Ghali Umar Na’Abba: Nigeria’s Only Brutal Speaker Who Vetoed a President

He was brutal, fearless, and confrontational. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Nigeria’s former Speaker of the House of Representatives was perhaps President Obasanjo’s major bottleneck.

As the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003, Na’Abba displayed rare courage, commitment, and dexterity to holding the executive branch accountable and defending the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

During his tenure as Speaker, Na’Abba took on the formidable task of ensuring checks and balances in Nigeria’s government. He staunchly defended the independence of the legislature, upheld the concept of the separation of powers. He jealousy and zealously protected the rule of law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under one of Nigeria’s powerful presidents—Olusegun Obasanjo.

One of Na’Abba’s confrontational strides was confronting the executive branch, particularly the presidency, on matters of national importance. He was brutal in exposing the shortcomings in government, engaged Ministers and other heads of government agencies through investigative and public hearings.

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Former Speaker, Ghali Na’Abba, Is Dead

Perhaps one of his most notable achievements was mobilizing more than 300 members out of 360 to overturn President Obasanjo’s veto on critical bills, such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) bill. This marked a historic moment in Nigerian politics as Na’Abba’s House of Representatives became the only legislative body to successfully overturn a President’s veto on a bill.

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Additionally, Na’Abba initiated regular debates on the state of the nation, which led to a significant 2002 debate resulting in the House’s resolution to commence impeachment proceedings against President Obasanjo. This move was aimed at curbing the President’s growing appetite for constitutional breaches and holding him accountable for his actions.

Na’Abba’s footprint was glaring in designing and actualizing an effective legislative framework aimed at promoting good governance and quality national development. Under his leadership, the House of Representatives passed a series of important laws, resolutions, and policies that were instrumental in addressing the pressing needs of the Nigerian people.

He was equally rigorous in scrutinizing budgetary frameworks, making robust adjustments where necessary. He championed the responsible management of public funds, aiming to reduce government waste and minimize corruption in public institutions.

Despite facing significant opposition from the executive branch, Na’Abba’s leadership remained steadfast in defending democracy, constitutionalism, and the principles of good governance. His determination and fearless approach to confronting the Obasanjo administration left an indelible mark on Nigeria’s political landscape. Ghali Umar Na’Abba’s legacy in this regard will be remembered in Nigerian political history.

Education: Na’Abba’s educational journey began at Jakara Primary School in Kano, where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1969. He continued his studies at Rumfa College, Kano, earning his West African School Certificate. In 1976, he gained admission to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he pursued a degree in Political Science, graduating in 1979. His dedication to education didn’t end there, as he completed a postgraduate program on Leadership and Good Governance at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2004.

Private Sector Experience: Before venturing into politics, Na’Abba joined his father’s businesses, gaining valuable experience in various sectors, including importation, manufacturing, and publishing. He held positions such as Managing Director of Manifold Limited, Director of Quick Prints Limited, and Managing Director of Hinterland Resources Limited.

Political Ascendancy: Na’Abba’s political journey began as a student when he became an executive committee member of the ABU chapter of the People’s Redemption Party during the Second Republic. He later joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998, where he emerged as the party’s candidate for the National Assembly election in 1999. Although he initially missed the role of Speaker, he eventually assumed the position and became a notable figure in Nigerian politics.

International Parliamentary Positions: At the international level, Na’Abba held various critical parliamentary positions, including Vice President of the Conference of Speakers of West African Parliaments, Vice President of Global Parliamentarians on Habitat, and Vice President of the African Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He played a pivotal role in reshaping African parliamentary diplomacy and development.

2003 Re-election Bid: In 2003, Na’Abba sought re-election to the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, facing opposition from the Presidency. The Presidency’s attempt to thwart his re-election showcased his high popularity rating and the fear that he might return as Speaker. Despite political manipulations, Na’Abba’s integrity prevailed.

Political Philosophy and Re-alignment: Throughout his political career, Na’Abba advocated for political parties founded on justice, fairness, equity, accountability, and transparency. He believed in manifestoes designed to meet the needs of the people and promote good governance and national development. His commitment to these principles led him to switch parties, including a stint with the All-Progressives Congress (APC), in search of a platform that aligned with his values.

Awards: Ghali Umar Na’Abba received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Nigerian politics and democracy. These included the National Honours Award of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) and accolades from various organizations, student unions, and civil society groups.

Na’Abba’s legacy as a dedicated, principled, and influential Nigerian politician will continue to be remembered, and his contributions to democracy and good governance in Nigeria will serve as an inspiration for future generations. His passing on December 27, 2023, marked the end of an era, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in Nigerian politics.

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