Speaker: Five aggrieved aspirants team up against Abbas

May 10, 2023

7.9 min readCategories: Politics

The aspirants for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the coming 10th National Assembly, who are aggrieved with the zoning plan of the All Progressives Congress, are grouping against the party’s adopted candidates, The PUNCH can authoritatively report.

Top contenders for the speaker’s seat, some of whom are in the current leadership of the 9th House, opposed the move by the APC to announce consensus candidates without due consultation with stakeholders in the chamber.

The National Working Committee of the APC had on Monday officially announced a former Minority Leader of the Senate and immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godwin Akpabio, from the South-South, as its consensus candidate for the position of President of the Senate.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, from the North-West, was nominated for the position of the Deputy President of the Senate.

In the House, the seat of Speaker was zoned to the North-West, with Tajudeen Abbas, as the consensus candidate.

The South-East clinched the slot of Deputy Speaker, with the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, emerging as the party’s candidate.

Nevertheless, the current Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara (APC/Borno), amidst reports of the zoning plan released by the NWC of the APC, officially declared his speakership bid in Abuja on Monday night.

At the declaration ceremony were co-aspirants who had formed a group to move against the APC aspirants.

Members of the group, according to the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, are the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; and a former member of the House who is now member-elect, Sani Jaji; and Betara.

However, another front-runner in the speakership race, Yusuf Gagdi, was in attendance. A photograph showing the five aspirants together with Gagdi later emerged online.

Wase and Gagdi are from Plateau State in the North-Central; Betara is from Borno State in the North-East; Soli is from Katsina State in the North-West, while Jaji is from Zamfara State also in the North-West.

Deputy Speaker faults APC

Wase, who spoke at Betara’s declaration, after some aspirants had spoken, said, ‘’We are here for the very reasons enumerated by Sada (Soli), to ensure the independence of the parliament, to ensure that we work as a family. What we are witnessing today, we have never seen that kind of moment in the parliament and that is why every parliamentarian must rise to the occasion; to defend that institution, to ensure we do the right thing.”

The Deputy Speaker noted that the G-4 had become G-5, with the “additional one finger that we had, that is Hon Ado Doguwa.”

Wase said, “We will work as a team. We will not allow this parliament to be disgraced. We will not allow this parliament to be hijacked. We will not allow this parliament to be made a lame duck. I believe we are loyal to our country first, loyal to our party, loyal to our people.

“Like my Leader (Doguwa) did mention when you say you have a consensus candidate, the language for consensus is very simple; it means that you have had a massive consultation, people were brought to the table for discussion and there is an agreement. But in this case, we just saw and we are hearing rumours, speculations that some people have been made consensus candidates. I don’t know whether that is the meaning of consensus.

“I am a democrat. I came into the parliament in 2007 and by the grace of God I am into my fifth term, and I give glory to God. This place is very sacred. It is honourable and that is why we are called honourable members. We must be honourable in our dealings, actions, and activities in defence of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have agreed that we will all work together, the five of us.”

In his remarks, Betara said he was shocked that Gbajabiamila did not nominate one of the House leaders and key members of the House to be the next Speaker. According to him, many current members of the chamber do not know Abbas.

Betara partly said, “We are one family. We are moving as a group to get back to the institution. As the engine room of the legislature, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila gave me a name. He calls me the Head Boy. I was surprised that my friend, my boss, nominated one person outside of all of us here.

“If today the Deputy Speaker of the House is contesting, the Chairman (of the Committee on) Appropriation is contesting, the Majority Leader is contesting, then who is closer to the speaker? Nobody! He is picking one person that members of the 9th Assembly – some of us – even don’t know. The 9th Assembly members –a lot of us – (don’t know him).”

Doguwa’s position

Doguwa, who had in an interview with our correspondent earlier on Monday said he would obey the decision of the APC, said he remained in the race.

“I want to put on record that I am still an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, God willing,” Doguwa stated, adding that whoever wants to be a successful speaker of the House must be willing to work with Betara whom he described as a “shock absorber.”

But the Director of Publicity of the APC, Bala Ibrahim, on Tuesday said the ruling party was not losing sleep over the brewing rebellion in both chambers of the National Assembly against the party’s candidates.

Ibrahim, in an interview with one of our correspondents, noted that the beauty of democracy is that it allows disagreement, adding that the position of the APC was taken to foster unity in the interest of the country.

He said, “There is no cause for alarm. As I said, we are in a democracy where freedom of expression is guaranteed. The party only advised based on the doctrine of fairness, equity and fair play.

“These positions are assigned to those regions or sections of the country to give everyone a semblance of good sense of belonging, to ban religious, tribal and sectional sentiments. It is not saying there will be no election on the day of the inauguration. There will be an election. But the hope of the party is that it will go in tandem with its recommendation.”

When asked if the APC was not worried about the growing rebellion by some members-elect and the opposition to Akpabio and Abbas’ endorsement, Ibrahim stated that such disagreement was not out of place in a democracy.

According to him, the opposition is doing what is expected and the ruling party still has the power of majority to its advantage.

In a related development, a member-elect of the House, Amobi Ogah (LP/Abia), while addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, called on his colleagues to support the consensus candidate for Speaker.

Ogah said, “Hon. Abbas has shown more competence and character which has given him an edge to be a preferred aspirant to others. As a politician, he is not doing money politics like others, which is part of what my leader, Mr Peter Obi, of the labour party preaches. He is just a replica of Obi and that is more reason I am supporting him and calling on other of my colleagues to do the same.”

Meanwhile, the House has denied a back-door amendment of the standing orders of the House, which contains rules guiding the conduct of legislative business in the chamber.

An online medium (name withheld) had in a now-deleted report claimed that the rules of the House had been secretly amended ahead of the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly in June, to restrict members ‘open ballot’ in the speakership and deputy speakership elections.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education and Services, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, who chaired the panel that reviewed the rules book in 2019, however, dismissed the report on Tuesday.

Ihonvbere, in a statement released by the Secretariat of the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’, a coalition of members-elect of the APC and opposition parties, recalled how the House, on July 25, 2019, unanimously considered and adopted the report by his panel on a series of amendments to the Standing Orders of the House.

The lawmaker also denied interference by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, in the process.

Ihonvbere, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Edo State, was Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the Standing Orders of the House of Reps; ex-Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Legislative Agenda of the House of Reps; and ex-Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee on the Revision of the Legislative Agenda of the House of Reps.

The lawmaker wrote, “For the records: Anyone insinuating the House Rules was forged to allow open voting is either ignorant of what the members of the House of Representatives passed at plenary on Thursday, 25th July 2019, or is mischievous or intends to manipulate the election process of the 10th House against the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, is going ahead to officially declare his speakership bid. Wase is billed to make the declaration in Abuja on Friday, according to a notice issued to journalists in which he invited all members-elect and stakeholders.

Credit: Punch

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About the Author: Olumide Akinrinlola

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