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Speakership: Rep group faults APC leadership, mobilises for Bago

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Some members of the House Project, a group of returning members and members-elect in the Federal House of Representatives, mobilising support for Hon Mohammed Umaru Bago’s election as Speaker, are not relenting in their effort to ensure their candidate is installed. They are still vehement in their opposition to the endorsement of Hon Femi Gbajabiamila by the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC).

Bago represents Chanchaga federal constituency of Niger State.

The group’s position is based on what the members regard as unfounded injustice and a calculated attempt to deny the North Central geo-political zone the position.

A leading member of the group, who spoke to The Guardian in Lokoja, Kogi State capital on condition of anonymity, said members, who cut across geo-political zones and from opposition parties, will settle for no one but Bago, whom he described as the ‘symbol and direct consequence of APC’s campaign for youth inclusiveness and the next level’ sloganeering.

According to him, there are cogent and plausible grounds upon which the group hopes to build and fulfil its mission. These include the argument that in the North Central zone, APC won the presidential election with the third largest number of votes in the six geo-political zones (441,830 votes,) next only to the Northeast and Northwest.

He said the North Central led the Southwest, which had 259,780 votes, with 182, 050 votes.

Apparently faulting the party leadership’s decision to zone Speakership to the Southwest, the group contended that whereas APC won the Presidential election in the Southwest, which comprises six states with 259, 780 votes, Niger State alone, Bago’s home state, gave APC 394, 319 votes, which is 134, 539 votes more than what the entire Southwest got.

Noting that it was unfair on the part of APC leadership to deny the North Central the position, the group said: “Equity, as the foundation for stability, should determine how each zone is compensated in the aftermath of the party’s electoral victory.”

To buttress this point, the member referred to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), section 14, sub-section 1; 1 (c), 3 and 4, which said:

“(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the
principles of democracy and social justice.

(c) The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

“(4) The composition of the Government of a State, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation.

“But APC’s national leadership’s action violates constitutional geo-political balancing. It violates the spirit of oneness and inclusiveness. Out of the six top positions, three have already been taken. The President comes from the Northwest. The Vice President comes from the Southwest and all the three people aspiring for the Senate President are from the Northeast.

“Nobody has been able to explain why the North Central should not occupy the position of Speaker of the House of Reps and why the Southwest alone must be beneficiary of two of the six topmost political offices in the nation’s political hierarchy.

“And if you say you are zoning a position, why zone to specific individuals? Why not allow the geo-political components of that zone, in consultation with key political actors and stakeholders reach a consensus and produce their preferred candidate?

“In all of the six North Central states, Niger State scored 100 percent for APC, with all Senators and representatives elected on APC platform. Only Kwara State, perhaps, has a similar report card, but Kwara has not presented anybody for the Speakership position, as it were.

“Bago has been a diligent and loyal supporter of the incumbent political establishment, having been in the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) since 2003. The North Central has kept faith with APC in the last two elections in which APC has participated as a corporate entity, post-merger.

“The North Central has never produced a Speaker since the return of democratic governance, not even a Deputy Speaker. Bago is one of the foundation members of the present APC that implanted the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in Niger State. He took up the difficult challenge of confronting political bigwigs like Abdulkadir Kure, Abdulsalaam Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Babangida and Jerry Gana, among others, in the battle for the political soul of Niger State.

“Again, how does shutting out a youthful candidate like Hon Mohammed Bago conform with APC’s youth inclusiveness mantra, which constitutes the fulcrum of the ‘next level’ campaign slogan? What will be the outcome of the several town hall meetings, where APC promised youth inclusiveness in the next level government, when most top positions are eventually appropriated by people who are in their 70s or closer to that? Can APC be bold to come out to say we have fulfilled our promise to youths?

“I think the emergence of a young politician like Bago should come as some fulfilment of the promise to youths of this country. If we are sincere in our campaign promises and hope to be taken seriously by the discerning Nigerian electorate.

“Gbajabiamila, who now claims to be a Muslim, has picked Idris Wase, a fellow Muslim as his deputy. Where are ethnic and religious sensitivity, tolerance and balance in our fractious polity? Recently, Gbajabiamila sponsored two members-elect from each state for the hajj, which he never did in his 16 years in the House of Representatives. He has never prayed in the National Assembly mosque before.

“Indeed, can you also tell us how many Christian members-elect Gbajabiamila has sponsored to Israel on pilgrimage? Isn’t he beginning his quest for the House of Representatives leadership on the wrong footing by accentuating one of major ethno-religious fault lines at this time? Have you abrogated the Constitutional recognition and respect for the two major religions in Nigeria?

The group insists that “Hon Mohammed Bago is eminently qualified. He is a ranking legislator in his third term. He is young, amiable, competent and relatable. He is known and recognised by all in the National Assembly for his charm and charisma.

Umaru Bago, 45, was one of the two members elected on the platform of the defunct CPC in the entire North Central in 2011. In the 2015 National Assembly elections, he defeated his closest rival in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by a very wide margin this time, under the APC’s banner. He got reelected for the third time in February 2019.

Bago has been a member of the Committees of the House on Banking and Currency; Appropriation; Education; Internal Security; Information and Communication; Technology and Defence.

He has also served on the committees for Loans and Debts; national planning and economic development; media and publicity; civil societies and donor agencies and police.

In the 8th assembly, he was Chairman of the House Committee on maritime safety, education and administration, a platform, which he has been utilising in ensuring the rigorous enthronement of transparency, accountability, due process and the rule of law in maritime safety administration.

“With the defined expectations, it is clear that a relatable personality will be central to the accomplishments of the intents and purposes of the next level leaders of the 9th House of Representatives. These expectations will call for a personality with fresh background and spring season credentials, a bridge between generations and a nexus for all.

“Hon Bago has raised the bar of credible representation, effective lawmaking and diligent oversight of the nation’s vast MDA bureaucracy to record levels, as he has sponsored several motions and bills, meant to ensure seamless delivery of democratic dividends to his constituents and Nigerians. He is the man for the job,” the group says.


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