Gbajabiamila’s pussyfooting exposes frailties of APC, PDP
It was not a rosy beginning for the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as the National Assembly reconvened after its brief recess post-inauguration of the 9th session. The crucial assignment that confronted the Speaker was announcing the names of other floor functionaries, especially majority leader and chief whip alongside their deputies.
But while the communication from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Speaker was without ambiguities, the one from main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gave room for debates about its relevance to the offices of minority leader and minority whip as well as their deputies.
The fact that some of the positions were reserved for opposition provided Speaker Gbajabiamila a golden opportunity to play politics and assert his authority, especially against the background of the division with the fold of the major opposition PDP. Analysts recalled how, even within the ruling APC, some elements that played gimmicks with the speaker’s ambition had to be reminded that what goes around comes around.
Echoes of 2015
Most watchers of National Assembly politics remember how the attempt by APC to foist Senator Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker respectively hit the rocks and set off a medley of political confrontations with the legislature and in the polity generally.
And so, although Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, had rallied members of House of Representatives to insist on Alhaji Alhassan Ado Doguwa as the preferred candidate for the post of majority leader of the Green Chamber, the Speaker’s vacillation to announce Hon. Doguwa was revealing. In 2015 Doguwa, who shares ranking with Gbajabiamila as fourth termer, ditched the member representing Surulere 1 and switched allegiance to Yakubu Dogara to enthrone the surprise regime.
Not that alone, Gbajabiamila’s deputy in the 9th Assembly, Ahmed Wase, who initially declared his intention to contest the speakership position received some logistic and moral support from Hon. Bala Dawaki, immediate past chairman of House Committee on appropriation. As the scheming for principal officers heightened, Dawakin was said to have hinted his friend and ally, Wase, that he preferred Hon. Aminu Sulaiman Goro to serve the 9th Assembly as majority leader instead of Doguwa, who was the choice of Kano State’s APC stakeholders.
Those rooting for Sulaiman Goro, aided in the background by the deputy Speaker, Wase, mounted spirited pressures on Gbajabiamila, such that even when the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, backed out from his initial support for Goro and forwarded Doguwa’s name as the party’s choice for majority leader, the speaker demurred.
As the subterranean moves to thwart Doguwa’s recognition as leader continued, the letter from PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, listed Kingsley Chinda, (PDP, Rivers), Chukwuka Onyema (PDP, Anambra) as minority leader and deputy respectively for announcement by Speaker Gbajabiamila.
Further on the list from Secondus were Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) and Muraina Ajibola (PDP, Oyo) as minority whip and deputy in that order. But for inexplicable reasons, Gbajabiamila threw the plenary into riotous mode when he announced Ndudi Elumelu and Toby Okechukwu as minority leader and deputy, but also recognized Gideon Gwami and Adesegun Adekoya as minority whip and deputy correspondingly.
It happened the same way the speaker was trying to requite Doguwa for losing faith in his (Gbajabiamila’s) speakership ambition in 2015, the opposition PDP, some of whose lawmakers voted according to the dictates of their party for Umar Bago against him (the speaker) were sidelined in favour of those that sided with the APC-anointed speaker.
Despite the seeming resolution of the stalemate over the floor functionaries of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, the situation exposed the lack of cohesion within the two big political platforms. It was gathered, for instance, that while the Rivers State governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, supported the camp that voted for Bago against Gbajabiamila, Fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, threw his weight behind PDP lawmakers-elect that voted for the APC-favoured candidate for speaker.
Going by that curious development in the House of Representatives, it could be a possible indication of the nature of future political movements across party lines. It is also possible that voting in the 9th session would follow those fault lines as the lawmakers forge new alliances. There is the probability that the frayed nerves occasioned by the 11th hour decision of stakeholders to dump Sulaimon for Doguwa could reverberate in many ways, including fresh attempts to use his alleged arrogance and condescending posture against Doguwa.
Kano politicians are used to such divisions, especially as played out in the 8th Assembly when Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin lost his juicy position of chairman of appropriation to Hon. Dawaki.
Although it could not be immediately established how far the allegation of Atiku’s support for Elumelu mirrors the truth, but it is obvious that lawmakers from the main opposition party would sustain the division that played out during the election of principal officers. But while speaking when his Oyo State counterpart, Oluseyi Makinde, paid him a courtesy visit, Governor Wike lashed out at PDP lawmakers that betrayed the part, describing them as traitors.
Stressing that he was not surprised by their ‘treachery’, Wike regretted that trading has been placed above party loyalty at the House, even as he declared that he remains purely a party loyalist, who believes in the ideals of PDP.
According to him, “I am not surprised. When you have traders and merchants, what do you expect? It is unfortunate for those who do not understand what politics is all about. I am a core party man and I believe in the party.”
On his part, Governor Makinde said what happened in the House of Representatives, which saw the position of the PDP being subverted, calls for concern, adding: “We all saw what happened at the National Assembly yesterday; they are things that call for concern. If the party takes a position on certain things, we want to ensure that that is carried through.”
At last, Speaker Gbajabiamila announced Alhaji Alhassan Ado Doguwa as the leader of the House of Representatives and Peter Akpatason as deputy majority leader. Other officers unveiled include Tahir Mohammed Monguno (Chief Whip) and Mrs. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Deputy Chief Whip). But the position of minority leadership and whip did not end on a sweet note. It would therefore be seen in the days ahead how far Chinda and other PDP lawmakers, who wanted the position of the party leaders to prevail, would sustain their disapproval.
And given the fact that Deputy President of Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, is of the ruling APC, could it be that Hon. Elumelu, who hails from the same Delta State as the Deputy Senate President, is gradually paving his way for eventual defection to the ruling party in readiness for 2023?
How would Bago and his coterie of supporters in APC handle the new realities of Gbajabiamila’s era as Speaker, knowing that it took a dose of political altruism for immediate past Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to integrate them into the scheme of things in the 8th Assembly?
Would Gbajabiamila play the statesman and wave the olive branch or adopt the Machiavellian manouvres to steer the ship of the Green Chamber in peace and unity? Time alone would tell.