Speaker Abbas pays tribute to Na’Abba as House honours Ex-Speaker

Gbajabiamila, Masari, others hail late lawmaker at valedictory session

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D, on Thursday, led several former and serving members of the House to pay glowing tributes to a former Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Umar Ghali Na’Abba, CFR, at a valedictory session held in his honour.

Na’Abba, who served as the Speaker of the House from July 1999 to May 2003, died on December 27, 2023.

Leading the tributes, Speaker Abbas described him as “an extraordinary statesman and a patriot,” saying that the ex-Speaker “undoubtedly, left an indelible mark on our nation’s democratic journey and will be remembered as one of the titans of our democracy.”

The Speaker said the session was to testify to Na’abba’s courage, boldness, dedication to the principles of democracy, exemplary leadership and steadfast commitment to the time-honoured principles of separation of powers.

Of all his qualities, Speaker Abbas said, what stood out the most were Na’Abba’s simplicity, austerity, contentment and rare honesty.

“He was a modest and deeply religious man who gave the last full measure of devotion to his work and Nigeria. He lived a simple life but always with the end in mind. His life is, therefore, a worthy lesson for political office holders of today and generations of politicians to come,” he said.

Speaker Abbas said though it was a moment of grief and national mourning, it was equally a time for sober reflection and celebration of his unblemished public service record and enduring legacy.

“At a more personal level, I am humbled by the enormity of his contributions and inspired by the purity of his vision. As we reflect on his life, we are reminded of the enduring strength of our democracy and the pivotal role of the legislature in that regard,” he added.

The Speaker recalled that at the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999, Nigeria stood on the threshold of history. He said after long years of military rule, Nigerians longed for stability, democracy, and governance that resonated with their hopes and aspirations. He noted that it was in this context that Na’Abba assumed the position of the Speaker, guiding the House with wisdom, dedication, and unwavering commitment.

“His tenure laid the foundations of a robust, independent legislature, vital for the checks and balances that underpin a vibrant democratic system. His leadership was characterised by a profound understanding that the strength of a democracy is measured not just by the freedom enjoyed by its citizens but also by the strength of its institutions,” Speaker Abbas stressed.

The Speaker further said under Na’Abba’s stewardship, the House emerged as a forum for vigorous debate and a powerful instrument for change and development. He added that the late lawmaker championed laws and reforms that continue to impact the nation, fostering economic growth, social justice, and the welfare of all Nigerians. He stressed that Na’Abba laid a solid foundation for the growth and development of the House and pursued institutional building with unparalleled vigour and passion.

Speaker Abbas added: “Moreover, his tenure was marked by efforts to ensure the independence of the legislature, recognising that a truly democratic society thrives when its legislative arm operates without undue influence, freely articulating the will and aspirations of the people. He worked diligently with his colleagues to ensure the National Assembly budget was put on first-line charge.

“He also formalised the legislative aides’ system we operate today, which continues to boost the capacity of legislators for enhanced performance. The vision of Hon. Na’Abba has been supported by successive administrations, with the Executive arm working in concert with the National Assembly to ensure good governance, transparency, and accountability.”

The Speaker announced that the House had resolved that the National Assembly Service Commission building under construction be named after Na’Abba and that the resolution had been transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.

The Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu said Na’Abba must have been a good man indeed if his deputy could publicly declare so several years after they had worked together. “Your Excellency, you are alive and I am your deputy, and I want to say you are a good man. Your Excellency, I will not wait till we meet in heaven. We have a long way to go. You are a good man,” he said.

Several former leaders and ex-members of the House who spoke at the session, especially those who served with Na’Abba between 1999 and 2003, recalled several memories of the foremost parliamentarian.

Those at the ceremony included the immediate past Speaker of the House and current Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; former Speaker and ex-Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari; and ex-Deputy Speaker (Na’Abba deputy), Rt. Hon Chibudum Nwuche.

Others were former Chief Whip (under Na’Abba), Abubakar Bawa Bwari, who spoke for former principal officers of the House and disclosed that 76 members 1999-2003 set had died; Senator Binta Masi Garba who spoke for the 12 female members of the 4th National Assembly; former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who spoke for former members of the House; and former members of the House and ex-Senior Special Assistants to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senators Kawu Sumaila and Ita Enang, among others.

In his tribute, Gbajabiamila recalled that he was elected to the House in 2003 and was there for 20 years – till 2023. “Therefore, it is with a feeling of melancholy that I appear for the first time, officially, in this House (after becoming Chief of Staff to the President) with mixed emotions. But I take solace – and I think we should all do – that we are here not only to remember one of us but to celebrate a giant,” he said.

The former Speaker described Na’Abba as “a great man, a talented politician, a worthy public servant and a true Nigerian patriot whose death has brought tears and sorrow,” saying, “But as I said, we do not mourn the life he lived for we know and the evidence abounds that he lived a very good life of service. Our grief Mr. Speaker Honourable Members stems from knowing that with his passing, our nation has lost the talent of a principled and courage of a consummate politician.”

Similarly, Masari recalled how tough it was for Na’Abba to lead the House filled with inexperienced members successfully under President Olusegun Obasanjo who was a retired General of the Nigerian Army and former military Head of State. “But thank God Ghali Umar Na’Abba came from a radical political background in Kano. It helped him a lot; it gave him the courage to face the challenges of that time. There is no how the history of the legislature, particularly that of the House of Representatives, can be written without a special place for Ghali Umar Na’Abba,” he said.


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