There was a new twist in the crisis rocking the House of Representatives Saturday as some key members of the Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila-led Loyalists Group openly bought into the sharing formula for the principal offices in the House, as proposed by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The new arrangement now being referred to as the ‘Dogara Formula’ had, in line with the Federal Character principle, zoned the offices of majority leader to the North-West; deputy majority leader to the North-Central; Chief Whip to the South-South; and Deputy Whip to the South-East.
Signs that the ranks of the members of the Gbajabiamila-led group had been broken began to emerge few days back, following a letter from the Speaker to the APC leadership in which he explained the reasons why it would be difficult for the remaining principal officers to emerge according to the party’s proposed sharing formula, citing violation of a constitutional provision of federal character principle.
But the opposing camp argued it was ‘not justiciable’, hence its insistence on adherence to party supremacy on the matter. Dogara has also come up with a sharing formula, which according to him, was more nationalistic.
On the heels of Dogara’s letter to the party, the Consolidation Group announced its support for the ‘Dogara Formula’ and consequently, endorsed Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa as House Leader; Hon. Buba Jibrin as Deputy Leader; Hon. Pally Iriase as Chief whip; and Hon. Chika Okafor as Deputy Whip, edging out Gbajabiamila and Monguno from the race, tactically.
Doguwa and Iriase are members of the Loyalists Group, headed by Gbajabiamila, who was favoured to emerge House leader by the party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Consolidation Group in a statement by its spokesman, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, called on its supporters to intensify lobbying at the zonal caucuses for the emergence of its nominees.
“For the benefit of enlightenment, it is important to state that in terms of the leadership status of these vacant positions, the House Leader is the most senior, followed by the Chief Whip. In the spirit of reconciliation and unity, Speaker Dogara has graciously conceded the positions of House Leader and Chief Whip to the Femi Gbajabiamila group…Kindly note that Hon Alhassan Doguwa is the Head of the Gbajabiamila’s Group while Hon. Pally Iriase was in the Speakership race but stepped down for Gbajabiamila and assumed a very prominent role in the Gbajabiamila group,” the statement read in part.
In line with the distribution of the positions, as proposed by the Speaker, the group also presented Hon. Buba Jibrin from the North Central, Kogi State, as Deputy House Leader, and Hon. Chika Okafor from the South East, Imo State, as the Deputy Chief Whip.
But the spokesman of the Loyalists Group, Hon. Nasiru Sani Zangon-Daura, in a letter to the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, insisted on party supremacy in the selection of the principal officers.
However, two other members of the Loyalists Group, Hon. Muktari Dandutse and Hon. Tijjani Abdulkadir Jobe, in a joint statement, said the July 18 letter to Oyegun, signed by Zangon-Daura, did not reflect the wishes of the group, as it did not emanate from any formal or collective meeting of their group.
Dandutse and Jobe urged the party to accept Dogara’s concession of the two major principal positions to the Loyalists Group, in the interest of peace and stability.
“We make bold to state that the view expressed by Hon. Nasiru Zangon-Daura was his personal opinion and never has the Loyalists Group met or agreed to write formally to the leadership of the party in reaction to last week’s entreaties by Speaker Dogara to the national chairman of our great party on the way forward,” the statement read.
Reaffirming their faith in the Loyalists Group, the duo further disclosed that the last time the group met was the July 3 meeting of the APC National Executive Committee (NEC), where it accepted to engage the Governor Aminu Tambuwal-led reconciliation committee.
Saturday’s development was therefore a clear deviation from the instructions of the leadership of the governing APC, which had earlier directed Dogara to announce the names of Gbajabiamila, Doguwa, Mohammed Tahir Monguno and Iriase as majority leader, deputy leader, chief whip and deputy whip of the House respectively.
But in a twist of events, the trio of Doguwa, Monguno and Iriase addressed a joint press conference in Abuja with the spokesperson of the Dogara group, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin in attendance, denouncing their earlier stand on party supremacy, while pledging support for the ‘Dogara Formula’ in the interest of “peace.”
“In light of this development, it is heart-warming to announce to you that the disagreement in the House, which many have erroneously labelled as crisis, has finally come to an end.
“All other interests, including those excluded from the principal officers, specifically Hon Gbajabiamila and Hon Monguno will be duly accommodated with commensurate responsibility to serve. Since the Speaker has about 200 positions to share out, many members will have the opportunity to serve the country,” Jibrin said.
Earlier, Iriase, who spoke first from the Loyalists group, said that they had since realised that the Constitution compels all the heads of the three arms of government to ensure compliance with the Federal Character as enshrined and that it was time to bury the hatchet and move forward.
For his part, Doguwa said the presence of Monguno, Iriase and himself at the press briefing showed that the crisis was truly over, having disagreed and misunderstood each other for a long time.
Monguno said he would have been the last person to be part of the arrangement but for the need to ensure peace and fairness in the House, hence he has followed suit.
Meanwhile, a close ally of Gbajabiamila, who craved anonymity, said when contacted that the Lagos-born lawmaker was not party to the latest deal.
This was corroborated hours later when the spokesman of the Gbajabiamila camp, Zangon-Daura, issued a terse statement denouncing the ‘Dogara Formula’.
“The APC Loyalists group hereby denies and unequivocally rejects any purported endorsement of a so-called formula on the APC leadership in the House of Representatives. Any member of our group who claims to be part of this arrangement acts on his own and not on behalf of the group,” Zangon-Daura said.
Obviously, the promise of juicy committee leadership positions to some other members of the Loyalists Group has further widened the cracks among the self-styled ‘APC Loyalists.’
Who’ll emerge Senate Minority Leader?
Senator Godswill Akpabio of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, appears to be coasting home with the position of Senate Minority Leader position, ending a long-held ranking tradition that runs in the Senate for occupation of that position.
His decision to vie for the position, which was to the South-south zone by the PDP had sparked curiosity, considering that he is, by all standards, a first time lawmaker eyeing a principal position in the Senate.
By the rules in the National Assembly, a lawmaker, especially since 2003, is eligible for consideration to be a principal officer (either on the platform of the majority or minority political party in the National Assembly) if he or she has served as a lawmaker.
The Senate Standing Order (2011 as amended), stipulates that any Senator who has been elected and has been re-elected into the chamber has preference over a member who is newly elected into the chamber.
Chapter 2 of the Senate Rules, specifically removes any ambiguity about the status of senators in the chamber. Rule 2, with the headline: Election of Presiding and Other Officers states that in determining ranking, “The following order shall apply: (I) Senators returning based on number of times re-elected; (II) Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives; (III) Senators elected as senators for the first time.” Based on this ranking rule, only Senators who have been returned based on the number of times re-elected are expected to form the nucleus of the leadership.
The essence of application of ranking for such positions is much more about legislative experience.
As it stands in the Senate, Sen James Manager (Delta-south) is the most ranking senator as he has served in four consecutive senates since 2003. He is followed closely by Sen George Sekibo (Rivers-east) who has been a Senator since 2007.
However, while the bulk of other senators from the region are first-timers, the next ranking senator is Sen John Enoh (Cross River-central), who was a ranking lawmaker in the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate.
But the chance of Sen Manager getting the slot was somewhat ruled out with the emergence of Hon Leo Ogor, as majority leader in the House of Representatives. Ogor hails from Delta State, same as Sen. Manager, which would have altered the spirit and intent of the zoning arrangement by the party.
While no clear reason has been adduced for Sen Sekibo’s seeming laid back stance over the position, it was gathered that it is not unconnected with an unfavorable disposition of forces from his state to his emergence.
His perceived lingering gubernatorial ambition is working against him. Unlike Sen. Sekibo, Sen. Enoh, is said to be interested in the position. And his aspiration is reportedly receiving support from some lawmakers, thus, setting up a likely contest between him and Sen. Akpabio.
The aspiration of Sen. Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, appears to be rattling the unity within the ranks of the PDP senators, which if not properly handled, could set off a new friction within the party.
The situation is made more precarious, given that the PDP, which led the National Assembly in the last 16 years, and established the ranking rule, had in the buildup to the scramble for the minority positions, called for the recognition of ranking, ethnic and gender sensitivity in the selection of the party’s minority principal officers.
Akpabio’s supporters argued that Senator Ken Nnamani was a first time senator when he became the Senate President between 2005 – 2007, and presided over the turbulent period of the third term agenda saga. Sen. Nnamani was elected to the Senate in 2003 and emerged Senate President in 2005 at a period the PDP zoned the Senate presidency to the South-east, and Enugu State, favoured at that material time by the South-east Senate Caucus to produce the Senate president.
Those opposed to Akpabio insist that he is a rookie lawmaker and that if the arguments against Sen. Manager and Sen. Sekibo – the two most ranking senators from the zone – should stick, Sen. Enoh should have it.
Choosing Sen. Enoh, who came from the House for the position would be a sort of déjà vu, given that Sen. Ita Enang, who was given the chairmanship of the Rules and Business Committee – one of the most sensitive and tasking committees in the National Assembly – was a Senate first timer from the House of Representatives.
A legal move to stop Akpabio has, however, suffered a setback. A federal high court had fixed last Wednesday for the ruling on an ex-parte application, seeking an order to restrain the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and members of the PDP South-south Senate Caucus from appointing the Senate minority leader.
The plaintiffs – Alaye Pedro and Dr Okechukwu Ibeh – who are also members of the party, want the restraining order to last until the determination of their main suit.
Pedro is a PDP member from Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State, while Ibeh is a PDP member from Umukegwu/Umuodia local government area of Imo State.
Their suit was anchored on the provision of Order 3(2) of Senate Standing Orders 2015, which prohibits the appointment of a first-time senator into the Senate’s principal offices.
The suit met a setback as the court dismissed the ex-parte application, saying that the applicants lacked the locus standi to make such a prayer.
As such, it would seem that the coast is clear for Akpabio, depending on the outcome of the position of the South-south PDP caucus in the Senate, which has the responsibility of presenting their choice of who gets the position.
With the majority All Progressives Congress, APC, waiting to capitalise on any slip up within the PDP, it would be interesting to see how the PDP leadership would manage the situation, considering the fact that the party can hardly afford to gamble with the unity it sorely craves in order to remain a formidable opposition and strong contender for power at the center in 2019.
Ekweremadu Cannot Resign – Sen Ohize
Senator Salihu Ohize represented Kogi-central in the 6th Senate. In this interview with Ruth Choji, the APC stalwart made nonsense of the call by some APC senators on Sen Ike Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president to resign. He also berated the APC leadership for not being assertive on so many issues:
What lessons do you think the current government should learn from the last one?
They must know that if they don’t perform, the voters will remove them in the next election. There is an example to be used because this is the first time a ruling government was removed in Nigeria through an election.
The APC seems to be disorganised since it won the elections. What will it take for them to manage their success well?
I don’t want to judge those that are involved, particularly the National Chairman, Senator Saraki himself or the leadership of the party. But everybody in a political party has personal interest, regardless of who he is. Everybody has his interest, nobody is playing party politics for the sake of politics. It is only personal interest that is permanent. A normal party man must learn to obey the supremacy of the party, provided it is asserted. If one disobeys and is allowed to go scot-free, others are likely to follow suite, so we must always enforce and obey party supremacy. But you cannot blame some of the players too, because the party itself overlooked some things for obvious reasons.
But do you think Senator Saraki is capable of leading the Senate?
He is capable, every ranking senator is capable of leading the Senate when given the opportunity. But it is not capability that we are talking about because the party has its choice for Senate Presidency, and that should have been defined from the beginning, but everybody was left to fend for himself. You find it difficult to respect a higher authority when you have succeeded in fighting your own cause.
Do you see the party overcoming this problem?
There is no problem that is insurmountable, APC is an integrated party and they won the elections. This kind of problem is likely to crop up. It is the ability of the leadership to resolve the problem that makes them leaders.
Should people like the Senate President Saraki be punished for disobeying the party?
People that go against the party are supposed to be punished, that is where I talked of assertion. From the beginning, those that went against the party were not punished. The constitution of the party says, those who tamper with the list of delegates must be punished, but what has been done to those who did it? There were so many punishment prescribed in the constitution but they were not respected. The party did not do anything, so you cannot jump up today and say that because somebody won the Senate Presidency against the party’s choice, the person must be punished. They allowed it to happen in the party from the beginning. When they were supposed to have asserted their decision from the beginning, they didn’t do it for their selfish reasons. During the primaries, those who brought complaints should have been looked into and decisions asserted but it was overlooked by the party.
Some are of the opinion that the chairman should resign. Do you think it will restore discipline in the party?
That is too simplistic. It will not solve the problem. Failure is part of the game; it is either you win or lose. Was it the party chairman that told Saraki to go and vie for the Senate presidency? It was not the party chairman that said Lawal should lose. It makes no logical sense at all for people to call on the chairman to resign.
Everybody knows the role Sen. Bola Tinubu played in the installation of this government, but some Nigerians think that there are moves to clip his wings. What is your take on this?
For anybody to think they can remove Bola Tinubu or clip his wings in the party is joking. Apart from committing his personal resources to the party and the general elections, he was instrumental to the formation of the party and his singular courage made the formation of the party possible. Tinubu was there at the beginning and nurtured the party from AD to ACN, to now APC. So if anybody thinks he can be checked or removed just like that, the person must be helping to destroy the party.
Sen. Ekweremadu is being accused of tampering with the senate rules; as one who is conversant with these things, is it possible for one person to do that?
The only way that it can be done is when there are loopholes, so you can cash in on it to make some changes. I don’t think he did it, but remember nothing is impossible on earth. You can tamper with anything, but I don’t know if he did it or not.
But did Ekweremadu’s emergence as deputy Senate President surprise you, knowing that APC is the majority party in both chambers?
The other APC members were not there, it was only about seven APC members that were present and the PDP were all in attendance, so they formed a quorum. But they also knew that if the other members of APC were there, there was no way they could have won the deputy Senate President seat. I don’t know if there was a connivance, if there was, then they must also concede something to the PDP.
Some APC members have been calling on Ekweremadu to resign. Do you think he should under the circumstances?
If we judge from the past, the ruling party always produces the key leaders of the assembly. But a situation led to the emergence of Sen. Ekweremadu as Senate deputy president. You can elect the Senate president or the deputy Senate president by simple majority, but you cannot remove them by simple majority, you can only remove any of them by two-thirds majority. So you can’t tell somebody to resign and expect him to do so. Why did he look for the position in the first place? The man cannot resign until APC is able to pull the carpet from under his feet. APC should be able to muster the two-thirds majority to remove him. I will not go further than this but APC must look for a situation to get a majority to remove him.
Some Nigerians are beginning to think that the President is a bit slow; what is your take on some of the actions he has taken so far?
I disagree, he may have his reason. Maybe he wants to take his time to make sure that he does the proper things.
The appointment of the acting chairman of INEC has drawn lots of mixed reactions. How do you see the appointment?
The President has the constitutional power to appoint the chairman of INEC. If he feels that the lady is right for the position, we must respect it. When Jonathan appointed his own, why didn’t they complain? When Obasanjo did his own, why didn’t people complain? So Buhari has his reasons for appointing her and any other person he feels comfortable with. The same with the appointment of ministers. He is being careful so that he will not appoint a rogue and go back the following day to change him. Nigerians must give him time to make sure that he does the right thing.
The insurgents have increased their bombing campaign and it appears as if the government is not doing enough?
I disagree, 60 days is too short to assess the ability of a President to tame the Boko Haram insurgents. He may have his own approach, but we will assess him after 100 days in office.
There is a gubernatorial election in Kogi State later this year. Can you assess the progress of Kogi State as an entity?
Like we have said, Kogi is not developed at all. There is no single project on ground. The drainage leading to Government House is not cleared. The taps in Government House are not running. I learned that the governor bought Agura Hotel and has revived his airline business as as achievement, yet there is nothing to show in the state. When you are going to the state capital, you will see ramshackle buildings called shops. There is nothing to assess the governor at all. He has not performed up to any percentage at all.
What are the chances of APC in Kogi, knowing that the PDP is strong in the state?
If the APC is willing to organise itself, then it is possible for us to take over the state. If the PDP had performed, then you might find it hard to convince the people but, with what the PDP government has done, it is easy to take the seat from them. All the health institutions are bastardised, teachers are not paid salaries, civil servants are paid percentages of their salaries and there is no project on ground to show that the government has done anything.
Are you going to contest the governorship ticket of your party, the APC?
If my people call on me to do it, then I will do it. I don’t want to impose myself on the people. There are already so many people looking for the position, but one must not be a governor to know that you must contribute your quota to the building of the party and the state.