The alliance of minority party House of Representatives members-elect has finally confirmed their candidature for Speaker of the 10th National Assembly.
Following a closed-door meeting in Abuja on Thursday night, the minority caucus announced its intention to challenge the ruling All Progressives Congress for the speakership seat, claiming that the ruling party has lost its majority status in the 10th House following the supplementary general elections in 2023.
A key member of the Peoples Democratic Party in the House who does not want to be named, who told our correspondent on Tuesday that there were “interesting times ahead,” has put forward the resolutions reached at the meeting on Thursday night.
The resolution partly read, “Buoyed by its numerical superiority in the 10th House of Representatives, the emergent minority caucus, ‘Greater Majority,’ has resolved to gun for the speakership position. Following the outcome of last Saturday’s supplementary elections, membership of the Minority caucus has swollen to 182, one vote more than the statutory benchmark required to elect a speaker – with prospects of gaining more members.
“Already, there are permutations to promote a speakership candidate from the South-South geopolitical zone and a deputy speaker from the North-West.
“Rising from an emergency meeting of the Minority Caucus leadership held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the caucus, made up of seven political parties, stated emphatically that it was primed to contest the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10th National Assembly.”
The opposition lawmakers argued that the 1999 Constitution “imbues every elected member with the statutory right to gun for any position, subject to the standing orders of the House.”
The members-elect added, “Besides the issue of ranking, every member is entitled to run for the Office of Speaker, regardless of political party affiliation.
“The APC or, indeed, any political party for that matter, reserves the right to regale itself with talks about micro-zoning leadership positions in the National Assembly. But the overriding question remains, are such fanciful engagements binding of the generality of members-elect? The answer today, tomorrow – and until our current Constitution is altered to reflect that desire – is a big NO.”
According to the ‘Greater Majority,’ the issues surrounding “this all-important question” is easily resolved, in the case of the House of Representatives, by Section 50(1)(b), to wit: “There shall be a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
The lawmakers stated, “While zoning is permitted, as an intra-party solution to the sharing of political offices, seeking to enforce such on the generality of members would be tantamount to affronting Section 50 of the Nigerian constitution.
“Besides, political parties must not always use the National Assembly as guinea pigs for their zoning fancies. Why didn’t these governors summon the same courage, which they currently seek to flaunt, during the presidential primaries, by micro-zoning the presidency to a particular zone? If it was okay to say that the presidential ticket should go to the South, then I think they ought to follow through with that same template and propose, for instance, that the speakership should go to the North.”
The members-elect of the House on the platform of opposition parties had on April 4, 2023, formed an alliance ahead of the inauguration of the 10th Assembly, with the aim of determining not only the leadership of the minority caucus but also the parliament.
The lawmakers-elect had met in Abuja where they mooted using their numbers as a bargaining power in their negotiations with the members seeking to be Speaker of the House in the coming Assembly.
The members-elect unanimously adopted the slogan, ‘10th Assembly: Greater Majority,’ at the meeting.
At the meeting were old and newly elected members of the House on the platforms of the seven opposition parties, namely Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Social Democratic Party, African Democratic Congress, Youth Progressive Party and New Nigeria Peoples Party.
Another major political alliance had emerged in the House of Representatives about two weeks after, when a ranking member of the ruling APC and another ranking member in the opposition PDP jointly issued a statement in Abuja to announce another group of members-elect across party lines, claiming that 283 members-elect of the House had resolved to abide by the zoning plan of the ruling party.
There are 360 members in the House.
Apart from supporting the APC on who becomes Speaker of the House in the coming 10th National Assembly, the ruling party would also play a role in the emergence of leadership for the minority caucus, according to a statement issued by Usman Kumo (APC/Gombe) and Kingsley Chinda (PDP/Rivers), as chairman and co-chairman of the alliance.
According to the serving members of the House, members of the coalition are in agreement with whatever the majority party – APC – decision on zoning might be.
The lawmakers also stated that members of the ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’ had agreed to put Nigeria first and allow the majority to form the leadership of the 10th House “with other opposition parties playing a major role.”
The statement was titled ‘10th House: Coalition of Lawmakers-elect Commits to Respect Decision on Zoning…as 283 Lawmakers-elect, Governors, Others Endorse New Forum for a JOINT TASK for a United, Progressive Nigeria.’
In 2019, Chinda and the three others lost their battle for the leadership of the minority caucus of the House.
Aspirants for the Office of the Speaker in the 10th Assembly, some of whom have yet to officially declare their ambitions, are now over 10. They are seeking to succeed the incumbent Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who has also been reelected for a sixth term.
The contenders include the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase; embattled Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara; Chairman, House Committee on Science Research Institutes, Olaide Akinremi; Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu; and Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Land Transport, Tajudeen Abbas; Chairman of the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, Abdulraheem Olawuyi; Chairman, House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli; Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Makki Yalleman; and Sani Jaji.
Wase and Gagdi are from Plateau in the North-Central geopolitical zone; Ado-Doguwa, Kano, North-West; Betara, Borno, North-East; Akinremi, Oyo, South-West; Kalu, Abia, South-East; Yalleman, Jigawa, North-West; Jaji, Zamfara, North-West; Soli, Katsina, North-West; Olawuyi, Kwara, North-Central; Abbas, Kaduna, North-West; and Onuoha, Imo, South-East.
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is from Lagos in the South-West, while the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, is from Borno State in the North-East.
The APC is now left to consider National Assembly leadership positions for the remaining zones – North-West, North-Central, South-South and South-East – in its much-awaited leadership zoning plan.
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