The Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is seeking support for Femi Gbajabiamila to become Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is coming at a time more aspirants are showing interest in the race and insisting on realising their ambition, reports Dele Anofi, Abuja.

Lagos APC urges Reps-elect to support Gbajabiamila

The All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State Chapter has urged party members who have won elections into the House of Representatives to support Mr Femi Gbajabiamila for Speaker.

Mr Abiodun Salami, APC’s Assistant Publicity Secretary in Lagos State, made the appeal yesterday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

Salami was reacting to the adoption of Gbajabiamila for Speaker of the lower chamber by the APC’s national leadership on Tuesday.

Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, was re-elected for the fifth term. He is the House Leader.

APC’s National Publicly Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu had announced the adoption of Gbajabiamila in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

He had stated that the party took the decision after extensive deliberations with APC House of Representatives members-elect at a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Banquet Hall of Aso Villa.

Issa-Onilu, in the statement issued shortly after the meeting, also announced that the party had zoned the position of the Deputy Speaker to the North Central.

However, an APC House of Representatives member from Benue State, Mr John Dyegh, hours after the adoption of Gbajabiamila, declared his ambition to be Speaker.

In his speech yesterday in Abuja, Dyegh said he was out to serve the nation and that the North Central zone had been marginalised in the leadership of the House since 1999.

Meanwhile, Salami urged all House of Representatives members-elect under the platform of the party to work with unity of purpose and support the ambition of Gbajabiamila.

He said the party had acted well by adopting Gbajabiamila, saying, “he is an experienced legislator with sterling records of service to the people’’.

“We in Lagos APC are appealing to all our members across the country to support Mr Gbajabiamila in his bid to become the speaker of the ninth House of Representatives.

“He has been adopted by the party and that makes him the candidate of the party. We, therefore, urge House of Representatives members-elect to support him,’’ he said.

Salami described Gbajabiamila as a committed and loyal party man with good records of service both at the national and state levels.

“Even though he is elected on the platform of the party, we have no doubt that he will serve the interest of all Nigerians when he emerges as the speaker.

“We are also appealing to all Nigerians to support this cerebral gentleman to further impact on the country’s development through his legislative experience and prowess,’’ he said.

Salami said Gbajabiamila had sponsored many bills which have impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians.

“He sponsored the bill seeking equal opportunities for people with disability and criminalising estimated billing by electricity distribution companies,’’ he said.

He said Gbajabiamila also organised periodic empowerment programmes to uplift the people of his constituency.

North Central caucus rejects deputy speaker slot

Dyegh said the North Central caucus was not satisfied with the decision to adopt Gbajabiamila. He said the North Central caucus has asked the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to reconsider the decision and zone the seat to the North Central.

Dyegh, at a news conference yesterday, while reiterating the loyalty of the North Central caucus to the party, went ahead to declare his intention to vie for the position of the 9th Speaker of the House.

“We are not fighting the party, we are not, we shall not, we are only giving the party an opportunity to come back and look at the zoning and look at what we are saying.

“Taking what the party says hook, line and sinker is not democratic, we are in a democracy. We have the right to vie for position, there’s freedom of expression. We believe in parry supremacy, yes, the party is supreme. I sing that, I say it, I believe it, I go by what the party says but this is a democracy and I believe we should give the Green chamber an option,” he said.

According to him, in addition to being the third largest contributor to the 2019 election success of the party, fairness and equity demand that the North Central be considered for the position since the region has never produced the Speaker or Deputy Speaker since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.

He said: “My party the APC in her wisdom zoned the position of Speaker to the South West and even micro-zoned.

“I am a party man and my loyalty to the APC is 100 percent, however, the North Central zone has not been convinced nor given reasons why their votes should not count and why we should not run and we feel very strongly that there is still room for negotiation because we believe ‘it is not over until it is over’.

“We are therefore appealing to the party to have a rethink and rezone the Speakership to the North Central for justice and fair play. We pray to God Almighty to touch the hearts of our Leaders to reconsider us favourably.

On his candidacy for the post, the lawmaker said the decision to join the race was based on his unyielding faith in a united and prosperous Nigeria.

Citing sections of the constitution, Dyegh noted that “It will only be fair if the position of Speaker is given to the North Central, having taken away the seat of Senate President to the Northeast.

“It is instructive to note that the North Central has neither produced Speaker nor the Deputy Speaker since 1999. We are saying that reward in politics is based on what you bring to the table and the North Central brought the third highest number of votes in making President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term reality and enabling the APC to form Federal Government.”

Imo, Benue Reps declare for Speakership

Chike Okafor (Imo) also declared his intention to run for the Speaker’s office on Tuesday shortly before the Presidential dinner, saying that the Southeast deserved the Speaker’s position for the 9th House of Representatives.

He said no region contributed more to the 2019 election success of the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) Presidential candidate and others than the Southeast, adding that the region deserved to be compensated for being denied a Principal Officer’s position in 2015 on the pretext that the region had no ranking members in the party then.

Okafor said the party must look beyond numbers but more on fairness and equity.

He said: “A ruling party doesn’t just look at the numbers alone; it also looks at National interest; it looks at social justice; it considers political stability and harmony in the body politics; it feels the pulse of the Nation and weighs in on equitable inclusion of federating units of the country in line with the provisions of the constitution of the country and the party, even as it affects sharing of political offices and looking at all these indices, as a party, we have not given the South-East a fair deal! Not yet.

“A critical review of the last general election would easily indicate that the South-East holds immense political prospect and our party needs to initiate efforts to bridge the inclusion gap as it affects the region and pave the way to extract some political capital from the region come 2023 and there is no better way to start than to zone the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the Southeast.”

‘No Retreat, No Surrender’

Another contender from the Northcentral, Umaru Bago (Niger), vowed not to relinquish his ambition for Gbajabiamila.

Bago, in a statement yesterday by his spokesman, Victor Ogene, said the party risked being steered towards the same path which led to the 2015 fiasco that the 8th National Assembly leadership tussle.

The statement reads: “Following yesterday’s (Tuesday, April 16, 2019) purported zoning and micro-zoning of the office of Speaker of the incoming 9th House of Representatives by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, there have been varied reactions by a cross-section of Nigerians, including members-elect, party stalwarts, political commentators and journalists.

“For us in the Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago Campaign Organisation, we view the development as a poorly choreo

graphed political orchestra aimed at using the hallowed precincts of the Presidential Villa to anoint a candidate from the Southwest geo-political zone.”