By Gideon Njoku
Strong feelers from Abuja indicate that President Muhammadu Buhari is at crossroads over who to back for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Until now, it had been taken for granted that Mr President was backing the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila for the high profile office, especially, as his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, had endorsed him as the incoming Speaker, and also endorsed Senate Leader, Dr Ahmed Lawan, as the Senate President.
But that was then. Calculations seem to be gradually changing. There is a new guy on the block. He has just emerged. His name is Emeka Nwajiuba, a lawyer.
Nwajiuba is not a green horn in politics. He was a member of the House of Representatives and, is currently, the Chairman of TETFUND. But that is not all that he has going for him. He has more.
He is a quiet operator, and does not flaunt his political reach or network. But Nwajiuba is as close to the corridors of power as can be. He is in the inner caucus of the Buhari administration. He is a die-hard Buharist, and has always been. A source in the Villa told this magazine thus: “Forget his quiet mien, the young man is a turk, and one of the powers behind the throne. He has always been a Buharist, and was also very close to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha”
Nwajiuba was a member of Buhari’s CPC, under which he contested for a couple of political offices in his native Imo state. And since then, he has stuck to Buhari, a man he always praises for his discipline and honesty of purpose.
Months before the 2019 General Elections, this magazine gathered, the plan was to support Nwajiuba to win the House of Representatives election in Imo, and thus packaged to be the Speaker of the House. It was meant to use one stone to kill two birds – give the South-east a sense of belonging, and appreciate Nwajiuba’s loyalty to party and Buhari. So, he picked the form, and contested.
But nobody reckoned with the fact that Governor Rochas Okorocha may not cooperate. What is not known is whether he was carried along or not. But unconfirmed reports say he knew of the plan, and, allegedly, was not comfortable with the arrangement. He didn’t want to play a second fiddle to anybody, politically in the state, it was alleged. So, he supported the re-election of Hon Chika Okafor, his former Commissioner for Finance who he had earlier, successfully, sponsored to the House.
Even then, the thinking was that Nwajiuba would defeat Okafor in the party primaries. But ecause of the alleged untidy manner it was conducted, Okafor came tops. An angry Nwajiuba, with clearance from the Villa and the party leadership, decamped to the Accord Party under which he contested. But, again, The usual *mago mago* denied him victory. Okafor won to the shock of Nwajiuba who, then, took his case to the judiciary.
This other day, Nwajiuba was awarded victory and, INEC ordered to, immediately, retrieve the Certificate of Return from Okafor, and give same to Nwajiuba.
It is this judgement that has elicited excitement in the corridors of power in Abuja, and a look at the direction of Nwajiuba as the Speaker of the House. Already, this magazine gathered, a powerful group in the APC, led by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, is already working on it.
The thinking, if it works, is that a-Nwajiuba Speakership would solve a couple of problems for the APC. First, it would resolve the problem of the maginalization of the South-east in the sharing of positions at the NASS.
It will also give the APC a good footing in the South-east, especially, in Imo, a state it has just lost to the rival PDP due to the crisis that besieged it under Okorocha. But more important, according to political watchers, it will deny the former governor of Lagos state, a successful political godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the pleasure of installing the two most important political positions in the NASS.
Gbajabiamila is a Tinubu boy. Lawan is also a Tinubu ally. Most people in the North seem not comfortable with Tinubu installing the NASS leadership. They think it will give him a strong footing for the 2023 Presidential seat, a situation the Northern elite is said to abhor. The pot-shot at Tinubu in Lagos, recently, during a lecture, by el-Rufai, it is alleged, was meant as a warning to Tinubu. Hence, the now strong consideration for Nwajiuba, and a dumping of Gbajabiamila.
The Nwajiuba consideration may not, however, be that smooth. There are obstacles. The first is the party under which he won election – Accord Party. Will the House of Representatives members allow an inconsequential party, even if in an affiliation to the APC, to produce the Speaker? Or, is he allowed to re-decamp to the APC given the circumstances under which he left? What does the law say?
The second is: Will Okafor appeal the judgement or not? What if he appeals and wins?
There is a strong rumour, however, that Okorocha may advise him not to.
The story from the grapevine is that he may use that as a bargaining chip to get his Senatorial Certificate of Return which has been denied him by INEC for, allegedly, getting it under duress. A question of rob my back and I will rob yours.
Whatever, time will tell.