Reps leadership crisis deepens as Dogara, Gbajabiamila groups still disagree
• Pro-Speaker lawmakers accuse Odigie-Oyegun of acting unilaterally
• No going back on party position, say pro-Gbajabiamila supporters
WHATEVER hopes there may have been that the crisis over who occupies some principal positions in the House of Representatives would soon be over have evaporated.
Rather, it has deepened as the group backing the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara again, yesterday, rejected the directive of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the sharing of the principal positions in the lower legislative chamber.
The APC had, at its National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, stressed that it is incumbent on all members to respect party supremacy on issues bothering on power sharing and governance.
Specifically, the APC leadership had in a correspondence to the Speaker, proposed Femi Gbajabiamila (South West) as House Leader, Ado Doguwa (North West) -Deputy House Leader, Pally Iriase (South South) – Chief Whip and Mohammed Tahir Mungonu (North East) as Deputy Chief Whip respectively.
But rising from a meeting it held with the Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal-led reconciliation committee, spokesman for the pro-Dogara group, Dr. Abdulmumini Jibrin yesterday insisted that the letter purportedly transmitted to the House by the APC Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun prescribing the distribution of principal offices of the chamber was not acceptable to them.
He said the letter did not pass through the relevant legal organs of the party.
Jubrin, who represents Bebeji/Kiru federal constituency of Kano State, said his group was ready to concede only the position of House Leader to the Femi Gbajabiamila-led group, adding that other zones except the South West and North East should be allowed to produce the Majority Leader in the interest of equity and entrenchment of the federal character principle.
“We have made far reaching concessions and this is to allow peace to reign in the House. It was very tough but of course the wise counsel of the governor of Sokoto, his advice and very firm position about need for compromise if peace must return, convinced us.
“Three things we agreed. One, we maintained our position that we do not recognise the letter written by the party and I give you reasons. We have utmost respect for the chairman but that letter did not pass through all the party’s relevant legal organs.
“It was neither approved by the National Working Committee (NWC) nor the National Executive Committee (NEC), nor was the party caucus consulted. 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, but we will only respect the letter that is processed through the relevant legal organs of the party. So, our position is that we do not recognise even the existence of the letter. Secondly, our position at the meeting is that the principal officers of the House must be in tandem with the principle of equity and federal character as prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
‘‘The six positions that are usually occupied by the majority party: The Speaker, Deputy Speaker, House Leader and Deputy House Leader, Whip and Deputy Whip must go to the six geopolitical zones, to reflect the principle of equity and federal character.
To that end, we agreed to concede the position of House Leader to the Gbajabiamila group, a decision we took bearing in mind that we need peace, we need unity in the House, and bearing in mind that Nigerians are watching and we want to get down to work.
“The year has gone half way already and we need to get down to work.
But in the event that they do not accept, we also provided our last point which is our last position that the only alternative that will be left is for us to be allowed to choose the principal officers of the House in line with the standing rules. So, we have to come back and hold an election of the entire APC members of the House to elect a House Leader. That is our position. We have to make this interim statement in order not to allow false information get to the public.
“As it is now you all know it is not news that some zones have already gone to court. The North Central is already in court, the South East is already in court because they are insisting that you cannot deny them having a principal officer in the House. So, these are some of the issues that we have discussed and we did this in a very patriotic way. We placed national interest at the back of our minds and we hope that this will be able to lead the crisis to its end.”
But in their reaction, the APC loyalists maintained that the party’s position on the sharing of principal office positions must be sustained.
A statement issued by Alhaji Rufai Chachangi on behalf of the group noted: “We the 174 APC loyalists group of the House are aware that there was a private discussion between Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Buhari on Tuesday evening at the State House. We are also aware that 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 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 9, 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 both be headed by members from the North.
“For avoidance of doubt, the issue of South East 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. 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 justifiable and of no legal consequence.
“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.”