By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
The fate of Femi Gbajabiamilia, APC’s official candidate for the position of ninth House of Representatives Speaker hangs in the balance. Except miracle happens, Umaru Muhammad Bago, a ranking House of Representatives Member representing Chachanga (Niger state) Federal Constituency is inches away from emerging Speaker of the incoming ninth House of Representatives. Dramatic trade offs that will see Bago’s ambition effortlessly sail through are also in the offing.
All House members- returning and new- and a section of the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, opposed to the hawkish stand of the the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and National Leader, Bola Tinubu, regarding the zoning of the topmost offices in the ninth National Assembly have teamed up to deliver Bago, The Source has gathered.
National Assembly and party insiders reveal that dovish elements in the party are opposed to APC hardliners’ scorch earth plot against the South East as regard Senate and House’s top positions.
Hawks in the party are reportedly primed to ensuring that the zone is denied any meaningful position in the coming ninth National Assembly as punishment for APC’s dismal performance there in the last general elections.
But Bago’s supporters, comprising over 200 old and newly elected members, are opposed to this. They insist that a total exclusion of the South east from the National Assembly power calculus in the next dispensation is unjustifiable and does not augur well for national cohesion.
To this end, the only female aspirant to the position of Speaker, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, representing Umunneochi/ Isikwuato Federal Constituency, may end up dropping from the race at the eleventh hour. It has been gathered that this was part of the trade offs aimed at accommodating the South East in the incoming National Assembly leadership.
Under the deal,Onyejeocha who has been in the House since 2007, on the day of inauguration of, and shortly before the election of new Speaker, will make a moving speech outlying her vision for the House, the need for gender balance in the National Assembly, and the injustice of denying the South East a representation in the three arms of government.
This will then be followed by her nomination of Bago for Speaker and announcement of her withdrawal from the race to support the Niger lawmaker’s cause. The Abia lawmaker will, thereafter, ask her supporters to queue behind Bago.
Bago’s eventual emergence, according to the deal, will be followed by the nomination and subsequent election of Onyejeocha as Deputy Speaker.
Credible sources informed the magazine that across party line, all South East, South South and North central House members, and some members from North West, and North east states of Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Taraba, Bauchi and Adamawa respectively ,including new members, are on the side of Bago, and have been meeting to strategize on ways to clinically diminish Gbajabiamilia, believed by many of them to be fronting for Tinubu.
Several Northern members who spoke to this Magazine on the condition of anonymity vowed that they will use their numerical strength in the lower chamber of the National Assembly to frustrate any imposition of Speaker.
“We cannot allow one man to install the Senate President and the Speaker. We say no to a puppet as Speaker. We don’t want a Speaker who will be remote-controlled from Burdillon Road, Ikoyi. So, we have mobilised and Bago will be installed by us, and Nkiru will be his Deputy. We have the numbers to achieve our goals. There must be equity and fairness”, one of the Northern House members told The Source.
A South East member warned that Gbajabiamila has concluded plans to work for the election of Deputy Speaker from Kano in the event of victory. “If this plan is allowed, we will have in our hands, a National Assembly leadership exclusively controlled by the North and South West because Tinubu and Oshiomhole are also plotting to install their stooge as Deputy Senate President. South East must have a voice and representation in national leadership and that is why we are pairing Nkiru with Bago”, he said.
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamilia is leaving nothing to chance in his drive to succeed the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara. Apart from allegedly, sharing Andriod phones to some House members to buy their support, the House Leader also allegedly doled out #200,000 each recently to some members.
He has also resorted to the ethnic and religious sentiments to avoid the pitfalls of his crashed ambition in 2015.To buy the vast Moslem members from the North, the Lagos lawmaker is increasingly becoming visible at Islamic events. He was recently pictured leading an Islamic prayer.He also recently travelled to Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj. But many allege he is also an elder in a Pentecostal Church.
Gbajabiamilia’s supporters have, however, come to his defence.They inform that the Lawmaker is a product of the liberal religious leaning of the South West as one of his parents is a moslem and the other a Christian. “If you see him in the Church, I don’t think it should bother anyone. In Yorubaland, religion is a personal thing.We don’t practise religious extremism here”, a middle aged man, an Osun state indigene who assured that his principal will eventually emerge Speaker, said.
In 2015, some Northern Moslem House members opposed to Gbajabiamilia’s Speakership candidacy accused him of concealing his Christian background while masquerading as a moslem. But in an ironic twist, a Christian, Dogora Yakubu from Bauchi was to defeat him (Gbajabiamilia) in the ensuing contest.
Gbajabiamilia is also allegedly appealing to his Southern colleagues to vote him so as to avoid a situation where-by all leaders of the three arms of government-the president, the Senate President, Speaker of House of Reps and Chief Justice of Nigeria will all come from the North. Its not however clear, at press time, whether, his religious and ethnic sentiments are striking the right chord in the ears of House members who are resolute in one thing: To frustrate the imposition of a Speaker who will be remote-controlled and answerable to a godfather.