Why I was cautious with APC leadership directive on sharing of principal offices, by Yakubu Dogara
THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara has explained why he dilly-dallied in considering the directive of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the sharing of principal officers’ positions in the lower legislative chamber.
Speaking at the weekend when he received former members of the House who paid him a courtesy visit, Dogara said he had to thread cautiously because the party’s position ran contrary to the federal character provisions enshrined in the constitution.
Also at an interactive session with reporters covering the House of Representatives, Dogara sought the support of media practitioners to help erase the erroneous notion that members of the National Assembly earn over-bloated salaries.
The Speaker told the former House members that he was forced to throw the matter which led to a rancorous session on the floor of the House last Thursday, open to members in a bid to toe the path of orderliness and fairness.
The APC had nominated Femi Gbajabiamila as House Leader, Ado Doguwa, Deputy House Leader; Pally Iriase, Chief Whip and Mohammed Mungono, Deputy Chief Whip.
However, members of the South East and North Central caucuses of the House kicked against the proposal on the basis that they have been marginalised since none of the positions was allocated to them despite their immense contributions towards the party’s victory at the poll.
They also wondered why the APC chose to cede the House Leader’s seat to Gbajabiamila who is from the same South West geo-political zone as the Deputy Speaker, Suleiman Lasun.
Explaining his stance, Dogara said: “It does not mean that those six positions must go to the six zones. Note must be taken that it is so important and dear to our country we had to establish a commission to enforce federal character.
“Before I even saw the letter, there was a court process served on the leadership of the House. What they are asking is very simple: Is it in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the House Rules for a political party to choose the principal officers of the House?
‘‘The second question is: Assuming the political party has the right, is it in tandem with the constitution to exclude their zone, whether that meets the requirement of the provision of federal character.
‘‘Assuming we go ahead to announce the party’s position, which recognises members of the north central and southwest in principal officer positions and north central members make a very strong case against APC.
“Assuming they win the case and the court now rules that the party’s directive breaches the provision of the constitution relating to the federal character, so do we now begin to see somebody vacating principal officer position so we can accommodate the court’s ruling? These are issues that are really not easy to fathom or to sort out. When we got this letter, we raised this issue with the party that this thing needs to be looked at.
“There is the need for us to consider the position of the law so that we don’t get a ruling that will compel us to go back and enforce the alignment. There was never a time in the House when a zone got more than two leadership positions and we all know the provision of the constitution which did say that all positions must be guided by the Standing Orders.
“But in a situation where the Standing Order is not explicit, then we fall back on precedent, customs, the tradition. So even though the law does not say distribute the position to six zones, the tradition has been that it should go to six zones in line with the constitutional provision relating to the federal character.
“It was during an ongoing discussion relating to this that certain section of our members felt ‘Well, whatever it is let the House know that the party is supreme’ and so that was what led to the near fracas which we witnessed on the floor of the House.”
Also an interactive session with reporters covering the House of Representatives at the weekend, Dogara observed that contrary to widely held notion, the N120 billion budgeted for the running of the National Assembly in this year’s budget is not the exclusive preserve of the 360 members of the House of Representatives and the 109 members of the Senate.