By Levinus Nwabughiogu
To them, the scenario is one of nostalgia and de javu. It is a familiar terrain, unfortunately, the infamous one. They trod the path in 2015 and ended up shooting themselves in the foot. Up till today, they are still regretting sharing power with the People Democratic Party, PDP, with the opposition party’s Senator Ike Ekweremadu grabbing the Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate.
At the House of Representatives, they made the same mistake, insisting on the candidacy of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila only to be stung by the emergence of Hon. Yakubu Dogara of the PDP as Speaker.
Four years down the line, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is toeing the same old path. But will it get it right this time? What has changed? Those are the big questions on the lips of almost everyone who’s been following events in the polity.
Indeed, the adoption of Gbajabiamila by the party as its preferred candidate for speakership of the 9th House of Representatives has prompted a somewhat rebellion amongst the members of the party especially in the House of Representatives.
It will be recalled that Gbajabiamila, who represents Surulere 11 Federal Constituency of Lagos State and is the incumbent Majority Leader of the House, formally declared his ambition to run for the office of Speaker on March 31.
Same day, Hon. Mohammadu Bago, a representative of Chanchagi Federal Constituency of Niger State, North-Central, made a public declaration of his intention to contest for the same job.
Since then, a couple of other ranking members-elect have followed suit.
The roll call: Hon. Idris Wase from Plateau State, John Dyegh from Benue State, Hon. Nkiru Onyejiocha from Abia State, current spokesman of the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, and Hon. Yusuf Yakub from Adamawa State.
This galaxy of lawmakers, all ranking in status, have, prior to now, continued to engage their colleagues, leveraging on their political clout, permutations and calculations.
Some of them, especially those from the North-Central, had expected to clinch the ticket on the grounds of equity, justice and fairness, having not been given such opportunity in the last 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy.
Past Speakers, deputies and their zones
An analysis of power sharing in the country shows that the North-West between 1999 and 2000 produced Salisu Buhari as Speaker of the House, Ghali Na’bba between 2000 and 2003, Aminu Masari between 2003 and 2007 and Aminu Tambuwal between 2011 and 2015.
The South-West had Patricia Etteh in 2007 and Dimeji Bankole between 2007 and 2011.
For the South-South, Chibudom Nwuche was Deputy Speaker between 1999 and 2003 just as Austin Opara occupied same office between 2003 and 2007.
The South-East produced Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy Speaker between 2011 and 2015.
In the present government, the North East is represented by Hon. Yakubu Dogara with Yusuf Lasun from the South-West as his deputy since 2015.
North-East had also produced a Deputy Speaker in the person of Babangida Nguroje who deputised for Etteh.
On Tuesday, the ruling APC, on the sideline of a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, endorsed Gbajabiamila from the same zone with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (South-West) as its choice for Speaker and asked others to queue behind him.
The party also zoned the deputy speakership to North-Central.
Gbajabiamila is an ally of the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who apparently influenced his endorsement just like in 2015.
Barely 24 hours after the development, many Reps members-elect of the APC and, indeed, those of the PDP, have been jolted into taking a position perhaps in protest.
First to publicly display his displeasure was Dyegh who swiftly declared his intention to run for Speaker.
‘Party must rescind decision’
Coming from Benue in North-Central, was Dyegh asked the APC to rescind its decision on Gbajabiamila, saying that speakership must be given to his zone to balance power equation.
According to him, the North-Central had been so marginalized in the last 20 years.
He said: “I addressed a press conference urging our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to zone the position of Speaker to the North Central geopolitical zone. I spoke on the platform of the North-Central APC Caucus of the House.
“I am here today to update you on the latest development regarding the contest for the office of Speaker of the 9th Assembly. My party, the APC, in her wisdom, zoned the position of Speaker to the South-West and even micro-zoned it.
“I am a party man and my loyalty to the APC is 100%. However, the North-Central zone has not been convinced nor given reasons why their votes should not count and why we should not run and we feel very strongly that there is still room for negotiation because we believe it is not over until it is over. We are therefore appealing to the party to have a rethink and rezone the speakership to the North-Central for justice and fairplay. We pray to God to touch the hearts of our leaders to reconsider us favourably.
“As citizens, we all have equal stakes in project Nigeria, and it is against this background that the ‘House Project for Harmony’ emerged. I therefore stand before you today, my colleagues and dear country men, to declare publicly my humble and sincere intention to vie for the position of the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
“I am ready to offer my time and talents, and make sacrifices for the good of every Nigerian. The decision to join this race is based on my unyielding faith in a united and prosperous Nigeria.
“I believe in party supremacy, but the principle doesn’t say one should take everything the party says and does hook, line and sinker.
“That, in itself, is undemocratic, because the law gives us freedom of expression and aspirations, and the party would be going contrary to that law if it says other members should not be free to aspire.
“I am in this race and I will see it to the end. It’s no retreat, no surrender”.
On his part, Bago who is also from the North-Central, said the endorsement of Gbajabiamila will not stand.
In a statement, Bago Campaign Organization said the ambition of its principal stood.
The statement was signed by the spokesman for the campaign organization, Hon. Victor Ogene, who was also the Deputy Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs of the 7th House.
Ogene said: “For us in the Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago Campaign Organization, we view the development as a poorly choreographed political orchestra aimed at using the hallowed precincts of the Presidential Villa to anoint a candidate from the South-West.
“For us therefore, there is no retreat, no surrender, in our demand for equity and justice in the zoning arrangement, and the ultimate desire of many members-elect to be allowed to choose their own leaders.
“Indeed, our quest for inclusivity has rather than being stifled only gained further traction, especially against the realization that the template which our National Chairman relied upon in arriving at this curious choice remains hazy.
“Consequently, a flurry of posers are immediately thrown up, to wit: In arriving at this divisive decision, was the National Caucus of the APC, consisting of President Buhari, his deputy, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC Governors, Board of Trustees (BOT) members and party stalwarts, including contenders for the office of Speaker and other leading members of the legislature from the party, carried along?
“If this question is answered in the affirmative, it would therefore be interesting to let Nigerians know on what date such a parley took place, who moved the motion for zoning and micro-zoning, who seconded it, and who voted for and against such proposal?
“We, therefore, condemn this obvious attempt to drag our party through the same tortuous path of 2015, all in a bid to sustain a legacy of imposition aimed at entrenching one man’s imperious dynasty.
“Until – and unless – the right thing is done, we reiterate our commitment to the pursuit of equity, justice and the independence of the legislature.”
I am still in race – Namdas
Namdas also told Sunday Vanguard that he had not given up on his ambition.
“I am still in the race. That is just it. We still have seven weeks before election. We are a party, we are not fighting anybody. We will understand ourselves. I have supporters. I will have to consult them. I am still in the race. But I am a loyal party man”, the Adamawa lawmaker said.
Reps will rise to demand of duty when time comes-Yakub
For Yakub, who is also aspiring, there is no cause for alarm. Through his media aide, Nkem Ayata, he told Sunday Vanguard that the lawmakers will rise to the occasion when the time comes.
“Hon.Yusuf Buba Yakub is a loyal party man. He was also present at the dinner to which you earlier referred. But as to what you said was the decision of the party with regard to the speakership of the House of Reps, he will soon make his position known.
“As you well know, the issue of allocating principal offices of the National Assembly, alongside other offices that have been already occupied, to different zones of the country is one which has tended to overheat the polity.
“He urges all actors in this political show to observe caution and to realise that nothing is actually at stake in an issue that is basically among colleagues, who, on their own, will rise to the demand of duty when the time comes”.
Doguwa opts for Majority Leader
The adoption of Gbajabiamila and the subsequent zoning of the deputy speakership to North-Central has left the North-West, the South-East and south-South jostling for the remaining positions in the principal offices cadre. To this end, Hon. Ado Doguwa, who had earlier stepped down for Gbajabiamila in the speakership race, has submitted himself to the party for the Majority Leader’s office. Doguwa, who is the incumbent Chief Whip of the House and five-time member, hails from Kano State.
Indeed, the mood of the House now is that of the 2015 when the party projected Gbajabiamila for speakership. The air is heavy with murmurings and hushes. Would the lawmaker succeed this time? Would another Dogara win to become the Speaker of the 9th House? Indeed, the answers are in the womb of time.