Dogara to Odigie-Oyegun: Why Gbajabiamilla can't be House Leader
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara may have just told the leadership of the All Progressives Congress that they are pursuing a mission impossible if they inisist on their choice of Femi Gbajabiamila as the Leader of the House.
APC has been thrown into a festering crisis since June 09, 2015 when Dogara and Bukola Saraki defeated the choices of the APC leadership to become Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate respectively.
This development polarized the party as the party leadership moved from several positions on the matter, from outright rejection of the elections to insistence that their chosen candidates should occupy the remaining principal offices, while Dogara and Saraki and their supporters have maintained that they would only play by the principle of federal character as has been the convention of the National Assembly.
The Chairman of the APC had on June 23 written to Dogara, asking him to apply the choice of the party in the remaining principal offices, which Dogara and his group did not find exactly comfortable.
They have conceded the position of the Leader of the House to the group lining up behind the party’s leadership, but with a caveat that the leaders should be chosen from another zone since the Southwest has produced the Deputy speaker.
Dogara made his position known in a reply to an earlier letter to him by the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Oyegun had on 23rd June 2015, written to the speaker asking the lawmakers to adhere to the party’s choices for the other principal offices in the House of Representatives.
Dogara simply put to paper the position of his group to concede the seat of the Leader of the House to the Femi Gbajabiamila group but insistence that the seat cannot be occupied by any lawmaker from South-West because the zone already has the slot for the Deputy Speaker of the House.
This effectively closed the door against Gbajabiamila, a lawmaker from Lagos State who had been anointed by the party for the seat of the Leader as compensation for his defeat by Dogara for the seat of the Speaker.
The speaker’s rather lenghty letter was copied Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Sokoto State Governor and Progressive Governors' forum mediator, Governor Rochas Okorocha, Chairman, Progressive Governors' Forum, and the Chairman, Forum of APC State Chairmen. He tried to explain his position on the chairman’s letter.
The speaker’s letter reads:
July 16, 2015
The National Chairman,
All Progressives Congress (APC),
UPDATE ON ELECTION OF PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF THE 8TH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
This is to formally acknowledge receipt of your letter Ref. No. APC/NHDQ/NAM/01/015/06 dated 23rd June, 2015.
2. After the letter was received but before I could make the necessary consultations concerning the letter because of its sensitive nature, I was served with Court processes on the subject matter filed by some Members of the House and other persons and groups from the North Central and South East Zones of Nigeria. The Rules of the House enjoin us to make a determination whether discussing a matter pending in Court in the House would be prejudicial to the Case.
3. However, before this determination could be made, on the 25th June, 2015, I took steps to discuss the matter in an Executive Session of the House which is open to only House Members and not the public. We were prevented from doing so by some House members who conducted themselves in a most unparliamentary manner. It is necessary to point out that the mechanism of Executive Session is resorted to in order to iron out controversial matters in an amicable way to preserve the unity and cohesion of the House.
4. Since then, efforts have been made by the Party, Progressive Governors and other interested persons to intervene and resolve the issues. We want to place on record, our unflinching loyalty and respect not only to you as an individual, considering your antecedents, but also to the party, APC, under whose platform we were elected to the House. We have no intention whatsoever of disobeying your directives or the party's position on any matter. We would, of course, prefer a situation where we are consulted on matters concerning the House before directives are issued and made public.
5. We feel strongly, that the issue of federal character in the election or appointment of principal officers of the House is a cardinal legal, moral and constitutional principle that should be respected by our party. It is however obvious from the letter under reference that this principle was not taken into consideration. If the letter is enforced the way it was conveyed, it will lead to the following unjust result:
Speaker: North East:
Chief Whip: North East
Deputy Speaker: South West
House Leader: South West
Deputy House Leader: North West
Deputy Chief Whip: South South
This will totally and unfairly exclude the South East and North Central Zones in the distribution of these political offices and lead to undue concentration of some offices in the South West and North East Zones of Nigeria.
6. The House Rules provide that in filling the positions of Majority leadership of the House, namely, leader of the House, Chief Whip, Deputy Leader, Deputy Whip of the House, each candidate;
“shall be a member nominated from among the members in the majority party in the House”
Furthermore, Order 1, of the House Rules provides that
“In all cases not provided for hereinafter or by sessional or other orders, Precedents or practices of the House, the House shall by Resolution regulate its procedure”
It is evident that there are existing Precedents and Practices which the House has been following for a long time and in particular since 1999. Since 1999, Zonal Caucuses of a Party have been primarily responsible for nominating Principal Officers of the House, other than the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that are elected by the entire House.
In 1999, Principal Officers of the House were as follows:
1. Speaker: Rt. Hon. Salisu Buhari &
Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na'Abba -North West
2. Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Chibudom Nwuche -South South
3. House Leader: Hon. Mohammed Wakil -North East
4. Chief Whip: Hon. Bawa Bwari -North Central
5. Deputy Leader: Hon. Mao Ohuabunwa -South East
6. Deputy Whip: Hon. Samuel Sadiq Anwo -South West
1. Speaker: Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari -North West
2. Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Austin Opara -South South
3. House Leader: Hon. Abdul Ningi -North East
4. Chief Whip: Hon. Bawa Bwari -North Central
5. Deputy Whip: Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh -South West
6. Deputy Leader: Hon. Gilbert Nnaji -South East
1. Speaker: Rt. Hon.Patricia Olubunmi Etteh & Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole -South West
2. Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Nguruoje Babangida & Rt. Hon. Bayero Usman Nafada -North East
3. House Leader: Hon. Akogun Tunde -South South
4. Chief Whip: Hon. Bethel Amadi &
Hon. Emeka Ihedioha -South East
5. Deputy Whip: Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal -North West
6. Deputy Leader: Hon. Baba Shehu Agaie -North Central
1. Speaker: Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal -North West
2. Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha -South East
3. House Leader: Hon. Mulikat Akande -South West
4. Chief Whip: Hon. Isiaka Bawa -North East
5. Deputy Whip: Hon. Muktar Mohammed -North Central
6. Deputy Leader: Hon. Leo Ogor -South South
1. Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara -North East
2. Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Lasun S. Yussuf -South West
3. House Leader ?
4. Chief Whip ?
5. Deputy Whip ?
6. Deputy Leader ?
These are clear Precedents and Practices for Majority leadership positions since 1999. They therefore, constitute precedents and practices of the House as enshrined in the Standing Orders of the House. We are bound by it by virtue of Provisions of Order 1 of our Standing Rules.
7. The issue of Federal character has very strong constitutional foundations. They are indeed mandatory provisions of the Constitution. For ease of reference, let us examine the following provisions:
a. S. 14(3)
“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies”
b. S. 147 provides for the appointment of Ministers by the President. However, under S. 147(3)
“Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution”
c. S. 223(1)(b) provides for observance of federal character by political parties, thus: “The members of the Executive Committee or other governing body of the political party shall be deemed to reflect the federal character of Nigeria only if the members thereof belong to different states not being less in member than two-thirds of all the States comprising the Federation”
d. The Third Schedule, Part 1, C, especially Section 8 (b) and (c) enjoins the Federal Character Commission to:
“b.promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic,, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;
c.take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the head or staff of any Ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission”
e. The Oath of office of Members of the National Assembly is contained in the 7th Schedule to the Constitution and every member swore to: “Preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and ….. (to) preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
To further underscore the seriousness with which the framers of the Constitution regarded the issue of Federal Character, the National Assembly was given exclusive jurisdiction to legislate in Item 60 of the Exclusive Legislative List, for:
“The establishment and regulation of authorities for the federation or any part thereof –
a.)To promote and enforce the observance of the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution”
8. Our most respected Chairman, in the light of above and and in view of our Party's unshakable commitment to Due Process and the Rule of Law, the present position is untenable. Therefore, insisting on it is only tantamount to compelling us to violate the Constitution or to betray the Oath of Office we solemnly swore to. This we believe is not what our Party and any of our principled National Leaders stand for.
Indeed, we expect that our great party, the APC, will ensure that “there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in (the) government or in any of its agencies”
9. Consequently Sir, we propose the following zoning arrangement for the distribution of principal offices in the House of Representatives.
Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara – North East Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun – South West
House Leader: North West (with 86 APC members) Deputy House Leader: North Central (with 33 APC members)
Chief Whip: South South
Deputy Chief Whip: South East
Above proposal satisfies the provisions of Order 1 of our Rules, the Constitutional provision on Federal Character and gives all parts of Nigeria a sense of belonging. The proposal will also obviate all pending Court cases filed by some Zonal Caucuses on the matter.
10. To resolve this problem, we had offered that some of the aggrieved members of our party, APC, who lost the election for the office of Presiding Officers, should produce some of the remaining Principal Officers for peace to reign. For emphasis, we have conceded the position of Leader of the House and Chief Whip to those aggrieved, as long as the persons should not come from the North East or South West Zones that have already produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. In any case, sir, I pledge as the Speaker of the House, to accommodate other colleagues of ours in the Party list, who may not be taken care of by this arrangement, with other commensurate appointments or other existing opportunities for service to the nation.
11. We owe a duty to lay the truth bare as we have done in this case. The Party in conjunction with Governors, National leaders and the APC Causes in the House may agree otherwise as the saying goes, “volenti non fit injuria”. Our Party must not have the undistinguished honour of setting a precedent outside of the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of the House.
We most respectfully urge that our above proposal be considered on its merits and that efforts should be made to resolve this matter so that the House will resume its working recess in a peaceful atmosphere. There is no gainsaying the fact that a stable House is necessary to support the President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the APC in fulfilling our electoral mandate of Change and Progress for the Nigerian people.
13. May I Sir, respectfully assure you of our continued loyalty and best wishes.
Rt. Hon. Dogara Yakubu
Speaker, House of Representatives
CC: President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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