Situating Bago’s Calculations for Speakership

Umaru Bago

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Marine Safety, Education and Administration and major contender for the speakership of the 9th assembly, Hon Mohammed Umar Bago, has premised his optimism for victory on certain curious permutations, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Barring unforeseen circumstances, it is exactly 16 days from today before the inauguration of the leadership of the 9th House of Representatives and candidates, who are ready to see their ambitions to a logical conclusion are already weighing their options and pondering their chances.

Not only has Hon Mohammed Umar Bago (APC, Niger) representing Chanchaga Federal Constituency, remained in the race for speakership despite proposals that Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) representing Surulere I federal constituency, should be adopted by the APC, the lawmaker is very optimistic of victory. He is basing his optimism on some calculations.

A closer interaction with some of the eggheads working with the Niger State lawmaker clearly showed that they were predicating their projections for victory on some well-calculated possibilities that appear reassuring.

Some of such calculations include the fact that there are only 360 lawmakers that will determine, who becomes the next Speaker, the fact that Gbajabiamila and Bago are the two most visible and that both men are qualified on the grounds of their rankings, make the battle interesting.

Their belief therefore is that when the chips are down, external interferences will play limited role as only members of the 9th assembly will have the exclusive rights to elect the Speaker. Thus, what would count are their achievements in committee works, oversight, bills, motions and most importantly, inter-personal relationships with other lawmakers.

In presenting their candidate, the Bago team is saying while Gbajabiamila does not have committee experience, because he never chaired any committee considering his responsibilities as Minority and Majority Leader, Bago has been a committee chair, allowing him to carry out several oversights, sponsoring bills and motions, but they are not denying the fact that Gbajabiamila has enviable record in that field as well.

In terms of numbers, though the APC currently has 212 member-elects, PDP 121 and the rest goes to other opposition parties, in fact, PDP has prospect to get more, because some APC member-elects were sacked in Bauchi, another one was sacked in Ekiti, because of post-primary issue. The situation in Zamfara is a tragic one for the APC, but makes the PDP other parties smile.

The dynamics are changing, and so, Bago and other APC candidates are closely monitoring the swings. The permutation is that since the pre-condition for whoever wants be Speaker is to have 181 votes, PDP members in the House are the beautiful bride that must be courted as well as members of the other parties.

Now with the sack of member-elect on the platform of the APC, Tata Umar in Bauchi State, and the sack of another one in Ekiti, the PDP has added two to its fold, so, anyone who has 100 per cent of PDP would only have to add 68 more from the APC’s 212, if not further depleted by court judgments, not forgetting the sweeping judgment on Zamfara.

Some politically savvy APC members are already exploring the possibility of consolidating on the PDP block vote to boost their chances of becoming the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Five members of the ruling APC met with PDP member at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja last Wednesday. They are Segun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo), John Dyegh (APC, Benue), Nkiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia), Jide Olatunbosun (APC, Oyo) and Bago.

The meeting presented the lawmakers an opportunity to discuss various issues bothering on their mutual wellbeing as regards the coming speakership debate, particularly on standing committees vis-a-vis the position of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Onyejeocha, who is the only female lawmaker in the race, assured the PDP that her leadership would ensure equitable allocation of committees as well as improved the welfare of members, irrespective of party affiliation. She also pledged to engage the leadership of the party to see the reason why members of the opposition should be given fair deal.

On his part, Bago assured the people that with him as speaker, all committee positions would be equitably distributed in a proportionate manner.

To further underscore the vital role the main opposition party will play in the choice of the next Speaker, irrespective of Oshiohmole’s initial hard stance and open disdain for the PDP, the APC preferred candidate also wooed PDP lawmakers last Thursday. Like his contemporaries, he was also at Transcorp Hilton.

However, an APC lawmaker from the South-west, who pleaded anonymity said, “This idea that it is a done deal; there is nothing to say Bago is losing this election. Anybody who says it is in the can, it is not true.”

He premised his assertion on the fact that similar ventures in the past when party leadership attempted to foist a candidate on the House failed.

“In 2011, the PDP, the party in government wanted Hon. Mulikat Adeola Akande from Ogbomosho, Oyo State but the defunct All Progressives Congress (ACN) instructed us to work against the party and vote Hon. Aminu Tambuwal. Though of the PDP, that the ACN was sympathetic to his course. And I think the chicken has come back to roost.”

“In 2015, it was like a done deal. Even with a mock election he (Gbajabiamila) won, he lost three days after. So, we are expecting a serious sense of objectivity. Fact is leadership must derive its authority from the people. Any leadership that has character deficit, you will not be able to demand morality from it,” he said.

He strongly believed that despite pressure from some persons, there is a sense of self-determination among lawmakers to preserve the dignity of the assembly from external influences, especially in tandem with Section 50 that says members will elect their leader.

Bago’s campaign group however stands on the tripod of competence, constitutionalism, Nigerian and APC constitutions, which both guarantee equity and justice.

He has told whoever cared to listen that the APC constitution allows that there must be all-inclusiveness just as the Nigerian constitution and that the law says that every improvisation in conflict with the constitution of the country is null and void.

He has also said emphatically that the margin of victory for President Buhari and APC in Niger State alone was more than the entire states of the South-west, not even North-central. Only Kwara did similar feat winning three senatorial seats and nine House of Representatives seat.

Arguing the need for equity and fairness in the allocation of opportunities, Bago told THISDAY that, “After the 1983 coup, Nigerians who were present at the Constitution amendment of 1999 made sure that the Constitution took care of agitation like this in a federal arrangement, where every part of this country is integral to the other, and that no people or section of this country should be marginalised either in the revenue allocation, political appointment, space or liberty.

“So, every Nigerian is at liberty to live anywhere they want to live and stay there without any form of intimidation. Every part of Nigeria must be seen in every office in Nigeria in a manner that reflects federal character. It is a constitutional provision. And APC; even the drafters of the party’s constitution made it very clear in the constitutional provision that the principles of fair hearing, justice, equity and federal character will be upheld.”

The Bago team has been querying the rationale behind the consideration that the South-west is being considered against the North-central, particularly considering that the fact that the Vice President already comes from the zone.

Rounding off, Bago considered the calls for open ballot system in the National Assembly leadership election, as a desperate attempt to forcibly influence the outcome of the poll

According to him, such call is a “Burglary to democracy; it is a robbery to democracy in Nigeria; it is an assault on the parliament, for anybody, governmental and non-governmental organisation or group to start thinking of a primitive way of trying to coerce people to do something. It is primitive.

“If they were so sure of what they are saying, why didn’t they agitate for it at the 2019 polls? If they had insisted that we went to the polls using an open ballot system, then we can say that every election in Nigeria should be by open ballot. Then, we will not be talking about this. They want to know those who are with them because they are unsure that members are with them. They are sure that people are not with them.”