*The booby traps for in-coming Speaker
*Race for chairmanship takes shape
*And why S/East is shooing the SGF slot
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may be stockpiling wood for another round of bonfire in the House of Representative with its zoning arrangement. The allocation of offices to the six geo-political zones have created a renewed bad-blood between the South-West and the South-East on account of the very dismal showing of the S/West zone in the National Assembly elections when compared to the S-East.
Curiously, however, the S/West, with just six members-elect in the House of Representatives, has been favoured to produce the Speaker, compared to the S-East zone which has dozens of members-elect. Yet, the zoning formula meant to reduce tension, has itself become the source of tension in the party.
By Jide Ajani
Meeting in the Villa
Last Tuesday, grief gave way to politics inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Scheduled for 8 p.m., President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Vice President Namadi Sambo, met with governors and governors-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – some five hours after the meeting with families of National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members who were killed in the wake of the post-election violence in some states of northern Nigeria .
The meeting, Sunday Vanguard gathered, was spiced with the presence of some leaders of the party – read expanded caucus meeting.
The meeting held at the First Lady’s Conference Room inside the Presidential Villa.
After hours of frank talks, a resolution on how the zoning of offices would be was sealed.
Rising from the meeting, it was gathered that the PDP agreed that the Senate presidency will be retained by the North-Central while the South-East gets the deputy Senate president and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The South-West retains the position of speaker, House of Representatives, while the national chairmanship goes to the North-East.
It was gathered that one major decision taken at the meeting, which will be presented to the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party for approval later, is the emergence of a new national chairman of the party from the North-East zone in March 2012 through a national convention. The governor of Niger State and the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum to speak, expressly endorsed the proposed zoning formula on behalf of his colleagues (governors) and assured Jonathan and the PDP national leadership, led by the acting national chairman, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, that they were thinking along the same line with them on the zoning arrangement.
Obasanjo & S-West leaders’ choice of Speaker
The following day, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, former President Olusegun Obasanjo held court at his palatial residence.
Hosting PDP leaders in the South-West, the meeting was meant to quickly anoint a member of the House of Representatives as speaker.
Present at that meeting were all former and out-going governors in the South-West – the only exception was Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State. Segun Oni, formerly of Ekiti State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, formerly of Osun State, Governor Alao Akala of Oyo State and his deputy, Taofeek Arapaja, PDP governorship candidate in Ogun State, Tunji Olurin and his running mate, Tunde Oladunjoye; the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos State, Ade Dosunmu, Ogun State chairman, Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation, Joju Fadairo and the Director General of the organization, Segun Sowunmi, Chairman of Omo Ilu Foundation, Buruji Kashamu, former Lagos deputy governor, Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo, Titilayo Ajanaku and Dr. Femi Majekodunmi.
At that meeting, which started at about 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, Alao-Akala was called to speak on the choice of who would better serve as speaker between Honourable Ajibola Sabauna Muraina and another female member, Honourable Mulikat. The Oyo governor spoke for about 20 minutes, thanked everybody and, according to one of those in attendance, “he hardly committed himself but rather spoke neither here nor there”.
The source said Alao-Akala gave a sense that he would rather prefer Jonathan to decide for the zone on who becomes speaker.
But his presentation was shooed as speaker after speaker made it clear that since the office of speaker has been zoned to the South-West, it was left to the zone to decide on whom to present.
What came out of the meeting was a re-echoing of how former Speaker Patricia Etteh was caused to lose her job as speaker.
It was gathered that even with the zoning arrangement and the emergence of Etteh, it was not quickly discovered by the political leaders in the South-West that the northern legislators in the House of Representatives were not ready for a female speaker. Sunday Vanguard was told that “beyond the noise about anti-corruption and allegations against Etteh – which turned out not to be true after all – the real agenda was that of getting a woman out of the speaker’s seat”.
In fact, that is why it was an open secret that the North preferred Dimeji Bankole, even against the wish of some political leaders in the South-West, including, of course, Obasanjo.
Therefore, for those who were attempting to sell Honourable Mulikat, this analysis counted against her.
In the case of Muraiana, Sunday Vanguard was told that “Chief Yemi Farounbi moved the motion for the adoption of Muraina as the choice for speaker and his motion was supported by Senator Kola Bajomo.
There was no counter motion.
Even the voice vote showed the nature of overwhelming support for Muraina.
A lawyer, Muslim and second term member, Muraina is said to fit the bill within the context of his qualification. The meeting lasted about an hour.
Moulding a Speaker with clay feet
However, the illogicality of the logic of the PDP regarding its maintenance of its zoning arrangement bears down on members of the House of Representatives from other zones in the country.
The S-West zone to which the speakership has been zoned would be parading a numerically inconsequential six members. This, in a House of 360!
What this speaks to is a speaker from the S-west geo-political zone who would have only four members to confer with. The S-West PDP caucus of the House of Representatives would have just six members in council.
The trajectory of such a caucus would be laughable when compared to caucuses of other geo-political zones.
The Senate is worse and even more dismal – there is only one senator of PDP extraction from the S-West zone. Perhaps, he would run a one-man caucus. Therefore, a speaker with just five members would be rendered impotent ab initio.
To be fair, Muraina is supremely qualified to hold the post of speaker but his zone with just six members-elect might turn out to be his greatest discount.
In all these, the S-East is already accusing Obasanjo of forcing the hands of Jonathan in the choice of speakership for the S-West zone.
The legislators from the S-East are crying blue murder and are complaining that there is no reward for the massive support the zone gave the president and the party. They have good reason to be aggrieved. The slot of the zone for the chairmanship is now being used up by the North-West zone after the ouster of Dr. Okwesilieze
Nwodo last October
But in the case of Muraina, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that networking has already commenced to douse the angst generated by the zoning of the speaker’s office to the S-West.
This is coming at a time when some legislators from the North are threatening to shoot the PDP arrangement down by contesting for the office.
The northern caucus of the House is rooting for one of its own. The only logical reason for this is the bragging rights which the caucus has in terms of numerical strength.
Race for chairmanship
With the position of the PDP national chairman going to North-East, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar, and former governor of Bauchi State, Adamu Muazu, are said to be frontline contenders.
The states for this zone are Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
It would be recalled that the position of the national chairman, which was occupied by the South-East in the present National Working Committee, NWC, that came on board in 2008, became vacant in January this year following the forced resignation of Nwodo.
The deputy national chairman, Mohammed, from Kebbi State in North-West geo-political zone, became the acting national chairman and saw the party through the period of the electioneering campaigns and the elections proper since after the emergence of Jonathan as the presidential candidate of the PDP after the presidential primaries.
The incumbent national vice chairman (North-East), Paul Wampana, is also said to be in the race. Sources in the party said age and physical fitness are some of the factors that may count against him.