By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—In the spirit of reconciliation in the House of Representatives, the camp supporting Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has announced conceding the position of the House Leader to the camp supporting Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
But the speaker’s camp also made it clear that the nominee for the House Leader position will neither come from the South-West nor the North-East in the spirit of equity and federal character, noting that the two zones have already occupied their slots.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, spokesman of the Dogara group Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, said after the reconciliatory meeting as directed by the All Progressives Congress, APC, which was headed by the immediate former speaker and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, the Dogara camp decided to concede to Gbajabiamila camp the position of House Leader.
He said that if the camp turned down the offer, the only option would be to conduct election on the floor of the House by the APC members in accordance with the provisions of the House Rules.
He further said that his camp did not recognise the letter from the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, which he said did not pass through the National Executive Committee of the party and the House caucus or the recognised legal process.
He said while ceding the position of leader to the Gbajabiamila camp, it was made clear that sharing the six principal officers of the House must be in tandem with the constitution as regards the federal character, adding that it will be unfair to exclude any geopolitical zone in sharing positions.
He said: “The Governor of Sokoto State met with Femi Gbajabiamila and his group. Yesterday, he met with us and we also had a lengthy meeting, at some point heated. We wish to appreciate Mr. Speaker for tolerating all our actions at the meeting to be able to stand firm.
“Concessions were made completely against the original plan that we went to the meeting with. This morning, we received lots of phone calls, under normal circumstances we are not supposed to make a public statement on this.
“Because of the information going round and in order to put the record straight, I have been mandated as the spokesman of the group to make some few comments.
“As regards some of the things that transpired at the meeting, of course the details would be made public when the entire process is concluded.
“We went to the meeting and you have always known our position. We believe that we did not go against any provisions of the laws of the party or the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in electing the speaker or his deputy.
“We also believe that there should be a level playing ground for everyone in terms of the occupation of the remaining offices of principal officers that has always been our position.
“But after a very lengthy meeting with His Execelleny, the immediate past speaker and Governor of Sokoto State, we were able to make a far-reaching concession and this is to allow for peace to reign in the House.
“It was very tough and of course the wise counsel of the Governor of Sokoto State on the need for a concession on peace. Three things we agreed: one, we maintain the position that we do not recognise the letter written by the party in quotes and I give you reasons.
“We have utmost respect for the chairman of the party, but that letter did not pass through the relevant organs of the party.
“It was neither approved by the National Working Committee nor the National Executive Council, not even the caucus was consulted and it was a product of one or two governors and of course the National Chairman.”
“Let me maintain the fact that we respect the national chairman and we will only respect a letter through legal organs of the party. Our position is that we do not recognise the existence of such letter.”
Continuing he said, “Secondly, the principal officers of the House must be in tandem with principle of equity and Federal Character as prescribed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The 6th position that is usually occupied by the majority, the Speaker, deputy speaker, House leader deputy house leader, the whip and deputy whip must go to the six geopolitical zones or otherwise it must reflect the principal of equity and fairness.
“To that end after the deliberation, we have agreed to concede the position of the House leader to the Femi’s group and we took this decision bearing in mind that we need peace in this house and we want to get down to work.
“In line with with equity and federal character, whoever is being nominated must not come from the Southwest and Northeast in line with our strong belief in the principle of equity and federal character,” he stated.”
The Kono State born lawmaker said the year had gone half way already and that they should be busy with the review of 2015 budget and on how far budget had been implemented.
Besides, he said that in few weeks, the House would be considering the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF! Stressing that the House has work to do and cannot continue to waste more time talking about positions.
According to him, “We expect the Femi group to accept this concession so that we can be able to move forward.
“In the event that they do not accept, we also provided that it should be left for us to choose principal officers of the House in line with the standing rules of the House, so we have to come back and hold an election.
“The entire APC members would hold an election to elect the house leaders, If someone says he has 174 members, fine let’s hold an election and see if he actually has that majority he claims.
“Let’s hold election in line of the standing rules of the House and that is our position.”
He said that the issue of the letter from the National Chairman where some members loyal to the party were nominated as the principal officers will not be read as there was a court case instituted by some member for the letter not to be read.
He also disclosed that the North Central and the Southeast caucuses of the APC in the House have gone to court mandating the hOuse to respect the House rules as it concerned sharing of principal officers positions.
He, however, said that Rep. Gbajabiamila had contributed a lot in the House and advised him to put national interest above personal interest.