The controversy rocking the House of Representatives over its speakership took a deeper dimension yesterday.
LEADERSHIP can authoritatively report that there are plans by some members of the House to disrupt sitting tomorrow in protest against the voting procedure adopted by the lower house.
In what they described as moves to “democratise” the leadership selection process, the lawmakers had, last Tuesday, speedily amended the House Rules after voting overwhelmingly to change the rules to provide for the next speaker’s election by open-secret ballot.
Before now, presiding officers of the House were elected through the open ballot system. But, in a manner reminiscent of what some disgruntled members House described as a bid to pave way for Hon. Alhaji Abiola Muraina, who is said to be the one chosen by the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the next speaker, the rules were changed to replace the system with the open-secret ballot system.
But the lawmakers were said to have been under pressure to resist the voting pattern so as to pave way for the purported zoning arrangement.
One of our sources and minority chief whip of the House, Hon Suleiman Abdulraman Kawu (ANPP Kano) said that some state governors and certain influential politicians were said to be behind the plot to change the voting procedure. They were also alleged to have made some financial inducement to some of the lawmakers.
He said, “I can tell you authoritatively that some people have induced our colleagues to cause confusion during our sitting on Tuesday (tomorrow). Their game plan is to ensure that the House reverses its decision over voting procedure because they believe that the system will affect their plan to install somebody that is not popular in the House.
“I wish to say here that the issue on ground is not about zoning. Zoning is dead with the emergence of Jonathan’s presidency and we cannot change the rule midway. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
Reminding the lawmakers that the issue at stake was not zoning, but competence and who has the capacity to lead the House in the 7th assembly, Kawu said, “Hon Aminu Tambuwal is more competent than Muraina Ajibola because he has the experience to take the House to the greatest height.
“Besides, he is a lawyer and a Barman to the core who has distinguished himself in the House. His contribution to the legal backing of the National Industrial Court is worthy of note.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan may have resolved to appoint the new secretary to the government of federation (SGF) in the South-East despite all the discordant tunes coming with that part of the country, LEADERSHIP can now authoritatively report. The president has affirmed his commitment to the maintenance of the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Since the expanded national caucus of the ruling party met in Abuja and shared some key political offices among the six geo-political zones, the polity has remained divided over it, especially on which zone should produce the next speaker of the House of Representatives and the SGF.
According to the party, the new zoning formula is as follows: president (South-South), vice-president (North-West), Senate president (North-Central), speaker (South-West), deputy Senate president (South-East), deputy speaker (North-East), national chairman (North-East), SGF (South-East), Senate leader (South-West), House leader (South-South), Senate whip (North-West) and the House chief whip (South-East).
But of all the zones, the South-East appears dissatisfied as the people are demanding either the senate presidency or the speakership of the House of Representatives to justify the massive support given to the party during the presidential poll. As that agitation was going on, the South-East caucus in the Senate greeted the arrangement by asking the incumbent deputy Senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to continue in the same office.
However, if the information gathered at the weekend by LEADERSHIP is anything to go by, there is no going back on the zoning arrangement as President Jonathan has made up his mind to stand by the policy even as he endorses the candidacy of former Senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, as the in-coming secretary to the government of the federation (SGF).
According to a highly placed Presidency source, it was the leadership of the Ndigbo socio-cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, that met with the president during the week to inform him of their choice of Anyim as the next SGF and they were asked to meet with the South-East governors with a view to receiving their endorsement, having made it known to them his readiness to work with Anyim.
Speaking further, our source, a member of the Presidential Campaign Organization and a close ally of Jonathan, argued that those eyeing the office do not have the quality, the ability and the capacity, the character, the exposure and the experience needed for that exalted office. “Anyim Pius Anyim has them all and this gave him the upper hand ahead of other aspirants to that office,” he said.
Meanwhile a political organisation, Senators Forum, has begun making contacts for incumbent Senate president David Mark with a view to helping him retain the office when the seventh National Assembly begins next month.
According to an inside account, the forum, an umbrella body to all the former and serving senators under the chairmanship of Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe, had not only met with Senator Mark to throw their weight behind his ambition but to assure him of using their influence to woo the needed support for him among the newly elected senators including the ranking members.
Confirming this new development, the national publicity secretary of the forum, Senator Sunday Fajinmi, said, “If we truly want a stable National Assembly, Senator David Mark should be allowed to continue in that office. He started well and he is doing well. Such a distinguished Senator should be allowed to continue leading the National Assembly. We all know how he led the Senate to resolve the political logjam when the former president, Umaru Yar’ Adua hurriedly left the country for Saudi Arabia for medical check-up without a proper handing over to his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The Senate intervened with the doctrine of necessity, that restored sanity into the polity.”
Meanwhile, dynamism of power notwithstanding, a newly elected senator, Hosea Ayoola Agboola, has been endorsed as the new Senate leader of the seventh National Assembly even as the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is in a dilemma over the next speaker.
The opposition ACN recorded landslide victory in the South-West and, by implications, kicked the zone out of the mainstream, leaving the PDP with no governors, only one Senator and five members in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, all in Oyo State.
According to the zoning arrangement of the party, both the speaker and the Senate leader are to be chosen among its members in the South-West and this is generating heat in the polity, especially the speakership which the South-East and the North-West are after.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, a leader of the PDP in the zone who does not want his name in print disclosed that the only senator-elect in the geo-political zone, Hosea Ayoola Agboola (PDP, Oyo North), had been endorsed as the new Senate leader. He was Oyo State commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs.
“Let me make it abundantly clear to you and those that are kicking against the zoning arrangement of our party that there is no going back. Hon. Muraina Ajibola is the speaker-in-waiting while Hosea Agboola would be the Senate leader. It amazes me why some people, especially those who are not members of the party, want to amend the rule of the game after the game has started,” he said.
When he was reminded that the case of Murana seems better than that of Agboola who is a green horn yet anointed to lead the highest legislative chamber in the land, our source who argued that there was precedence in the Senate cited the election of Senator Ike Ekweremadu in 2007 as the Deputy Senate President without any experience.
He disclosed that the leadership of the ACN was in dilemma over the speakership because “they know too well that our people are too sophisticated to accept a cork and bull story. They don’t want to support our member and they cannot support the North as well because doing so means they are destroying the Southwest.”