The chances of a former House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, emerging as the Majority Leader of the 8th House of Representatives looked grim on Tuesday as his backing among the majority northern lawmakers began to drop.
The PUNCH gathered that except the All Progressives Congress stamped its foot on the matter by insisting that the Lagos lawyer should take the seat, he was likely to be out of reckoning for the job.
“Regarding the issue of the House Leader, there is a big problem.
“It is not that Gbajabiamila is not qualified; he is eminently qualified, just like his qualities were recognised during the contest for the position of the Speaker. He is the most qualified.
“But, you see, a South-West person (Mr. Yussuf Lasun) has already been elected as the Deputy Speaker.
“We cannot afford to allow the same zone take the House Leader again. That will be too much legislative powers in one area”, a senior member from the North confided in The PUNCH on Tuesday.
The development came as a group, Concerned All Progressives Congress Stakeholders, dismissed calls on Lasun to resign as unnecessary.
Investigations showed that many North-West members with the APC controlling majority of about 87 lawmakers were now opposing Gbajabiamila.
Incidentally, his major backers for the position of the Speaker, which Gbajabiamila lost to the winner, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on June 9, came from the North-West.
Findings indicated that the agreement before the election was that Gbajabiamila would be the Speaker while Mr. Mohammed Monguno would be his deputy.
The position of the House Leader was to have been taken by a member from Kano State, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
However, Gbajabiamila lost the election while a member from Osun State, Mr. Yusuf Lasun, also beat Monguno in the race for the Deputy Speaker’s seat.
It was learnt that the North made a U-turn backing Gbajabiamila after the elections and sought to keep the position of the House Leader “since the South-West has already picked the post of Deputy Speaker.”
The PUNCH gathered that following an intervention by the leadership of the APC last week, the aggrieved members were said to have conceded that Gbajabiamila should be allowed to occupy the seat of the House Leader, only for them to have a rethink on Monday night.
“As it is, there are still no announcements and the seat remains vacant. Other positions, like the Chief Whip, the Deputy Leader and the Deputy Whip too have not been decided.
“The party has called another round of meeting this week and the discussions will have to continue until an agreement is reached”, another National Assembly official disclosed to our correspondent.
Efforts by The PUNCH to get the comments of the Chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on Media, Mr. Sani Zoro, failed on Tuesday.
A text message our correspondent sent to him was also not replied as of press time.
The stakeholders, expressing support for Lasun, spoke against the backdrop of calls by those they described as “faceless”, asking Lasun to resign.
The faceless persons were said to have advised Lasun to relinquish the position for Gbajabiamila.
Part of a statement by Lasun’s backers read, “We make bold to say that apart from the emergence of Hon. Lasun through a democratic, open and transparent election, the process of the election complied with Section 50 (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
“We warn all those who have allowed themselves to be used for this reprehensible act to allow reason to prevail.
“For the change which our party promised Nigerians to materialise, all hands must be on the deck.
“The least President Mohammadu Buhari expects from genuine APC members at this critical moment is for everybody to be on the same page with him.”
Meanwhile, the South-South caucus in the House has rejected the position of the Deputy Whip, which it said was suggested to the party to be allocated to the zone.
The caucus, which is chaired by Mr. Pally Iriase, said the position of the Deputy Whip was an attempt to marginalise the zone.
Iriase had contested the position of the Speaker but later stepped down to support Gbajabiamila.
Part of a statement the caucus issued on Tuesday read, “It has come to our notice that a proposal purportedly emanating from the House of Representatives had been sent to the National Working Committee of the APC, wherein the South-South is said to be allotted the position of the Deputy Chief Whip.
“Our immediate reaction is to repudiate the fraudulent and insensitive proposal.
“We are members of the Loyalists Group, and to the best of our knowledge, no proposal for the zoning of principal officers was discussed and agreed to by any member of the South -South in the group.
“Unilateral and self-serving proposal by a few members cannot be said to have come from the group.”