Ahead of the resumption of plenary today at the National Assembly, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caucus in the House of Representatives have opted for either a straw poll or outright election of their principal officers instead of adopting the recommended nominees by the party.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila is under pressure to either accept the party’s recommendations or bow to the demand of the members.
It was learnt that after series of talks last night, APC members in the House resolved to alter the party’s zoning formula.
The Speaker has been trying in the last 72 hours to douse the tension over the formula foisted on APC Caucus.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC on Friday decided to zone principal offices as follows: Majority Leader to Kano in the Northwest (being contested by ex-Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa and Goro Aminu Suleiman); Deputy Leader, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha(South-East); Chief Whip, Peter Akpatason (South-South) ; and Deputy Chief Whip, M. T. Monguno (North-East).
But horse-trading last night revealed that members have changed the zoning formula to read: Majority Leader, M. T. Monguno (North-East); Deputy Majority Leader, Peter Akpatason (South-South); Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa or Garba Datti (North-West); and Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (South-East).
A top source, who spoke in confidence, admitted that all is not well within the APC Caucus in the House because of alleged unilateral imposition of principal officers.
The source claimed that the NWC meeting on Friday did not consider the interest of members.
The source said: “The truth is that the APC did not really gauge the mood of members of its caucus in the House before picking the rest principal officers.
“We are demanding either a straw poll or outright election by APC members to determine the principal officers of the House. The party should leave us to iron things out amicably.
“We knew the political permutations which led to the emergence of Speaker Gbajabiamila; we don’t want a situation whereby we will be forced to go back to our fault lines. We want a stable Ninth House of Representatives.”
According to Wikipedia, “A straw poll or straw vote is an ad-hoc or unofficial vote. It is used to show the popular opinion on a certain matter, and can be used to help politicians know the majority opinion and help them decide what to say in order to gain votes. Straw polls provide dialogue among movements within large groups.”
The source gave insights into the intrigues in the APC Caucus in the House on principal officers.
The highly-placed source added: “For instance, most APC members have preference for M. T. Monguno, who is a fourth term member of the House. Apart from being a favourite of Gbajabiamila/ Wase Campaign Committee, he was supposed to be Gbajabiamila’s deputy in 2015 before they were defeated by Yakubu Dogara- Yusuf Lasun alliance. Now that Gbajabiamila has become the Speaker, members believe it is befitting to make Monguno the House Leader.
“In terms of experience, Monguno has come a long way. When Gbajabiamila was the House Minority Leader, Monguno was his deputy. There is likely to be disunity in the House if Monguno does not emerge as the Leader because the Northern members will rate the Speaker as betraying Monguno.
“So far, Monguno has been solely adopted for the office by the North-East Caucus in the House.”
But, to a member from the North-West, it will amount to inequality to have the Senate President from the North-East and House Leader from the same zone. “It is only the North-West that has been disadvantaged so far because we were fortunate to produce the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said, adding:
“Since 2015, the Northeast has been favoured by President Muhammadu Buhari. There is need to redress this power imbalance.
“The Northwest deserves the House Leader. Even among us, we do not want Kano/Jigawa axis to produce the House Leader. So, the APC was wrong to ask Hon. Ado Doguwa and Hon. Suleiman Goro from Kano to vie for the slot among the 24 members from Kano State.
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“We know Governor Abdullahi Ganduje is lobbying to have the House Leader slot for Hon. Ado Doguwa. We want power shift to Kaduna/ Katsina axis. We are making a strong case for Hon. Garba Datti (Kaduna State) as the House Leader from the North-West.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “If they are conceding Chief Whip to the North-West again, we are of a strong opinion that Doguwa should step down for Garba Datti.”
Another member claimed that members were unhappy that Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha(from Abia in the South-East), who defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to APC before the last general election might be compensated with the office of Deputy Leader.
The ranking member added: “Hon. Nkeiruka might be a fourth term member of the House, she cannot have her cake and eat it. She defected to APC, we accommodated her and gave her a ticket to return to the House.
“Emerging a Deputy Leader will be too much concession to Hon. Nkeiruka. We know she is the only ranking House woman member from the Southeast; she deserves to be a principal officer. But we are proposing her for Deputy Chief Whip.
“We won’t send a wrong message to the coming generation of politicians that defection pays. Nkieruka should also sacrifice.”
Gbajabiamila and Deputy Speaker Idris Wase have been engaging the aggrieved members in the APC Caucus.
“There is pressure, no doubt, on Speaker Gbajabiamila and Wase but consultations are ongoing. If it will create crisis on Tuesday, we will not mind to defer the choice of principal officers until a consensus is built.
“We will certainly address the challenges amicably. At worst, we will go for outright election of these principal officers as a popular option,” a third term member of the House said.
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