“The Board of Editors voted for you in recognition of your antecedents as a dogged patriot, a torch bearer, a staunch believer in the principle of the separation of powers and ultimately the defender of the democratic faith. We have followed your path since you emerged the Speaker of the House. We also know that there have been battles here and there. But you are still here and we recognize the courage you have shown maintaining the delicate balance between the independence of the legislature and working with the executive and more importantly, your safeguarding the principle of separation of power without rocking the boat.”
These were the exact words of Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Sun newspaper Eric Osagie when he led management staff of the paper to formally notify the Speaker of the award as Political Icon of the Year 2016.
Today, the Speaker will step forward for this recognition, which comes with its own concomitant responsibilities.
Coming from a very humble background, one would have said that he was not cut out for politics because from his days at the University of Jos to the early part of his legal practice; nothing in his life indicated that he will become a politician. His life, is a personification of the awesome grace of the almighty God who has consistently led him in all his endeavours. What distinguishes and endears him to people is his uncommon humility which is seldom the case with people occupying high positions in our country. He plays politics without bitterness and reaches out to even his staunchest critics and self-declared enemies.
I recall that just few hours after his election as Speaker on June 9, 2015, the Speaker started the work of reaching out to his opponent in both words and actions as he said in his inaugural speech that, “together we will heal the wounds and divisions of this contest. Together we shall work to deliver good legislation and good government to our people.”
At around 2am, we drove to the residence of Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in Apo Legislative quarters in Abuja in company of scores of members where he truly began the work of healing the wounds and divisions of the election. Unfortunately, Hon. Gbajabiamila wasn’t home. It was the Speaker’s singular decision even against the wishes of many of his strong supporters and allies in the House that saw to the emergence of Gbajabiamila as the House Leader. He continued to appeal to and pacify those opposed to it and the rest as they say, is history.
The next acid test for Dogara was the constitution of the standing committees of the House. In that too, he was able to navigate the tumultuous waters displaying uncommon political and leadership prowess. In spite of initial misgivings by few of his colleagues everything went smoothly and one after the other the Speaker kept reaching out to them.
I recall that the House Chief Whip Rt. Hon. Alhassan Ado Garba once told me that he was shocked and that if he had his way he would have dug the ground and buried himself when he heard a knock on his door and lo and behold it was the Speaker – the very man whom he did everything to stop from emerging and even continued to oppose his leadership. Once the door was opened the Speaker only told him that “Alhassan we are brothers please come let’s work together. Let’s put our differences aside and begin the work of remaking Nigeria.”
Interestingly, for these same and many other reasons the Leadership newspapers bestowed on him the award of Politician of the Year 2015. Of particular interest is that these recognitions are coming despite desperate, calculated and well-planned efforts and attempts by his traducers to tarnish his hard-earned reputation as incorruptible and patriotic leader. Thankfully, the Speaker has been able to come out clean, with his head high.
The tales of lies, mischief, distortions, and allegations peppered with tongue-in-cheek drumbeats and obvious fabrications have now crumbled on their very head. Nigerians now know the truth because as Winston Churchill said “Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.”
There is nothing greater than the truth and Dogara’s life story reflects nothing but the truth. It is his life, his way and what defines his person. Here is one who achieved greatness through sheer hard work, honesty, commitment to common cause and antique shrewdness.
It is Dogara’s philosophy that leaders should at all times live exemplary lives of service, sacrifice and selflessness. The Speaker always says that justice is needed in building a civil society, and that for societies to grow, leaders must understand the workings of justice which is necessary in any democracy for equality to thrive. In fact, he strongly believes that establishing both principles is necessary for Nigeria to make any meaningful progress.
Today, the House of the Nigerian people, the green chamber, is at peace with itself and busy legislating for the good of the people. Indeed, Dogara’s efforts and leadership have started yielding positive fruits for the country as record numbers of bills are being passed on daily basis. In just one and half years, more than 150 bills have been passed by the House just as work is being done on about 800 more. Of the 18 non-budget-related bills signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, 17 are House bills and all emanated from the statues reforms committee set up by the Speaker.
In addition to this, Dogara is also strongly leading campaigns for the financial and political autonomy for local governments which saw the leadership of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees paying him a “Thank you and solidarity” visit recently.
Worthy of mention is the Speaker’s interventions on the humanitarian crisis in the North-east where he is championing calls for the convocation of an international donor conference to rebuild the region in addition to his sponsoring of the North East Development Commission Establishment bill which is now awaiting presidential assent; to his many visits to Internally Displaced Persons camps across the country providing succour and relief materials to them.
“This kind of award…serves as a motivation and without motivation we cannot achieve much. We cannot innovate without motivation and whether we like it or not, politics remains the only way through which leadership can be recruited in many countries and the only way we can institute governments. So, it (politics) has come to be with us; we cannot run away from it. It can only take people and not angels to improve on existing situations; so when leaders who truly love what they do are motivated, this increases the chances of having better leadership, which will translate to the development of the country,” the Speaker said on December 6, 2016 when management of The Sun newspaper delivered the award letter to him.