Intrigues as Reps plot revolt against APC’s zoning arrangement, choice candidates
The last is yet to be heard of the intrigues amongst House of Representatives members following the decision by the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to tarry awhile on the zoning arrangement for the leadership of the National Assembly.
In spite of the pledge by leading aspirants for the Speakership position of the House of Representatives to abide by the APC zoning arrangement, there are fears of a revolt by some of those angling for the exalted seat in the event that the party’s decision doesn’t favour them eventually.
The House Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, the House Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; the spokesperson of the House, Benjamin Kalu; the Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Adamu Yusuf Gagdi; the Chairman, House Committee on Transport, Tajudeen Abass; the Chairman, House Committee on Disabilities and Special Needs, Mrs Miriam Onuoha, the chairman of the House committee on Appropriation, Muktar Aliyu Betara and the chairman of the House Committee on internal security and intelligence in the 8th Assembly, Aminu Sani Jaji are among the leading contenders for the plum job.
Only yesterday, it emerged that the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu may have settled for Messrs Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abass as his preferred choices to occupy the seats of the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively.
The decision, it was said, was arrived at a parley of the President-elect and select members of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC at the Defence House, Abuja. In attendance at the parley, which lasted for over an hour, were the outgoing Senate President Ahmad Lawan, his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege and the outgoing Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila. Also present were the APC National Secretary, Sen Iyiola Omisore, the Deputy National Chairman, North, Sen Abubakar Kyari and his counterpart from the South, Chief Emma Eneukwu.
While the purported zoning arrangement and selection is gaining traction by the day, some of the aforementioned aspirants from across the six geopolitical zones of the country have continued to make valid claims for the seat.
It is understood that the fear of averting the repeat of the revolt, which led to the emergence of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Yakubu Dogara as the Speakers of the 7th and 8th House of Representatives, informed the decision by the APC to keep the issue of zoning at bay till after the inauguration of the President-elect on May 29.
Recall that both Tambuwal and Dogara emerged triumphant against Mulikat Adeola Akande and Femi Gbajabiamila respectively, the preferred choices of Presidents Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari to the consternation of well-meaning Nigerians in the 7th and 8th Assemblies.
Though their victory was applauded by proponents of the doctrine of separation of powers between the three arms of government, there were those who argued that Nigerians ended up being at the receiving end of the power tussle and acrimonious relationship that ensued within the period due to the toxic relationship between the executive and legislative arms during their tenure.
The quest to ensure the emergence of a speaker at the House of Representatives who is fit and tailored to create a legislative backing for the Executive to dutifully deliver on its promises to the Nigerian people informed the latest posture of the APC.
Widely perceived as a rubberstamp Assembly, the outgoing leadership of the National Assembly, jointly led by Ahmed Lawan and Gbajabiamila, has been rated as the most peaceful, diplomatic and most productive Assembly in the annals of democratic rule in the country due to the near absence of friction between the legislative and executive arms of governments.
For instance, the return of the January – December budget cycle, coupled with the seamless implementation of developmental projects across the country, have been attributed to the cordial relationship between operatives of the legislative and executive arms of government.
Already, there are intense horse trading and lobbying going on between the Speakership aspirants bent on either having their ways or scuttling the impending zoning arrangement of the APC just as members elect of the opposition political parties numbering 181 have become the most beautiful bride well sought by the contending forces.
Indeed, Ado Doguwa, while formally throwing his hat into the race on Wednesday, admitted that he is already in deep negotiations with Miriam and Betara to strike a deal ahead of the APC zoning arrangement.
Betara, who insists that it would be unfair to zone his North East geopolitical zone out of the race in view of the fact that the South West produced Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Speaker Gbajabiamila in the outgoing dispensation, have remained adamant, as he had been reaching out to the lawmakers irrespective of their political leanings.
Abbas, credited to have sponsored 75 bills within the life of the 9th Assembly, is also touted by the top echelon of the party as one with the required qualities needed to succeed Gbajabiamila.
The minority caucus in the House, led by Mr. Fred Agbedi, did not mince words in sounding a note of warning that they cannot be cajoled into accepting the APC zoning arrangement. The secretary of the caucus, Efosa Imasuen, also argued that with their numerical strength, the APC cannot influence the choice of the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He said: “We are more than prepared. We have more numbers than the APC. We even have some members of the APC who are ready to align with us because of our style of leadership, our style of governance, our approach to people, and the country. People are in tune with what we are doing. That gives us the impetus to think and know that if we vie for this office, we can get it and give Nigerians what they truly want – a sincere government.
“We don’t have business with APC’s zoning. We now understand certain things and how they are not sincere with a lot of things that they say and do. We remember when they said they zoned their presidential ticket to the South but had people like Ahmed Lawan running, and he was even declared the candidate of the APC at a point. So, at this juncture, we can’t even take them seriously when they say they are going to zone.”
Meanwhile, a member-elect on the platform of the PDP who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity, said, although the caucus of his party has resolved to field candidates for the speakership position in conjunction with other opposition parties, he has a preferred candidate in the ruling APC.
Nevertheless, Senator-elect and the outgoing Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC Borno), described the machinations of the opposition as a fruitless exercise that will fall like a pack of cards.
He said: “We’ll bring out our candidates before the elections as we did during Femi Gbajabiamila’s election. We’ll bring out the candidates and we’ll unite because we are still the majority. So, even if they field their candidates, they are not going to win. By law, they are allowed to field candidates. The only exception is that a first-time member cannot contest. It is only a ranking member that can contest.”
In an apparent realisation of the need to sustain the giant strides of the Gbajabiamila legacies, a group of like-minded lawmakers, under the aegis of the Joint Task-10th Assembly, unveiled its agenda ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.
The group, jointly chaired by Bello Kumo (APC Gombe) and Kingsley Chinda (PDP Rivers), expressed their readiness to work with the APC towards the emergence of a competent, responsive and nationally accepted leadership that will help the Executive in stabilising the polity.
The group maintained that their objectives are not self-serving nor targeted at undermining the majority or minority parties, but tailored towards the actualisation of the overriding interest of Nigeria and its people.
At its inaugural meeting at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Kumo said the essence of the Joint Task-10th Assembly “is to defend the sanctity of the Parliament, promote independence of the legislature, ensure fairness, equity and balance in the emergence of the leadership of the House, among others.”
He said they have set the ball rolling to ensure a smooth take-off of the group, which is made up of members-elect from all the eight registered political parties that will populate the 10th National Assembly. They include the APC, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Young Peoples Party (YPP).
According to Kumo, who is also the Chairman of the House Committee on police affairs, “as you can see from our banner, the name of this coalition is ‘Joint Task-10th Assembly.’ We are a multipartisan forum of the eight political parties that have won seats for the 10th House of Representatives.
“The Joint Task-10th Assembly seeks to, among others, promote independence of the legislature, inter dependence of the legislature and executive-legislation for good governance and grassroots impact, constituency outreach, equity and fairness in the emergence of the presiding and principal officers in line with best parliamentary practice.”
Continuing, Kumo noted that, “Our driving force is Nigeria’s unity and stability of the 10th House of Representatives. In ensuring the above, we have resolved to go by the decision of the majority party, which is the APC, in deciding which zones produce the speaker and deputy speaker.
“We believe that the APC would do the right thing and once the zoning is done, we would decide on the next line of action. We would be guided by capacity, competence, experience and other leadership qualities…our message to Nigerians at point is that we are ready to work for the betterment of our country and the citizens. To achieve that, we have to work harmoniously with the executive arm, without compromising our independence,” he stated.
The chairman further emphasized: “As at today, we do not have any preferred aspirant for the office of speaker and deputy speaker. But we note that a number of our colleagues, all of whom are eminently qualified, have declared interest in the seat of speaker.”
The secretary of the Joint Task-10th Assembly, Hon. Aliyu Madaki (NNPP, Kano) explained that the essence is to have a cordial working relationship with the executive. He assured that the 10th House is not going to be ‘rubber stamp’ but will do things according to the proceedings and rules of the parliament insisting that the House will be pro-Nigerian people.
The coalition parades an array of experienced, ranking and hardworking lawmakers, as well as brilliant, ambitious and tested fresh members-elect. Some of them include Chairman of the House committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Chairman of the House Services Committee, Wale Raji, Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, Lawan Shettima, Bello Kaoje, Isiaka Ibrahim, Unyime Idem, Nnaji Nnoli and Akeem Alabi, among others.
A member of the group, who pleaded anonymity, justified the initiative, noting: “This latest effort by the Joint Task-10th Assembly is commendable and indeed worth emulating by other groups and caucuses that have emerged in the House and the parliament at large. Elections is over and is now is time for governance. The parliament, being a hub of the representatives of the people of Nigeria, we ought to be thinking about how best to move the nation forward instead of encouraging bickering among lawmakers and fanning embers of party differences, ethnic or religious sentiments and other divisive tendencies.
“All hands need to be on deck to rework Nigeria and reposition it for the present and future generations. The initiators of this coalition are on the right path because what Nigeria needs now after one of the most hotly contested elections in recent times, is unity of purpose and effective collaboration to advance the cause of the poor Nigerian on the street.
“For fairness and equity, we all have to encourage and support zoning of offices in the National Assembly; and if possible micro zone or adopt consensus candidates in order to douse the tension in the land. Democracy as we all agreed is “the government of the people by the people and for the people”. Therefore, it is good to give every component of this nation a sense of belonging in the scheme of things and the only way this could be achieved is through zoning and consensus.
“And if the parliament leads by example, other Nigerians will follow suit. The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the leadership of the APC should put heads together and come out with an acceptable and workable zoning formula, while lawmakers-elect should support the process to aid the emergence of a leadership that can collaborate with the executive to lead Nigeria out of the woods.
“It is a thing of joy that the Joint Task-10th Assembly has decided to tow the line of “politics without bitterness,” (apology to late Aminu Kano). Those who are encouraging minority parties to vie for presiding positions in the House are not doing any good to our democracy because such a move is capable of igniting confusion and turbulence in the parliament, which may ultimately affect the cordial environment that the legislature needs to function.
“It is axiomatic that we are in a democracy and people are free to ventilate and express themselves but we must exercise this right with some measure of caution and responsibility so as not to heat up the system.
“In order to develop our legislative democracy, the lawmakers must avoid negative and offensive opposition, which is averse to development and prone to avoidable conflicts between the executive and the legislature.
“This time, therefore, calls for building bridges across political divides and not burning bridges for personal or political reasons. Nigeria should be placed above any other interest.”