Muktar Aliyu Betara: Better For Speaker In 10th Assembly

Hon. Betara
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By Our Reporters

The National Assembly has a public perception problem which, truth be told, dates way back and before life of the current 9th Assembly – contemptuously slanged “the rubber stamp Assembly”. To put it mildly, the average Nigerian holds the National Assembly in utter opprobrium and the list of whys is long. Ask him or her and straight up, you would be told that the National Assembly is a corrupt institution peopled by self-serving lawmakers who think nothing of the common man and therefore loots the commonwealth with reckless abandon.

  For a man who has spent 16 consecutive years as a lawmaker at the National Assembly – and has just been re-elected for the fifth straight term – this revolting image of the federal legislative arm of government keeps Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara awake at night. And it is a major reason he has thrown his hat in the ring to lead the House of Representatives as Speaker in the incoming 10th National Assembly.

But then, who is Muktar Aliyu Betara?

Well, he is the lawmaker representing the Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno State in the lower chamber of the National Assembly. First elected in 2007, Hon. Betara was born on 22 November 1966 – the 12th of 21 children of a civil servant father and homemaker mother.

Betara attended Biu Central Primary School in 1973 and obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1978. From there, Betara went to Biu Central Junior Day Secondary School, and then to Government Technical Secondary School Benishek, Borno State, where his teachers soon took note of the teenager’s leadership qualities and promptly made him head prefect. Betara secured his West Africa School Certificate in 1983 at Benishek and proceeded to Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri to obtain a National Diploma (ND) in Accounting in 1986.

  With that ND qualification, Betara started his working career as an Accountant with the Presidency at the Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) programme from 1986 to 1990.   He returned to Ramat Polytechnic in 1990 for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business Administration, which he earned two years later in 1992.

Hon. Betara

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year saw Betara served the country at the Delta State Government House, Asaba. After his service year, Hon. Betara joined the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) in 1993. He rose through the ranks to the post of Manager retired voluntarily in 2006 to venture into politics. A member of the Nigeria Institute of Management, Betara is a devout Muslim and married to Hajiya Hauwa Betara with whom he has four children.

Political Career

Betara’s first triumph in politics was in the 2007 race for the House of Representatives. That year, he ran on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and got elected for the first time as the member representing Biu, Kwaya Kusar, Bayo and Shani Federal Constituency. Since then, Betara has been re-elected five times – his last victory coming in the 25 February, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, and on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 As one of the few lawmakers to have served in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth assemblies, Betara is certainly a ranking member of the House of Representatives, an enviable status he naturally takes into the 10th Assembly, which would be proclaimed in June, 2023 by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu after he would have been sworn in as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces on Monday, 29 May, 2023 at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

While ranking has its place in the affairs of both chambers of the National Assembly, particularly in their leadership contests, certainly Betara brings more than his grandee of the House status to the race for Speaker. At this critical juncture in our national life, personal competence and cognate experience are indispensable requisites to demand of anyone gunning for the fourth most powerful post in Nigeria. On these scales, Betara weighs heavier in gold than the field as his professional working career shows. And, he beats the competition in breasting the tape too in terms of legislative experience in the House of Representatives as a quick recap of his 16 years in the lower chamber demonstrates.

Hon. Betara

  Although he was only a freshman in 2007, the leadership of the House of Representatives of that era headhunted Betara from his class of newly elected lawmakers back then to head key committees and serve on others as a member. Therefore, between 2007 and 2011, Betara acted as Chairman of the Sub-committee on NDIC, Banking and Currency, member, House Committee on Interior and Chairman, Sub-committee on Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office (CIPPO).

 Having performed creditably on these committees and in the House generally even as a first-time lawmaker in the 6th Assembly, Hon. Betara had no hiding place in the 7th Assembly (2011 to 2015). Even if he wanted to keep a low profile, the multifaceted national challenges of the time demanded his tact, level-headedness and other statesmanlike dispositions. Consequently, Betara received weightier national assignments in the 7th Assembly as he was appointed Chairman, House Committee on the Army, a position in which he was involved directly in sustaining the military onslaught against rising insurgency in the North East, his home region.

  Betara’s oversight function and experience in military matters as a lawmaker made him indispensable to the national efforts at keeping terrorism at bay. Consequently, in the 8th Assembly (2015 to 2019) he received a broader national assignment in homeland security by serving as Chairman, House Committee on Defence, which supervised the nation’s military industrial complex.

 By now a pattern is discernable to the way the National Assembly, nay Nigeria, harnesses Betara’s talents. Each time the good people of Biu, Kwaya Kusar, Bayo and Shani Federal Constituency re-elected him, the House of Representatives heaped more responsibilities on his shoulders. And so when Betara was re-elected for the fourth, straight term in 2019, the lower chamber of the National Assembly promptly dragged him to chair the House Committee on Appropriations. Now, that is one heck of a House committee to head. The reason? The House Committee on Appropriations presides over all other committees in the House of Representatives regarding the appropriation process in the lower chamber. It is also the committee saddled with oversight function on all federal appropriations.

 The Herculean nature of heading the House Committee on Appropriations becomes glaring when one considers the fact that we are talking about appropriating scare resources to all federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), including the Presidency, Nigeria’s external financial commitments, the National Assembly itself with all its 360 members and their constituency projects, agencies serving the National Assembly in ancillary ways, etc.

    It is to Hon. Betara’s credit that he currently serves Nigeria on the House Committee on Appropriations creditably well.  Under his leadership, the committee has succeeded in having the June-to-June budget cycle changed to the current, preferable January-to-December one for a more effective budget implementation. Consequently, the country’s Appropriation Acts and others like the Finance Acts have continued to be passed and enacted respectively for consecutive years without fail, enabling the running government operations at the federal level.

Betara: In The Race For Speaker For National Rebirth

 The House of Representatives has tapped into Betara’s critical decision-making and crisis management skills in the last 16 years, especially in the areas of youth and women empowerment, developmental governance, health, education, social and national security and access to equal opportunities, which constitute his legislative interests. His Biu, Kwaya Kusar, Bayo and Shani Federal Constituency can also attest to this as Betara has been responsible for the construction of 20 health care centers, 10 ambulances, a mini-stadium and the installation of more than 600 solar-powered street lights in his constituency.

 Given the pattern of the House giving higher responsibility to Betara each time he is re-elected, it is no surprise then that his incoming colleagues in the 10th Assembly have Betara in sight to lead them as Speaker. These returning members are driving Betara’s Speakership bid. They know that the incoming Speaker has to be someone adept at managing complex relationships. That is the core duty of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He or she manages relationship between himself and other 359 members, manages the relationships of the 360 members among themselves, manages the relationship which Nigerians see most times, that is the executive and legislature, etc. 

 Also, the Speaker of the House manages the relationship between the masses of Nigerians and powerful forces within and outside the country who are always at the ready to take undue advantage of the country and the masses. Essentially, the Speaker and the House make use of the tools of lawmaking and oversight functions to stand in defence of the people and the advancement of the country. In this wise Hon. Betara is ahead of his peers also seeking the high office of Speaker in the 10th Assembly  

    Without gainsaying, the 10th Assembly will only make a difference in the lives of Nigerians if the country get interested in who becomes the leader of the two chambers. The outcome of the upcoming leadership contest in the National Assembly would determine what the next four years would look like for Nigeria, especially how this plays out in Executive/Legislative relationship.

 The House of Representatives, and indeed Nigeria, needs a Speaker who has earned his name in gold over time. That Speaker should be highly experienced in House affairs. That Speaker must be one whose leadership would engender responsible behavior in members for a paradigm shift in the image of the National Assembly in the hearts of the man on the street. The Speaker of the 10th Assembly needs to set the tone for a House sensitive to the goals and aspirations of the masses, and empathize with them in their plight.   

Betara: A Man And His Vision For A Better Nigeria

  Public perception often masks reality and therefore misses the mark. Although the voice of the people is the ultimate decider in a democracy, the notion of a cesspit of the corrupt which lives in the public imagination of the National Assembly since 1999 is debatable. (For instance, given that the budget of the National Assembly had only topped the N150 billion mark recently, it is bemusing to reflect on the fact that the image of the corrupt does not immediately spring to the mind of the average Nigerian when Directors-General (DGs), Accountants-General of the Federation (AGF), an Executive Secretaries (ES) of federal agencies are mentioned. Yet these DGs, AGFs, ES have been prosecuted – and are still been prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) – for stealing trillions of naira with a stroke of the pen! However, and somehow, any mention of members of the National Assembly in a conversation, Nigerians are off the block to call them “legislooters”. How did 460 people on whom we spend  N150 billion only yearly become the poster boys and girls for corruption when DGs, AGFs, ES have been accused and jailed for stealing more than N150 billion in a single working day?) But that is a matter for another day.

  Nevertheless, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Betara is determined to change the bad reputation which the National Assembly has managed to gain for itself in 23 years in popular imagination.

Hon. Betara

    Betara promises a House of Representatives that will work for Nigerians. He pledges that Nigerians will see and experience a 10th Assembly which delivers prime value for the taxpayer’s money which would be spent on it, and change the narrative of a self-seeking group of people they see the National Assembly for.

 For the majority of re-elected Members of the House of Representatives, Betara is the Man Friday the lower chamber and indeed Nigeria need. They are talking with the large contingent of freshmen and freshwomen coming to the 10th Assembly to back Betara as Speaker. They have seen the 57-year-old in action for 16 years in plenaries and managing committees that are very critical to the survival of our nation. At the task of managing the biggest, elastic House panel – the House Committee on Appropriation – they have seen how Betara had fared excellently well. They have experienced, first-hand, Betara’s capacity for partnership, collaboration and delicate balancing of complex, competing interests and his open-door, approachable policy. They know that the House of Representatives needs a listening Speaker who is also respected and respectable enough for members not to go off tangents to involve themselves in acts that could further tarnish the image of the House. And they know that Betara is better than the rest for Speaker of the 10th National Assembly. They are pulling all stops to elect him as Speaker, come Proclamation/Inauguration Day, next June.

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