•Contest narrowed down to Gbaja and Bago
•Why we are yet to come out with zoning formula — APC
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Though an express pronouncement on the zoning arrangement by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is still underway, one thing is, however, sure: There will be a contest for speakership and deputy speakership of the House of Representatives.
Aspirants for the positions have put a good showing and Sunday Vanguard can authoritatively report that there will be no backing out especially between two major contenders for speaker, zoning or no zoning.
The contest is due on the floor of the House in June when the 9th National Assembly will be proclaimed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The battle is being narrowed down between Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State and Hon. Mohammed Bago from Niger State.
In their own rights, they are very competent with requisite legislative skills to lead the 9th House.
Though APC has promised to zone the offices in the House and the remaining ones in the Senate, investigations by Sunday Vanguard have revealed that it would be a formality.
At the moment, almost all the six geopolitical zones in the country are jostling for the speakership but only the South-West and the North-Central are in the lead with near chances to getting it.
Essentially, the idea of zoning is to engender balancing and equity in the power sharing stance amongst the zones. It is also used to preclude crisis in the aftermaths of elections but in the light of prevailing circumstances both in APC and the House, the configuration of the 9th Assembly will be largely defined by a string of subliminal horse-trading already ongoing.
This also gives room for extreme caution on the part of the APC which shall be making the zoning apparently on a slippery slope.
Findings by Sunday Vanguard indicated that the party would be in for a divided membership should the pendulum swing to the wrong side.
While no one in and outside of the party is raising eyebrows in the zoning of the senate presidency to the North-East, all eyes are on the zoning of the speakership.
A prognosis showed that out of the six zones in the country, the North-West has produced the President and the South-West, Vice President. Having ceded the senate presidency to North-Wast already, it is obvious that the other three zones of North-Central, South-East and South South are yet to be factored into the power sharing equation by the APC.
This accounts for why the North-Central is not relenting. Indeed, the zone is holding the ace in the contest but, incidentally, it is clashing up with the South-West which had squared up for the contest despite their occupation of the number two office in the country already.
Gbajabiamila representing Surulere 11 federal constituency of Lagos State is the South-West’s popular demand. He’s been backed up by the strong man of the South-West politics and the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has reportedly warned all the party’s members-elect to either queue behind him or exit the party.
For the North-Central, there are presently three persons in the race: Mohammed Bago from Niger State, Idris Wase from Plateau State and John Dyegh from Benue State.
There are however other aspirants from other zones who are not relenting too. These include Olusegun Odebunmi (South-West), Garba Datti (Kaduna), Ado Doguwa (Kano), Babangida Ibrahim (Katsina), Sulaiman Kawu (Kano), Sulaiman Aminu (Kano), Tahir Monguno (Borno), Abdulrazaq Namdas (Adamawa), Yusuf Buba Yakub (Adamawa), Abubakar Lado (Niger), Nkiruka Onyejeocha (Abia) and Chike Okafor (Imo).
Analysts think the aspirants outside of Gbalabiamila, Bago, Wase and Dyegh are not serious contenders for the speakership but leveraging on the office to negotiate for other juicy positions in the House.
A two-horse race emerging
Doguwa and Monguno have stepped down for Gbajabiamila. On the same note, the governors of North-Central and North-West have thrown their weight behind Bago.
Though Wase and Dyegh are still jostling for the House number one seat, the toast of the entire North now is Bago. Barring any last-minute eventuality, the speakership contest is between Gbajabiamila and Bago.
A competent source told Sunday Vanguard that Bago’s support base, however, transcends beyond the shores of the North-Central and the confines of APC as a party.
According to the source, governors from the North-West are now marketing Bago’s candidacy.
The idea, the source intoned, is to cage a southern APC leader who is seemingly interested in the 2023 presidential race.
Meanwhile, a group, known as Legislative Advocacy and Research Bureau, has asked the APC to be guided by the principle of equity and justice in adopting any candidate for the speakership of the 9th House of Representatives.
Spokesman for the group, Abdullahi Baba Salihu, in a statement, urged the National Working Committee, NEC, of APC to ensure that it adheres strictly to Article 20 (iv) of the party’s constitution in choosing the leaders of the 9th Assembly.
Recognising that all the aspirants are qualified with various degrees of strength and weakness, the group however reminded the party that imposition of candidate would cause divisions in the House and by extension in the party.
It’s normal for governors, Tinubu to campaign for their candidates — APC National Publicity Secretary
Following the agitations from some party leaders on the zoning formula for the 9th Assembly leadership, Sunday Vanguard reached out to the National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, for comments.
According to him, the party was still consulting and would soon make a public announcement of the zoning formula.
He also said that it was not out of place to have governors and other party leaders rooting for their own.
He said: “Well, just the same way we came out on Ahmed Lawan, we will come out officially on that of the House of Reps. So, it will not be wise for me to pre-empt or move ahead of the party. So, in due course, in no time at all, the party will come out to not only announce the zoning for speakership, but also the zoning for other positions in the Senate and the House of Reps.
“But you will agree with me that when you say party, it goes beyond the NWC. There are a lot of stakeholders that need to be carried along. There must be wide consultation.
“You have the governors, you have the lawmakers themselves, you have the president himself, you have the party leaders across the country. You must build consensus around whatever you are doing”.
On pressure from North Central/ North West governors
“If they are doing that at all, that means they are being good party people. What you do as a group or caucus, you constitute a pressure group and try to push your own ideas.
“But ultimately, once a decision is taken and you belong to the larger group, then, you abide by whatever decision that has been taken. So, if they are doing, I am sure they are not going to be the only group doing that or seeking for one thing or the other.
“What is important is that you continue to do it within the rooms and the structures of the party. So, once a decision is arrived at, then it becomes binding on all of us”.
On Tinubu’s support Gbaja or leave APC comment
“Just like I said, that is another position as well which is very correct. But you also know that as our leader, he is a team player. So, whatever decision that has been taken, he would abide by it”.
From all indications, Bago and Gbajabimila, the front-liners in the contest, are not going to give up on their ambitions for speakership with or without zoning. Convinced by their wherewithal, bipartisan support base and technical competencies, the two lawmakers as the days go by are stepping up their games, consulting aggressively. They are determined to fight to the finish. Many believe that Gbajabiamila will not give up even if the slot is eventually zoned to the North-Central. Ditto Bago. To this end, the APC should worry more about a comprehensive system of allocation of other offices to accommodate the South -East and South-South to achieve an inclusive House.