The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is on the verge of losing control of the 10th House of Representatives amidst the ongoing battle for the Speakership of the House.
Leadership of the APC is still mum on the zoning of the speaker and the deputy speaker, while the president-elect, Bola Tinubu remains in Europe.
Amid lack of clear direction, about 10 members of the APC have declared interest to contest the speakership and have started to campaign across the country.
They include: Sada Soli from Katsina, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and Yusuf Gagdi from Plateau State, Tajudeen Abass from Kaduna, Ben Kalu from Abia, Ahmed Jaji from Zamfara, Abubakar Makki from Jigawa, Muktar Betara from Borno and Tunji Olawuyi from Kwara States. All the candidates are from the North except for Ben Kalu from Abia State.
Many believe that for balance, the Senate President will be zoned to the Southeast or Southsouth, while the speaker will be between Northwest and Northcentral.
The silence from the party and the president-elect is causing confusion among members from almost all parts of the country— including those from the Northeast, the region that produced the vice president-elect.
Behind closed doors, the lawmakers have been campaigning with the name of Tinubu, giving the impression that they are the anointed candidate of the president-elect.
Insiders have confirmed that Tinubu and the APC may struggle to give directives to the members on zoning because many have taken the campaign beyond the stage of stepping down.
In the last one week, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase has visited about three governors, including Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Hope Uzodinma of Imo and Abdulrasaq Abdulrahman of Kwara State, seeking the support of members-elect.
His campaign style bears similarity to the 2019 campaign of Gbajabiamila for the speakership. The Lagos lawmaker was able to get the commitment of some state governors, including Wike.
Similarly, another Plateau Lawmaker, Yusuf Gagdi, has been targeting Labour Party strongholds as he has visited Alex Otti, the governor-elect of Abia State and also the Labour Party governorship candidate in Enugu State. This overture is believed to be part of a strategy to get 34 votes of the Labour Party in the House.
On the other hand, Sada Soli, a lawmaker from Katsina State, is also reaching out to lawmakers from the Northwest in order to present a united front. Although APC in the Northwest is not what it used to be, the region still has numerical strength to get a Senate President or Speaker.
The arrangement in the Senate will have an effect in the House. If the zone fails to get the Senate president due to the strong call for “a Christian Senate President” then they may see the Speakership as the alternative.
One other factor not spoken much in the race is money. Some of the aspirants have been moving around the country using private jets. Some of them will have to visit 36 states to meet with governors.
There is also an investment for publicity and hosting of members to convince them. Some aspirants without deep pockets will have to depend on colleagues to finance their election, in exchange for appointment.
“Wase and Gagdi have been moving across the country, so, if you decide to zone it to Northwest, what will become the fate of the two men? Secondly, Wase will move from being the deputy speaker to a floor member if denied the right to contest.
“For 4 years, he stayed loyal to Gbajabiamila, especially during the electoral act amendment bill. What will the party use to compensate him?,” a source within the party said.
Many believe that Tinubu, unlike Buhari in 2015 and 2019, will fully back an anointed candidate with resources.
Minority parties alliance
On Tuesday, the minority parties also held a meeting to form an alliance which they tagged “greater majority”.
They argued that the minority parties have a combined strength of 163, while the ruling party has 162 members.
One of the conveners of the Minority Caucus meeting was Abdulmumin Jibrin. It would be recalled that Jibrin, a member of the NNPP in Kano State, was involved in the rebellion that disrupted the activities of the ruling party in 2015.
“Fundamental is to see that we bring all the minority parties— which is now known from today as the greater majority— we understand that to pull through our collective interest, to protect our ideals as minority parties that serve as check to the ruling party, to contribute to nation building, we must come together,” he said on Thursday.
The attention has turned to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who just returned from France, where he has been with the President-elect, Tinubu. On Thursday, the speaker met with the nine candidates that have officially declared to run for the position.
Gbajabiamila, who is believed to be pegged for an appointive position, is reported to have the delicate job of ensuring that the aspirants adhere to the arrangement, and not give the minority parties the control to snatch the position with the number.
Gbajabiamila will have a top battle because most of the men in the race backed him in 2019 to become the speaker.