BODE OLAGOKE, in this peace takes a look at the chances of House of Representatives’ majority leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, and the likely obstacles on his path to the exalted seat as speaker of the 9th house.
Talk about academic qualification, he is qualified. Talk about the experience, he is even more qualified than most of his challengers. He is a party man and to some extent the movers and shakers of event in the ruling party are behind him.
Just and fairness
Despite the above, Gbajabiamila might not have an easy ride to the office the speaker of the 9th House for a number of reasons. In democracy it is about numbers and sharing of offices and available pecks in a manner seen to be just and fair (even if it is pretentious).
Just and fair in the sense that the North-west has produced the president, the party has also publicly settled down for a North-east senator as the next president of the senate, the South-west is holding the position of vice president, leaving the North-central, South-south and the South-east with nothing. Therefore, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has a responsibility before it to be seen as just and fair.
As it stands now in the ranks of APC itself, more than 10 other House of Representatives members are challenging the Lagos-born lawmaker. Among them are House spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Mukhtar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno), Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Umar Bago (APC, Niger), Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia), John Okafor (APC, Imo), Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina) and Mohammed Kazaure (APC, Jigawa).
Although is the endorsed candidate of the party, the move (if it is true) definitely may not go down well with many members of the party. They are not comfortable with the arrangement for the simple reason that it violates equity.
Little wonder, there are fears there could be a repeat of the 2015 episode when some mobile young party men ganged up against the position of the party and produced Yakubu Dogara. Then, as it is now, Gbajabiamila was the choice or rather was imposed on the lawmakers. Should the party failed to act wisely that experience might play out again.
Protests against South-west
Mounting daily pressure seem to say that much. Different groups (both faceless and real ones) are now rolling out media releases, warning the leadership of the APC to support a North-central born speaker for the incoming 9th house.
One of the groups, which took a protest to the national secretariat of the party, claimed during the just general elections, the zone generated about 2.4 million votes for the party and the president, and therefore should not be taken for granted.
The group, under the aegis of North-central APC Ambassadors, in a letter dated April 1st, which was addressed to the party national chairman, insisted that the zone must be rewarded with the seat because of the number of votes it delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari during last presidential poll.
The letter was signed by five state coordinators and FCT coordinator. They include: Muyideen Yusuf (Kwara), Rita Longjap (Plateau), Muhammad Ibn Muhammad (Niger), Lucas Cassius (Nasarawa) Yahaya Dauda (FCT) and Shehu Araga (Kogi).
Also, the North-central group, according to the letter said since North-west has the president, South-west has vice president and senate president has been zoned to North-east, speakership must be zoned to North-central.
The letter partly read, “North-central should be rewarded for its performance in the 2019 election. With 2.4million votes for President Muhammadu Buhari, North-central came third behind NW and NE.
“Even though South-west has the VP, it didn’t perform as well as the North-central in the last elections. So, who should be rewarded?
“North-central has consistently been loyal to the party. Since 1999, NC has never occupied the position of speaker or deputy speaker while all the other zones have occupied these positions.”
“We are not in a hurry to release the zoning formula. There will be no problem. The lawmakers-elect are part of the party and they are also part of the ongoing consultation on the matter.
“That means that by the time we are coming out with the arrangement, none of them will be shocked. They are part of the consultation.”
Apart from APC Ambassadors, a forum of former House Representatives members had earlier cautioned the APC on the need to consider and support someone from the North-central as the next speaker. The group, though, did not settle for a particular candidate.
Opposition against Lagos
Apart from massive opposition from the North-central threatening Gbajabiamila, in the South-west where he hails from it doubtful the Bola Tinubu backed candidate can successfully boast of massive support.
This obvious as some serving governors of the party are not currently on the same page with the APC strongman in South-west. They two states might not likely to support Gbajabiamila, who they see as the extension of Bourdillon.
Besides, they believe whatever federal presence that came to in the South-west under this administration have largely been shared between and Ogun and Lagos states, leaving Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun with nothing. This might add impetus to the opposition.
Currently, the sitting vice president is from Ogun state. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo governed Nigeria for eight years and he is also from Ogun state, a stone throw to Lagos state, where the seat of power was for many years before it moved to Abuja. So the remaining four states feel they deserve something better apart from constitutional recognised member of the president’s cabinet.
Religion as a factor
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) position is one that should be swept under the carpet because of the sensitivity of faith in Nigeria. The CAN believes since the president is a Muslim, senate president is also Muslim, the speaker should be a Christian. Although the veracity of this assertion is not the focus here, it is however a focal point, considering the multi-religious nature of Nigeria.
Tinubu’s factor in APC
There is no doubt that scheming for the control of the APC ahead of the 2023 has started. Some governors (even from the South-west) are said to be working against Tinubu’s plot to control the structure of the party of the next general elections.
The opposition against the Lagos political strongman started since the days of Chief John Oyegun as the national chairman of the APC. These elements did everything possible to demystify the former Lagos governor and were largely successful but for the intervention of the presidency at almost late hour.
The game has, however, started again between the camp of some governors and other influential men and women who believe they might not have their ways if Hammed Tinubu gets full hold of the party.
Again, the race of who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 is another major factor. The said opposition elements are of the view that if Gbajabiamila is allowed to be speaker, his godfather Tinubu will be more powerful in determining who becomes what after Buhari.
No endorsement for Gbajabiamila yet- party spokesman
However, against media speculations, the party has dismissed reports that it had settled for Femi Gbajabiamila as the speaker of the incoming 9th house, saying it has not taken a final position on the matter.
Speaking through a telephone conversation, the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said it is not in anyone’s position to announce such decision when consultation is still ongoing.
“We have not come out as a party to say it (that we have adopted him) and it is not in anyone’s position to go and announce that”, he said.
To avoid the repeat of 2015 which the presidency and the echelons of the APC have spoken against, the Adams Oshiomohle-led National Working Committee (NWC) must make its position known soonest. Event watchers are of the opinion that a stitch in time saves nine.