Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives loyal to the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, have started negotiations with the Majority Leader and candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Speaker in the ninth National Assembly, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, for leadership positions and committee appointments.
The PUNCH learnt in Abuja on Tuesday that Dogara was also in talks with Gbajabiamila on the fate of his loyalists in the next Assembly.
While the APC candidates for the presiding offices of the House – Speaker and Deputy Speaker – have been declared, those who will occupy the principal offices are still unknown.
The offices include Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief/Majority Whip and Deputy Chief/Majority Whip.
The lawmakers, according to a source in the House, are also lobbying for the chairmanship of the standing committees.
Dogara, who had said he was not concerned about who would become his successor, was said to have neither adopted any of the aspirants in his camp nor declared his ambition to return to the office.
Members of his camp, who are from the ruling APC and the opposition led by the Peoples Democratic Party, were said to have reached a consensus on fielding Mr Mohammed Bago from Niger State, but the Speaker had yet to openly endorse him.
The source, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said Dogara had reached out to Gbajabiamila on behalf of his loyalists.
The lawmaker said, “The initial plan by the opponents in the APC and the PDP to form an alliance and back a candidate against Gbajabiamila has failed.
“What is happening now is that rather than wait till the end and lose from both sides, lawmakers on the other side are now reaching out to the APC candidate to get a soft landing.
“As a matter of fact, the Speaker has contacted the Majority Leader to seek a way of getting the interests of his loyalists protected under his leadership.”
Confirming the talks between Dogara and the Majority Leader, Director-General of the Gbajabiamila Speakership Campaign Council, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, who addressed journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, said Gbajabiamila was consulting the current and former speakers, current and former governors, opposition lawmakers and other speakership aspirants.
He said, “Don’t forget that in consultation with the opposition parties, reaching out to them, recognising their strength and the fact that in the long run, we are going to work together as a team, we also involved the stakeholders and leaders of the opposition, their elected officials like governors, all in the process of lobbying, which is an integral part of parliamentary system.
“Also very significant is the fact that we are also in consultation –and let me say it very clearly – and lobbying the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara. We appreciate the value he can bring on board and we are also being realistic and very practical in the approach of our campaign.”