Gbajabiamila, Sumaila, Odebunmi, Monguno, others in tight race for Speakership

Sunday Aborisade, Friday Olokor and Leke Baiyewu

No fewer than 15 members of the House of Representatives are currently in a hot race to replace Mr. Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House when the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated in June, 2019, Sunday Punch can report.

While some of them have openly declared their intention to occupy the number one seat in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, others are said to have been lobbying their colleagues underground.

Some of the aspirants, who spoke to Sunday Punch during the week, said they were delaying the declaration of their ambitions pending the time the ruling All Progressives Congress, which has retained the majority in the House, zoned the leadership positions.

The aspirants include the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; the immediate past Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Reps) Abdulrahman Sumaila (APC, Kano); and the Deputy Majority Leader, Ahmed Wase (APC, Plateau).

Another contender is the leader of the North-East caucus in the House, Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno), a ranking member who has just been re-elected for the fifth term just as Gbajabiamila. In 2015, the APC had presented the duo of Gbajabiamila and Monguno as Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively.

Just on Thursday, the lawmaker representing Ogo Oluwa/Surulere Federal Constituency in Oyo State, Mr Olusegun Odebunmi, was said to have informally declared his bid to be Speaker of the House, making him the first APC member to become Gbajabiamila’s opponent in the South-West.

Being a ranking lawmaker, Odebunmi would be serving his third term in the 9th Assembly.

The Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), who has just been re-elected for his second term, has already indicated interest in vying for the speakership position if the party zones the seat to the North-East.

There is also the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khajidat Bukar-Ibrahim (APC, Yobe), who had earlier served three terms in the House before she was appointed a minister and has been reelected for a fourth term, while her husband, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, a former governor of Yobe State, is an outgoing three-term Senate member.

Also on the list of contenders is Yakub Buba (APC, Adamawa) who is said to be the only Christian member from North-East. In 2015, Buba had backed Gbajabiamila and has since been in the camp of the Majority Leader.

Others are the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC, Kano); Chairman, Committee on NIMASA, Umar Bago (APC, Niger); Chairman, Committee on Finance, Babangida Ibrahim-Mahuta (APC, Katsina); Chairman, Committee on Aviation, Nkiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia); Chairman, Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Mr Suleiman Aminu (APC, Kano); Abubakar Lado (APC, Niger); and Muhammed Kazaure (APC, Jigawa).

Already, there are strong indications that the APC might retain the 2015 zoning formula intended to produce the Senate president and speaker of the House. The ruling party had zoned the former to the North-East and the latter to the South-West.

The party had gone further to present Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is now the Senate Majority Leader, for the Senate presidency; and the current House Majority Leader, Gbajabiamila, for speakership.

Lawmakers from the North-East and North-Central are however calling on the APC to zone the speaker to their respective areas.

Speaking with our correspondent, one of the aspirants from the North-East said, “There are various groups in the House. It was the Dogara group that brought the Speaker to power. I see that the APC group and the PDP being on the same page. It is very likely that the Speaker will come from the South-West; that means we will go for the Deputy Speaker slot.”

The Peoples Democratic Party caucus has however chosen to keep mum on the leadership tussle.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, stated that the opposition lawmakers would not disclose where they would stand in the contest.

“If you were the one, would you disclose the plan of the caucus at this time? There is no way I can tell you about the plan of the caucus. Nigerians will get the best out of us; we are praying for the best,” Onyema said.

A member of the PDP caucus, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, indicated the readiness of the opposition to work against the choice of the ruling APC.

The lawmaker said the caucus was only waiting for the zoning and candidates of the ruling party before adopting candidates to oppose them.

The source added, “The PDP is still watching the developments; we have not taken any position. We cannot take a position until the APC comes out with its zoning plan but I know that the PDP will not mind if the situation that happened in the 8th Assembly happens (again), we were able to dictate who becomes speaker.”

Asked if the opposition party would go for the choice candidate of the APC, the lawmaker said, “No.”

In 2015, APC had chosen the current Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe, North-East), to be the President of the Senate, and the House Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos, South-West), to be the Speaker.

However, Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara, North-Central) and Mr Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi, North-East), though APC members then, had formed an alliance with the opposition and minority PDP to emerge as Senate President and Speaker, respectively.

While Senator Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu, South-East) of the PDP was elected Deputy Senate President as part of the deal, Mr Yusuff Lasun (Osun, South-West) of the APC had emerged Deputy Speaker, against the wish of the ruling party.

Lawan declares Senate Presidency bid, APC announces zoning this week

Meanwhile, Lawan, who is currently the Senate Leader, representing Yobe North Senatorial District on the platform of the APC, has formally declared his intention to contest the position of the Senate President in the 9th National Assembly.

Lawan, who addressed journalists late Friday in Abuja in company with 10 other newly elected senators and serving ones that had been re-elected, said his passion for Nigeria, informed his decision.

The development came just as a source in the APC told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the party would hold an emergency National Executive Council meeting this week to announce the zoning arrangement  for the 9th National Assembly leadership.

The source, who is one of the national executives of the party, explained on condition of anonymity that the NEC meeting would have been convened after the general elections but for the supplementary polls held on Saturday.

The party officer stated, “The NEC meeting will be convened early next (this) week to review the general elections and also to work out a practicable zoning arrangement for the National Assembly leadership in order to avoid the mistakes of the past.”

Lawan, who was the anointed candidate of the APC for the position of the senate president in 2015, noted that his action was a result of wide consultation with his newly and re-elected colleagues, after the polls.

He added, “Just like in 2015 that I sought to lead the senate and the National Assembly, this time round, having consulted widely with my colleagues in the APC and other political parties, I have come to the conclusion that I have something to offer in leadership.

“I wish to lead the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly by the grace of God. We are not under any illusion that this requires a lot in terms of the momentum and significant work that we have to do, to make Nigeria better through legislative intervention.”

He promised to carry all the senators of the 9th senate, irrespective of their parties along in his administration if elected and ensure a cordial and harmonious working condition between the legislature and the executive arm of government.

Also, a political organisation under the aegis of North-East Advocacy Group has demanded that the position of Senate President should be zoned to the area in the forthcoming 9th Assembly, saying the zone has been marginalised for long.

They also premised their demand on the fact that the North-East voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential elections.

The NEAG, in a statement obtained by Sunday Punch in Bauchi, called on the APC to announce the zoning formula for the principal officers of both the Senate and the House of Representatives as soon as possible.

The statement was signed by Mohammed Kumalia, Ibrahim Zailani, Senator Bashir Marafa, Adamu Modibbo, Abubakar Muazu, Titsi Ganama and Ammuna Khadi.

Other signatories include Emmanuel Bello, Barma Shettima, Mrs Bless Hungushi and Bala Tinka.

The statement reads in part, “The Senate Presidency should be zoned to the North-East as the North-Central and South-East zones have produced Senate Presidents in the recent past. Micro zoning to a state or individual should be avoided as it negatively affects the executive/legislative harmony and negatively affects the smooth running of government business.

“We therefore respectfully and humbly request the APC to zone the position of Senate President to the North-East zone. In order to foster a harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government, we also wish to draw the attention of the pary and the executive arm of government to allow the senators to exercise their constitutional right to choose a Senate President of their choice.”

PUNCH

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