HOUSE LEADERSHIP: TENSION AS NORTHERN, S’EAST REPS PROTEST EXCLUSION

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There was tension at the House of Representatives on Wednesday as lawmakers from the North-Central geo-political zone protested the “purported” sharing of principal offices in the House by the All Progressives Congress to the exclusion of the zone.
They were joined by their APC colleagues from the South-East, who also accused the leadership of the party of allegedly being “unfair to the zone, in spite of working tirelessly to ensure that the APC had its presence in the South-East. ”
The party reportedly zoned the position of House Majority Leader to the South-West; Chief Whip to the North-East; Deputy Leader to the North-West; and Deputy Whip to the South-South.
Going by this formula, former House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who is from Lagos State, will most likely be the new majority leader.
The Chief Whip will likely be Mr. Mohammed Monguno, from Borno State, while the position of deputy Leader will go to a member from Kano State, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
Mr. Pally Iriase from Edo State is likely to be the deputy whip if the proposal of the party succeeds.
The party was said to have formally written the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on its decision, but he reportedly kept sealed lips over the matter on Wednesday owing to mounting tension on the issue.
The speaker did not read any letter from the party on the floor on Wednesday, as he was said not to be sure of what would be the likely reaction of aggrieved members.
It will be recalled that even the South-South that was given the position of deputy whip, rejected it on Tuesday.
Reacting to the development, the North-Central Caucus said it rejected the sharing of the positions by the APC without considering the “fact that the North-central zone controls over 50 members.”
The caucus also faulted the “claim” of the APC that it consulted with all zonal caucuses before it arrived at the sharing formula.
Speaking at a news conference at the National Assembly in Abuja, the Leader of the caucus, Mr. Ahmad Pattegi, said, “We, therefore, strongly reject the purported selection by the party, which we see as being in conflict with the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“The caucus believes strongly that there should be fairness and equity in the selection of other principal positions of the House, following the emergence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
“We believe it will be inconsiderate of the party to consider both the North-East and South-West zones after both zones have produced the speaker and deputy speaker respectively.
“We have resolved to pursue this injustice vial all civil and legitimate channels.”
The tone of the South-East caucus, which has two members in the House, was not different as it expressed disappointment over the sharing of the positions without giving any to the zone.
The Leader of the caucus, Mr. Chukwukere Ikechukwu, called on the APC ‘s leadership to reverse its decisions.
“We reject in its entirety, the distribution of the positions and we call on the party to reverse it.
“We condemn it in its entirety,” he stated.
Earlier on the floor, Dogara fought hard to prevent an exchange of hot words between Gbajabiamila and former House Deputy Leader, Leo Ogor, from degenerating to use of abusing language.
Gbajabiamila and Ogor, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker, had always been against each other at the 7th Assembly where they held the posts of minority leader and deputy leader respectively.
But, the animosity between the two has worsened since June 9 when Ogor openly supported Dogara to become the speaker of the 8th House in an election which Gbajabiamila lost by eight votes.
On Wednesday, the two quarrelled over the rules on procedure for amending motions on the floor.
A motion on attacks on farmers by herdsmen was being debated when a member, Mr. Musa Serkin Ada, moved to amend it.
But, Ogor raised a point of order to argue that the rules of the House did not provide for the body of a motion to be amended.
Dogara sustained Ogor’s order and ruled on the issue as concluded.
However, as the speaker made to call the next item on the Order Paper, Gbajabiamila objected and raised a point of rider to re-open the matter on which Dogara had already decided.
The Lagos lawyer quoted Order 8 (32) to point out that “any part of a motion” could be amended, contrary to the earlier ruling in favour of Ogor.
“We are setting a precedent in this House, which I think we have to be properly guided,” he said.
As Gbajabiamila spoke, Ogor sprang up from his seat to complain that it was “in breach” of proceedings for him to attempt to re-open a matter decided by the speaker.
“We should all try as much as possible to respect ourselves and the rules of this House.
“The speaker has ruled on this issue; our rules say you can only bring up such an issue via a substantive motion.
“He is a third timer (won election to the House for three times) and he should know that what he is doing is not right,” Ogor shouted, as he pointed his finger at Gbajabiamila.
The former minority leader too responded that he knew why Ogor was agitated.
“I understand your worries; I do,” he added.
Dogara intervened to stop the two from further exchanging words, but he still ruled in favour of Ogor.
-Punch

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