Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji, And Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Ahead of June 11th inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and the election of the president of the Senate and his deputy, there is palpable fear in the camp of Senator Ahmad Lawan.
Saturday Sun has reliably gathered that the silent posture of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate, is causing ripples in the camp of Lawan, who has been endorsed by the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was gathered that some Lawan’s foot soldiers, have tried without success, to secure a meeting with the caucus of the PDP. The leadership of PDP caucus, who is yet to get a clear signal from the National Working Committee of APC, it was learnt, has not approved the meeting. A top APC senator who spoke to Saturday Sun in confidence, said despite the endorsement of Lawan by the ruling party, many senators-elect on its platform are yet to fully come on board. He said less than 30 senators-elect have openly identified with Lawan, while over 30 who are predominantly former governors, are not on board yet. The APC senator said there are fears that if Senator Danjuma Goje declares, some APC lawmakers who are still sitting on the fence will throw their weight behind him. He said: “I am aware that Goje is running. He has made serious inroads into senators who are not comfortable with the leadership style of APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
“We have about 15 former governors who will be in the 9th Senate. Oshiomhole can’t be talking to these people the way he likes. They will likely support one of their own who is Goje.
“There is another bloc we are ignoring. PDP has about 44 senators-elect. If the Supreme Court rules against Zamfara State APC, PDP will have about 47. All that is needed is for Goje to get few angry APC senators and he will defeat Lawan. This is our fear.”
Further investigation has revealed that Wednesday’s meeting of the PDP with its National Assembly caucus, may change the calculations. Although no PDP lawmaker is willing to speak on the outcome of the meeting, it was learnt that another meeting has been scheduled for next week, where it will decide who to support.
Saturday Sun has learnt that Goje will declare soon. The embattled former governor and chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriations, deliberately delayed his declaration to avoid the wrath of the presidency.
Goje has a running battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A Federal High Court in Jos recently technically set him free. Goje, it was learnt, decided to defer his declaration until the expiration of the appeal window of his acquittal.
There are also ongoing negotiations between Goje and Mohammed Ali Ndume on a possible alliance against Lawan. It is not yet certain if the alliance will succeed to stop Lawan.
Dogara’s men shop for North Central candidate as odds mount against Gbajabiamila
Despite his adoption as the All Progressives Congress (APC) consensus candidate for the position of speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th Assembly, it is not yet uhuru for the House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.
Saturday Sun gathered that the political camp of the incumbent speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara has started shopping for a more sellable candidate to rival Gbajabiamila in the speakership contest.
Gbajabiamila was adopted as consensus candidate of the APC for the speakership seat at a dinner held at the presidential villa on Tuesday night. The party leadership in ceding the position to the House Leader said the North Central will produce the deputy speaker.
Apart from Gbajabiamila, other lawmakers, who have indicated interest in the speakership seat are Hon Umaru Bago, Hon John Dyegh , Hon Abdulrasak Namdas, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and Hon Chike Okafor.
Others are Hon Tahir Monguno, Hon Idris Wase and Hon Yusuf Yakub. While Monguno has withdrawn from the contest, Wase, who hails from Plateau State in the North Central is being tipped to serve as Deputy Speaker under Gbajabiamila.
The Dogara group, which consists of both serving and former members of the House and cuts across political parties, it was gathered, is canvassing for equity and religious balance in the leadership of the various organs of the government in the country.
Inside sources, said the thinking of members of the group is that since President Muhammadu Buhari is a muslim, and all the front runners for the Senate Presidency are muslims, the Speaker of the House should be a Christian. Gbajabiamila is a muslim. Besides, it was gathered that the group is more favorably disposed to the North Central producing the next speaker.
Consequently, Dogara camp is said to have commenced an intense search for a North Central lawmaker, who is a non- muslim to slug it out with the House Leader when the ninth Assembly is inaugurated. Already, there are speculations that the Speaker’s men may have settled for Hon Dyegh from Benue State. However, when Saturday Sun sought Dyegh’s reaction on the matter, he said “I will be happy if that 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, PDP, my party the APC.
“If you are saying that I should play politics without aligning with other parties, I wouldn’t do that. There is nobody of all us contesting that would say I would not ask for votes from other parties.” Similarly , Namdas, who is said to be part of the Dogara camp, said there is nothing bad in collaborating with lawmakers from other political parties in the pursuit of his aspiration.
According to him,”when you are a member of the National Assembly, you do not work in isolation. You are supposed to work with any other members. There is nothing wrong with that. The mere fact that you are relating with people from other political party does not mean you are engaged in anti-party activity. Even the party (APC) told us that we are free to relate with members of the other party so long as you can bring them to your side. “
He added: “ I can work with members from other parties. I said it when I declared that I am an independent candidate. If people of the other party think I have the quality they want, I can go with them . But I am an independent candidate. “
Saturday Sun gathered that the North Central candidacy may actually be a fall back option, for the Dogara group and the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) caucus in the House, in the event that the speaker is unable to retain his seat. Sources say the opposition is working on the possibility of the Speaker retaining his seat in the ninth Assembly. The chairman, House Committee on Public Procurement, Hon Wole Oke told Saturday Sun that nothing stops Dogara from recontesting for the speakership seat. He explained that the position is not exclusive to any political party.
“Anything is possible in politics; because it is not in our constitution that APC should be speaker of the House. Dogara is a member elect. And he is a ranking member. As we speak today, he is the most ranking, having been speaker of the House, that is returning. So, if you are even looking at experience, he is the best
“Who among those we know can match Dogara. Speaker Dogara is a success story. Deep. He has intellectual capacity. He has robust ideas. You can’t take those things away from him, “ Oke told Saturday Sun.
The battle within APC
Besides, the opposition by Dogara’s supporters and majority of the PDP lawmakers to his ambition, Gbajabiamila is also facing very stiff opposition from within ruling party, as his endorsement by the APC leadership has not gone down well with other contenders for the speakership position. In his immediate reaction to the House leader’s adoption, Bago had said it does not hold water. The Niger State born lawmaker, who spoke through the spokesman of his campaign organization, Victor Ogene, dismissed Gbajabiamila’s endorsement as a “ poorly choreographed orchestra” to market his ambition.
Ogene, a former deputy chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, told journalists in Abuja, the APC leadership has a lot of explanation to make on how the party arrived at Gbajabiamila as its candidate for the speakership position.
“The further question to ask would probably be, at what meeting did the national caucus of the party stay to decide on this adoption, on the zoning first, not to talk of the micro zoning. The party has different strata, the party is not just the National Working Committee (NWC). There is a national caucus which comprises Mr President, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC governors, BoT members and some other party stalwarts.
“To our knowledge, no such meeting has ever been called to discuss the issue of zoning, not to talk of micro zoning. So, we would be interested to know who moved the motion for zoning, who seconded it, who moved a follow up motion for micro zoning and who seconded it; who voted for and who voted against, “ he queried.
Regardless of Gbajabiamila’s adoption, Ogene said Bago having put his hand in the plough, cannot go back. He pointed out that “the anointing of a candidate does not stop other candidates from running. If I remember vividly, our own national leader, Bola Tinubu, in 2016 August during the run up to the Ondo primaries, he came out to support a candidate, Olusegun Abraham and another candidate, Dr Tunji Abayomi challenged him as attempting to foist his candidate on all of them and he issued a public statement saying that as an individual, as a leader of the party, he has the right to stand with any candidate. I think you cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. We reserve the same right to run for the election and we are forging ahead.”
In a separate interview with Saturday Sun, Ogene warned that the manner APC is going about the succession politics in the House of Representatives, there is going to be a reenactment of what happened in 2015, where the ruling party’s preferred candidates lost out in the contest for leadership of the two chambers of the Assembly.
Like, Bago; Dyegh and Namdas say they are proceeding with their campaigns for the speakership position. Dyegh told Saturday Sun that there is imperative for the APC leadership to revisit its decision to cede the speakership to South West, especially as the zone has already produced the Vice President. He added that his quest to be speaker is anchored on the need for equity..
According to him, “ We are giving the party an option. We are giving members of the Green Chamber an option to look at fair play. 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. That is why we are giving our colleagues an option.”
He added “ My loyalty to the party is 100 per cent. I did the party’s bidding in 2015, despite the odds against me. Every body said I should go the other way, I said no let me do the party’s bidding. I am a party man. So if I am giving the party option today, they should look at what I did yesterday for them.” Repeated efforts to get Gbajabiamila’s reaction went unsuccessful as his phone was continually engaged.
Three- horse race
With unfolding events in the House, the contest for the leadership of the House of Representatives in the ninth Assembly is going to be a three-horse race that will see Gbajabiamila, Bago and whoever the Dogara camp eventually settles for battle. The implication is that it might be difficult for any of the contenders to win the contest at the first ballot.
According to the rule of the House, for a lawmaker to emerge as the Speaker of Green Chamber, he or she must score at least 181 votes in a contest. Analysts say it would be too costly for the APC to go into the contest with a divided house, as it would strengthen the hands of the PDP in the contest. Dyegh said that is the more reason the ruling party must review the zoning of the speakership position to the South West.
“ These are the reasons why we are saying the party should have a rethink, so that the opposition does not spring a surprise on the party ,because there is nothing stopping them from contesting, anyway. There is nothing in our laws that says the opposition cannot produce a speaker. If we are not together and the PDP goes for the seat, it will be tough. It is my prayer that the party will have a rethink so that the PDP does not cash in on it, “ he stated.
Consequences await erring lawmakers, APC vice chairman warns
The All Progressives Congress (APC) North Central National Vice Chairman, Ahmed Suleiman Wambi, has cautioned House of Representatives members from the zone insisting on producing the Speaker of the 9th Assembly to obey the micro zoning decision of the party.
The zonal party boss told Saturday Sun on telephone that though the decision of the party is not binding on the members, however, it is an illegitimate child that disgraces his parent after benefitting from his support. He insisted that though the national leadership of the party will not read any riot act to the disobedient National Assembly members from the zone, they should however learn from the fate that befell other members that could not return to the Assembly due to their disobedience to the party. Asked his position on the stand of the North Central members of the National Assembly, he said: “Without sentiment, the party has anointed somebody to be the speaker of the 9th Assembly. The party’s decision is not because the man from the South West is better than others from the North Central or any other zone. “The party, in anointing him, wants to appreciate loyalty. It could be recalled what happened in 2015 and how the duo of Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila suffered in the hands of the present leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly. They faced intimidation, harassment, persecution from the present leadership.
“Being very loyal, humble, the party decided to reward them having shown character, obedience and synergy with the party. The North Central will certainly get something within the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly. In line with the political equation of the country, every geopolitical zone must get two positions at both chambers regardless of their contribution during the election.
“As the party leader of the zone, I can tell you that the decision was taken before Mr. President, the party national leadership and other party stakeholders. So, some opposing the decision are crying more than the bereaved.
“We need to have a direction and if the party has not taken decision, the National Assembly will be like a sheep without shepard. We must avoid any consequential effect of what happened last Assembly. What we are facing now is a case of a father with many children. After nurturing and training them, it is expected that they should obey his directive because failure to do so would mean that they are not his legitimate children.
“The North Central occupied the senate president position consecutively for 12 years because of their heterogeneous nature in deciding the political pendulum of this country. However, this is not the time to take those things into consideration. The party has taken a decision and the micro-zoning must be respected with decorum and precision,” he said. On the consequences of their disobedience, he said: “We have met with the National Assembly members but what we should know is that everybody has the right to aspire to any height. It is a free world and we don’t have right to stop them. We are not going to read any riot act to the Assembly members from North Central because our decision is not cast in stone. The party did not force the decision on them.
“It is only an illegitimate child that can disgrace his father. None of them did not pass through the party before becoming what they are now. But we are just appealing to them to toe the line of wisdom and operate in the same synergy. We are not planning to make the National Assembly leadership a rubberstamp but we must have people with capacity and that we can trust.
“There is punishment for their action but they must not forget the fate of those that disobeyed the party and failed to return to the Assembly. Some of them are not even there again let alone decide who becomes what. Losing their position is the consequences of disloyalty to the party,” he said.