…Doguwa pulls out of G-7, two other aspirants step down
The outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday night, opened up on how the All Progressives Congress arrived at the decision to pick Tajudeen Abbas for Speaker and Benjamin Kalu for Deputy Speaker of the coming 10th National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila spoke in Abuja on Wednesday night at a meeting of the Joint Task – 10th Assembly, a coalition of members-elect of the All Progressives Congress and opposition parties in the coming 10th National Assembly.
The coalition had adopted the anointed candidates of the APC for Speaker and Deputy Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu, respectively, for the 10th House.
Gbajabiamila recalled how he told Abbas he would abide by only the decision of the APC, saying, “But as God would have it…and I will say this because a lot of people think and give me more credit and more power than it is due me. A lot of people think I zoned speakership…I handpicked and zoned. I wish I had those powers.
“I said to the people who zoned, ‘Why North-West?’ They said to me, ‘Go and read your political history;’ that from the day Nigeria was born, the North-West being the largest of voting blocs with seven states has never ever been outside the top four of the hierarchy in Nigeria. I said I didn’t know that.”
The Speaker also noted that the emergence of the APC on the political scene was basically between the South-West and the North-West. “Why would it be in my time or our time that the North-West will be left out of the calculation? That is why they zoned it to the North-West, amongst many other reasons, apart from the number of votes that they brought – 30 per cent of our figures.”
He added, “The North-West wanted the Vice-President. The President-elect decided to go to the North-East. So, the least he could do was to compensate them with speakership in terms of what they bring to the table. It is as simple as that. I did not zone it. I wish I could.”
Gbajabiamila also recalled how some members of the House persuaded him to seek a second term as Speaker, despite the fact that he is from Lagos State in the South-West as the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
“My members came to me – many of them and some are seated here today – including every single person that is aspiring today came up to me, that they didn’t care whether the President is from the South-West or Lagos, that they wanted me to run again as a second-term Speaker.
“Even as of four weeks ago, two of the front-runners, the aspirants, said to me, that ‘if you decide to run for Speaker again, we will drop our ambition.’ It was tempting at the time but sometimes you must be selfless enough to put country first.
“I cannot have a President-elect from Lagos, even though my members could have decided that that is what they wanted; but the optics will not be good. We just came out of a divisive election….very divisive – the most divisive in history. How then can one zone take two spots out of four? So, I refused to do it. I refused to take that bait or bite that bullet, otherwise, today, maybe, hopefully, standing before you would have been the incoming Speaker of the 10th Assembly.”
The Speaker decried that “some people have gone on campaigns trying to run me down,” saying he has “a good laugh” over it.
He also said, “Some people have said and I watched it on TV, ‘Why would he pick somebody outside of us in this closed circle? I am the next in line for succession. Why not me? This is the Chairman (of the Committee on) Appropriations; I know that member, why not him?’
“But they forget that on the two occasions that I ran for Speaker; in 2015, (Aminu) Tambuwal, the Speaker then, had a preference – (Yakubu) Dogara. Dogara was a floor member; I was the most senior APC member in that House (as Minority Leader). The roof did not come down. I did not blame Tambuwal that ‘I am the most senior, why not me?’
“In 2019, Dogara himself had a preference for (Mohammed) Bago. I was the House (Majority) Leader; I did not say ‘Why Bago? Why not me? I am the House Leader.’ It does not work like that. What I have done is to spread joy. They did North-West. I advised them and they did South-East. Spread the joy! Cut across! And in the South-East, I found Ben Kalu.”
Gbajabiamila stated he regretted leading a forum that championed the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker of the House in the 7th National Assembly.
Tambuwal is now an outgoing two-term Governor of Sokoto State.
“I regret it,” Gbajabiamila stated while recalling the previous attempts by speakership aspirants to oppose chosen candidates of their respective parties.
Gbajabiamila noted that he wanted a Speaker who can “stand toe-to-toe with any Speaker in the African continent or in the World.” He added that Abbas had been making an impact quietly, having sponsored 78 bills, 21 of which had been signed into law.
He said, “So, I found in Tajudeen somebody I felt we could be proud of as members of the House of Representatives. That is not to say that others don’t have capacity but there is capacity and there is capacity. I am not going to stand here and run anybody down. Everybody is my friend. The price of leadership is that when moments like this happen, your friends become your enemy.
“I have been reading, and I am sure so have you been reading and hearing all sorts of amazing rumours. Today, I read that I was going to dole out $15m. I had a good laugh. I chuckled. Like I said, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. It is the price of leadership. You will continue to hear stories as well as tissues of lies being spun around your person. Then, again, that is leadership.”
The Speaker, who denied influencing the zoning plan of the APC, said, “I want you to trust me. I want you to trust my judgment. Even if it is a leap of faith, I want you to take that leap of faith. Trust my judgment on this one. For somebody who loves the institution, I can never lead you astray. I know my members and they know me.
“My style of leadership is different. I don’t micro-manage; as long as my members are happy, I am happy even at my own expense. And I have found those same traits in TJ Abbas.”
…Aspirants step down
Meanwhile, a member of the G-7, a group of aspirants with the APC on its zoning plan, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, has withdrawn from the race and stepped down for Abbas. The group had vowed to adopt one of its members to contest against Abbas for Speaker.
Two other aspirants, Makki Yalleman and Olatunji Olawuyi also declared their support for the APC candidate.
“Don’t imagine that my appearance here is by accident. For those of you who are thinking you’re daydreaming, you’re not daydreaming. This is reality,” Doguwa said in company with Yalleman and Olawuyi at the podium.
Nevertheless, another member of the G-7, Sani Jaji, from Zamfara State, will today in Abuja declare his speakership bid, against the zoning plan of the APC.
Another speakership aspirant, Olaide Akinremi, from Oyo State, is now the director-general of Jaji’s campaign.
Jaji will be the third member of the G-7 to declare a speakership bid after the APC declared its zoning plan which favoured Tajudeen Abbas from Kaduna State in the North-West for Speaker, and Benjamin Kalu from Abia in the South-East for Deputy Speaker.
Meanwhile, before Gbajabiamila spoke at the meeting on Wednesday night, the candidate of the APC for President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, accompanied the Speaker into the venue, made a short remark and left.
The former Minority Leader of the Senate and ex-Minister of Niger Delta Affairs said, “Yesterday, I met the party. I actually left a sentence with them or thereabouts. Should I leave the sentence with you? In my daily dealings, my late mother told me that I should be aware of the 3Gs: The first G is God; the second G is Gun and the third G is Government.
“The first G is God Almighty. The second G is what? Gun! And the third one is the Government. May you conduct yourself mindful of the admonition of my late mother, by respecting the 3Gs, particularly the Government.”