of this stable and inclusive session, members of the 10th Assembly could not have asked for a better leader than what they have got. With Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas as Speaker, Members are guaranteed a memorable tenure as the focus of his leadership is to help his colleagues achieve their set goals.

With Rt Hon. Abbas as Speaker, Nigerians are assured of progress, peace and prosperity. The nation will continue the trajectory of transformation and consolidation. All we can do as citizens is to pray and support this God-sent leader.

Toby wrote this piece from Abuja.