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South East Reps Exclusion Raise Controversy

Before the resumption of the plenary in the House of Representative there were indications that that will be a fight in the house, but the swift intervention by President Buhari in the leadership crisis that rocked the lower chamber into forced recess saved the day as the lingering issues surrounding the appointment of principal officers were resolved amicably.

Yet in the midst of the quiet there is that nibbling and irritating sense of frustration arising from the exclusion of the Southeast and North central. From the North and Southeast are coming demands for explanation of this offending exclusion. . Firing the shots from the North is elder statesman, Alhaji Tanjo Yakassai, second republic Political Adviser to President Shehu Shagari. In a recent interview Yakassai said, the exclusion of South East legislators from the leadership of the National Assembly is a threat to national unity.

Yakassai expressed surprise that the leadership of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) did not consider the ethnic nationality in its office sharing. Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), from the South East, emerged as the Deputy Senate President out of the crisis that followed sharp disagreements in the APC on the candidates that were to fill the positions.

His emergence is still being hotly resisted by the APC. His words “It is quite shocking that at the end of the meeting of some APC leaders at Aso Rock, called by President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Gbajabiamila, who contested the Speakership against Yakubu Dogora and lost, emerged the Leader of the House. “I can recall that before President Buhari’s intervention, the Dogara group accepted to concede the position of the Leader of the House to the Gbajamiala’s group, but with the condition that the position will not go to the South-West.”

“It was surprising that after the meeting between the National Chairman of APC, John Odigie- Oyegun, Gbajabiamiala and Dogara at the Villa, they came back and did otherwise. “Again, immediately after (Gbajabiamila) was announced the Leader of the House, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu paid a visit to the Villa apparently to thank President Buhari for intervening in favour of Gbajabiamila.

“Now, in the House leadership, South-west has two major slots and the South-East has nothing. This is not a good development”. Yakasai also warned that with the set up in the House of Representatives, those now clamouring for the removal of Senator Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President should be wary of the consequences. In similar development two members in the House of Representatives from Imo State elected on the platform of APC, Chike Okafor and Chukwukere Ikechuchu also expressed opposing view with choices made by the party in respect of the principal offices, which left them out.

In a joint media interaction today, they stated that zoning a principal position to the South East would help strengthen the party in the zone. The party favors Gbajabiamila, Southwest, for the position of House Leader; Mohammed Monguno, North East, as Chief Whip; Alhassan Doguwa, North West, as Deputy Speaker; and Pally Iriase, South South, as the Deputy Whip. Following the party’s position, both South East and North Central are excluded from the principal positions. Messrs Gbajabiamila and Monguno were the party’s anointed candidates to emerge Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

The party was however defied by the duo of Dogara and Lasun Yusuf to contest House leadership elections and emerge Speaker and Deputy Speaker, with the support of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. However the member representing Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma and Obowo constituencies   of Imo State in the House of Reps, Deacon Okafor, recently condemned the exclusion of the Southeast in the appointment of principal offices of the House of Representatives. Addressing journalist recently in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the lawmaker urged the (APC) to address the continued neglect of the zone to engender the genuine spirit of Federal Character.

He said contrary to beliefs that the party failed in the zone, APC faithful contended against formidable forces at the risk of their lives to ensure that the (PDP) did not repeat the feat of 2011. “On Tuesday, July 28, the House of Representatives reconvened and the remaining principal offices were filled, marking the beginning of full legislative business. His words “You may recall that the Southeast APC had nominated me for the post of Deputy Majority Whip, a nomination that was accepted by the presiding officers. But as you already know, the final position is that the Southeast is the only zone that is excluded from the leadership caucus while one zone occupies two plum positions. This is the first time we are having this scenario since 1999. “On principle, I accept the outcome of that session in good faith and sincerely congratulate the leadership.

“However, in view of the realities in the process of constituting the leadership, I am constrained to plead with our party to review its definition of inclusiveness and rethink its perception and treatment of the Southeast. “If our ideology of leadership involves, even in the minutest, the integration of every section of our country, then our pontification on Federal Character should go beyond lip service and rhetoric to the practical embrace of every section in the spirit of the change we have promised.

“The national leadership of our party should not continue to place the Southeast on the fringes in the scheme of things. As far as the Nigerian project is concerned, every region must count if we must get it right”. Interestingly, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Lagos Mainland Constituency, Jide Jimoh, recently criticised the Minority Whip of the House, Yakubu Barde, for allegedly attacking President Buhari for intervening in the National Assembly crisis. Barde who spoke recently on behalf of the (PDP) caucus in the House of Reps, had alleged that President Buhari did not tell Nigerians the truth, when he said few weeks back that he was not interested in whoever emerged as principal officers in the legislative arm of government.

While reacting to Barde’s comment in a statement signed by his media aide, Debo Omilani and made available to the newsmen recently, Hon. Jimoh explained that the intervention of President Buhari in the crisis rocking the National Assembly showed that he is a man of peace and a leader of high value.

The lawmaker, who insisted that Barde’s statement was baseless and has nothing to do with the president, said “when the President said on his inauguration day that ‘I am for everybody, I belong to nobody’ what it simply means is that “I am for all,” and you cannot jettison the interest of your party as a party man. “You have to ensure that there is peace in your party. What the president has simply done is to find a way out of the impasse and allow peace to reign in our party. “APC is very composed unlike the PDP, and we are a party of peace with the high level of belief in reconciliation.

Without primary, there cannot be secondary; the president cannot just stand aloof and watch what is happening within our party without doing something about it because he’s the leader of the party. “Therefore, what the Minority Whip said has nothing to do with the personality of the president and APC. Our party is for peace and progress of Nigeria. What we are after is to ensure that the people of this country enjoy the dividends of democracy, which PDP could not offer, when they were in government for 16 years,” the statement read in part.

Hon. Jimoh, however, reiterated the commitment of the APC to the development of Nigeria as the party clocked two years, adding that they, as members of the party, will ensure that all their electioneering campaign promises are fulfilled. “We are very happy as the people stood beside APC in the last general elections to ensure that positive change happened in Nigeria and they voted for our party under the sun and in the rain. With the changing positions of APC members in the impropriety of relegating some zones from the recent changes in the House, more controversy may well be the order of the day until the matter is resolved through other appointments.

-The exclusion of Representatives from the Southeast in the recent appointments of principal officers in the House of Representations has foul the political space with controversy, writes Francis Moses

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