The leadership crisis rocking Nigeria’s House of Representatives appears to have reached its denouement following the acceptance of Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s principal officers’ sharing formula by some party loyalists, writes Olisemeka Obeche
Days after some Federal House of Representatives lawmakers loyal to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) wrote a letter rejecting the proposal by Speaker Yakubu Dogara to zone principal offices in the ‘Green Chamber’ based on Federal Character principle, some members of the Femi Gbajabiamila faction have made a volte face, accepting the ‘Dogara appointment plan’.
The repentant members have also urged the leadership of the APC to accept the olive branch extended by the Speaker, so as to achieve amicable resolution of this lingering impasse in the House of Representatives. “We want to also use this medium to call on all members of the Loyalist Group nationwide to bury their hatchet, Embrace Peace and Take Nigeria first, above personal interests,” they declared in a statement on Wednesday.
The U-turn follows the adoption of Messrs Alhassan Doguwa (North-west) and Pally Iriase (South South), both members of Gbajabiamila camp as ‘House Leader’ and ‘Chief Whip’ respectively by the Dogara faction; a political masterstroke used by the Speaker and his strategists to scheme out the party’s choice candidates for the offices.
The Gbajabiamila faction had in a letter dated July 18, 2015 and addressed to APC National chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, insisted that party supremacy and list of candidates for the principal offices must be followed. The letter signed by a member representing Zango/Baure Federal Constituency in Katsina State, Nasiru Sani Zangon-Daura, had flawed the reasons given by the Speaker. “We find Hon. Dogara’s letter fraught with several fundamental flaws in his analysis and interpretation of the Constitution and House rules,” the letter reads in part.
But after the Dogara faction offered key members of the Gbajabiamila group positions on Tuesday, two members loyal to the APC, Mukhtari Dandutse from Katsina and Tijjani Jobe from Kano, issued a counter statement on Wednesday distancing themselves and the loyalist group from the position taken by Mr. Daura. Messrs Dandutse and Jobe claimed in their counter statement that what Daura wrote in his letter to the national chairman should not be translated to mean the position of the loyalist group, as no meeting was held to arrive at a decision on the matter.
“While we categorically reaffirm our membership of the Loyalist Group and our unflinching allegiance to the supremacy of the party, we wish to make public that the said letter did not emanate from any formal or collective meeting of the group,” they said.
According to the duo, the last time the loyalist group met was immediately after the maiden meeting of the National Executive Committee NEC of the APC held in Abuja on July 3, 2015, where the NEC agreed to engage the Reconciliation Committee led by the immediate past Speaker of the House and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal. “Let us stress, that it was at this NEC meeting that the party recognized Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and Hon Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Similarly, it was after this NEC meeting that we accepted to cooperate with the Tambuwal’s Reconciliation Committee under the aegis of the All Progressives Party APC Governors Forum.
“While we want to use this medium to dissociate ourselves from the letter by Hon Nasiru Zangon Daura to the leadership of the Party, which to us is his personal views, we remain resolute in the conflict resolution mechanism embarked by the leadership of the party through the APC Governors Forum. In fact, up to this moment, we are confident in the Tambuwal’s Reconciliation Committee as we await its report,” they said.
The tipping Point
The two factions seemed destined to clash further on simmering leadership crisis on resumption from recess when the Speaker refused to grant his party’s wish to appoint Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the House Leader alongside other choice candidates. The embattled Dogara had in a letter to the National Chairman of the APC explained that he could not honour the party’s request to appoint Femi Gbajabiamila as leader of the ‘Green Chamber’, arguing that it would be against the spirit of federal character since the South West region where Mr. Gbajabiamila hails from had already produced the Deputy Speaker.
“We feel strongly, that the issue of federal character in the election or appointment of principal officers of the House is a cardinal legal, moral and constitutional principle that should be respected by our party. It is, however, obvious from the letter under reference that this principle was not taken into consideration.”
He added: “It is evident that there are existing Precedents and Practices which the House has been following for a long time and in particular since 1999. Since 1999, Zonal Caucuses of a Party have been primarily responsible for nominating Principal Officers of the House, other than the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that are elected by the entire House.
Mr. Dogara’s letter to Oyegun was dated Thursday, July 16, 2015 and titled “Update on election of Principal officers of the 8th House of Representatives” while Oyegun’s letter had Ref. No: APC/NHDQ/NAM/01/015/06 and dated June 23, 2015. In the letter, the Speaker also declared that though he was still loyal to the APC, he wouldn’t grant to Oyegun’s request as doing so is unconstitutional and would disrupt the House proceedings on June 25, 2015. He, however, proposed to distribute the officers in the house based on the Federal Character Principle as follows: Dogara as speaker from the North-East; Deputy Speaker – Hon. Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun (South West); House Leader North-West (with 86 APC members); Deputy House Leader North-Central (with 33 APC members); Chief Whip South-South; and Deputy Chief Whip South-East zone.
“We most respectfully urge that our above proposal be considered on its merits and that efforts should be made to resolve this matter so that the House will resume its working recess in a peaceful atmosphere”, Dogara said in concluding part of the letter, stressing: “Our Party must not have the undistinguished honour of setting a precedent outside of the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of the House”.
By Olisemeka Obeche