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REPS Speakership: Gbajabiamila reaches out to Dogara, PDP members-elect as Bago storms S/West

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

The two main contenders for the speakership of the House of Representatives of the 9th National Assembly, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila and Mohammed Bago, last week, made strategic moves in a bid to outdo each other.

Senator Ahmad Lawan and Mr Femi Gbajabiamila

They are battle ready and, indeed, the fight is to the finish. They are both looking forward to the event of June 10, 2019.

To this end, they are not relenting in galvanizing their colleagues who actually have the rights to the vote on the inauguration day. They are Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Mohammed Bago who are both contenders for the speakership of the House of Representatives of the incoming 9th National Assembly.

Gbajabiamila hails from Lagos State, South West while Bago represents Chanchagi federal constituency of Niger State, North Central.

Gbajabiamila is the anointed of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and he is leveraging on that for his victory to become the Speaker but Bago appears to be the favourite of many of his colleagues on the specificity of his crusade against injustice and power imbalance. For one, Bago has been consistent on the issues of equity, fairness and justice. His agitation was sequel to the perceived marginalization of his zone and ceding of the speakership slot to the South-West.

History

The history of the presiding officers of the House at the dawn of the 4th republic shows that in the 4th Assembly between 1999 and 2003, North-West produced the Speaker in the person of Alhaji Ghali Nabba from Kano State while the South-South produced the Deputy Speaker in the person of Hon. Chibudom Nwuche from Rivers State.

In the 5th House between 2003 and 2007, the North-West again produced the Speaker in the person of Alhaji Aminu Masari from Katsina State while Hon. Austin Okpara from the Rivers State, South-South deputized for him.

From 2007 to 2011, Mrs Patricia Etteh from Osun, South-West became Speaker with Babangida Nguruje from Taraba State, North-East as Deputy Speaker. That was in the 6th National Assembly.

Six months afterwards, both were impeached and in their place was Hon. Dimeji Bankole from Ogun State, South-West (Speaker) and Usman Nafada from Gombe, North-East (Deputy Speaker) who served out the 6th Assembly.

Between 2011 and 2015, Aminu Tambuwal from Sokoto State, North-West became the Speaker with Emeka Ihedioha from Imo State, South-East deputizing for him in the 7th Assembly.

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In the 8th Assembly, which is the outgoing tenure, Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State, North-East is the Speaker while Yusuf Lasun from Osun State, South-West is deputy. At the moment, the President of the country hails from Katsina State, North-West just as the Vice President is from Lagos State, South-West.

Winning strategies 

But despite the foregoing, Gbajabiamila and Bago are leaving no stone unturned in the quest to realize their ambition and it against this backdrop that they have strategically dug at each other’s backyard.

Gbajabiamila opened the channel when on Tuesday he unveiled Hon. Ahmed Wase as his running mate.

Wase hails from Plateau State and he is currently deputizing Gbajabiamila as the Majority Leader of the outgoing 8th House. The unveiling was done by the Director-General of his Campaign Organization, Hon. Abdulmumuni Jubrin.

Jubrin also claimed of his principal already having the required number to win the election.

He said: “As you are aware, there’s been the issue of a joint ticket. Many people have been peddling all sorts of rumour.

“We wish to categorically state that Hon. Femi is a candidate for the speakership and he is running on the same ticket with Hon. Wase. Wase is going to run as Deputy Speaker. We are going to vote and, by the grace of God, elect Femi as Speaker and elect Hon. Wase as Deputy Speaker. I hope this clarification and categorical statement will bring that matter to rest.

Decision not unilateral 

“It is not a sole decision. It is a decision that involved extensive consultations. We talked to ourselves, consulted our elders and, of course, consulted with members that are going to constitute the 9th Assembly and we arrived at that position that we are putting forward Hon. Femi and Wase as our team in the 9th Assembly.

Numbers 

“We equally wish to inform you that at his moment, we have the numbers to win the election on June 10. In the past 6 weeks since we started our activities, we have applied a different kind of modules to check our numbers and all the instances where we apply different practical options that are verifiable, we have arrived at a very comfortable number that will win us the election.

“The last approach we had is for members to confirm in writing who they are going to vote and we are here to let you know that we have the numbers already to win the election.

“Interestingly, we also have the large numbers from the PDP and other opposition parties who have also indicated interest, a written interest that they are going to be with us. And with the kind of approach we adopted, diplomatic shuttling, talking with the opposition party members, reaching out to them and, of course, assuring everyone that Femi and Wase are going to run an all-inclusive House, we believe that we are going to get more members from the PDP and other opposition parties joining the trail at some point but, for now, we have a very comfortable margin.

“I was joking with my friends that if not for the fact that we will want to keep our guards on the 10th of June, I would have asked all our colleagues to go on holiday and sleep and come back on the 10th because victory is certainly ours.

Wooing Dogara, others

“We have also opened consultations with past Speakers. We are reaching out to all the past presiding officers of the House, members of the body of principal officers of the House to see how they can help. Above that, to also start the process of giving us advice on how we are going to make the 9th Assembly a complete success.

“Very significant is that we are also lobbying the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara. We appreciate the value he can bring on board. We are also being realistic and very practical in our campaign. He’s the sitting Speaker, he controls a bloc in the House. We all recognize that. We are reaching out to him, lobbying, talking to him, negotiating with him and we are pretty sure that with all the constructive agenda that we put on ground, for the love that he has for this parliament, we will be able to reach an understanding with him so that we can also benefit from whatever value he can bring on board to support our cause.

“Of course, we have other members of the parliament that are in the race. You all know all of them. They have their own line of linking and line of arguments; whether it is on justice, fairness, equity or issue of capacity or gender, we want to say that their arguments are quite persuasive. They are valid. The only thing that we keep saying, even in our interaction with them, is that arguments are usually better but make more sense when you make superior arguments. But the important point we want to make here is that we are all in talks with them. We all have respect for them. We look forwarding to working with all of them. We are reaching out to Honourables Betera, Namdas, Babangida, Nkiruka, Bago, Dyegh, Buba, “Hon. Wase was in the race before he pulled out to and, by the grace of God, we are talking with him. You hear a lot of things in the media; the reality is that it is not a reflection of our campaign. We talk with all almost on daily basis and none of them is against the position of the party but making their argument for the party to see reasons with them, but we are sure that, before the 10th, we would have reached an understanding with all of them. We are pretty sure that on the 10th when the election will take place, there will not be any member of the APC that will be on the floor contesting with another member of the APC not through force but negotiations, consensus, lobbying, understanding and carrying everybody along.”

Bago storms S/West, Gbajabiamila’s domain

Though he is yet to announce his running mate publicly, Bago, on Thursday, did what analysts would describe as testing the waters at Gbajabiamila’s domain.

He honoured an invite from a member-elect, Hon. Shina Ayo Peller from Oyo State, who organized a Ramadan lecture and an empowerment programme in Ibadan. Bago was not there alone. He had around him over 30 members-elect.

Backups 

Some of those who graced the occasion with him were Hon. John Dyegh from Benue State (also a speakership aspirant); Hon. Solomon Maren from Plateau State; Hon. Ugonna Ozuruigbo from Imo State; Hon. Mukhtar Ladan from Kaduna State; Hon. Baggos from Plateau State; Hon. Kabir Tukura from Kebbi State; Hon. Egwim; Hon. Tajudeen Adefisoye, aka Young Alhaji from Ondo State; Hon. Kabir Idris from Kano State and Hon. Babajide Obanikoro.

‘No fair weather friend’

Writing on his twitter handle, Bago said, “I attended my friend and brother, Hon. Shina Ayo Peller’s event today, the opening of the Shina Ayo Peller Empowerment Centre and Ramadan lecture in Iseyin, Oyo State “The title of the Ramadan lecture is instructive: Uniting for a purpose.

“Promise made and kept; you will not be my friend only when I am seeking your vote  This is the message to my colleagues as we attempt to choose our own leader generically, the Speaker of the 9th Assembly I look forward to identifying with other colleagues, no matter where your constituencies are, they will never be too far for me.”

Absence

The event wasn’t just an ordinary one. It was, literally, a conglomeration of like minds, political strategists and thinkers.

A source told Sunday Vanguard that the meeting was an endorsement of some sort for Bago.  Incidentally, he is fluent in the Yoruba language, an advantage that he’s also leveraging on.

For Gbajabiamila, the source said the circle of the members-elect wasn’t happy that one of their own and aspirant to an exalted office as the Speaker of the House of Representatives was absent and did not send a representative. Asked whether there was a formal invitation to him, the source said it was inconsequential. According to the source who attended the event, Gbajabiamila should not have stayed away from a programme that involved lawmakers in his land. The source reasoned that the development may make his kith and kin to change their mind.

In politics, everything counts. 

Sunday Vanguard reached out to the spokesman for Gbajabiamila, Olaranwaju Smart Wasiu, for possible comments as to why his principal was absent at the event but there was no response from him as he did not answer his phone or reply a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.


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