Gbajabiamila, Dogara narrow race for Reps Speaker





THE scenario that threw up Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011 may play out again in the incoming 8th legislative session of the Fourth Republic if snippets of information gleaned from the National Assembly are anything to go by.

The duo emerged as the consensus candidates of the House of Representatives against the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) zoning arrangement, which hitherto tilted the position of the Speaker to the Southwest with Mulikat Akande-Adeola as its candidate.

Curiously, Tambuwal who is from the Northwest polled 252 of the 351 votes cast during the election to beat Akande-Adeola, his only opponent in the race for the Speakership who got 90 votes. Ajibola Muraina had earlier withdrawn from the contest, 8 votes voided while a member abstained.

By the Standing Rules of the House, a candidate is expected to poll not less than 181 votes of the expected votes of 360 members who make up the membership.

And in the spirit of sportsmanship, Adeola-Akande immediately congratulated Tambuwal with a warm embrace, even before her votes were counted.

If the calls to jettison zoning prevails and this scenario plays out again, pundits are of the opinion that one candidate that has come up and may likely go on to emerge Speaker is the Chairman of the Committee on House Services and Welfare, Mr Yakubu Dogara of Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State

Dogara, a third term lawmaker recently declared his intention to vie for the position of the Speaker and his camp is already swelling with an array of high profile returning members from all the six geopolitical zones in the House.

However, with the recent withdrawal of Mohammed Tahir Monguno (Northeast) and Pally Iriase (South-South), both of them frontline contenders for the Speakership race, the contest for the number four position in the country’s political hierarchy has now been narrowed down to Mr Femi Gbajabiamila who represents Surulere Federal Constituency of Lagos State and Dogara.

While officially announcing his withdrawal from the race last week, Monguno told dozens of his colleagues that he was stepping down for Gbajabiamila who is better positioned to lead the House effectively.

According to him, “After broad consultations and thoughtful consideration, I have decided not to run for the office of the Speaker in the 8th Assembly.  Instead, I give my full endorsement to my friend and colleague, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who I believe has the requisite qualification to lead the 8th Assembly in the onerous task of addressing the important and pressing needs of the citizens of this nation. I will instead be running for the Deputy Speaker position on a joint ticket with Gbajabiamila.”

Taking a cue from Monguno, Pally Iriase who also officially announced his withdrawal and his decision to team up with the House Minority Leader, predicated his reason on the ongoing campaigns, which he said, have thrown up some dangerous tendencies which could breed acrimony and disturb the House from delivering to the satisfaction of Nigerians who have very high expectations from the new government.

According to him, “Nigerians are suffering from excruciating poverty, scandalous rate of unemployment, mindless corruption, comatose economy, scary insecurity, persistent fuel scarcity, frustrating infrastructure deficit and gross inadequacy of power supply. It seems to me therefore, that this Nation is not in the mood for any acrimonious contest that will negatively impact the performance of the National Assembly and by extension the entire incoming Government.”

Iriase urged all members-elect to think Nigeria first in these trying times and join forces to disappoint doomsday prophets, by building an enduring consensus behind Gbajabiamila and whoever the party may chose to be his deputy.

The other candidate vying for the position is Abdulmumin Jibrin from Kano (Northwest) but a lawmaker who spoke to newsmen on condition of anonymity said Jibrin lacks the much needed experience and ranking as he came to the House in 2011 adding, “he is from the same zone with Buhari which edged him out of the equation. Kano APC caucus is not in support of his ambition as it will pitch them against other zones of the country which will portray them as ‘ingrates’,”

Outgoing Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu has warned the leadership of the APC to refrain from doing anything that would interfere in the process of electing the new presiding officers.

In a statement, Kawu cautioned that both the Senate and House of Representatives members should be allowed to elect leaders of their choice.

He said, “The two presiding officers of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives are not party positions which is why all MPs participate in their election.”

The outgoing lawmaker said that the major political problems of the Goodluck Jonathan administration started with the attempt to impose a leadership on the House, which was resisted adding, “In 2007, both the Presidency and the PDP imposed Patricia Etteh on the House but she had to resign four months after. Not deterred they unsuccessfully again attempted to impose another stooge as Speaker but members resisted it and elected Dimeji Bankole.”

A PDP member elect from one of the North Central states who will not want his name in print has also warned the APC leadership against attempts to impose any candidate on the parliament in the name of zoning.

He told The Guardian during the just concluded induction for federal lawmakers in Abuja that the PDP elements within the House were poised to scuttle whatever zoning arrangement the APC will come up with, and cast their votes for a candidate of their choice.

Specifically, he said that both the returning and new PDP elements numbering 139 in the House will queue up behind the candidature of Yakubu Dogara as a payback against the opposition which conspired to truncate the ruling party’s zoning structure in 2011.

“Our position is backed by the 8th edition of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives Order 4 which simply states that “a member-elect, addressing the clerk shall propose another member-elect with legislative experience as member of National Assembly to the House to be Speaker and shall move that such member-elect do take the chair as speaker of the House of Representatives.”

He said the group will be relying on this Order which produced Tambuwal in 2011 to also produce Dogara in 2015 as the Speaker, stressing, “this is payback time and we will not compromise, let them (APC) come up with their zoning structure. We have already decided on whom to give our bulk votes to.”

Interestingly, a youth group, Northeast Unity Forum (NUF) in collaboration with Nigerian Youth Against Political Sabotage (NYAPS) penultimate week, converged at the main gate of the National Assembly to express support for the aspirations of Dogara.

The youth coalition stated that their campaign for Dogara was predicated on the need to ensure justice and fairness in the distribution of leadership positions in the Buhari-led administration.

Similarly, the North-Central caucus in the House has also thrown its weight behind the candidature of Dogara as Speaker of the Chamber saying in a statement that members from the six states of the region and the FCT have resolved to give Dogara “bloc vote” when the House is inaugurated.

While justifying his ambition on the basis of how backward the Northeast geo-political zone where he comes from has been, Dogara said, “judging from the very peculiar circumstances in which we have found ourselves, we deserve something, and asking for the Speakership wouldn’t amount to asking for too much.”

It is apparent that the unfolding political intrigues in the polity in the next few days will determine the leadership coloration of the 8th Assembly in the House of Representatives.

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