As permutations on who becomes the speaker of the 9th House of Representatives continue, lawmakers loyal to Speaker Yakubu Dogara may have resolved to frustrate the majority leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from ascending the position.
Both Dogara and Gbajabiamila contested against each other in 2015, but the former defeated the House leader with 182 to 174 votes. Although, Dogara, perhaps for political expediency, had to appoint Gbajabiamila as leader, the two have not really reconciled their differences.
The grouse of the Dogara Group with Gbajabiamila is not unconnected with the alleged links of the House leader with the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The group believed that if Gbajabiamila becomes speaker, Tinubu will extend his control to the National Assembly. Two weeks ago, the majority leader formally declared his intention to re-contest the position he lost narrowly in 2015.
But the Dogara loyalists are not leaving anything to chance and have vowed to stop the Lagos lawmaker in his tracks. Gbajabiamila’s case is worsened by his strained relationship with former speaker and now Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who is regarded as the don of the Dogara Group. Tambuwal still has control over some returning members. As part of the plot to put spanners in the wheel of Gbajabiamila’s ambition, there are indications that the Dogara camp may have resolved to back a candidate from the North- Central geopolitical zone.
This camp is made up of legislators from APC, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties and they control a sizeable number in the chambers. The group, New Telegraph learnt, will soon meet to adopt one candidate from the North-Central. There are currently three candidates from the zone: Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Hon. Umaru Mohammed Bago (APC, Niger) and Hon. John Dyegh (APC, Benue). The Dogara camp, which has vowed to stop Gbajabiamila again, also agreed to back a North-East candidate for the position of deputy speaker.
There are four candidates vying for speaker from North-East and the group may impress on one to contest for deputy speaker. The North-East candidates are: Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), Hon. Aliyu Muktar Betara (APC, Borno), and Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub (APC, Adamawa).
Monguno has already endorsed Gbajabiamila and Yakub is also said to be on the way to stepping down. Sources within the camp said the lawmakers may have to choose between Bago and Dyegh as Wase is believed to have agreed in principles to contest as deputy speaker with Gbajabiamila from the South- West. A lawmaker told New Telegraph that: “The Dogawe ra camp decided to settle for North-Central in order to address outcry of inequality in the sharing of presiding offices in the National Assembly by the APC.
“We have been meeting; although nothing is cast on stone, but it is now clear that we may have to support candidates from the North-Central and the reason is simple: It is the only zone that has not produced speaker or deputy speaker since 1999 despite the fact that they always give their best to the ruling party.
“Some people in the group had suggested that if the APC cannot get its house in order, we should sponsor a PDP member, but the majority do not want to rock the boat. We don’t want a frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive that may derail passage of bills. You can see the number of bills the president has withheld his assent to since 2015.”
According to the lawmaker, “Our camp is not interested in making Nigerians to suffer because of ego or individual interest, but we want the best for this country.
It is because of this that we have agreed to support a candidate from the North-Central. And what we have done is on moral ground and it is for equality and justice sake.”
Asked to give more insight into who the likely candidate will be, the lawmaker said: “We have to assess the candidates from the zone and pick the best. We are also not foreclosing balancing on faith issues. It is sensitive and important. You are aware that so far, they are three in number:
Bago, Wase and Dyegh. It is likely that Wase may be out of the equation because there are rumours that he has agreed to withdraw from the contest and work for Gbajabiamila so that he can become deputy speaker.” Another member from the camp also told New Telegraph that: “We are choosing North-Central because, the issue of Senate President is settled.
The North-East will produce the president; it may be Ahmed Lawan, Ndume or Goje. So, we are looking for balance. “So, if we support a candidate from the North- Central for speaker, we will as well work for a deputy speaker from North-East. For speaker, it is between Dyegh and Bago. We were considering Wase initially, but he is with Gbajabiamila camp now. He will withdraw from contesting along the line. “Bago worked for us in 2015; we would have endorsed him outright, but we are taking this issue with utmost caution.
Some of our men are not comfortable with the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. If we take him, we will have to look for a Christian in APC; and there is none from the North-East that we can work with. That is why Dyegh came into the picture.
He belongs to the Gbajabiamila camp; and was working for Wase until he pulled out. Dyegh is a Christian and we can pair him with a Muslim from the North-East.” Giving details, the lawmaker explained that: “ we choose Dyegh, he will have to pair with either Namdas or Betara.
But if Lawan emerges in the Senate, Namdas will be the natural choice because Lawan is from Yobe and Betara from Borno, which is the same axis. Namdas is from Adamawa and, in fact, the person representing Atiku Abubakar. So, for a guy like that to have defeated Atiku’s candidate to emerge, it means he is a strong politician. And in terms of competence, most of us believe Namdas will have an edge over Betara.”
On what the group is planning for South-West, the lawmaker said: “South- West and North-West have vice president and president. They will be considered for other principal positions.” Others in the race for speaker include: Hon. Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), Hon. Nkeiruka Onyeojocha (APC, Abia), Hon. Hadija Bukar Abba- Ibrahim (APC, Yobe), Hon. Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano) and Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano).