As the hour for the inauguration of the 9th House of Representatives and election of presiding officers draws near, stakeholders on various camps have ramped up their push for the coveted seat with moves to outwit one another by all means necessary.
This is as the immediate past speaker; Yakubu Dogara may have joined the Bago camp following the presence of his aides at the Bago Campaign Secretariat.
StateReporter News can reveal that supporters of aspirants and interested parties within and outside are leaving no stone unturned with a view to undoing those they perceived not suitable for the speakership position.
While there are at least 4 persons still in the race with possibility of stepping down for others, the mudslinging and deal making have featured more between Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago from Niger and Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos, both of whom are top contenders.
And while the Gbajabiamila campaign train has been louder moving from one geopolitical zone to another, Bago has been relatively quiet albeit reaching out and building consensus among stakeholders which in the views of insider sources,is recording silent gains.
In terms of endorsement, Gbajabiamila has raked in more than any other candidate in the race, given that he’s been out and about visiting governors who have openly expressed support for his candidacy, adding that he holds the requisite experience and capacity to be the speaker.
Different visits by the Gbajabiamila campaign to governors in the South East and South-South geopolitical zones have seen him garnered endorsements on the basis of his legislative experience and institutional memories in the House.
From Nyesom Wike of Rivers to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, it was endorsement galore for Gbajabiamila who’s seen as the “most capable hand to steer the affairs of the House in the 9th Assembly.
Same goes to Nadir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, North West Nigeria who gave his words to the effect that he has mobilised state actors both at state and federal levels to deliver Gbajabiamila as the next speaker, come June 11, 2019.
Also within the House, series of endorsements by different groups of lawmakers had come Gbajabiamila’s way across party divides.
The latest being the endorsement by a group known as the ‘9th Assembly Progressives’ said to comprise of 60 members from opposition parties.
The group led by Hon. Oluwole Oke, (PDP, Osun) also outlined factors they believe are responsible for their position and which stand Gbajabiamila out of the pack as the most capable and qualified speakership candidate.
StateReporter News on reasons for endorsing Gbajabiamila, Oke said: “First, in mature democracies with entrenched legislative traditions, the moment there is a leadership vacuum; the leader of a majority party in the legislature automatically assumes headship of that House. Examples abound, including, the recent Speakership of Nancy Pelosi”.
“For this reason and in order for us to deepen the progressive values in the National Assembly, we, the 9th Assembly Progressives, have adopted the joint ticket of Hon. Femi/Hon. Wase in the Speakership race.
“Second, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who doubles as the Leader of Hon. Femi’s Party, has nominated him for the Speakership position, deeming him as a man that will foster peace, unity and prosperity throughout the 9th Assembly. Endorsing and voting for him, is therefore an endorsement and vote for a smooth and productive working relationship between the Executive and the Legislature in the new Government.
“Third, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is the most experienced and prepared candidate in the current Speakership race. Hon. Femi has been a Member of the House since 2003 and has played a pivotal role in creating the right legislative culture, values and practice which now characterize the Legislative Arm of Government. His commitment to the defence of democratic values is glaring and he has been consistent in his views, values and votes, which is the hallmark of a true Parliamentarian.
“Fourth, since becoming a Member in 2003, Hon. Femi has sponsored some of the most critical bills that have been debated on the floor of the House of Representatives. Some of his Bills were pivotal and contributed to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution”, the group pointed out.
But on back of the gale of endorsements for Gbajabiamila are a myriad of allegations dogging his candidacy. Bodies ranging from Media to professional organisations, have come out to state reasons why they think Gbajabiamila should not be allowed to emerge speaker of the House.
A media organization, “Corruption Reporter Communications Limited”, in a letter dated 23rd May, 2019 and addressed to the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole outlined frauds allegedly committed by Gbajabiamila in the United States of America, saying that such an individual should not be allowed to occupy a sensitive position such as the Speakership of the House.
The petition signed by the editor of the media platform, Basah Mohammed came barely a week after a Nigerian tax payer, Philip Undie sued Gbajabiamila in a federal high court in Abuja praying it to declare the aspirant unfit to contest the speakership of the 9th House of Representatives having been convicted of fraud by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia, United States of America.
Undie, in the suite, also prayed the court to restrain Gbajabiamila from parading himself as a member of the House in the light of the conviction.
The said suit has since been struck out by the court which on Friday declared that Gbajabiamila was fit to contest the speakership seat of the House of Representatives.
Another body which played up the said allegation against the aspirant is the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) who was threatened with a legal action should they not retract their diatribe.
CUPP didn’t only hit Gbajabiamila, as they also came for his running mate, Ahmed Idris Wase with documents showing his ownership of a company, Walbansa Nigeria Limited, which they said he allegedly operated even as a member of the House against the provision of the Constitution and code of conduct of public office holders.
Both Wase and the Gbajabiamila campaign organization did not respond to calls and text messages sent to them for reaction.
On the other hand, Bago who has not enjoyed the luxury of flying around to see governors may be having his campaign job cut out for him by professional and political groups hitting his main opponent, Gbajabiamila with allegations of fraud and abuse of trust leading to conviction in far away United States.
However, StateReporter news can report that Dogara may have joined the Bago camp with a view not only to undo Gbajabiamila, but also the APC.
In the last three days, the duo of his immediate past Media Adviser, Turaki Hassan and his Chief of Staff, Hon. Jerry Manwe have been seen at the secretariat apparently on the instructions of their principal to join forces to undo Gbajabiamila.
Not only that, another aspirant from the North Central, Hon. John Dyegh from Benue on Thursday night had a chat with journalists where he reiterated his determination to see the race to its very end. But what gave him away was his attempt to shift the cost of packing tickets for the press men to Hon. Bago.
Asked to come and clear ticket issues involving the departing journalists, Dyegh was heard saying that they should call Bago to clear ticket fees for the people he (Dyegh) called to the venue for a chat, indicative of the fact that the parley may have been organised at the instance of Bago who is using same as a decoy to upend the Gbajabiamila camp.
The development, according to another source, would ultimately lead to compromises on the part of other aspirants such as Hon. Nkieruka Onyejeocha and John Dyegh.
While the duo of Olajide Olatunbosun and Segun Odebunmi, both from Oyo State, Southwest, Nigeria, are bent on seeing the race to its conclusion, efforts are said to be on to get them to back the Bago project since they, like Bago are also fighting what they term “an imposition” by the ruling APC.
Meanwhile, it was learnt at the weekend that APC stakeholders from across the five states in the South-east, Friday in Abuja conferred with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of the party insisting that the zone should be accommodated in the distribution of principal positions in the nation’s governance.
The group operating under the aegis of Southeast Equity Alliance( SEA) specifically demanded that the leadership of the party zone the 9th Assembly Speakership position to the region in line with federal character provision of the constitution, equity justice and fairness.
Addressing journalists after a closed door meeting with the APC National Chairman, Hon. Barrister Kingsley Ononuju, spokesman of the group said the zone has eminent sons and daughters that are qualified and ready to work for project Nigeria. He said Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba; one of the aspirants has the clout to deliver as Speaker of the 9th Assembly and should be supported by the ruling party.
“We have competent and qualified honourable members of the House of Representatives with excellent track record in public administration and grounded in the nitty-gritty of lawmaking.
“Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba, a detribalized Nigerian, is one of them,” Ononuju said.