Suspense, intrigues as Reps Speakership race gathers steam
The race for the Speakership of the House of Representatives is gathering steam by the day as aspirants jostling for the exalted seat are reaching out to critical stakeholders to canvass for support.
Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition political parties contend that they can have a go at the seat in view of their impressive outing in the recently held general elections.
The opposition, led by Fred Agbedi, argue that with 163 numerical strength, as against the 162 seats gained by the APC, notwithstanding the remaining 33 seats up for grabs in next week’s supplementary polls, they have what it takes to swing the pendulum to their side to produce the Speaker of the House.
The contest promises to be a fierce one as over half of the 360-membership strength of the House, belonging to both sides of the divide, would be cutting their legislative teeth after the inauguration of the 10th Assembly in June.
The APC won 162 seats; PDP, 102; LP, 34; NNPP, 18; APGA, four; African Democratic Congress (ADC) and SDP, two each while YPP won one seat in what has been regarded as the most diversely populated House of Representatives since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Though a section of APC lawmakers have dismissed the opposition’s threats with a wave of the hands, the delay by the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led national working committee (NWC) to come up with the zoning arrangement for the leadership of the National Assembly has put the aspirants for the Speakership of the House and their supporters on edge.
The development precipitated a member of the party’s national working committee (NWC), Dr. Salihu Lukman to warn the party against complacency.
Lukman, who is APC Vice Chairman, North West, particularly referred to the circumstances that threw up the Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara-led National Assembly against the wish of the party to buttress his concerns.
Their emergence as leaders of the 8th National Assembly was a defiance to the preference of APC’s leadership for Sen. Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila for the position of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
He maintained that APC has relapsed to the 2015 mode of allowing elected National Assembly members to proceed with the business of constituting the leadership of the 10th National Assembly in an unregulated manner.
“This is very risky, not just for APC but for the country. Given that as a party, we contested the 2023 elections with a Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Sen. Kashim Shettima, unregulated contest for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly could produce another Muslim as Senate President,” he said.
“In fact, there is also the high probability that a Muslim could also emerge as Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.”
Lukman alleged that already some of the aspirants bent on having the principal officers seats zoned to their zones have resorted to self-help by bribing some of his colleagues in the NWC with trailer loads of bags of rice and sugar on the eve of the Easter break.
The claim by Lukman came on the heels of the meeting by Governor Atiku Abubakar Bagudu-led progressives governors forum (PGF) aimed at addressing sundry issues, including the issue of zoning of the leadership seats of the National Assembly.
Bagudu, who bared his mind on the issue at the end of the parley, ruled out the possibility of the APC governors imposing principal officers on members of the National Assembly.
He said: “They know the importance of working with other stakeholders within and outside the party. So, they will exercise their rights of choosing leaders in a way that will make Nigeria a better country and make our polity more stable.
“The National Assembly leadership is an elective leadership. So, while we congratulate them, we also believe National Assembly members, particularly members of our party have the wisdom to make choices of the leaders that will be reflective of consultations within and outside the party for the benefit of Nigeria.”
APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, who expressed satisfaction over the deluge of aspirants jostling for the seat explained that there was no cause for alarm over the delay by the party to unveil the zoning arrangement.
“Is there a constitutional timeline for doing that? These are pressures that are unnecessary. People are simply creating pressure where there is none. The most important thing is for that to be done equitably and fairly. I don’t have anything more to say other than that the party is yet to make that decision and so we have a lot of time for all of that,” he said.
Asked why the party is not regulating the conduct of aspirants, he retorted: “How do you do that? Is there a way to tell people to not aspire and not engage? This is normal. There is no means by which you control people by telling them not to speculate or jostle for whatever interest they have.
“It’s healthy, it’s normal and it’s okay so long as nobody is declaring himself as the officer of the National Assembly, it’s fine. When the time is ripe, the party will take control and direct the process with the president-elect and other key actors in the party.”
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, Abdulraheem Olawuyi, Aliyu Betara, Benjamin Kalu, Aminu Sani Jaji, Princess Miriam Onuoha, Ibrahim Abdullahi Halims, and Tajudeen Abbas are among those jostling for the Speakership at the moment.
Sani-Jaji, a former chairman, House Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security, is also the National Coordinator, Baba 4 All Organisation, representing Kaura-Namoda/Birnin-Magaji Federal Constituency of Zamfara state.
He was also the Director of Contact and Mobilisation for the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council for the North West, in the just concluded 2023 Presidential Election.
Olawuyi, who chairs the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, is relying on consideration of merit rather than religion and ethnicity to actualise his aspiration.
Ajuloopin believes Kwara State in the North Central should take the position because of the huge votes the state delivered to the APC in the February 25 poll.
Pledging to abide by the zoning arrangement of the APC, the Kwara-born politician promised to, among others, ensure transparency and accountability in the operations of the House of Representatives if voted into office.
He added: “Our citizens have a right to know what is happening in their government, and we will be transparent and accountable to the people to ensure that we can honestly win their trust, confidence and support.
Gagdi, 42, representing Panskhin/Kanke/Kanam constituency of Plateau State chairs the House Committee on Navy in the outgoing 9th Assembly.
The lawmaker has traversed the length and breadth of the country networking with his colleagues, governors and several critical stakeholders.
Gagdi, who is said to have received the endorsement of the stakeholders, referred to his record-breaking 18 motions of national importance and 12 bills, six of which were assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari as reason why he is cut out for the job.
Pledging to address the problem associated with wastage of billions of naira due to the abandonment of projects budgeted for, he promised equitable and fair treatment of the entire geopolitical zones of the country if elected as Speaker of the lower legislative chamber. He believes it would be just and fair for the seat of the Speaker of the House to be zoned to the north-central zone.
He added: “I want to be speaker for the Nigerian people. I don’t want to be a regional speaker. I would be a Speaker for the Nigerian people irrespective of tribe and religion.
“The next speaker should have capacity, sincerity, honesty and commitment. I will be a just speaker that would protect the interests of all the geo-political zones of Nigeria. Nigerians are Nigerians. I want to see a speaker that would commit himself in coming up with legislation that would strengthen the unity of the country.
For Kalu, representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, Nigerians need a Speaker that has the capacity to achieve cohesion, national unity and inclusiveness.
Calling on the APC leadership to zone the seat of the Speaker to the South East, he said: “Nigerians are looking for a Speaker that will increase what I call parliamentary sovereignty where the motions, the resolutions and independence of the arm of government would be showcased better than the 9th Assembly. The 9th Assembly maintained its independence, so we need somebody that will take the baton and sustain that independence.
“Nigerians are looking for parliamentary sovereignty. Nigerians are looking for a speaker that will increase institutional trust. You and I will agree that the coming of the legislature appears like a strange arm of government when Nigerians have been used to military rule – the executive and the judiciary.”