Reps’ Speakership: Why Dogara, Gbajabiamila May Not Get Members Backing

The soon-to-be inaugurated 9th session of the National Assembly come June, 2019 may yet again see a new breed of leadership likely to defy the usual hopeful among two contenders, Daily Independent investigation can reveal.

Although, the contest will still throw up old foes in the persons of incumbent Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, factors likely to militate against them according to insider sources are stronger than they can appreciate for now.

On the part of the Speaker, whom despite finding himself in what’s apparently a weaker minority of an opposition compared to 2015, is still eyeing the coveted seat counting on his supposed goodwill among returning members and the hope of rallying the newcomers to his side using financial inducements and promises of good committee portfolios.

Sources following the development told Friday Independent that a huge budget for the project had been set aside by the speaker even before the elections, saying that the incumbent is ready to retain the seat irrespective of his party’s minority status.

“The speaker believes he has the right to contest as a member since the constitution did not spell out that only the party with majority in the House or Senate will produce presiding officers. It says, ‘members will elect the speaker from amongst themselves’.

“Again, the speaker also thinks that he has done enough for many of the returning members who are supposedly close to him to enable him get their support and backing even if the majority party decides otherwise.

“But while he has the right to contest the speakership, he’s forgetting that APC will never allow what happened in 2015 to repeat itself in 2019. In fact, the president will not allow a known enemy of his policies to sit on that chair again, democracy or no democracy”, the visibly confident returning APC lawmaker said anonymously.

He disclosed that “apart from losing his ground by joining the PDP which is now in a more weakened minority than it was in 2015, the speaker’s leadership style and relationship with members are enough to disqualify him”.

He said members had suffered humiliating treatment in the hands of the Speaker each time they sought to meet him at home, with many complaining of being kept in the waiting room for hours, leaving without getting to see the speaker.

“If Dogara doesn’t call you or give you an appointment to see him at home and you go there thinking you’re a member, you’d be surprised how badly you’ll be treated. He won’t even come down to see you nor ask you upstairs even after he’s informed of your presence, so it was that bad”.

According to another returning member from the Southeast, one thing standing in Dogara’s way in his attempt to curry favours from PDP members from the Southeast is the role he played in the killing of the South East Development Commission Bill in 2017 when he could have allowed it.

The member who’s coming back to the House for the third consecutive time said: “having personally pushed for the North East Development Commission Bill which almost all of us supported and passed, the speaker should have known that one good turn deserves another. But when it got to the turn of the South East, he stylishly killed it without any remorse, so we’re waiting for him”.

“Apart from being in the minority party now, I can’t stick out my neck for anyone who will not support what my people want when I needed him to. Anyone who does that can’t be my friend, sentiment aside” the ranking PDP member from the East told Independent.

On the chances of Dogara’s challenger in 2015, Femi Gbajabiama to get members backing for the post he has chased for so long, the retuning member said there’s no love lost between Gbajabiamila and many of his returning colleagues, including APC caucus.

Asked if he would support Gbajabiamila as his party’s choice having narrowly lost out in 2015, an APC retuning member from the North said Gbajabiamila did not do enough as House leader who fights for the interest of his caucus members to warrant much loyalty.

He said: “When we go the National Caucus meeting of the party before inauguration, which should happen immediately after the governorship and state Assembly elections, we will tell the leadership and the President our minds. And we’ll make them see reasons why they should nominate someone else so that another protest votes won’t occur in June”.

“As an APC lawmaker, the leader represents the face of the party and its members in the House. He protects members and party’s interests as if they were his own, but what we have is a far cry from what should have been, so how do we trust him with a bigger responsibility after this?” he queried pleading anonymity.

He argued further, saying that “it mustn’t be Femi. There are other committed and capable APC lawmakers who can do the job of speaker to the glory of the party, the government and even members of the House and Nigerians generally.

“And if you look at the issue of power sharing, the Southwest where Femi comes from already has the Vice President. Let the Speaker come from a different zone such as the Northeast, North Central or the Southeast and South-South, depending on where the Senate President will come from anyway – for the purpose of equity”, he urged.

As at the last count, Independent investigation reveals that ranking APC members from the North are gearing up for the battle of wits as they return to Abuja on March 12 to start campaigning.

So far, names such as Babangida Ibrahim from Katsina, Idris Wase from Plateau, Mohammed Umar Bago, from Niger, and Muhammad Gudaji Kazaure from Jigawa have all voiced the interests to run.

Right now, likely contenders from the Northeast such as Muhammad Tahir Monguno from Borno, Abdulrazak Namdas from Adamawa and Bukar Lawal Goni from Yobe, are keeping their ambitions under rap pending the party’s zoning arrangement that may throw the Senate Presidency to the zone.

From the Southwest, the only notable name so far on the lips of even lawmakers is Femi Gbajabiama from Lagos, as no other ranking member from the zone has openly indicated interest in the race.

On the side of the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP), incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, from Bauchi, returning Minority leader, Leo Okuweh Ogor from Delta, Kingsley Ogundu Chinda from Rivers, returning Godwin Ndudi Elumelu from Delta, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu, Chris Azuborgu from Anambra and possibly Victor Nwokolo from Delta are said to be gearing up for the race, all things being equal.

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