Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Ahead of the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, a member of the House of Representatives, John Dyegh has called on the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to review its decision ceding the speakership position to the South West and to the House leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Dyegh, who is one of those aspiring to the position, wants the APC leadership to zone the position to the North Central in the interest of equity and fair play and in the overall interest of the party.
In spite of the endorsement of Femi Gbajabiamila by the APC for the speakership position, you are still continuing with your campaign for the position; in the event that the party insists on Gbajabiamila, what will you do?
When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. I don’t think they will do that. We have our own valid points. What we have done is to give the party an option. And that is democracy. In democracy, you have options. You have option A, you have option B. I don’t think the choice of the party is cast in iron. The party will still give room for negotiations. I am sure they can still reverse their decision based on the points we have given to the party and the general public, and our colleagues. We are very confident that the party is going to reverse it. This is not a fight.
In the event, they don’t?
In case they don’t, we are giving the members of the Green Chamber an option, to look at fair play in the issue we are talking about. We are insisting that there must be fair play in Nigeria. We are insisting there must be fair play and justice in the Green Chamber, because we have given them the votes to form the Federal Government. They have taken the Senate President from the North Central and given it to the North East, we have no quarrel with that. Our votes must count. The South West, where they have taken the speakership to, already has the vice president. These are the reasons we are advancing for our party to see. These are reasons, we are advancing for our colleagues to see and that is why we are giving our colleagues an option to look at fair play and justice. It is not a matter where you will say we will renege someday, where you will say we will go and negotiate. We are doing this peacefully. We are doing this respectfully to the party. My loyalty to the party is 100 percent. I did the party’s bidding in 2015, despite the odds against me. Everybody said I should go the other way, I said no let me do the party’s bidding. So, I have been a loyal party person. Even when they were sanctions against me, I still went with the party. I am a party man. So if I am giving the party an option today, they should still look at what I did yesterday.
What is your relationship with the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara?
Yakubu Dogara is my Speaker. I have nothing against him. Yes, I didn’t vote or work for him in 2015. We are colleagues. He is first among equals. We relate very well. That is politics; the fact that I did not vote for him in 2015 does not make us enemies. We have a cordial relationship.
There are insinuations that you belong to a coalition of lawmakers led by Speaker Dogara, which is looking for a North-Central candidate for Speaker, and that you are the choice of the group for the speakership. Is that true?
I will be happy if this is true. Because in campaigning, you don’t look at one side. You have 360 members in the Green chamber. All of them have votes. You cannot limit your campaign to only APC that would be bad business. If I am asking for votes in the Green Chamber, I must ask for vote from APGA, Labour Party, PDP, my party the APC. The coordinator of my campaign in my state is a Labour Party lawmaker. In fact, in my state, I am the only APC lawmaker. I am from Benue State, except you don’t want me to have a coordinator in my state. If you are saying that I should play politics without aligning with other parties, I wouldn’t do that. There is nobody among all of us contesting that would say ‘I would not ask for votes from other parties.’ Even in the general election, those who voted for me are not only APC members. People from different walks of life voted for me. I know as a fact that PDP and SDP members voted for me; it is a fact that Labour Party and APGA members voted for me; PRP members voted for me, ADC members voted for me and so and so forth. So, why would I not campaign for votes from other parties, when ab initio, at the grassroots, I benefitted from votes from outside my party, as well.
Why are you insisting on contesting for Speaker, knowing very well that the North Central where you come from has been given Deputy Speaker?
The current zoning arrangement is lopsided. It is not fair and that is injustice; that is why we are given the party an option. It is not fair because you said you are taking the speakership to the South West, but you have failed to give us convincing reasons why those of us from the North Central should not contest. We are saying the South West already has the office of vice president. That is okay. That is fine. If reward in politics is about what you bring to the table and you have already given the South West vice president; why would you refuse the North Central the speaker? The Senate President in the North Central, in your wisdom, you have taken it to the North East, we do not have problem with that. All we are saying is, if you are taking away number three from us, give us number four and not number six. We are saying these are the facts on ground. Respectfully, we are saying, please, take a second look.
In 2015 attempts by the party to zone the speakership to a particular zone did not quite work out. The party is threading same again. What do you think would be the likely outcome in 2019?
That is why we are giving the party an option, that if you went this way in 2015 and it didn’t work; the same reasons why it didn’t work, I am sure the same reasons may come to play this time again. The same reasons are there. But I don’t want to dwell too much on that. The House in its wisdom rejected zoning to the South West in 2015. I did the party’s bidding that time. I worked for the party. I supported South West. But I discovered that members didn’t like it. A lot of members said why would you take the vice president to Lagos /Ogun, why would you take the speaker again to Lagos. I have no regret doing what I did. But now we are saying let the party has an option.
Are you not concerned that the PDP may cash in on this disagreement within the APC and spring a surprise to produce the speaker?
These are the reasons we are saying the party should have a rethink, so that the opposition does not spring a surprise, because there is nothing stopping them from contesting, anyway. There is nothing in our laws that say the opposition cannot produce a speaker and even deputy speaker. There is nothing in our laws stopping them. So, if we are not together and the PDP goes ahead to say they will do this, well, I don’t know… It is my prayer that the party will have a rethink so that the PDP does not cash in on it. But I am very positive that we will not get to that extent, where we will lose the leadership of the House of Representatives. I am very positive about that because our leaders think rightly; they are very intelligent people and they can read the handwriting. I am sure they will do the needful.
What should Nigerians expect from you in the event that you are elected as Speaker?
We intend to initiate and implement a Seven-Point Evidence-Based Legislative Agenda. The first item on our agenda is to pursue the amendment of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) to ensure legislative experience counts by extending the four-year tenure to six-year tenure for the legislature. We will also ensure enhanced capacity of legislators and legislative support services through training and retraining to enable the 9th National Assembly pass National Priority Laws in critical sectors such as security, employment and productivity, power and agriculture.
Thirdly, we will deepen oversight processes of the National Assembly to ensure value for money and project performance by MDAs in compliance with the Appropriations Act. My administration will also instil openness in the financial operations of the National Assembly to guarantee accountability, transparency and responsiveness. Most importantly, we intend to initiate legislative measures and laws that will promote and engender national unity, providing equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, political, social and religious affiliations; and work with legislators in a multi-partisan manner for the stability of the House and Nigeria at large. We will also work round the clock to create effective collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Groups and Development Partners for active participation of all sectors of the society in the lawmaking and legislative processes. Then, we will sustain and deepen independence of the National Assembly and ensure harmonious interdependent working relationship with the executive arm of government without undermining the principles of separation of powers.