The House of Representatives leadership crisis seems to be getting worse, with the two camps digging their trenches deeper.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s group says it has conceded Majority Leader to the Femi Gbajabiamila group, following the intervention of the committee headed by former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who is now Sokoto governor.
But the group yesterday said the position must not go to Southwest and Northeast.
The House has supportted the position of Dogara’s group, stating that the stability of the country should be uppermost in the minds of the aggrieved parties.
Deputy Chairman, ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Abdulrazak Namdas, said to exclude any geo-political zone from the principal officers meant the country was heading to sectionalism, which the APC is trying to eliminate.
The Gbajabiamila group, under the name “APC Loyalist Group, House of Representatives”, said the proposition is “ unacceptable”.
With the proposition of the Dogara group, Gbajabiamila or any member from the Southwest cannot be Majority Leader. The same goes for Mohammad Monguno and others from the Northeast.
On June 25, the House descended into chaos as Dogara refused to read a letter from the party, expressing its choice of candidates for principal officers.
Violence broke out in the chamber, forcing the Speaker to adjourn proceedings till July 21.
Dogara’s group spokesman Abdulmumin Jibrin said the group’s decision was the outcome of the interaction it had with the Tambuwal-led committee.
The lawmaker said the concession “ is huge”, adding that in the event that the proposal is refused by the Gbajabiamila group, the APC caucus in the House would resort to House rules by going into another election to choose the principal officers.
Jibrin said: “We went to the meeting and you have always known our position, we believe that we did not go against any provisions of the laws of the party or the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria electing the speaker or his deputy.
“We also believe that there should be a level playing ground for everyone in terms of the occupation of the remaining offices of principal officers- that has always been our position.
“But after a very lengthy meeting with His Execelleny, the immediate past speaker, governor of Sokoto State, we were able to make a far-reaching concession and this is to allow for peace to reign in the House.
“Three things we agreed, one, we maintain the position that we do not recognise the letter written by the party in quotes and I give you reasons.
“We have utmost respect for the chairman of the party, but that letter did not pass through the relevant organs of the party.
“It was neither approved by the National Working Committee, the National Executive Council, not even the caucus was consulted and it was a product of one or two governors and, of course, the National Chairman.
“Let me maintain the fact that we respect the national chairman and we will only respect a letter through legal organs of the party. Our position is that we do not recognise the existence of such letter.
“Secondly, the principal officers of the House must be in tandem with principle of equity and Federal Character as prescribed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
According to the lawmaker, the six positions – majority, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, House Leader, Deputy House Leader, Whip and Deputy Whip – must go to the six geo-political zones to reflect the principle of equity and fairness.
“And to that end after the deliberation, we have agreed to concede the position of the House leader to Gbajabiamila’s group and we took this decision, bearing in mind that we need peace in this House and we want to get down to work.”
He said the third decision was that the position must not go to anyone from the Southwest or the Northeast, adding that it would be greatly unfair for a single zone to have multiple offices.
“We expect the Femi group to accept this concession so that we can be able to move forward.
“In the event that they do not accept, we also provided that it should be left for us to choose principal officers of the House in line with the standing rules of the House, so we have to come back and hold an election.
“The entire APC members would hold an election to elect the House leaders. If someone says he has 174 members, fine let’s hold an election and see if he actually has that majority he claims. Let’s hold election in line of the standing rules of the House and that is our position,” he said.
But, in a swift reaction, the Gbajabiamila group in a press statement signed by Hon. Rufai Chachangi for “APC Loyalist Group, House of Representatives,” said they had no agreement with any group yet, and that Tambuwal was yet to get back to them.
The statement reads: “We the 174 APC Loyalists group of the House are aware that there was a private discussion between Governor Aminu Tambuwal and President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday evening at the State House . Also aware that Gov. Tambuwal briefed the press that there would be a meeting between him and Speaker Dogara’s group same day.
“To the best of our knowledge, no counter-offer has been made to the APC Loyalists group after her first meeting with Tambuwal peace committee wherein the APC Loyalists clearly stated that in line with party supremacy resolution reached at last APC NEC meeting, the position of the party on Femi Gbajabiamila as the House Leader is non-negotiable.
“We understand that the Dogara group is now playing the zoning card after same group had hitherto before the speakership election of June 9th, 2015 rejected the zoning formula of the party prior to the mock election. Interestingly the six geopolitical zones in the country are not recognised by the constitution . But if they wish to play the zoning card then the Senate and House cannot be headed by the North.
“For avoidance of doubt, the issue of Southeast being denied a principal officer’s seat in the House is hogwash. We have respect for people of South East but we cannot hold brief for a zone that produced only two ‘new’ APC members.
“The issue of exclusion of Southeast does not exist, rather they are not qualified to be principal officers of the House. For emphasis and clarity, the provision of standing rules of the House, Order 7 Rule 37 states that ‘only members with cognate legislative experience as members of the National Assembly shall be eligible for appointment as principal officers.”
“We are also surprised that a group led by Speaker Dogara, who is a lawyer, is talking about a court action, presumably instigated by him based on federal character, when a fresh Law School graduate knows that the issue of federal character as enshrined in S.14 of the constitution is non justiciable and of no legal consequence.
“In playing his mediatory role , the former House Speaker, Governor Tambuwal agreed to take our position to Dogara group for consideration and convene a joint meeting of both groups, which is yet to be convened as at Wednesday evening. So, any purported decision reeled out to the public in the name of the National Assembly peace pact before such joint meeting is lopsided and not acceptable to the APC Loyalists group.
“However, as a group that wants peace and quick solution to the logjam in the House, the APC loyalists group would equally subscribe to an election among entire members of the APC House Caucus where all members, irrespective of zones would exercise their right to elect their principal officers.”
The House as an institution also jumped into the fray yesterday, but on the side of the Dogara camp.
In a statement by a member of the House adhoc committee on media and Publicity, Abdulrazak Namdas, it said the House believed that the talk about party position or letter from the party was being misunderstood.
Namdas said: “For us, the position of the party has to go through certain law, certain process: the party caucus in the House would be involved; we believe that the caucus here in the House should be aware of the position of the party.
“As far as the House is concerned, the party did not approach anybody or zonal caucuses to say these are the names selected from the party. We are not aware of that.
“Two, we also know for a party to take a position, to be regarded as the party’s position, it has to go to the National Working Committee (NWC).
“The NWC must have met and agreed on the position, but it appears some members of the Working Committee are not even aware of this position.
“Again, even if the National Working Committee agrees to it, it has to be ratified by the NEC and the Speaker, Deputy Speaker are also members of NEC.
“There has never been any time that this issue was brought. But in any case, the first NEC meeting that was held, this matter was not brought. So, that means clearly it is not the party’s position.
“We respect the party very well; we always obey the party. We would prefer that anything party should follow due process and it would be obvious that it is the party’s position.
“We believe also that the party that took this decision will also not alienate two good zones from the sharing of the leadership.”
Additional content credit: The Nation