Photo: Dogara and Gbajabiamila
•South-South demoted from Chief Whip to Deputy
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor; Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
A last minute intervention by the presidency led to the emergence of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila as House Leader, bringing to an end the leadership crisis that has shadowed the House of Representatives.
The emergence of Gbajabiamila was at the expense of the South-East, which became the only zone not to be represented in the complement of principal officers of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the House.
Allies of Speaker Yakubu Dogara who had in recent days consolidated their superiority over the camp of Gbajabiamila had at the end of a caucus meeting that ended around 12.30 a.m. in Abuja yesterday resolved to push ahead with their permutation of Ado Doguwa (Kano) for House Leader; Bala Jibrin (Kogi) for Deputy Leader; Pally Iriase (Edo) for Chief Whip and Chike Okafor (Imo) for Deputy Leader.
However, that plan was aborted midway into yesterday’s session of the House upon pressures from the presidency urging Dogara to kowtow to the party’s earlier stance on Gbajabiamila for House Leader.
Speaker Dogara who was presiding over the affairs of the House had to step down from the chair to allow his deputy, Rep. Yusuf Lashun to take over the deliberations while he conferred with Gbajabiamila and Doguwa in the office of the House Clerk.
Following the deliberations that lasted for about one hour, the Clerk returned to the chair and announced the complement of principal officers of the House representing the ruling APC.
He announced Iriase as Deputy Whip; Jibrin as Deputy Leader; Doguwa as Chief Whip and Gbajabiamila as Leader, immediately throwing majority of the members into celebration mode as they congratulated the Speaker for reaching out to his rival.
The hurray was, however, not universal, especially among members from the South-East as it turned out that with the development, the region for the first time lost the opportunity of fielding a representative from the region in the ruling party’s complement of principal officers.
The announcement attracted standing ovation for the Speaker especially for conceding the House leadership to Gbajabiamila, who was in the opposition camp.
APC has abandoned South-East—Chukwukere
Reacting to the composition of the principal officers, Rep. Austin Chukwukere, APC, Ideato North/South, Imo State, said the South-East members were not happy because the party had abandoned them despite what they passed through during the election.
He said that their constituents had expressed disappointment over the injustice done to the South-East members and that there had not been enough explanation to them on why they should be treated unfairly.
According to him, “We are not happy over our exclusion and the way the party has abandoned us despite what we passed through during the election to ensure that APC has representation in our place. Our constituents have been calling us over this development, and we have not heard from the party why the injustice should be meted on us.”
Also from the minority party are Rep. Leo Ogor, PDP, Delta, South as the Minority Leader; Rep. Wilfred Chukwuma, PDP, Anambra State, South-East; Deputy Minority Whip, Rep. Yakubu Badre, PDP, Kaduna State Deputy Minority Leader and Rep. Binta Bello, Gombe, North East Minority Whip.
What happened is politics—Gbajabiamila
But reacting to the development, Gbajabiamila said, “What you saw in the last 49 days was actually democracy in action.That’s what politics is all about: everybody trying to outwit everybody for the greater good of the country. And I’m glad that everything has panned out the way it has panned out. You will now see the House you knew in the last four years back in action, working for the people, working for the nation. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say tomorrow (today). We can’t afford to let Nigerians down”
Earlier in his remarks to welcome members after the plenary, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara said, “We can neither afford to abuse the confidence reposed in us nor can we dare to expose ourselves to the cruel judgement of history.
“We started on an excellent note, or so I thought, having spent a whole legislate day conducting free, fair and transparent elections to elect the two presiding officers, at the end of which both those who won and those who did not win exercised great maturity in respecting the will of the majority.”
Photo: Dogara and Gbajabiamila