House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila battle for speaker yesterday got a major boost, with the pledge by All Progressives Congress (APC) members-elect to support him.

They promised to abide by party leadership’s decision to zone the Speaker to the South and the choice of Gbajabiamila.

Some 164 lawmakers said it was not right for the North to produce the President of the Senate and be demanding House Speaker.

They argued that zoning is done between the North and the South.

In a statement in Abuja by the Chairman, Tunji Olabunmi Ojo, and the Director-General Dunkwu Nnamdi Chamberlain, the Forum of newly-elected APC members of the House of Representatives said it would be difficult for them to go against the wishes of the party and that of President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the Forum, APC zoned President to the North, Vice President to the South, Senate President to the North and Speaker to the South.

It added that those from the Northcentral agitating for the Speaker’s slot were insincere as the North cannot produce the Senate President and the House Speaker.

The Forum expects all the APC elected members to respect the position of the party as they are products of the party.

Their statement reads: “Every member of the party is a product of the party; the party gave everybody the platform to contest and apart from giving platform, the party also gave assistant to members before, during and after elections.

“So, it is expected that as loyal party members, we are supposed to toll the line of the party and now that the party and Mr. President have spoken that Femi should be supported for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, we expect every party faithful to toll that line and support Gbajabiamila to emerge as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“We believe he has the experience; more experienced than other people that are contesting the position. It is not just enough for you to bring out posters. Femi is very qualified; eminently qualified more than any other person.

“Let’s just forget about geopolitical zone; we are talking about competence; we are talking about Nigeria; we are talking about the interest of the downtrodden. Femi would be able to articulate policies that would benefit the generality of the Nigerian masses to compliment the next level agenda of Mr. President.

“Right from time, it has always been North/South. The Presidency is zoned to the North while the vice president is to the South. Now, Senate President has been zoned to the North and Speaker to the South and when it comes to the South, we decide where it should go.

“Politics in this country is played along the line of North and South. Northnentral is North, Northwest is North and Northeast is North. So, the Speaker’s position has been zoned to the South. When we zoned the presidency to the North, Northwest produced the President. So, for those talking about zoning, zoning in this country is done North/South.”

On how the Forum intends to make impact in the election of the Speaker, it said: “Well, the Forum of the newly-elected APC members has 164 representatives; then we have members of other political parties that are also affiliated to this Forum of new members, irrespective of their political parties.

“Some of them were originally APC but because they could not get tickets during the primaries to contest, they moved to other parties. So, we have the same ideology. They are all with us in this struggle to make sure that Femi emerges as the Speaker of House of Representatives.”

The group claimed that the election of Gbajabiamila would prevent what happened in the outgoing Eighth Assembly, where the government’s and the party’s policies.

They said: “We want to ensure that what happened in the 8th Assembly would not repeat itself, where party loyalty was thrown to the dustbin. People went there to fight for their individual pockets.

“We are in this Ninth Assembly to fight for the interest of Nigerians. Nigerians are suffering. How can Mr. President present a budget and for seven months, the budget was still being kept on hold – frustrating the good policies of Mr. President, frustrating the good policies if the party.”