One-hundred and seventy members-elect of the House of Representatives including four speakership aspirants were in attendance as the incumbent Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, officially declared his ambition to run for the speakership of the 9th National Assembly on Sunday.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party has said it will ‘teach’ the All Progressives Congress the rudiments of democracy in the election of principal officers of the 9th National Assembly on June 9 when the federal legislature will be inaugurated.
At Gbajabiamila’s declaration for the position in Abuja on Sunday, members-elect on the platform of the APC and other political parties expressed their support for Gbajabiamila.
Shortly after Gbajabiamila’s delivered his speech, a lawmaker, Magaji Da’u Aliyu (APC, Jigawa), who anchored the event said, “At our last count, we have 170 members of the House in attendance,” to express “our support” for the Lagos Rep.
Also, at the event were members of the PDP, the Action Alliance and the African Democratic Congress, the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the African Action Congress, as well as representatives of the caucuses of the geopolitical zones.
No fewer than 17 members of the House are contesting leadership positions in the House. All of them want to be speaker except Mr Magaji Aliyu from Jigawa State in the North-West who wants to be deputy speaker.
They include Gbajabiamila, the immediate past Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) and a former Majority Leader, Kawu Sumaila (APC, Kano); and the Deputy Majority Leader, Ahmed Wase, (APC, Plateau).
Another is the leader of the North-East caucus, Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno), a ranking member who has just been re-elected for the fifth term just as Gbajabiamila. Also on the list is Olusegun Odebunmi from Oyo State.
Others are an ex-Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khajidat Bukar-Ibrahim (APC, Yobe); Yakub Buba (Adamawa); the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (Kano); Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas (Adamawa); Chairman, Committee on NIMASA, Umar Bago (Niger); Chairman, Committee on Finance, Babangida Ibrahim-Mahuta (Katsina); Chairman, Committee on Aviation, Nkiruka Onyejeocha (Abia); Chairman, Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Mr Suleiman Aminu (Kano); Abubakar Lado (Niger); and Muhammed Kazaure (Jigawa).
But the speakership aspirants in attendance during Gbajabiamila’s declaration included Ado-Doguwa, Sumaila, Monguno; and Bukar-Ibrahim, who had earlier served three terms in the House.
Other prominent lawmakers at the event were the leader of Gbajabiamila’s campaign, Abdulmumin Jibrin; Lagos lawmakers, including James Faleke and Rotimi Agunsoye; and some former principal officers of the House.
The PDP lawmakers who spoke at the event were Wole Oke (Osun); Iduma Igariwey (Ebonyi) and Jerry Alagbaoso (Imo). They declared their support for Gbajabiamila, asking the aspirant to reach out to more opposition lawmakers.
Oke said, “Gbajabiamila and I came to the House in 2003. We have worked together and I know him in and out. He has been to my office twice and to my house twice, to notify me that he wants to seek election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He has honoured me and as a well-cultured person, I also have to honour him by attending this declaration, but there is more to this.
“Nigeria is at a critical period of our national life. This is a period that we should be considering issues. So, when we talk about national interest and issues, I can’t see anybody in the House that is more qualified than Gbajabiamila.
“We, from the South-West, we are giving you one of our best. I speak here as Hon. Wole Oke; and honestly, I will be with him all through.”
Alagbaoso, who noted that he was protecting the South-South and South-East’s interests, said, “There is no doubt that you are the most qualified to lead us but you have to consult. You need at least to do the needful.”
Gbajabiamila is said to be the candidate of the national leadership of the APC for the speakership position.
Why I want to be speaker – Lagos Rep
In his declaration speech, Gbajabiamila described himself as a man with an abiding faith in the greatness of Nigeria.
He said, “Let no one tell you otherwise. We are not where we ought to be considering the abundance of talents and the blessing from God. However, you can rest assured that slowly but surely we will get there.”
The lawmaker added, “It is because of this unshakeable belief in the potential of Nigeria and the majesty of our democracy, that I, today (Sunday), after wide consultations with my colleagues, friends, family, party and stakeholders, and in total submission to the will of God, formally declare my intention to seek the position of the office of the Speaker of the 9th National Assembly and offer my service to the nation in this capacity.
“As many of you are aware, I ran for the same office just four years ago but it was not to be. Well, four years have come and gone and now we have come full circle.
“With all sense of humility, I seek this office with a rich legislative background and pedigree and having just won a historic 5th term mandate to the House. I have in the last 16 years dedicated my life to the service of my constituents and Nigeria. I have studied and understood the intricate workings of the legislature, a critical arm of government, and I have come to understand the imperative of striking a delicate balance in the relationship between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government without compromising the latter’s independence.
“Indeed, there is an essential need for a symbiotic relationship between all arms and all tiers of government if we are to make progress in nation building.”
We will teach APC political lesson, says PDP
However, the PDP, which said it would ‘teach’ the APC a lesson in the rudiments of democracy in the election of principal officers of the 9th National Assembly, added it would meet its elected members after the conclusion of the Rivers State election later in the week.
The meeting with its elected lawmakers, it was learnt, would be used to give direction to how members of the party would vote on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives on June 9.
A source close to the national leadership of the party, confirmed that the National Working Committee would meet soon to discuss the venue and agenda of the meeting aimed at appraising the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
“We know when to strike when the time comes. Let them be talking as if the assembly is the national secretariat of their party,” a PDP source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, confirmed that the party’s national leadership would meet soon to discuss the interest of the party concerning the ninth National Assembly.
He said, “We will meet soon. We are going to teach the APC the rudiments of democracy. The leaders of the APC should know that electing the leadership of the National Assembly will not be done at its national secretariat, on the pages of newspapers or inside the Presidential Villa.
“They should know that all senators and members of the House of Representatives are entitled to nominate as many people as they deem fit for any position.
“The leaders of the APC who are busy giving out orders will neither vote nor even make nominations. Politics is by lobby. Those who are giving orders should know that playing national politics is far more complex than state politics, which some of them are used to.
“Those who regard their words as lords in their states will soon know that their voices are mere noises when it comes to national politics. While we allow them to be roaring like lions in their states and to their members, we are out there talking to people with decency. So, wait and see what will happen.
“It is unfortunate that the APC is in power. The party is in power, but does not know how to use it. Democracy is not by muzzling the voices of others, but by listening to them and carrying them along.
“A national party is different from a regional party. Those who do not know will soon know.”
On whether the leadership of the party would soon meet with its elected national lawmakers, Ologbondiyan answered in the affirmative, saying “that will come after the Rivers State election.”
He added, “There is no way we will celebrate before the end of the elections. We still have the elections of Rivers State, which we hope will be over, latest by Friday.
“After those elections, we will meet with our lawmakers and together, we will decide on which path to follow concerning the National Assembly election.”
We stand by party decision on S’West – APC N’Central
However, the leadership of the APC in the North-Central zone has resolved to back the party’s national leadership on the zoning of the position of the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives to the South-West.
The APC National Vice-Chairman, North Central, Mr Suleiman Wambai, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
Wambai said since the party’s National Working Committee and President Muhammadu Buhari had taken a decision on the matter, the zone would not go against their decision.
“It is the decision of the APC NWC and that of the President to zone the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-West. As a loyal party man, that is where I stand too. We will not go against that decision,” he said.
Kwara APC Tinubu, other national leaders
Also, the Chairman of the APC in Kwara State, Bashir Bolarinwa, said the party agreed with the zoning of the National Assembly offices as laid down by the NWC of the party in 2015.
Speaking with The PUNCH in Ilorin on Sunday, Bolarinwa said the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was right in his position on the leadership of the ninth National Assembly.
Tinubu, had in an interview with journalists in Lagos on Friday, said lawmakers must respect the choice of the APC on the ninth National Assembly leaders.
He had said, “We were a little careless in 2015. We created the opportunity for the serpent to get into our party and that did not allow Nigeria to make the desired progress.
“You have seen the result of it and we are not going to allow that to happen again. We are going to respect our party and we are going to apply the whip.
“It is either you stay with us or you leave. You have the freedom to choose but the freedom does not give you as a minority to go and collaborate and give out our mandate to another party who was our opposition and who is still our opposition.
“We would not take that this time, no matter who you think you are. That is how it is built. Why do you want to deviate from what has been structured? We look at our reward system equally, zone by zone.”
Supporting Tinubu, the APC chairman in Kwara State, said offices in the National Assembly required legislators with experience so as to make the lawmaking process fast, “so the APC in Kwara State aligns with the national executive decision.”
Also, a Second Republic politician and one of the leaders of the APC in the state, Chief Wole Oke, said since the current President of the Senate is from the North-Central zone, the position should go to the North-East.
Oke, who was a majority leader in the Kwara House of Assembly in the second republic, said other positions such as the Chief Whip presently occupied by Senator Sola Adeyeye should be zoned to the North-Central.