Obey party’s directive, Gbajabiamila tells Dogara

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Hope for resolving the leadership tussle in the House of Representatives dimmed on Sunday as a one-on-one meeting between the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and a former Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, failed to make a headway.

Findings showed that the two sides had met in Abuja ahead of another intervention meeting on the crisis by a committee of three set up by the governors of the All Progressives Congress.

The governors had nominated Sokoto State Governor, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, a former Speaker of the House, to chair the small committee.

However, investigations revealed that at the earlier meeting between Dogara and Gbajabiamila’s groups, the speaker had offered Gbajabiamila the chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.

The influential and heavily-funded committee deals with issues relating to amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the added responsibility of looking at the report of the 2014 National Conference.

It was learnt that with an estimated yearly funding of about N1bn, the committee would spend around N4bn between 2015 and 2019.

Under the relevant rules of the House, the committee is usually chaired by the Deputy Speaker (in this instance, Mr. Yusuf Lasun), with members drawn from the six geo-political zones.

But, investigations by The PUNCH showed that Dogara was willing to give the position to Gbajabiamila in exchange for the position of House Majority Leader.

It was gathered that to make this possible, the House might have to amend its rules to accommodate the transfer of the responsibility from Lasun to Gbajabiamila, as part of efforts to resolve the leadership tussle within the majority All Progressives Congress caucus.

The former minority leader was said to have promptly rejected the offer, insisting on becoming the majority leader in compliance with the decision of the APC.

A National Assembly official confided in The PUNCH that Dogara’s group went to the meeting with Gbajabiamila to restate its position that the principal offices in the House should go round the six geo-political zones.

The source said, “The Speaker made the offer because he was still insisting that it would be unfair to other zones for the South-West to produce both the deputy speaker and the majority leader.

“The ad hoc committee is an important committee and the Speaker offered it in place of the majority leader position that Gbajabiamila is seeking.

“But, there was no headway because the Gbajabiamila group turned it down and said they would stick to the decision of the APC.”

The former minority leader was said to have argued that the issue was not about heading committees but to instill party discipline and “sustain good governance.”

When The PUNCH sought the comments of Gbajabiamila on the alleged offer, he first denied knowledge of it, saying, “I am not aware; you are the one telling me.”

However, when our correspondent asked further if he would accept such an offer, Gbajabiamila replied that if he got the offer he would apply the position of the party.

“I will go with the party’s decision and the decision of the majority of members of my caucus,” he told our correspondent.

He also admitted that discussions were ongoing to resolve the dispute as of 3.09pm on Sunday.

Also, our correspondents learnt that the Gbajabiamila-led group met with the Governor Aminu Tambuwal-led three member committee, in an undisclosed location in Abuja, on Sunday. At the meeting, Gbajabiamila refused to shift ground.

He pointedly told the Governor Aminu Tambuwal-led committee that the onus was on Dogara group to respect the party’s position.

When contacted, Gbajabiamila confirmed to The PUNCH that his group indeed met with the Tambuwal committee on Sunday.

However, he clarified that the meeting ended without his group shifting ground on its demand that the party’s decision must prevail.

He said, “There are people who are saying party supremacy is no longer relevant.

“Well, our position is clear; it is either party supremacy or the entire APC caucus will conduct an election to decide on this matter.

“This point was made very clearly at the meeting,” Gbajabiamila said.

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