The decision of the All Progressives Congress to back the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, for the 9th National Assembly speakership has been met with mixed reactions by governors, lawmakers and APC state chairmen in the North-Central, Saturday PUNCH reports.
While the governors and state APC chairmen in the zone on Friday declared their support for Gbajabiamila, some of the lawmakers eyeing the position have condemned the development.
North-Central leaders are also backing Senator Ahmed Lawan for the Senate presidency.
But Idris Wase (Plateau State), Mohammed Bago (Niger State) and John Dyegh (Benue) are said to be among the APC lawmakers in the House of Representatives from the North-Central said to be opposed to the party’s adoption of Gbajabiamila.
At a closed-door meeting between APC governors and state chairmen of the party from the North-Central on Thursday night at the Plateau State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, Gbajabiamila’s adoption by the party received a boost.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said, “A meeting of governors and the party chairmen from North-Central today resolved to go along with the party’s endorsement of Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 9th National Assembly.
“Since it is a party affair, our decision is in line with the wish of the party and that is why we the governors and state chairmen of our party from the zone are in support of the decision of the party.”
On the benefits the zone would derive from APC’s sharing formula, he said, “We are still deliberating. We have not exhausted the positions regarding zoning. Our decision and position are only on two issues, while the rest deliberations are ongoing.” Also at the meeting, according to a statement on Friday by the Senior Special Assistant to Plateau State Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr Mark Longyen, were governors Abubakar Bello (Niger), Umaru al-Makura (Nasarawa) and the APC’s candidate for the March 9 Benue State governorship election, Emmanuel Jime.
The state APC chairmen in attendance were Jibrin Imam (Niger), Abdullahi Bello (Kogi), Philips Shekwo (Nasarawa), Letep Dabang (Plateau), Abba Yaro (Benue) and Abdullahi Usman (the FCT).
Dyegh on Wednesday declared his ambition, after the party announced Gbajabiamila as its candidate on Tuesday when President Muhammadu Buhari hosted members-elect to a dinner at the Presidential Villa.
He urged the national leadership of the APC to review the zoning formula, while faulting the adoption of Gbajabiamila.
Bago also on Wednesday said he would not step down for Gbajabiamila in a statement by spokesman for the Mohammed Bago Campaign Organisation, Mr Victor Ogene.
The statement said, “Following the purported zoning and micro-zoning of the office of the Speaker of the incoming 9th House of Representatives by the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, there has been varied reactions by a cross-section of Nigerians, including members-elect, party stalwarts, political commentators and journalists.
“For us in the Mohammed Umaru Bago Campaign Organisation, we view the development as a poorly choreographed political orchestra aimed at using the hallowed precincts of the Presidential Villa to anoint a candidate from the South-West.
“For us, therefore, there is no retreat no surrender in our demand.”
Meanwhile, another speakership aspirant from Adamawa State in the North-East, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, has said he remains in the race despite the party’s endorsement of Gbajabiamila for the office.
Namdas, who reacted to Gbajabiamila’s adoption in an interview with our correspondent, said the decision by the party would not stop him from contesting the post.
The lawmaker, who is Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, stated that if the South-West could have the positions of the Vice-President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the North-East could also have the Senate presidency and speakership as well.
He said, “We have been expecting that because we have heard about it from a very long time that Gbajabiamila would be adopted and it has come to past. For me, we feel that it is not very fair because the zone has already produced the Vice-President (Yemi Osinbajo); now they want to produce the Speaker. It means that the number two and number four will be coming from one zone. It will not be out of place for me to also contest because I will be number four. The other person from my zone will be the Senate President –number three. So, the North-East can also have numbers three and four.”
Namdas said he had been loyal to the APC, recalling that he was a deputy governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, one of the parties that merged with others to form the ruling party.
He said, “My principal, who was the governorship candidate, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party and I refused to follow him. I stood my ground to remain in the APC.”
APC yet to zone remaining offices –Investigation
The national leadership of the ruling APC has yet to take a decision on the remaining leadership positions in the 9th National Assembly, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
The party has so far zoned the Senate presidency to the North-East, endorsing Lawan for the job.
The party has also endorsed Gbajabiamila, from the South-West for the position of the Speaker of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
The APC zoned the position of the Deputy Speaker to the North-Central.
Our correspondent learnt on Friday that the party had yet to agree on the zoning formula for the remaining positions.
It was however learnt that while the South-East and South-South were jostling for the position of the Deputy President of the Senate, the party might have resolved to zone the position to the South-South.
The party, it was learnt, had yet to reach a decision on the zone to produce the majority leaders of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
The National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, told our correspondent on Friday that they had not set the timeline for the zoning arrangement.
Issa-Onilu said the party’s National Working Committee was at liberty to meet at any time to take the decision.
He, however, said leaders of the party had been working behind the scenes on the matter.
He said, “Like the NWC meeting that we had on Tuesday, we decided within 48 hours that we needed to clear some issues. So, it is not something that is programmed.” Punch