10th assembly: Opposition parties vow to exploit confusion in APC to produce speaker

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The Minority caucus of the incoming 10th House of Representatives made up of seven opposition parties has mocked the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, over its “confusion” on the choice of candidate for the speakership and vowed to exploit the loophole to produce presiding officers of the House.

This is coming as the South-East caucus of the Senate urged the APC and the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to allow the zone to produce the Senate President to ensure equity in the 10th Senate.

Currently, there are no fewer than 10 APC members-elect jostling to become the next House of Representatives speaker. Aside from the alleged “confusion” in the APC, the opposition parties have 181 members-elect compared to APC’s 179 and so can, if united, produce the leaders of the House.

Following the conclusion of the elections, the APC won a majority of 179 seats beating the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, 114 seats; Labour Party, LP, 35; New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, 19; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA,5; Social Democratic Party, SDP, 2; African Democratic Congress, ADC, 2; and Young Progressives Party, YPP, 2.

The caucus also dismissed claims that its members were beginning to drift apart with the 35 members-elect of the LP, which chose Mr. Afam Ogene as its leader, saying they would vote as a block and were still weighing their options on the choice of a candidate.

One of the spokespersons of the Minority Caucus also known as “Greater Majority,” Afam Ogene said in a statement that the fact that over 10 persons were still jostling for the speakership barely five weeks before the inauguration of the new Assembly was an indication that APC’s house was not in order.

There are speculations that the APC and president-elect had endorsed Mr. Tajudeen Abbas representing Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State for speaker.

However, more APC members-elect have continued to join the race with the latest being the leader of the outgoing House, Mr. Alhassan Doguwa and the chairman, Committee on Navy. Yusuf Gagdi.
Also, the Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara, is expected to declare today.

Confusion in APC

Ogene said the opposition will continue to interrogate and interface with the aspirants while keeping their plan under wraps.

“What you see going on (large crowds of members at speakership declaration events) is not anything unusual. In an electioneering season, such as we have currently, members-elect are free to honour invites by friends and colleagues.

“The mere fact that five weeks to the inauguration of the National Assembly, the APC still has over 10 Speakership aspirants speaks volumes about the confusion therein. The Greater Majority will continue to interface and interrogate all members of the 10th House of Representatives even as we keep our own plans close to our chest,” he said.

We’ll vote as a bloc — LP Reps-elect

Indeed, the 35-member Labour Party caucus in the 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives has said they would vote as a bloc for any speakership candidate of their choice during the inauguration of the new Assembly on June 13.

This is because the members-elect elected Ogene as their caucus leader.

Ogene, a ranking member from the 7th Assembly, who was also the deputy chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs emerged as the party’s caucus leader with 21 votes, after an election, yesterday, in Abuja.

Although 34 members-elect of the party were present at the voting session, only 31 of them took part in the exercise, with the trio of Oke-Joe Onuakalusi, Obi Aguocha and Prof. Lilian Irogbu abstaining, being persons who conducted exercise.

Speaking after the exercise Messrs George Ozodinobi and Dennis Agbo, who contested the position, lauded the choice of Ogene.

Agbo who described Ogene as a team player and also vast in the politics of the House of Representatives has served as a former deputy spokesman of the House said “With Ogene as our Caucus Leader, Labour Party is sure to hold its own in the 10th Assembly.”

In an acceptance speech soon after, the lawmaker was presented to the party’s Leader and Presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, and the party’s National Chairman, Julius Abure, where he assured that in all undertakings of the members-elect, the well-being of the Nigerian people would be uppermost.

Ogene said: “May I use this opportunity to reiterate that the Labour Party caucus, House of Representatives, has not endorsed any speakership aspirant. In fact, anyone desirous of our votes on the day of inauguration must first convince us, as a bloc, on what his plans and programmes for the Nigerian people are. While we may have individual preferences, I can assure you that at the end of the day, the Labour Party shall stand as one indivisible entity to take a common and progressive stand.”

Wase, Betara, Jaji, Soli pool 287-member alliance

Meanwhile, a fresh twist appears to have coloured the race for the House of Representatives speakership as four main contenders commenced alliance talks ahead of the June 13, inauguration.

The contenders, Mr. Ahmed Wase (current deputy speaker), Aliyu Betara (Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation), Sada Soli and Sani Jaji, on Saturday night, met at the private residence of one of them in Maitama District and agreed to work together and present a common front.

The meeting of the four lawmakers came 24 hours after reports that Tajudeen Abbas from Kaduna State had been adopted as the preferred choice of the ‘Lagos cabal.’

It was also gathered that a crack emerged in the Lagos State House of Representatives caucus over the purported adoption and endorsement of Abbas as the preferred choice of the president-elect, Tinubu.

A close confidant of Tinubu and secretary of the now dissolved Presidential Campaign Council, James Faleke, was said to have confronted Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila and accused him of ‘misinformation.’

287-member alliance

The four lawmakers have directed their supporters to attend the declaration of each of them.

Wase has directed his supporters to attend the declaration event of Betara today at the Trans-corp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

Multiple sources told Vanguard that the combined number of supporters of the four aspirants is 287.

Sources close to the meeting of the four aspirants disclosed that the lawmakers have agreed to present a “formidable common front” just as a joint committee involving their confidants has been set up to harmonise positions and present a workable template within 72 hours.

Presenting a formidable common front

A source at the meeting told Vanguard that “from the onset, we knew what the outgoing speaker was up to but we merely waited for him to unveil his agenda, which he has done now. Interestingly, those of us on this divide do not want to believe the President-elect is part of this charade.

“We know he cannot because he knows too well the implications of such action. It is either he has resolved to use Gbajabiamila to subjugate the North or Gbajabiamila is acting a script without the knowledge of the incoming president.

“Both ways, it means that even the North will not have a say in whatever is zoned to us and that will be the last thing we will accept. How can an outgoing Speaker attempt to impose someone as a stooge and we are all looking?

“We still give Asiwaju the benefit of doubt because he himself is a product of resilience, we all supported him when there was a similar charade shortly before the presidential primaries, when someone attempted to do what Gbaja is doing now.

“For now, we can only say that our 287-man combined supporters is alert and ready to go anywhere the four leaders jointly decide to go. As of now, they have all agreed and indeed directed that their individual support groups should attend the declaration event of any of them.

Save NASS Project

“As a follow up, the four leaders have even set up a all committee to work out details of an agreeable template that will help us bring everything to the table.

“Betara will do his tomorrow (Monday), while another will follow suit on Tuesday and irrespective of who you support, you have to attend the event to show to the world that we are together in this ‘Save NASS Project’.

“In all these we are doing, we respect the President-elect even though some persons are dropping his name.

We are even more convinced that he knows nothing about what Gbajabiamila is doing because James Faleke is as close as anyone to the President-elect.

“If Faleke could openly confront Gbajabiamila in their Lagos Reps caucus meeting that the purported endorsement of Abbas by Tinubu is not correct, then something is wrong somewhere.”

Gbaja, Faleke disagree

It was gathered that at the Lagos caucus meeting hosted by Gbajabiamila, Faleke who is the chairman of the House Committee on Finance disclosed that Tinubu’s real choice for the position of Speaker remained Jaji from Zamfara.

He was equally said to have accused Gbajabiamila of deliberate misinformation to the public on the issue of the speakership, saying that Abbas’ adoption was Gbaja’s “personal agenda and not a decision of the party or Tinubu’s.”

We reject zoning of speakership to N/West-APC N/Central stakeholders

Meanwhile, APC stakeholders in the North-Central have rejected the endorsement of Tajudeen Abbas for the speakership of the House of Representatives for the incoming 10th National Assembly.

The APC leadership reportedly adopted Abass representing Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State for the office, last Friday.

The party was also reported to have favoured former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio for Senate presidency.

At a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, the stakeholders said the zoning lacked equity, justice and fairness.

The convener, Rev. Dominic Alancha appealed to the president-elect to intervene, warning that the exclusion of other zones may lead to a repeat of 2015 scenario, where former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, emerged against the party’s arrangements.

He said: “We are again compelled to invoke our mandate to address you this morning due to an anomaly we have detected in the direction APC leadership is taking in the course of zoning key offices in the 10th Assembly which we feel may not augur well for our democracy. Having won the 2023 presidential election fair and square, we had expected the leadership of APC to be guided by the principle of justice and fairness in zoning leadership positions in the parliament and had thought that factors like commitment to the success of the party, level of contributions and the need for fairness, equity and justice to all would guide the decision.

“What we have seen emerging from the decision of the APC however, is a situation of total disregard to justice, equity and fairness, where personal interest has been put forward thereby bringing chaos and conflict in a situation that would have otherwise gone smoothly, if national interest had been the guiding principle.

“While the decision of the APC leaders to zone the Senate Presidency to the South-South and the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West conforms to the expectations of most Nigerians because it takes care of zones that are yet to be represented in the composition of the leadership of the next administration, we cannot say the same for the zoning of other leadership positions for the 10th Assembly.

“We, therefore, take strong exceptions to the bid to zone the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North West zone because that will imply undue favouritism, lack of fairness and marginalisation of other zones.

“Because while the North West will go home with two key positions in the National Assembly, the North-Central and the South-East would be totally excluded from the leadership of the 10th National Assembly. This to us seems to be a deliberate act of provocation to the North-Central zone which has contributed so much to the success of the APC as a party and to the victory of President-elect Asiwaju Tinubu.”

Tinubu’s group shuns Abass, endorses Wase for speaker

Following the reported endorsement of Abbas for the speakership of the House of Representatives, a support group of the president-elect, Asiwaju Tinubu had ditched the endorsement and opted for Ahmed Wase.

Wase is the outgoing deputy speaker of the House of the 9th House from Plateau State.

The group known as Tinubu/ Shettima Global Support Group, TSGSG, said it chose Wase over other aspirants because of his wealth of experience in legislative engagements.

In a statement by the convener and co-convener, Engr. Muhammad Ibrahim and Musa Gindiri, the group urged members-elect to rally around a competent candidate with a track record of excellence and experience in leadership to pilot the affairs of the incoming House.

I’m the best man for speakership— Gagdi

Also, Mr. Yusuf Gagdi, has said that he is the best man for the speakership of the 10 House.
Giving reasons why wants to become the Speaker, he said going by his humble beginning, he understands Nigeria’s problems and knows the solutions to them.

The 42-year-old Gagdi, who represents Pankshin/Kanke Kanam Federal Constituency of Plateau State in the House, said: “National Assembly members should elect a person that knows the problems of Nigeria, touched, passed through the problems and also has a lot of solutions to the problems.

“I understand Nigeria and the problems because I was a victim too. If you talk about Nigeria today, you will talk about insecurity, poverty, access to health, and education among others.

“As a member of the 9th Assembly, I sponsored 20 bills and out of that, Mr. President has assented to six of my bills.

“As part of equity, justice and fairness, speakership should be zoned to North-Central and again when it comes to age, youth must have the opportunity to have one of the strategic places in Nigeria’s democracy.

Unveiling his manifesto, he stated that it was categorized into two sections: ‘Performance of the House of Representatives’ and ‘Public Policy Priorities.’

Give S-East opportunity to produce Senate president-Senate caucus tells Tinubu, APC
To ensure equity in the 10th Senate, the South-East caucus of the Senate has urged the APC and the President-elect to allow the zone to produce the Senate President.

Arising from a meeting in Abuja, yesterday, the caucus made up of the serving and new senators-elect from the South-East geopolitical zone urged Tinubu to be the sensitive to the present times in Nigeria and give a level playing field to all aspirants for the office.

The caucus also threw its weight behind those aspiring for the Senate presidency from the South-East.
A communiqué read at the end of the meeting by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah also warned of grave consequences of endorsing a certain candidate from the South-South region without regard to South-East.

Those who signed the communiqué included Senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Ifeanyi Ubah, Victor Umeh, Osita Izunaso, Ezenwa Oyewuchi, Tony Nwoye, PC Ndubueze, Okey Ezea, Kelvin Chukwu and Osita Ngwu.

However, the outgoing governor of Ebonyi State and senator-elect, Dave Umahi and other senators-elect from the state were absent at the meeting.

The communiqué read in part: “We have observed with dismay the antics of persons with vested selfish interests who have planted themselves around the President elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and have vowed to shut out the South-East from the Senate Presidency of the 10th Senate.

“Beyond ethnic and religious considerations, in the forthcoming 10th Senate, the South-East has been blessed with ranking Senators-elect including members of the All Progressive Congress, who have the cranial capacity, competence, influence, experience and Political followership to pilot the affairs of the Red Chamber, it becomes imperative that the All Progressives Congress upholds the principle of natural Justice and equity which it preaches founded on reasons and zone the seat of Senate President to the South-East region.

“That the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu should extend the same democratic opportunity he received from the outgoing administration which gave all aspirants equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental and constitutional rights during the APC Presidential Primaries. He should be conscious of the grave implications of zoning and endorsing a candidate from the South-South without any regard for the South-East, such a move will no doubt serve as a recipe for injustice which will culminate in restiveness.

“We implore the President-elect to be sensitive to the times in Nigeria and ensure the country continues to thrive on the party of equity, unity and fairness to the tripod of Nigeria (Hausa Igbo Yoruba) and the geopolitical zones.

“The country is already divided amongst ethnic and religious lines due to the exclusion of the Southeast region, which formed the major reason the APC received the amount of votes from the Southeast. The incoming Administration of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu must correct this anomaly by ensuring that the Southeast is given the opportunity to produce the next Senate President.

“With the side-lining of the South-East from producing the Presidential candidates of the major political parties before the general elections, the only means through which the zone can be compensated is for the zone to produce the next Senate President as this will restore confidence of the people from the S-East and S-South.”