• N’Assembly leadership crisis delays constitution of committees
An ego war, arising from a spurned offer, which has pitted House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, against his rival for the speakership, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, is at the heart of the current impasse over the emergence of principal officers, New Telegraph has learnt.
Sources said at the weekend that the failure of Gbajabiamila, who lost the speakership to Dogara by marginal votes of eight, to yield to the demand of having Dogara as his deputy when the odds favoured the former Minority Leader to emerge as speaker, is at the root of the current impasse in the House. Despite a directive by the All Progressives Congress (APC) that Gbajabiamila should be the Majority Leader, the speaker and his supporters have kicked against it.
After a series of peace talks, the speaker’s group, last week, shifted ground a bit by conceding the position of House Leader to the Gbajabiamila group, but with a proviso that the former minority leader should not be the one to take the post. But the Gbajabiamila group has rejected the proposal, insisting on the sanctity of the APC list of principal officers sent to the House.
Following the impasse, the two opposing groups are calling for election for the emergence of the principal officers. It was also learnt that the leadership crisis rocking the two chambers of the National Assembly, Senate and House, has stymied efforts to constitute committees by the legislature. According to sources, when former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, enlisted the support of the then Speaker and now Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to make Gbajabiamila speaker of the Eighth National Assembly, the deal was to have Dogara as the deputy.
“Tinubu contacted Tambuwal to help with the project. Initially, Tambuwal expressed doubts about Gbajabiamila’s ability to manage the affairs of the House without being impeached. This is based on his not too cozy relationship with his colleagues. “Notwithstanding, the APC national leader asked Tambuwal to do this for him.
The governor met with Dogara and his group to accept the deputy speakership, which they accepted. But Gbajabiamila rejected the arrangement on the strength that his group had adopted Mohammed Monguno from Borno State. That was how the alliance broke down,” a lawmaker privy to the deal told New Telegraph. Tinubu was said to have been assured that without Dogara, the Gbajabiamila speakership was a done deal.
The last attempt by the Dogara group to broker a deal with Gbajabiamila failed on June 5 when the leadership of the APC conducted a mock election. With most APC members- elect on the side of Gbajabiamila, Dogara knew he could not win the mock election. At the venue of the election, Dogara again offered to be Gbajabiamila’s deputy. Again, Gbajabiamila turned down the offer, the source added. “We had already picked Monguno as deputy, so there was no way we could adopt Dogara as deputy.
This is strictly based on trust. As at that time, we were confident of winning. That informed our decision,” a pro-Gbajabiamila lawmaker told our reporter. Gbajabiamila had earlier rejected Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin as deputy. A press conference to announce the alliance was cancelled at the last minute.
Today, Jibrin is one of the arrowheads of Dogara group. He is the spokesman of the group. A senior member of the APC confirmed to New Telegraph that the rejection by the Gbajabiamila group informed the current resistance by the speaker to have his rival as the House Leader.
“The position of leader of the House is sensitive. You can’t have your major opponent as the occupant of the office. Dogara will rather prefer someone else than having Gbajabiamila as the leader. If Dogara had not won the election, he would have lost out. So, this is just a payback time.
For someone to have denied him the privilege of serving as deputy speaker, there is no basis to have him as a principal officer,” a pro- Dogara lawmaker said. But a member of the House cited the case of Tambuwal and Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande in the Seventh Assembly.
The duo contested for the speakership. While Tambuwal emerged speaker in 2011, Hon. Adeola-Akande was the choice of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Majority Leader and she was accepted. However, the argument of the Dogara group against the Adeola- Akande’s comparison is that the scenario did not deprive any of the six geopolitical zones of representatives in the principal officers produced by the majority party in the House.
They added that the South-West has already produced Dogara’s deputy in the person of Hon. Yusuf Lasun and if Gbajabiamila should emerge the House Leader, the geopolitical zone will have two slots in the principal officers’ positions while the North-Central, which also contributed immensely to the APC electoral success will have no representatives. Meanwhile, more than a month after the National Assembly was inaugurated, both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Dogara are yet to constitute standing committees due to absence of selection committees.
The selection committee is responsible for the nomination of members into standing committees of each chamber. Although, the standing orders of the two chambers stipulate that some special committees shall be established within the first 30 days after the first sitting, the presiding officers are handicapped because the selection committee is composed of principal officers yet to be decided, particularly in the House.
The committee on selection consists of all presiding and principal officers and other members representing the six geopolitical zones. Although the Senate president, two weeks ago, announced principal officials, he can’t appoint chairmen and member of standing committees. Besides, the leadership as announced by the Senate president, is still being contested by the APC.
Dogara, on the other hand, has set up five ad hoc committees without the selection committee because they are engrossed in a tussle over the constitution of majority principal officers. Order 18 Rule 118 (1) states that “there shall be a committee on selection appointed or constituted at the commencement of every assembly to perform the functions allocated to it by these rules, and for such other matters as the House may from time to time refer to it.”
Order 118(2) of the rule says “the committee on selection shall consist of the speaker, deputy speaker, House leader, House whip and minority leadership; provided that the speaker, if the need arises, may co-opt other members into the committee and shall, by so doing, reflect the equality of the geopolitical zones” According to Rule 118 (4) (a) to (d) “the committees’ jurisdiction shall cover nominating members to serve on standing committees and special committees; nominating such members as may be going on parliamentary delegations other than committees; monitor, review and evaluate, at least quarterly, the performance of committees, chairmen and deputy chairmen of committees.” It was learnt that until the leadership crisis is resolved, the legislature may not function optimally.