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Speakership: Opposition intensifies plot to upstage APC

The opposition caucus in the House of Representatives has stepped up on its plan to upstage the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by fielding a…

The opposition caucus in the House of Representatives has stepped up on its plan to upstage the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by fielding a candidate for the position of speaker, Daily Trust reports.

The caucus, under the aegis of ‘Greater Majority’, rose from a crucial meeting at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Tuesday night with a resolution to field candidates for the position of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10th National Assembly.

The membership of the caucus is drawn from the main opposition parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP).

Daily Trust reports that the opposition parties have the majority in the Green Chamber with 180 representatives, while APC has 178. Two seats; one in Akwa Ibom and another in Ondo states, are pending.

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As part of the strategy to upstage the APC, the caucus resolved to set up an 11-man committee “to scout for credible and acceptable candidates that would vie for those offices, and then actively seek the unification of Nigerians along ethno-religious lines.”

“The Greater Majority with more than 180 elected members (being over 50% of the elected members) will remain one, indivisible coalition during the 10th National Assembly, with the interest of the country as its driving force,” the caucus stated in its communiqué.

‘We are set to upstage APC’

Speaking further on their plans, the secretary of the caucus, Efosa Imasuen said: “We are more than prepared. As we said in our communiqué, we have more numbers than the APC. We even have some members of the APC who are ready to align with us.

“Yes, we have people from the APC that are ready to align with us because of our style of leadership, our style of governance, our approach to people, and the country. People are in tune with what we are doing.

“That gives us the impetus to think and know that if we vie for this office, we can get it and give Nigerians what they truly want – a sincere government.”

On if they can remain united when the ruling party tries to divide the opposition, the lawmaker said, they are ready for the ruling party’s machinations. On the anticipated zoning by the ruling party, the lawmaker said, the opposition has no business with APC zoning as it will do things its own way.

“We don’t have business with APC’s zoning. We get to understand certain things and how they are not sincere with a lot of things that they say and do. We remember when they said they zoned their presidential ticket to the South but had people like Ahmed Lawan running, and he was even declared the candidate of the APC at a point.

“So, at this juncture, we can’t even take them seriously when they say they are going to zone. It is a fallacy; they keep on deceiving people with that zoning thing.

“So, if you want to zone, be fair. If the APC is talking about zoning, their track record about zoning has not been realistic and is not something that somebody will hold onto,” he also said. But a member-elect on the platform of the PDP who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity, said, although the caucus of his party has resolved to field candidates for the speakership position, in conjunction with other opposition parties, he has a preferred candidate in the ruling APC.

“My candidate is Betara and as long as he is in the race, I will support him even if it goes against what was resolved by my caucus. This is my personal stand, and it will not be affected by the collective decision,” he said.

Plot will fall like a pack of cards – Reps chief whip

The Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC Borno), said what the opposition is planning is a fruitless effort that will fall like a pack of cards.

According to him, despite the number of seats held by the opposition, they will never come out with a single voice and cannot produce the speaker or deputy in the 10th National Assembly.

“Even if they field candidates, it will be fruitless because the APC members are united and will work together to produce the speaker, the deputy and the other positions.

“Whatever is happening now is the usual political moves to rally around the various candidates before things are finalised. I am telling you, we’ll come out with one voice as the ruling party before the elections.

We’ll bring out our candidates before the elections as we did during Femi Gbajabiamila’s election.

“We’ll bring out the candidates and we’ll unite because we are still the majority. So, even if they field their candidates, they are not going to win. By law, they are allowed to field candidates.

“The only exception is that a first-time member cannot contest. It is only a ranking member that can contest,” he said.

We’ll abide by APC’s decision – Taskforce forum

Elsewhere, a different coalition of members-elect going by the name ‘Joint-task 10th Assembly’ also met in Abuja where they said they would work for a rancour free House of Representatives.

Speaking on their mission, their Chairman, Hon. Usman Bello Kumo (APC, Gombe), said that the essence of the “Joint-Task 10th Assembly” was to defend the sanctity of the parliament, promote the independence of the legislature, ensure equity, fairness and balance in the emergence of the leadership of the House among others.

He said they resolved to go by the decision of the APC in deciding which zones produce the speaker and the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Secretary of the Forum, Hon. Aliyu Madaki (NNPP, Kano), explained that the essence of the Forum was to have a cordial working relationship with the executive.

It’s possible to upstage APC but… – Analysts

The Executive Director of the Development Specs Academy, Prof. Okey Ikechukwu, said it would be possible for the opposition parties to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives if they were united. He, however, said the ruling party and the president-elect would do everything to ensure the APC produces the leadership of the Green Chamber.

The leadership and governance consultant said the race for the National Assembly leadership has taken on a new shape.

“It will be difficult for the opposition to execute the plan because the ruling party will do everything to stop them. It will be foolish of the president-elect to hold back and allow his party to lose the position. So, I expect him to deploy his arsenal. And we can’t also rule out the influence of money in the race,” he said.

On his part, a political analyst, Nelson Ekujumi, said it is common practice in a democracy that the party with the majority members should produce the principal officers in the National Assembly.

He, however, noted that the opposition PDP was able to produce the Deputy Senate President in 2015 by forming an alliance with some members of the ruling APC.

“So, we can’t say it is impossible. However, it will be difficult for them to execute because it is about negotiation. I am sure that the ruling party is also negotiating with some members of the opposition.

“We can only wish them (the Greater Majority) the best of luck, but the ruling party will not be passive over the matter as they would want to have the leadership of the National Assembly to promote cordial working relationship with the executive,” he said.

We’re still working on zoning – Adamu

Meanwhile, the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said the party has not yet zoned the 10th National Assembly offices because it is working on consensus.

Briefing newsmen shortly after the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held at the party’s national secretariat on Wednesday in Abuja, Adamu said the party was making wide consultations, adding that zoning will not take place without the input of the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

He said while many aspirants have sprung up for various offices, the party was working on consensus to persuade some to shelve their ambitions.

“Zoning is to take along the person who has the mandate of this country, the President-elect, Ahmed Bola Tinubu; we want to take him along.

“He travelled after the election and came back only last week, and we cannot stop those who are ambitious; we have to find a way of persuasively reaching some level of consensus. That is what we are working on. It is not a one-day affair,” he said.

By Balarabe Alkassim, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) & Abiodun Alade (Lagos)

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