■ Loyalists ditch Gbajabiamila, back Dogara
■ Deputy speaker rebuffs party’s plea to resign
FROM IHEANACHO NWOSU, ABUJA
A new twist emerged yesterday on the leadership crisis bedeviling the House of Representatives as key backers of Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila under the aegis of APC Loyalist Group ditched him and aligned with the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
This is as the Deputy Speaker, Hon Yusuff Lasun turned down pleas that he resigns and allow Gbajabiamila, the former minority leader take his position. He vowed that no amount of pressure would make him quit his plum office.
Gbajabiamila met President Muhammadu Buhari last Friday in what was seen as a last ditch effort to get the president to compel the leadership of the House to work with the list handed it by the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for principal offices. Gbajabiamila was penciled for majority leader in the Oyegun’s list. The speaker, however, in a letter to the chairman, rejected the list and instead said the offices would be spread across the six zones in line with the federal character principle. He zoned the position of majority leader to the North-west while South-east is to take charge of the deputy chief whip.
But yesterday at a press conference in Abuja, key members of the APC Loyalist Group, Gbajabiamila’s main supporters announced that they were in support of the list drawn by Dogara’s and known as Equity team.
They include Messrs Mohammed Tahir Monguno, Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Pally Iriase. By the new arrangement, Doguwa, (APC, Kano) is to emerge the majority leader. Giving reason for embracing the Speaker’s list, Iriase (APC, Edo) claimed that Dogara’s proposal was in tandem with the constitutional provision for federal character principle. He submitted that most members of the Loyalist Group were at home with the speaker’s list, predicting that the crisis rocking the chambers would no longer rear its head.
He said, “Going by provisions of the constitution, the speaker is correct on the issue of principal officers”. Iriase argued that the provisions as they relate to the federal character principles apply to the three arms of government.
He explained, “We looked at what the speaker proposed. We reflected on it and made consultations and I want to let you know that majority of APC caucus has accepted the proposal. It is accepted because it encapsulates inclusiveness.
“We salute the leadership of Dogara who has ceded key positions to our group.
“We hold ourselves loyal to the party and to the teeming members of the loyalist group. We want everybody to think Nigeria first. We feel this is a fair arrangement to resolve the crisis.”
Speaking in a similar tone, Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) reiterated that the crisis in the House was over. He said with three of us from the Loyalty Group addressing you today, it shows the crisis is over.
“Few members may have a different opinion but most of us are in support of the new arrangement. If it is disagreement, we have disagreed enough. If it is misunderstanding, we have misunderstood enough.”
Also in his short speech, Monguno (APC, Borno) hinged his decision to join forces with Dogara on the need to save the House and Nigeria from unnecessary squabble.
The lawmaker who was earlier chosen by the APC to run with Gbajabiamila as deputy speaker said, “Ordinarily, I will be the last person to accept the sharing arrangement by the speaker. “I am losing out but in the interest of Nigeria, I am accepting the position. Doguwa and Iriase can protect the interest of the Loyalist Group in the new arrangement.
Hailing the new development, spokesman of the Dogara group, Consolidation Group, Hon Jibrin Abdulmumuni pledged that every lawmaker would be fairly treated by the leadership.
He said, “Permit me to point out, however, that the intense consultations carried out by Speaker Dogara is what eventually led to the birth of the Dogara formula that saw the emergence of what is now known as the Equity Team. In line with the formula, the Equity Team has Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC Kano, North West) as House Leader, Buba Jibrin(APC Kogi, North Central) as Deputy Leader, Pally Iriase(APC Edo, South South) as Chief Whip and Chika Okafor (APC Imo, South East) as Deputy Chief Whip.
“Interestingly, both the Speaker and a great majority of the APC caucus in the House including gladiators in the Gbajabiamila’s group like Mongunu, Doguwa and Iriase support and stand by the Equity Team. We have commenced collection of signatures, which has reached advanced stage to affirm the Dogara formula. All other interests, including those excluded from the principal officers specifically Gbajabiamila and Mongunu will be duly accommodated with commensurate responsibility to serve. Since the speaker has about 200 positions to share out, many members will have the opportunity to serve the country.”
Meanwhile, moves by the national chairman to convince Lasun to resign to accommodate Gbajabiamila in the new leadership set up failed as the deputy speaker said he would not quit his position for anybody.
Sunday Sun learnt that at a meeting at the residence of the national chairman, the deputy speaker was asked if he could step down as a way of resolving the standoff in the House.
A source at the meeting, which was also attended by the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola said the deputy speaker dismissed such suggestion.
Lasun, according to the source, said the only condition he would quit his position was if the Osun State governor would resign so that he would take over.
“The deputy speaker was not happy that such suggestion was made in the first place. He said he would resign if the Governor of Osun will resign.”
Contacted the Deputy Speaker’s Chief Press Secretary, Wole Oladimeji said he was not aware of such development.