Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga writes on the battle for speakership of the House of Represenattives in the in-coming eight assembly
As the former Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, is about to be sworn in as the new Governor-elect of Sokoto State, the battle for the next person to occupy the position of House of Representative among the All Progressives Party (APC) members has been hightened over the past few days.
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, a member of the House from Surulere 1 Constituency is seen by political watchers as one of the most favourable person to occupy the seat left behind by Tambuwal, but he is not finding it an easy ride at all, as other of his party colleagues are fiercely contesting the position with him. Coming on the heels of the denial by the party leaders and elected representatives from the North Central zone that some members of the House of Representatives from the North Central zone had endorsed Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the lower chamber in the 8th National Assembly.
But the North Central zone has refuted that claim. Many thing that party Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s opposition to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki’s candidature for the Senate President in preference to Senator George Akume, has thrown the North Central zone on Gbajabiamila’s path.
Now that Tambuwal is going to become Sokoto State governor, he may not have much influence in determining who becomes the next Speaker, despite his glaring closeness to Gbajabiamila in previous public events even before he defected from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC. Nonetheless, the withdrawal of Mohammed Monguno, member of House of Representatives and Chairman of its Committee on Agriculture, from the race for Speaker of the House has not in anyway make the way clear for Gbajabiamila.
Monguno, who is an APC member from Borno, has been one of the top contestants for the speaker’s seat before his withdrawal from the race. He said that he was stepping down from the contest to support Femi Gbajabiamila (APC Lagos), ‘’after broad consultation and thoughtful consideration’’.
According to him, Gbajabiamila has the requisite qualification to lead the 8th National Assembly in the onerous task of addressing the important and pressing needs of citizens of the country. “I am withdrawing from the race for two reasons: first, to ensure party cohesion. As leaders of our great party, we can ill afford to have a divided house if we are to deliver on the much needed change we promised Nigerians. “Secondly, Femi stands tall among our peers in terms of experience and understanding; he knows the contours and nuances of the legislative process.
“The convention in representative democracies the World over, is that having served as minority leader, you ascend to the ‘speakership’ position should your party gain the majority,’’ he said. He, however, hinted that he may run on a joint ticket with Gbajabiamila, because over time, he had realised that Gbajabiamila was an exceptionally effective legislator. “Today, our beloved country stands on the cusp of change; we have a unique and golden opportunity to make our legislature more vital and inclusive for all of its members, irrespective of party affiliation,” he said.
His withdrawal has narrowed the race between Yakubu Dogara and Gbajagbamila. Although, it was also reported that the Femi Gbajabiamila ‘Speakership’ Campaign Secretariat asserted that more than 179 new members of the House of Representatives have endorsed his ‘speakership’ race, another faction known as Assembly Consolidation Group of Yakubu Dogara have also proclaimed that over 213 members endorsed Dogara as Speaker. The battle is still raging within the APC House of Representative members in the 7th House for the next Speaker, and it may get even tougher and messier in view of the party’s zoning formula and Gbajabiamila’s region of emergence.
Dogora who hails from Bauchi in the Northeast is part of the game plan of that zone to ensure they do not miss out in the principal offices in the new dispensation given the high likelihood of the Senate Presidency going to the North Central. The fact that he is seen as on of the Boys of Tinubu who is also trying with difficulty to fix the Senate Presidency has polarized the House, with a new Forum of newly elected member numbering 200, vowing to take an independent position to make it difficult for what they call outside forces to tamper with the freedom and independence of the House.
Nevertheless, there is one thing Gbajabiamila would not forget in a hurry; the exit of Speaker Tambuwal to Sokoto State where his new office as governor of the state as from May 29, will certainly refocus him from the activities of the House. Shortly before the valedictory for the 7th House held yesterday, there was widespread claim that Tambuwal was supporting another candidate from his Northern Constituency as his successor.
Head of Gbjabiamila Campaign Organisation, Mr Faleke promptly denied the claim, stating that: “The attention of Femi Gbajabiamila Speakership Campaign Organisation has been drawn to a statement purportedly made by one of our honourable members to the effect that the incumbent Speaker, Rt. Hon Aminu Tambuwal is supporting another candidate other than Femi Gbajabiamila,” Mr. Faleke said.
“We hereby state categorically that in a democracy every member is entitled to their own opinion, however, as a secretariat we are of the strong opinion that Rt. Hon Aminu Tambuwal is purely interested in bequeathing a strong legacy in the House of Representatives, which our candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila represents. “I can therefore confirm that Rt.Hon Aminu Tambuwal is strongly in support of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the 8th House of Representatives.” As things stand now the battle line is drawn between Dogora, former Commiitte on Custom Chairman and three -time returnee and Gbajabiamila, Minority Leader and four -time returnee both of who are three time returnee member of the lower chamber.