Following the recent leadership crisis that engulfed the All Progressive Congress APC in the 8th House of Representative chamber, there are indications that end is in the offing even though it may be fragile . The crack in the ranks of the members of the House of Representatives loyal to the governing APC and Femi Gbajabiamila, as some of the lawmakers have asked the APC leadership to accept the proposal submitted by Speaker Yakubu Dogara regarding the appointment of principal officers is still unsettling some members.
Mr. Dogara had in a letter to the National Chairman of the APC explained that he could not honour the request of the party to appoint Mr. Gbajabiamila as House leader saying it would be against the spirit of Federal character since the South West region where Mr. Gbajabiamila comes from had already produced the Deputy Speaker.
The Speaker said while he was willing to allow the position go to the group loyal to the party, the position of House leader should be zoned to the north-west, and deputy leader to north central. But the party insisted on its earlier position to give the lot to Gbajabiamila faction. The crisis came to a surprising end on Wednesday when Speaker Dogara threw a spanner in the works, dividing the opposing group. It gave the post to a member of that faction, though in adherence to its earlier position of sharing the principal offices on geo-political basis. The Dogara faction, in a statement signed by Abdulmumini Jibrin, north-west as House Leader and Pally Iriase, from the South South, as Chief w]Whip. Both members belong to the Mr. Gbajabiamila’s group.
The move appeared a deliberate effort to break the Gbajabiamila faction. Earlier, a member from Katsina state, Nasiru Daura, had in a letter to the party’s national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, insisted on party supremacy. But after the Dogara faction offered key members of the Gbajabiamila group positions, two members loyal to the APC, Mukhtari Dandutse from Katsina and Tijjani Jobe from Kano, issued a counter statement few days ago distancing themselves and the Loyalist Group, headed by Iriase, from the position taken by Mr. Daura. They said what the lawmaker wrote to the national chairman should not be translated to mean the position of the loyalist group, as according to them, no meeting was held to arrive at a decision on the matter.
“While we categorically reaffirm our membership of the Loyalist Group and our unflinching allegiance to the supremacy of the party, we wish to make public that the said letter did not emanate from any formal or collective meeting of the group,” they said. The two lawmakers said the last time the loyalist group met was immediately after the maiden meeting of the National Executive Committee NEC of the APC which held in Abuja July 3, 2015. They said the NEC proposed and members accepted to engage the immediate past Speaker of the House and Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal’s led Reconciliation Committee.
“Let us stress, that it was at this NEC meeting that the party recognized Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and Hon Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. “Similarly, it was after this NEC meeting that we accepted to cooperate with the Tambuwal’s Reconciliation Committee under the aegis of the APC Governors Forum. “In fact up to this moment, we are confident in the Tambuwal’s Reconciliation Committee as we await its report. “While we want to use this medium to dissociate ourselves from the letter by Hon Nasiru Zangon Daura to the leadership of the Party, which to us is his personal views, we remain resolute in the conflict resolution mechanism embarked by the leadership of the party through the APC Governors Forum,” they said.
The members also urged the leadership of the APC to “throw sentiments aside and accept the olive branch extended by the Speaker, so as to achieve amicable resolution of this lingering impasse in the House of Representatives. “We want to also use this medium to call on all members of the Loyalist Group nationwide to bury their hatchet, Embrace Peace and Take Nigeria first, above personal interests,” they said. Before now, a strong contender for the speakership of the 8th House of Representatives, Mr. Pally Iriase, Edo North, withdrew from the race and declared support for the candidature of House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
He took the decision barely three days after another contestant, Mr. Mohammed Monguno, also stepped down for Gbajabiamila. Iriase said apart from trusting in the ability of Gbajabiamila to preside over the next House, he had also come to the realisation that “acrimonious contest” for the position of speaker was unnecessary.
“With a deep sense of responsibility and sacrificial self denial, I have decided, not withstanding my robust qualifications, to quit the race for speaker and fully support Gbajabiamila, the current Minority Leader, for the job,” Iriase told a news conference in Abuja. Gbajabiamila, Chairman, Committee on House Services, Mr. Dogara, and Iriase have been the front runners for the number four job in the country. However, the steps taken by Iriase and Monguno to back Gbajamialia, are seen as moves to block the chances of Dogara, believed to be the minority leader’s real challenger.
Dogara (Bauchi State) and Monguno (Borno State) are from the North-East geo-political zone. Explaining why he backed Gbajabiamila instead of Dogara, the Edo lawmaker stated that the speakership of Dogara was not feasible in the present political arrangement in the country, as it would not guarantee the equality of the North and the South in the sharing of key offices.
Iriase argued that it would be unfair for the North to produce the President, Senate President, Speaker and Chief Justice of Nigeria, while leaving the South with only the position of Vice- President. But with the new rapprochement by the Speaker, Iriase has jumped boat , accepted the Chief Whip position he had earlier rejected and teamed with Doguwa. Upbeat about his new position, Doguwa said that accepting it does not amount to betraying Gbajabiamila. In his estimation, politics is about interests and his appointment still means well for his group and the entire members.
In a published interview, Doguwa said: “It is not shutting out Gbajabiamila, but if you are refusing Gbajabiamila and accepting Ado Doguwa, it is like you are accepting Gbajabiamila. Like I said, it is like you ask somebody to give you carrot through your right hand and the person said no, he is giving you through the left hand side. It is not about Gbajabiamila, it is about the group and the party and in the case of the party, I have told you my own understanding of the party.
I feel that Gbajabiamila and Ado Doguwa are committed members of the APC. There is no point refusing the Speaker’s offer… There were offers to Gbajabiamila to rise and accept nomination for the Deputy Speakership, Femi than said no and said we have to conclude the party’s bidding. He said the party sent us on a bidding to stand for Speaker and there is someone for the office of the Deputy Speaker. If I go down memory lane, the same arrangement that wanted Gbajabiamila Munguno as Deputy Speaker wanted me as House Leader, all things being equal. God coming by way of intervention has taken us back to the path of justice…”
With this development, the Southeast has reacted strongly. The two-member South East caucus of the APC in the House of Representatives has condemned the alleged attempt to “marginalise” them by lawmakers loyal to the leadership of the party. In a July 20 letter to the APC leadership, the party’s loyalists who are supporting the emergence of Gbajabiamila as the majority leader argued that the two APC lawmakers from the South East are in the House for the first time and are thus “inexperienced” to clinch principal positions of the House, citing precedents and standing.
However, in their reply signed by Austin Chukwukere, they said the position of the group “is full of distortions, misstatements, deliberate mischief, exhibition of ignorance of the law, practices and precedents of the House, and in some instances outright falsehood”. “We are making this response because the statement referred to above has singled out the South East Zone for special treatment and marginalization. That is why we consider it necessary, once again to restate the relevant facts and correct obvious and intentional distortion of facts and truth. “The argument that the South East Zone produced only two “new” members, who do not have cognate legislative experience and therefore not entitled to be represented in the principal officer’s cadre of the House, is most inaccurate and unfortunate.
“In the first place, any person acquainted with the rules and practice of the House knows that a new member is regarded as having “cognate legislative experience” immediately he is sworn in as a Member as it is only new members elect that are affected by the rule. “Secondly, established precedents in the Senate and House of Representatives show consistent respect for zonal representation in the election of principal officers, even when there are only a few from a zone. It is as a result of this, that the 7th Senate, elected Senator Ayoola Hosea Agboola, Deputy Chief Whip, even though he was ‘new’ and the only Member from his party from the South West.
“Even only recently, in the 8th Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena, from the South South has been made Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, a principal officer, even though he is a ‘new’ member and the only member of APC from the South South.” They told the APC leadership that zoning a principal position of the House would serve the purpose of “encouragement in order to establish the Party more firmly for future elector purposes”. The Southwest has kept a studied silence. Since the controversial letter from Chief Bisi Akande, former National Interim Chairman, they have chosen to close ranks and wait for their party and cultural leaders to issue directives. But investigations shows the new development would be “giving the attention it deserves’.
-Francis Moses X-rays the brewing cold war among members from the geo-political zones following this week sharing of positions in the House of Representatives, preparatory to resumption next week