By Abdulrahman Adebayo
On Saturday, 13th of November 2022, the Speaker of the Great Independence Hall Assembly, Ajenifuja Stephen, strolled into the secretariat of IndyHall Press for an interview to provide answers to his leadership of the legislative house and burning issues affecting the Hall. When the interview was over, he left more questions than answers.
Does the Speaker Have Plans?
In what was the first major question during the interview, the Speaker was asked about his plans as the Speaker of the House. “There are good plans for the house and the plans are in motion. For instance, today we started our fresher’s welcome, where we had the fresher vs stalite match and tomorrow we would have our freshers’ orientation and the freshers’ blast in the evening,” he responded.
This response begs the question of whether the Speaker is truly conversant with his roles and what sets them apart from the functions of Executive members of the administration. The constitution is clear about the office responsible for organizing certain events – and freshers’ welcome party/match evidently does not fall under his jurisdiction.
That his first plan is one that is neither his plan nor expected to be carried out by his office is a loud statement. The Speaker’s attempt to explain that this should be credited to his office because they (the house) approved the budget promptly also provides no justification for claiming it’s his first plan.
Does the Speaker Want to be Held Accountable?
When pressed further about the specific plans his office intends to carry out, the Speaker identified two things. The first was unity. The second is a secret known only to himself. “I would like to keep that for future purposes,” he said.
When queried about the rationale behind keeping his plans for Katangites, who elected him into the position in the first place, private, he explained that he does not want to disclose it “because I know anything published here, people would read it and I don’t want ‘but you said this, you said this’. So just let me keep it for now so that if it happens fine you would write about it and if it doesn’t so I just like to keep it.”
In other words, the Speaker has decided not to present any plan he intends to execute in his office because he is scared that by doing so, he will be providing Katangites with adequate information to hold him accountable if he fails to fulfill them.
Does the Speaker want to work?
Another important question that was addressed to the Speaker during the interview was that of the constitution. The constitution that guides the affairs of student administrators in the Hall was last amended in 2006 – 16 years ago! – and over the past few years, there has been a growing demand for it to be updated to address several issues.
Take, for instance, the Bye-election that led to the emergence of the Speaker is not recognized by the Hall’s constitution. Similarly, the constitution does not make an allocation for the occupants of D Block to have floor representatives. In spite of this, several elections – including one during the last plenary of the House – had been conducted to elect someone into this position. During the interview, the Speaker agreed that the constitution has a “lot of loopholes” and requires amendment.
However, when questioned about what the current Assembly under his leadership intends to do regarding this, he said ‘nothing.’ He argued that “even if it needs to be amended, it’s even a long due process if I tell you we should start if in the next week I tell you we want to start amending the constitution that means the next administration would still have to work on it because it takes a lot of procedure. We have to write a letter to the Dean of student affairs, you know it’s not something we can just do on our own.”
“The speaker then knew there was a need for the amendment of the constitution but he did not do it. I feel the amendment of the constitution is going to take a long process and if I’m even to start it, I might not be the one to even finish it because we talking about sitting down, enacting new laws into the constitution, reviewing it because we have to start from the beginning, we have to start from the root, we have to go back to the 2006 constitution, start from the beginning and amend everything that needed to be removed and there were some things that needed to be added.”
The implication of this is that even though the Speaker understands that the constitution needs to be amended to ensure it can solve some of the fundamental problems facing the Hall, he won’t do it because it requires ‘a lot of work’.