House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) formally joined the race for the Speaker in the 9th Assembly yesterday even as indications emerged that the All Progressives Congress (APC) might have zoned the position to the South West.
Gbajabiamila, who declared his ambition yesterday at a ceremony held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, is being challenged by seven contenders. They are House spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), Mukhtar Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno), Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), Umar Bago (APC, Niger), Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia), John Okafor (APC, Imo), Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina) and Mohammed Kazaure (APC, Jigawa).
However, a lawmaker told Daily Trust last night that APC national leadership has already settled for Gbajabiamila as speaker, hence the presence of three contenders namely Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Rep Mohammed Tahir Monguno and rep-elect Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim at the declaration venue, where all of them spoke.
The source added that President Muhammadu Buhari “is directly involved in the National Assembly leadership this time around, and he has personally spoken to some governors to talk to their members to support Femi. The president is highly interested this time.
“Some of our governors have since communicated this to us. So, it’s like a done deal to us. We can’t go against the party this time around. All we need is a united House, where we’ll make good laws for the country,” the lawmaker said.
Daily Trust reports that Monguno (APC, Borno) has turned out to be the main canvasser for Gbajabiamila.
The development further lends credence to the position of the ruling party even though the party’s leadership is yet to formally unveil its zonal arrangements.
Other lawmakers working for Gbajabiamila are Peter Akpatason (APC, Edo) and Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano), who doubles as the Director-General of Femi Gbajabiamila Speakership Campaign Organization.
Citing Gbaja’s profile and qualifications for the office, Monguno had described the fourth term Lagos lawmaker as not only eminently qualified but also well versed in the knowledge of the Constitution and the norms of democracy.
“I want to say that Gbajabiamila is the man for this job. He has the legislative experience and reach, as well as an uncommon knowledge of the Constitution, which will further consolidate our democracy,” he said.
A source said Monguno had already been lined up for Deputy Speaker, in the event that Gbajabiamila emerges as Speaker of the House next June.
Why we’re interested
Speaking during his formal declaration, Gbajabiamila said, “I seek this office with a rich legislative background and pedigree, having just won a historic 5th term mandate to the House.
“It is this wealth of experience and a burning desire for good governance that I bring to the table, to take the legislature to the next level.
“I seek the office of the House Speaker to bring us together and unite us as a country.”
When contacted by Daily Trust, Namdas said he was still in the race and also campaigning seriously for the speakership position, adding that the party (APC) was yet to come up with any official zoning formula.
“You know I made my official declaration last week and some of my colleagues, both old and new ones were also there. We have all declared and are waiting for the next stage, which is the party’s zoning arrangement.
“So, I can tell you I am still very much in the race and I am also campaigning seriously for it,” Namdas noted.
Onyejeocha, who like Gbajabiamila, has also formally declared her intention to become the Speaker of 9th House, told Daily Trust that she was still in the race.
The ranking lawmaker, who was first elected to the House in 2007, said she remained the best option for the office of Speaker, despite the swelling number of those who have shown interest.
She expressed optimism that APC would zone the position to the South East, which would place her in best position to become the second female House of Reps speaker since Patricia Etteh.
“You may wish to know that I have formally declared my interest in the race. I am also optimistic that I will emerge as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in June.
“Despite the growing number of contenders, I believe I am the most qualified. I also have comparative advantages over other contenders.
“For instance, I am a ranking member with capacity and experience. I am also a female from the South East where I believe the party would zone the speakership slot in the interest of justice,” she said.
Another contestant for the office of speaker in the coming 9th Assembly, Muhammad Umar Bago, told journalists yesterday in Abuja when he officially declared his intention for the seat, said he was in the contest to deepen the relationship with all arms of government.
Bago, who represents Chanchaga Federal Constituency of Niger State, said being from the North Central, he believed he should be given the opportunity because his zone has neither produced speaker nor deputy speaker since the return of democracy in 1999.
He said for equity and justice, the national leadership of APC should zone the speaker’s position to the North Central, noting that they have contributed a lot to the party’s success.
“The South South, North East, South East and South West have produced five deputy speakers among themselves since 1999.
“What does the North Central have in the entire equation? We have to be just to ourselves. Who’s speaking for the zone that has never been recognized for keeping faith with the party?
“Despite all the crisis and challenges bedevilling the zone under the APC administration, we stayed the course for the party and the president, delivering more than 70% of votes cast.
“Apart from the zoning argument, if you say the South must get something, why insist on Southwest, why not South-South or the South East?
“But then, in terms of representation in the party and government, the South South has the chairmanship of the party, and the Southwest has VP, what does the North Central have? Nothing.”
Idris Wase (APC, Plateau) could not be reached at the time of filing this report as he did not pick calls.
We can’t ask them not to aspire before zoning – APC
When contacted on phone yesterday, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the ruling party could not ask those aspiring to become Speaker not to exercise their rights pending the announcement of the zoning formula.
Asked whether he thought the interest being shown by different personalities from different geo-political zones for the position of Speaker would not affect the much awaited announcement of the zoning formula by the ruling party, Issa-Onilu said, “Not at all. It is within their rights to seek this position. They are eminently qualified to occupy it. Until the zoning is out, we cannot ask them not to exercise their right. When the zoning is out, perhaps, it may fall into the zone of anyone among them. Then, they will know what to do.
“But definitely, they are all waiting for what the party will say. But it is good enough for them to make efforts. In case, it falls into their zone. I think they are qualified to be Speaker. We can’t ask them not to do that.”