Though the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared support for candidature of the majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila as speaker, agitations have remained unabated with more members of the party declaring intentions for the speakership. JOSHUA EGBODO writes.
Unusual silence of the opposition
In all of these, concerns have been raised on the loud silence of the opposition political parties, being led in terms of number of members-elect by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Silence, it is said, is golden but in this case, followers of developments of the leadership tussle in the House think it’s rather threatening, and must not be taken for granted by the APC.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that the opposition was being smart by not trying to pitch its preferred candidate with the ruling party, which had vowed to punish any of its members who defied its zoning arrangement. It is said that such a member may only be unveiled on the floor, the day of the house’s inauguration, who could be dramatically nominated by a member of any of the opposition political parties.
The position of law
Members of the opposition parties were reportedly banking on the constitutional provision to the effect that members shall elect from among themselves, a speaker, without recourse to political party affiliation. This is also supported by the rules governing the affairs of the house, which states clearly the process through which a presiding officer could be elected.
A new twist is, however, being added to the agitation with a group, which many have accused of being sponsored, demanding the National Assembly to carry out election of its officials through an open ballot process.
Besides APC’s insistence, especially by the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, that the party’s announced candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila, still remains, a group under the aegis of Advocates For Good Governance (AEG) last week stormed the National Assembly with demand that open voting be adopted as the two houses of the parliament are inaugurated in June.
“Transparency starts with the 9th National Assembly to be inaugurated in June 2019 when election of principal officers would be done through open voting for all Nigerians to witness”, it said and also queried “why some people are advocating secret voting”
However, pundits have described such groups as collections of paid jobbers, who have no business or any right to force such demands on the parliament, which had hitherto laid down rules and procedures for such processes.
Dogara’s perceived underground moves
Despite the open call by incumbent Speaker Yakubu Dogara that he be allowed to face the business of presiding over its affairs rather than be dragged into the argument of whether he was interested in the race for speakership at the moment, there are yet insinuations that he may be making some behind the scene moves to get himself back on the sit. Others have opined that even if he is not personally interested, there could be a person he may want to succeed him.
Yakubu had in the wake of speculations on who becomes the speaker, just after the general election break through his spokesman Turaki Hassan called on his colleagues and other Nigerians to allow him face the business of completing his tenure
During the induction training recently organised for members-elect of the 9th assembly, he cautioned political parties to desist from any attempt to impose candidates on the parliament, saying such have failed in the past. “I am not here to dictate to the parties, parties have their manifestoes, parties know how they conduct their businesses but one thing I have said….is that it is always better to allow the leadership to emerge from the people. But where leadership has been forced upon the people, in the history of the National Assembly, we are all part of this history in Nigeria, it has never endured…..”.
A dark horse scenario in the offing?
It is at the moment really unclear, who might clinch the speakership. Allegations are rife that the least expected might just happen on the day of inauguration. The scenario is being speculated because unlike in the 8th Assembly, the tussle was clearly between Gbajabiamila and the incumbent speaker, who subsequently defeated him, in spite of his party’s full backing, as is the case at the moment
Contenders, possible chances
Besides the speculated interest still being nurtured by Dogara, several members have either formally declared their intentions, or working undeniably for the speakership.
Basking in the open endorsement of his party, Gbajabiamila, well vast in the lawmaking business appeared to be very comfortable in the race. However, the warning signals at the moment have been the same endorsement, which may be his greatest undoing. Members, including many of those on the platform of the APC, were yet uncomfortable with the endorsement. They considered it rather “undemocratic”, and a sheer “imposition” which they are not willing to take.
The Plateau state-born lawmaker was one of early birds in the race. He was named the deputy majority leader by Dogara, following the demise of his predecessor on the post, Buba Jibrin (from Kogi). An experienced lawmaker who many believed was capable and well qualified, but later reports on Wase’s ambition have suggested that he may have struck a deal with the camp of Gbajabiamila to become deputy speaker, should the APC’s blessed candidate gets elected.
Described as an ardent loyalist of the APC by his promoters, Bago from Niger state has remained resolute in the pursuit of his ambition. He was reported to be one of the “good boys of Baba (President Muhammadu Buhari) in the house”. References were made to how he donated tens of vehicles for the Buhari campaign organisation in the wake of the 2019 second term bid of the president.
While not openly challenging the supremacy of his party, the lawmaker recently kicked against Gbajabiamila’s endorsement by the APC, and the open attack by Bola Tinubu on the leadership of the National Assembly, urging the stakeholders to allow interested members to run the race on their “individual credentials”.
Abdulrazak Namdas is current spokesman of the house, and had publicly declared his intention for speakership of the 9th assembly. Many say he has deliberately gone into oblivion, just after declaring his intention. People conversant with the tussle described the lawmaker from Adamawa state as “not making the needed campaign moves as expected of him”, a development they said may suggest he had tacitly dumped his bid.
John Dyegh, who was initially campaign director for the Wase for speaker project, had in recent interviews explained that he was in the race because his erstwhile man may have opted for what was not the original demand of the North-central, (playing the second fiddle as deputy speaker).
Though one is not sure if the APC would have a rethink on the zoning arrangement, the Benue lawmaker, who has been championing the North-central’s agenda for the purpose “equity, fairness and balance”, has vowed to end his struggle on the floor.
“My fate in this race will be decided on the floor”, he said in an interview obviously insisting on not backing out.
He is incumbent chairman of the committee on defence, from Borno state, and also one of the early entrants into the race. He doesn’t appear to be much in the open. Insiders in the tussle however described him as “one of the lawmakers who could spring surprises”. The most challenging huddle to his ambition at the moment, according to such movers, was the possible emergence of Ahmed Lawan, who equally hails from North-east geo-political zone as the senate president.
Onyejeocha recently made her intention for the speakership public. Her campaign agitations were hinged more on having a gender balance and the South-east representation in the scheme of things. Though an experienced lawmaker, analysts say she appeared not too assertive in the race. She is from Abia state.
The lawmaker from Imo state was reported to have been grooming his ambition over time. He chairs the house committee on healthcare services. He seems very popular with his colleagues, but his chances may be slim, as analysts say in the political calculations of the moment, the South-east may not be in the picture for speakership. He may be declaring his intention publicly in the coming days
Where shall it go?
To many, at the moment, narrowing down speculations on who may be elected speaker is not an easy task, as to them, the APC endorsement of Gbajabiamila seemed not to have gained the expected acceptance. They are, therefore, of the opinion that a dark horse may emerge to the consternation of all, including the ruling APC, which, according to them, if it failed to manage internal differences well, may fall victim of its own antics.