Dogara and a new value corpus, by Ken Ugbechie
His name is Yakubu Dogara, a lawyer. Until June 9, 2015, he was just another member of the House of Representatives. Before then he had served two terms in the House (2007 to 2015) representing Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State. Dogara is not of the loud stock, almost self-effacing, always wears a smile that gives him away as a jolly good fellow. He is indeed a jolly good fellow shorn of the needless aristocratic halo that often presages Nigerian politicians.
As a member of the House, you thought you had seen the best and the rest of him. Though seemingly taciturn, he has made the right noise in the House in his days as just a floor member. In 2013, he sponsored a bill for an Act to amend section 143 of the Nigerian Constitution. The essence of the Bill was to make the process of removal of the President and the Vice President on charges of misconduct less ambiguous and cumbersome. That singular act says so much about his mindset – zero tolerance for misdemeanour. He had to his belt other bills and lucid contributions to debates on matters of national importance.
But it was his emergence as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in June last year that brought to the fore the real Dogara. Politics is a treacherous mistress. It is a vocation that hides in its lockers the worst and most devious instruments of betrayal, attrition and morbid coercion. Politics by its nature lends itself to lechery, back-stabbing, uncanny guile and duplicity. This makes the political ecosystem a vast swathe of landmines and booby-traps, a large field strewn with banana peeling. It is worse if you are the leader of a political group, class or movement. It is your ability to navigate this minefield and still stand that makes you the man, indeed the leader.
Nothing better illustrates this than the manner Dogara emerged as Speaker. It was against the popular thinking and tide of his party leadership. He suffered the same fate with his Senate counterpart, Dr. Bukola Saraki who himself was not the anointed one to lead the Senate in the opinion of the principalities in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Both men ran into early storm, resisted by a cyclonic centrifugal force. And once they emerged by popular votes as Speaker and Senate President respectively, their ordeal began. Saraki is still atoning for the levity of his ‘recalcitrance’ with what now appears a vengeful trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
But the younger Dogara has marched on with the uncanny stratagem of a Trojan. Three things have stood him out and they have helped him to consolidate his grip on both the gavel and the lever of power: temperament, integrity and humility.
He displayed uncommon tempered temperament when he emerged Speaker. The House was viciously split along sharp lines. On one hand were the supporters of the APC leadership-backed Femi Gbajabiamila while squared up on the other front were supporters of Dogara. It was infra dig to the APC leadership that Dogara would preside over the House. The clash of ego and interest activated the mayhem mode of a House made up of ranking lawmakers and rookies. The net result was bedlam, a hysteric display of bestiality and asinine brigandage.
There was war in the House. Push turned to shove, and fisticuff – a combination of raw Oriental martial art and kickboxing were thrown into the mix. Furniture inside the hallowed chamber became handy missiles for the war of attrition. Yet, while the rage lasted, Dogara was all smiles. He sat right there on his chair, soaking up the pressure and darting his eyes from one actor to the other as though taking mental note of who is doing what in the fight for dominance.
Golf legend, Tiger Woods, once said: “I think the guys who are really controlling their emotions … are going to win.” Leadership starts with conquering self and having self-control. Dogara’s genteel temperament in moments of tantrum in the Green Chamber has endeared him to most of his colleagues.
In the height of the balkanization of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when 37 legislators defected from the PDP to the APC in one fell swoop, it took the calming influence of Dogara to still the resultant storm. The Nigerian House of Representatives with a long-standing history of volatility and often derided as ‘House of Rebelsentatives’ has under Dogara acquired the befitting toga of maturity and sanguine sagacity which it needs to perform its legislative duties.
So far, Dogara has raised the bar of integrity in the House. Since 1999 the House of Representatives and to an even greater extent, the Senate, has had the veneer of graft and fiscal prodigality splashed all over it. The story seems to have changed in the last one year. A legislature with tainted credentials and soiled reputation cannot effectively perform its duty of making laws for the good governance of the nation let alone perform efficiently its adjunct oversight function. This is at the core of legislative paralysis of yesteryear which had the inductive effect of paving the way for Executive recklessness and judicial rascality. Dogara’s badge of integrity stems in the main from his ascetic and sombre life style. Perhaps, this explains why his party oligarchs could not find a premise to persecute him just to hound him out of the seat reserved for their anointed one. His counterpart in the Senate, Dr. Saraki, is not so lucky in this regard.
Though it is still early days in a four-year tenure but if the morning truly shows the day, then there is an assurance that the House would sustain the sanctity of its independence which puts it in a good moral staid to superintend the activities of the Executive, especially.
In the last 365 days of the House, a good 600 bills were presented and about 80 of them already passed. This is unprecedented. More critical is the fact that the bills touch the nexus of the challenges confronting the nation. If this momentum is sustained, then this House would have its name logged in the chronicles of heroes of democracy, especially when compared with indices from the days of yore. The 7th Assembly, for instance, had 700 bills presented in four years as against the 600 bills in one year of the extant Assembly.
As the House marks one year of legislative duties, Dogara and his crew should resist the temptation to indulge in self-adulation and celebratory revelry. They must apply themselves to the torments of the moment. Nigerians are in pains; the economy is sliding deeper into coma, job cuts and pay cuts rule the roost. The legislature must arise and intervene.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the celebrated American poet and essayist once admonished: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. This is that moment. Nigeria is groping for a new path, a new life, a new value corpus. Dogara and his House, having come this far, should take the nation through a fresh path of self-discovery and socio-economic renaissance. In the end, they might just leave a trail and an assurance of hope for generations to come. History beckons.
- First published in the Sunday Sun, June 12, 2016