Members of the House of Representatives loyal to the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, have said they will ensure federal character as enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution is adhered to in the appointment of Principal Officers of the House.
The group said it stands by its offer that south west and north east cannot produce the majority leader of the House. The major contender for the slot is Femi Gbajabiamila, who is from the south west.
The Dogara group said this in a statement signed by Abdulmumini Jibrin, representing Kano, in reaction to an earlier statement released by members loyal to Mr. Gbajabiamila, who is the ruling All Progressives Congress’ preferred candidate for the position of Majority Leader.
The APC had initially adopted Mr. Gbajabiamila to become speaker. He lost the seat to Mr. Dogara.
Mr. Dogara rejects Mr. Gbajabiamila as the leader of the APC caucus in the house. He cites federal character since the deputy speaker, Yusuf Lasun, like Mr. Gbajabiamila, is from the south west.
The Dogara faction said Wednesday it was offering the Gbajabiamila faction the majority leader, but said the slot must be occupied by a lawmaker from any region except south west and north east, where Mr. Dogara comes from.
The group said it was making the offer to end weeks of bickering that has stalled legislative functions.
The Gbajabiamila group said Wednesday while it was yet to formally be given the offer, its stance that Gbajabiamila be made the Majority Leader was not negotiable.
The Dogara group has reacted to the demand, insisting on respect for federal character in distribution of appointments.
In its statement early Thursday, the group said every geopolitical zone in Nigeria be given representation in the principal officers of the House.
They also faulted the argument by the Gbajabiamila group that the South East Zone produced only two “new” members, who do not have cognate legislative experience and therefore not entitled to be represented in the principal officers’ cadre.
“In the first place, any person acquainted with the Rules and practice of the House knows that a new member is regarded as having “cognate legislative experience” immediately he is sworn in as a Member as it is only new members- elect that are affected by the Rule,” they said.
They also said established precedents in the Senate and House of Representatives had shown consistent respect for zonal representation in the election of principal officers, even when there were only a few from a zone.
“It is as a result of this, that the 7th Senate, elected Senator Ayoola Hosea Agboola, Deputy Chief Whip, even though he was the only Member from his party from the South West.
“Furthermore, in the 7th House of Representatives, Hon Mulikat Akande, was made House Leader even though she was one of only five members from her party from her Zone.
“Even only recently, in the 8th Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena, from the South South has been made Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, a principal officer , even though he is a “new” member and the only member of APC from the South South,” they said.
The Dogara group also faulted the decision of the APC leadership on the matter, saying if adhered to, the party position would completely shut out the North Central zone which has 33 members in the House from the APC.
“This so called party position, if allowed to stand, would result in the South West producing the Deputy Speaker and Leader of the House and North East would produce Speaker and Chief Whip of the House. This is most unfair and inequitable.
“In fact, there is no evidence that any of the Organs of the Party, APC, such as the National Working Committee, the National Caucus or National Executive Committee, approved such an unjust outcome. We insist that this is not even the Party position,” the group said.
The Dogara group also said it was “erroneous” to assert that there was a resolution at the recent meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the APC on Party supremacy that recognized any one as House Leader or any other principal officer of the House.
“The matter was not an item on the Agenda of the APC NEC meeting and no such resolution or decision was taken,” they said.
The group insisted that the way out of the logjam, is for the aggrieved APC members who lost election for the Presiding Officers of the House, to accept the offer extended to them to produce the House Leader from among themselves, but excluding any member from the South West or North East.
“If this magnanimity is not accepted, then the generally accepted method of choosing Principal Officers in the House over the years by Caucuses would be activated,” they said.