Dogara’s Zik Prize Award: Reward for exemplary public service

FOR the first time in the history of this country, a Speaker of the House of Representatives is winning the prestigious Zik Prize Award for Public Service. Thus, Speaker Yakubu Dogara will on Sunday, July 10, 2016, again, add to his numerous achievements, another feat, having been found as one of the outstanding socio-political and business elites that have made tremendous impact in the development of this country.

Coined after the first President of the Country, Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the award given by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC), no doubt aims to recognise leaders who have distinguished themselves in the course of nation building; as well as ginger others, especially young generations to emulate leaders who have worked selflessly for the country.

Coming this period when Dogara is the Speaker of the revered Green Chamber, one can draw a historical tie and analogy between the Speaker and Azikiwe, whom the prize is coined after. In 1948, Azikiwe was elected to the Nigerian Legislative Council, and later became the President of the country. During that period, Dogara’s kinsman, the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister. Both leaders are respected in Nigeria for providing selfless and quality leadership.

And today, though the like of Tafawa Balewa and Zik are hard to come by, we still have Nigerians who have shown both in spirit and action that they can provide selfless and quality leadership. It is, therefore, more than a coincidence that Dogara, who hails from the same constituency and area as the late Prime Minister, is being honoured for having distinguished himself as a leader whom Nigeria can trust.

Within one year as the speaker, Dogara has consolidated on the successes recorded in the House from previous Assemblies, commanding and overwhelming level of respect and performance not only in the National Assembly, but in the country in general.

On June 9, 2016 when Dogara enumerated the successes achieved by the House through collective efforts in their one year anniversary and assurances and commitment he made to them of his determination to consolidate those gains, the Green Chamber was filled with enthusiasm and the members gave the Speaker an unprecedented ovation.

Undoubtedly, clocking one year as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara’s qualities have shown that he is truly a new breed politician, honest and hard-working leader, which Nigeria needs in our journey to enthroning enduring democracy. The Speaker exhibited leadership quality of selflessness in the way and manner he resolved the initial squabble in the House for leadership position. Indeed, the large-hearted Dogara displayed an uncommon spirit of accommodation and magnanimity in the appointment of House Leadership positions.

In the past, the relationship between the Executive and Legislature had not been very cordial which affected implementation of government policies and programmes. But under Dogara, there has been a harmonious relationship with the Executive Arm of government as was seen in the amicable resolution of the issues that arose during the budget debate and other national issues.

Also, to contribute in the realisation of the goals of the present administration, the Speaker inaugurated a committee to review obsolete laws of the federation. The committee has so far submitted two reports where over 250 laws were reviewed. After submitting the first report, 130 bills were presented on the floor of the House, which scaled first reading and are now at various stages of legislative process. During the submission of the second report to the Speaker, the Chairman of the committee, Dr Ladi Hamalai said 54 other bills had been prepared for presentation for first reading. This effort, no doubt would assist in the realisation of the change agenda of the current administration.

Interestingly, one of the bills has to do with protecting victims of insurgency, an issue which is in the House of Reps Legislative Agenda, which was crafted by Dogara and adopted by the whole House. Another unprecedented and uncommon feat Dogara recorded was to take the floor and lead the debate on the North-East Development Commission Bill. The bill aims to rehabilitate, rebuild and resettle Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their areas. It will also provide opportunity for international donor agencies to support efforts in the reconstruction efforts as was done in other climes. This gesture will no doubt restore confidence of government on the people in the country.

To contribute his quota in ensuring industrial harmony, the House under Dogara also mediated in the NLC strike over the removal of subsidy on petroleum. Labour leaders were given the opportunity to air out their grievances just as the Executive Arm of Government, represented by Ibe Kachiku, Minister of State, Petroleum, was also given the opportunity to brief the members on the philosophy behind the price increase.

There is no doubt that the intervention by the Dogara-led House of Representatives also contributed in no small measure in persuading NLC to suspend their strike to give room for dialogue and interface. Similar intervention was also made by Dogara when the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) rang its bell warning of an impending strike. The prompt meeting Dogara had with the doctors led to the suspension of the planned industrial action by the doctors. The second round of the meeting with the doctors will resume on July 14, hopefully for final resolution of the issues.

Dogara has not only built bridges of unity in the country, but also across the globe, as can be seen from the way and manner envoys and other representatives and officials of other countries have been trooping into the House of Representatives seeking for closer bilateral ties for mutual benefits.

Indeed, Dogara’s leadership qualities have manifested in the way he ran the affairs of the House in the first Legislative session in the 8th Assembly. This, no doubt, has been a period where the House has consolidated on the gains made in the Legislature since the return of democracy in 1999. The House under Dogara will no doubt be gauged as one of the arms of government that has contributed to the sustenance of democratic rule. Just as it has always prided itself as the conspicuous symbol and bastion of democracy, the Legislature, precisely the House of Representatives, under Speaker Dogara has not left the electorate in doubt that it would remain so.

  • Habila is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.