The Femi Gbajabiamila-led faction of the All Progressives Congress members in the House of Representatives, has said it is prepared for an election to determine the Majority Leader of House, to end weeks of bickering over leadership positions.
The group said it has made its position clear to a peace committee headed by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, that its members will only accept an offer that guarantees the emergence of Mr. Gbajabiamila as the leader of APC in the House.
“However, as a group that wants peace and quick solution to the logjam in the House, the APC loyalists group would equally subscribe to an election among entire members of the APC House Caucus where all members irrespective of zones would exercise their right to elect their principal officers,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.
The opposing faction of APC lawmakers in the House, led by the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had told PREMIUM TIMES that it was willing to concede the Majority Leader position to the Gbajabiamila group, on the condition that the candidate for the slot must be from any zone other than North East or South West, since both zones produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.
The group cited the federal character, and warned that it will call for an election if its offer failed to resolve the crisis.
Mr. Gbajabiamila, backed by the APC leadership to be named the Majority Leader, is from the South West.
The party had initially adopted him for the position of speaker, but later settled for the Majority leader — the third most senior position after the deputy speaker — after he lost the election to the seat to Mr. Dogara.
The House of Representatives has since its inauguration been rocked by crisis over key leadership positions.
The Gbajabiamila group said Wednesday it was unaware of the offer by the Dogara group, as the mediator, Mr. Tambuwal, was yet to brief its members after their initial meeting.
In a statement signed by Rufai Chachangi, from Niger State, the group said “We the 174 APC Loyalists group of the House are aware that there was a private discussion between Gov. Aminu Tambuwal and President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday evening at the State House. Also aware that Gov. Tambuwal briefed the press that there would be a meeting between him and Speaker Dogara’s group same day.
“To the best of our knowledge, no counter-offer has been made to the APC loyalists group after her first meeting with Tambuwal peace committee wherein the APC loyalists clearly stated that in line with party supremacy, resolution reached at last APC NEC meeting, the position of the party on Femi Gbajabiamila as the House Leader is non-negotiable.”
Against the background of the Federal Character principle cited by Dogara group, the Gbajabiamila group said, “Interestingly the six geopolitical zones in the country are not recognised by the constitution. But if they wish to play the zoning card then the Senate and House cannot be headed by the North.”
They alleged that the Dogara group had rejected zoning formula proposed by the party before the June 6 election, but now plays the “zoning card”.
Mr. Dogara says he wants to ensure no zone is excluded from the principal offices.
But the APC-backed Gbajabiamila group said, “For avoidance of doubt, the issue of South East being denied a principal officer’s seat in the House is hogwash. We have respect for people of South East but we cannot hold brief for a zone that produced only two “new” APC members.
“The issue of exclusion of South East does not exist rather they are not qualified to be principal officers of the House. For emphasis and clarity the provision of standing rules of the House, Order 7 Rule 37 states that ”Only members with cognate legislative experience as members of the national assembly shall be eligible for appointment as principal officers.
“We are also surprised that a group led by Speaker Dogara who is a lawyer is talking about a court action presumably instigated by him based on federal character, when a fresh law school graduate knows that the issue of federal character as enshrined in S.14 of the constitution is non-justiciable and of no legal consequence.”
The group continued, “In playing his mediatory role, the former House Speaker, Gov. Tambuwal agreed to take our position to Dogara group for consideration and convene a joint meeting of both groups, which is yet to be convened as at Wednesday evening. So any purported decision reeled out to the public in the name of the National Assembly peace pact before such joint meeting is lopsided and not acceptable to the APC Loyalists group”.