By Emman Ovuakporie
The Ninth House of Representatives Speakership race has taken a disturbing turn as more than 15 lawmakers across the six geopolitical zones have now declared intention for the position.
In the 8th Assembly, the All Progressives Congress, APC, after zoning the position to the South-West got its hands burnt as Yakubu Dogara from the North-East clinched it with massive backing opposition lawmakers.
The APC radar is fast navigating towards that direction as no fewer than 15 legislators are jostling for the speakership.
Currently, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has 110 lawmakers out of the 338 lawmakers that have collected their certificates of return. Unless the APC closes its ranks, the PDP members may determine the next speaker.
All the PDP lawmakers that Vanguard spoke to on this issue said they have vowed to keep their joker to their hearts until the APC endorses a candidate.
This is a dangerous signal that could spell doom for the ruling party.
Lack of consensus
On the issue of a consensus candidate, most lawmakers and even APC members are against consensus because if it’s adopted a popular candidate may not emerge.
An APC lawmaker from the South-South zone said “if a consensus candidate emerges then I can bet it with you such an anointed candidate won’t last three months.
The Ninth Assembly from all indications may beat both the Seventh and Eight assemblies in terms of the lawmakers seeking the coveted position as all the lawmakers in the race even from President Muhammadu Buhari’s zone appear to be adamant.
The contestants so far
The party leadership had last Monday zeroed the position to the outgoing majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila. However, before then he had a contender in the person of Olusegun Odebunmi, a third timer.
A source close to Odebunmi’s camp told Vanguard that they “are lying low for now but once the zoning formula is announced our candidate will make an open declaration.’’
As for Gbajabiamila’s camp, it was gathered that the versatile legislator is keeping everything to his chest until APC blows the whistle.
Gbajabiamila narrowly lost to the incumbent speaker with eight votes during the Eighth Assembly speakership contest.
Both lawmakers are capable of hands with a bag full of legislative experience.
Mr Garba Datti, APC Kaduna, a third timer and Buhari’s political ally is very much in the race through his aides told Vanguard that their principal may step down to become the deputy speaker.
Rep Ado Doguwa, APC, Kano is a fifth timer and the Whip of the House. Doguwa is said to be contesting to enable him to get the position of a principal officer as he negotiated in the Eighth Assembly.
Babangida Ibrahim, APC, Katsina is a third timer and the present chairman House Committee on Finance.
Rep Sulaiman Kawu, APC, Kano is also a third timer. He was the deputy minority leader in the Seventh Assembly. He is also said to be eyeing the position of Deputy Speaker.
Rep Sulaiman Aminu, APC, Kano a former union leader is currently chairman House Committee on Education.
The incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, PDP, Bauchi is also in the race. Dogara can conveniently emerge with bulk votes from PDP if there is any crack in the APC zoning arrangement. He may also heavily rely on the House Standing rule which is silent on which party forms the leadership structure of the Green Chamber.
Tahir Monguno, a former Attorney General in Borno and current Chairman House Committee on Agriculture is also in the contest. Monguno, in the outgoing Assembly, stepped down from the Speakership race as a loyal party man. A third timer, Monguno is considered to have supporters across the six geopolitical zones.
Abdulrazaq Namdas, APC, Adamawa too is contesting too. He is said to be the first to open his campaign Secretariat even before the ruling party’s final position on where it should be zoned to.
Yusuf Buba Yakub APC, a second timer hails from Adamawa State.
Mohammed Bago, APC, Niger, is the present Chairman House Committee on Maritime. He is a second timer.
John Dyegh, APC, Benue is a vibrant lawmaker on the floor of the House and a force to reckon with issues concerning the North Central.
Idris Wase, APC, Plateau is the deputy leader of the House that enjoys a great deal of comradeship with his colleagues.
Abubakar Lado, APC, Niger State is about the youngest lawmaker in the fast vanishing Eighth House and a one time APC national youth leader.
Nkiruka Onyejeocha, APC, Abia, is the only visible female contestant. She is vibrant on the floor of the House and a third timer. Another lawmaker from the same zone has joined the race. Chike Okafor from Imo State is said to have quietly joined the race.
The PDP on June 9, 2015, rubbished the APC zoning arrangement and the crack among APC members greatly influenced the outcome of the Speakership race. Any attempt to sweep PDP under the carpet may turn things around in 2019.
Will the APC get its acts together this time? This is truly an acid test the APC leadership.