NIGERIA: Dogara Defeats Gbajabiamila, Emerges Reps Speaker

A member of the House of Representatives from Bauchi State, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has been elected the Speaker of the House.

In an election to pick the Speaker of the 8th legislature in Abuja on Tuesday, Dogara, a legal practitioner, scored 182 votes to beat the member, representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency in Lagos State, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who scored 174 votes.

In a primary conducted by the ruling All Progressives Congress last Saturday, Gbajabiamila had beaten Dogara to emerge the consensus candidate of the APC for the Reps top post.

But going by the happenings in  the ruling All Progressives Congress and among its members in the Assembly, the elections of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives may not be rancour-free.

The party had on Saturday conducted  mock elections  that saw Femi Gbajabiamila and Ahmad Lawan as consensus candidates for the House speaker and Senate President respectively.

But the mock elections were condemned by Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, who, in spite of the APC directive to them and their supporters, insisted on vying for the Senate Presidency and speakership on Tuesday(today).

Saraki and Dogora are hoping to garner most of their votes from the Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers.

As of press time on Monday, a series of meetings by stakeholders were   about to commence at different locations in Abuja as the aspirants  intensified their lobby to clinch the coveted positions.

A truce meeting   that was to be presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo   was allegedly   shunned by Dogara, Saraki and their supporters.

The National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, who announced the meeting, had told journalists in Abuja that   the party was doing everything  to reconcile all its aggrieved lawmakers-elect.

Odigie-Oyegun explained that all the new APC lawmakers were being called upon to respect the party and abide by the majority decision taken on those that should lead the National Assembly.

He had said, “I want to appeal to APC members in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to respect the party, its view and the decision they themselves took in selecting the persons that will be presented to the National Assembly as the presiding officers.

“I want to make it clear, all the party did was to provide a platform for all elected members of the party in stating their preferences; this they have freely done in front of the party leadership.

“It seems that some of the aspirants feel not satisfied with the preferences of the majority of the members but for me as the chairman and other members of the NWC, we want to appeal that no individual interest should be allowed to override the interest of the party as a whole.”

The chairman argued that since they contested on the platform of the party and rather than the other way round, they must   respect “ the party’s views and its methods of doing things.”

According to him, the party was fully aware that it could not impose leaders on the legislators hence all it did was to provide a platform for them to chose amongst themselves who their leaders would be.

He said, “We should let peace reign, we’ve all agreed to change and it must start with the conduct of the members themselves. To achieve this, Vice President Osinbajo will also have the opportunity to address elected APC   National Assembly members.

“This is the very first step of the distribution of the spoils of office. The APC has survived a lot of predictions; we have survived and put many doomsayers to shame, this too shall come to pass.”

But minutes before the meeting with Osinbajo was scheduled to begin, a source close to Dogara sent a statement, saying the House of Representatives-elect members loyal to Dogara would not attend the parley .

The statement cited threats to their “personal safety and liberty” as reason.

The statement which was sent via SMS partly read, “ Information reaching us indicates that this purported meeting is a ploy to arrest and detain members until after tomorrow’s election. Members should therefore disregard the invitation.”

There was no word from the camp of Saraki on why they shunned the truce meeting. Efforts by one of our correspondents to contact the former Kwara State governor proved abortive as his telephone line did not connect.

Osinbajo himself was not at the meeting. He was however represented by Odigie-Oyegun.

Osinbajo had earlier spent close to one hour meeting with the APC chairman behind closed doors at the party’s national secretariat .

Lawmakers who had converged at the venue of the meeting   left one after another when it became apparent that the Vice President would not be there in person.

It was learnt that Odigie-Oyegun pleaded with members to vote for party supremacy as it had discovered that the opposition PDP might take advantage of the situation if not properly handled.

APC governors were however holding a meeting aimed at pacifying the aggrieved aspirants at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja at about 10.30pm on Monday.

Before the meeting started, Dogara and Gbajabiamila’s camps   made bold statements and began boasting of victory.

Dogara’s group for instance, restated its stance to defy the decision of the APC to pick Gbajabiamila, saying that   the power to elect a speaker for the House rested with the 360 members-elect and not a “clique” operating from outside the National Assembly.

Part of a statement by the spokesman for the 8th Assembly Consolidation Group,   Abdulmumin Jibrin, reads,   “As we brace for Tuesday’s inauguration of the 8th session of the National Assembly, we wish to state here that we are going ahead to nominate Dogara for election into the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“We urge members-elect and all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard any form of insinuation about our stance.

“We are taking our destinies in our hands; we are going to the floor of the House to decide who leads the next Assembly.

“Absolute power comes from God almighty and He gives it to any one He wishes.

“We are calling on all members-elect to vote for the independence of the legislature by ensuring that Dogara emerges as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Only the 360 members can determine who becomes their Speaker and represents the interests of all Nigerians and not the interest of a clique.”

But, in the Gbajabiamila camp, investigations showed that the members were unruffled as they claimed to be sure of victory.

A member of the group, who did not want to be named, explained that their thinking was that “some things don’t need debating.”

“The APC has 213 members in the House. 154 of those members voted for Gbajabiamila at the mock election. What does that tell you?,” he asked.

Before Odigie-Oyegun spoke with journalists, it was gathered that some APC senators were holding a closed-door meeting at the International Conference Centre in Abuja ahead of the elections on Tuesday(today).

According to PUNCH, members of the PDP Senate caucus were meeting at the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja.

Details of the two meetings were sketchy because no member of either groups offered information about their discussions.

Saraki and Lawan had before the meetings on Monday intensified their lobby for support from the PDP senators-elect.

Unconfirmed reports from the camps of Saraki and Lawan alleged that foreign currencies and promises of membership of juicy committees were offered to members of the PDP caucus.

A leading member of the Like Minds Senators, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that a godfather in the APC had since Sunday been reaching out to both the APC and PDP senators-elect.

He said, “The desperation started last week when some senators who were among the 34 signatories to the letter addressed to the national chairman of the party ( Odigie-Oyegun), endorsing Saraki were enjoined to resist monetary inducement.

“We are seriously relying on members who are real men of integrity to stand by their words and vote according to their conscience on the floor tomorrow(Tuesday).”

Increased security at National Assembly complex

There was increased presence of policemen and other security operatives at all the gates leading to the National Assembly complex on Monday.

Visitors and members of staff were required to identify themselves before being allowed to enter the complex.

Findings also showed that within the complex, access to the popular ‘White House’ was restricted by security operatives and Sergeant-at-Arms personnel.

The White House is the area housing the Senate and the House of Representatives chambers, as well as the main lobby and offices of the Clerk to the National Assembly.

As part of measures to prevent security breaches and control crowd today (Tuesday), all members of staff and persons having any function to perform must be accredited.

Senators and members-elect were also accredited, starting from last Saturday.

Group protests at National Assembly.

Also on Monday, a group under the aegis of Buhari/Osinbajo Coalition, protested at the National Assembly Complex over what it called ‘imposition’ of National Assembly leaders.

Coordinator of the group, Yusuf Nadabo, decried the mock election by the APC on Saturday which produced Lawan and George Akume (Benue North West) as Senate President and Deputy Senate President.

The election also saw Femi Gbajabiamila and Tahir Monguno emerging as the APC consensus candidate for the House of Representative speaker and deputy speaker.

“We believe in sustainability of democracy. We don’t want a mock election. We want a proper election,” it said.

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