Members of the North-Central caucus of the House of Representatives have rejected the choice of Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, as Speaker in the 9th assembly.
The lawmakers, while making this known in the National Assembly on Wednesday, also vowed to go ahead with the contest and present John Dyegh as their consensus candidate.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) announced it adopted Femi Gbajabiamila as its candidate for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th Assembly.
Mr Gbajabiamlia, who also made his intention known weeks ago, is currently the Majority Leader of the House.
“This position was reached after an intensive deliberation with the APC’s House of Representatives members-elect at a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Banquet Hall of Aso Villa.
“The Deputy Speaker position has been zoned to the North Central,” the party said in a statement Tuesday evening by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu.
But, the North-Central lawmakers, who consist of members from both the ruling APC and opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), were not satisfied with the party’s decision.
Mr Dyegh, their most preferred candidate who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers, asked the leadership of the APC to reconsider the decision and zone the seat to the North Central.
“We are not fighting the party, we are not. We shall not. We are only giving the party an opportunity to come back and look at the zoning and look at what we are saying,” said Mr Dyegh, representing Gboko/Tarka federal constituency.
“Taking what the party says hook, line and sinker is not democratic, we are in a democracy. We have right to vie for position, there’s freedom of expression.”
“We believe in party supremacy. Yes, the party is supreme. I sing that, I say it, I believe it, I go by what the party says but this is democracy and I believe we should give the Green chamber an option.”
According to him, in addition to being the third largest contributor to the 2019 election success of the party, fairness and equity demands the North Central be considered for the position since the region has never produced the Speaker or Deputy Speaker since the return to democracy in 1999.
“My party, the APC, in her wisdom, zoned the position of Speaker to the South West and even micro-zoned.”
“I am a party man and my loyalty to the APC is 100 percent, however, the North Central zone has not been convinced nor given reasons why their votes should not count and why we should not run and we feel very strongly that there is still room for negotiation because we believe “it is not over until it is over’.
“We are, therefore, appealing to the party to have a rethink and rezone the speakership to the North Central for justice and fair play.”
“We pray to God Almighty to touch the hearts of our Leaders to reconsider us favourably.”
On why he joined the speakership race, the lawmaker said the decision to join the race was based on his unyielding faith in a united and prosperous Nigeria.
Citing sections of the constitution, he said it will only be fair, if the position of Speaker is given to the North Central, having taken away the seat of Senate President to the North East.
“It is instructive to note that the North Central has neither produced Speaker nor the Deputy Speaker since 1999.”
“We are saying that reward in politics is based on what you bring to the table and the North Central brought the third highest number of votes in making President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term a reality and enabling the APC to form federal government,” he said.
A week ago, elders from the North-Central region under the aegis of North Central Elders Forum endorsed the deputy house leader of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, for the seat of the speaker in the 9th assembly.
Mr Wase, from Plateau State, is also from the North Central zone.
Another lawmaker, Chike Okafor, from Imo State, on Tuesday declared his intention to run for the Speaker’s office shortly before the Presidential dinner, saying that the Southeast deserved the Speaker’s position for the 9th House of Representatives.
Mr Okafor said the party must look beyond numbers but more on fairness and equity.
The APC, last month, also adopted Ahmed Lawan as its favoured candidate for senate president.
Elections into key positions of the National Assembly will hold in June.
The APC has a clear majority in the next House with over 220 of the 360 members.