Facts emerged on Tuesday that Members-elect who constituted the Minority Caucuses in the 10th House of Representatives are divided over the ruling party’s zoning arrangement for the positions of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10th Assembly.
At the inauguration of the pressure group called ‘Joint Task – 10th Assembly’ held at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja which started around 2:20pm, about 60 lawmakers from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the seven opposition parties were in attendance.
On the other hand, other PDP Members-elect who are reportedly opposed to the APC zoning arrangement attended the PDP Caucus meeting scheduled for 2pm at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, with the acting National Chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagun and other members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC).
The meeting was also attended by a handful of Members-elect drawn from the six minority parties namely: Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Young Progressive Party (YPP).
Speaking at the inauguration of the Joint task – 10th Assembly, the incumbent Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs, Hon. Usman Kumo (APC-Gombe) argued that the meeting was for the inauguration of the Executive members of the Forum as well as chairmen of various zonal and state caucuses.
While responding to a question on whether any of the aspirants who have formally indicated interest in vying for the various elective positions are members of the Forum, Hon. Kumo answered in the negative, in the bid to ensure that no one can blame the Group for supporting any candidate.
He also dismissed reports that the ‘Joint Task 10th Assembly’ Forum was initiated at the instance of the incumbent Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila considering the caliber of lawmakers and members of his Media Team who attended the inauguration.
He said: “On the question whether Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is the one sponsoring what we are doing, the answer is capital no. but mind you, Femi is an elected member belonging to the 10th national Assembly as we are speaking now.
“He’s a Nigerian and it is his franchise to tow any line he wishes. As we are speaking by the Assembly of gentlemen you are seeing here, take it for free, nobody, and I repeat in capital letters, that can manipulate all of us here; no that individual.
“The combination you are seeing here, if you carefully observe, we have people from all the six geopolitical zone, and we have members of all the political parties – eight of them and each of them, everyone of us here won his election on merit and before we partake and won the election, we rose through the ladder of prosperity gradually and patiently. And it is in view of this that I’m telling you Femi did not constitute this group; Femi is not behind this group, not to my knowledge.
“In the 10th Assembly we have men of integrity that are perceived to be the wise men in every Assembly. And these wise men might not naturally opt for any positions but they would stay behind, provide direction and ensure that it’s a stable house.
“That House we are going to discuss Nigeria and in discussing Nigeria, it’s a cosmopolitan society. We are so divergent and we were keeping faith that some of us have to ensure that that Nigerian project see the light of the day., so, Femi is not behind this project. But he may join us willingly f he so desires because he’s part of us because he needs and is free to exercise his franchise.”
When asked about the number of the Forum, Hon. Kumo said: “As politicians, when you are partaking in a war, you don’t get busy counting how many people you kill because somebody will come and kill you. You keep the causalities till after the war. So, we will move on until we install and ensure that our own people, our own interest became the Presiding officer because we have the numbers, we have the strength and in this game, we are like footballers no matter how much you dribble in the game, whether you score and get that three points, that’s what qualifies you to be a good footballer.
“So, we will cross the bridge when we reach the bridge. So far, we are keeping the number to our chest because we are in a political field, we are politicking and we are not only politicking for the sake of making names, but we are doing that to succeed and ensure that our names are written in gold.
“The last question is that whether the members that are in this group are whether cajoled or coerced or induced, look at the faces of these gentlemen, we are seated here humbly, we are confident in ourselves and we are willingly seated here because we believe in the project called Nigeria,” he emphasized.
However, one of the lawmakers, who spoke with parliamentary correspondents but does not want his name in print, described the Forum as a “kangaroo’, adding that some of us were forced to join the Group.
Another lawmaker, who also pleaded anonymous explained that he declined from going to the high table when approached by the organizers of the event.
In his remarks, Hon. Ali Madaki (NNPP-Kano) assured that the 10th Assembly will not be a rubber-stamp.
He said, “What we intend to do, God willing, is to bring a harmonious working relationship between the Executive and members of the National Assembly. I want to say very clearly that we are not going to be a rubber-stamp to anybody.
“But we intend to follow what is the world best practice in recognizing the fact that, anywhere you go in the world, the party that has the majority produces who will be the presiding officers.
“For somebody like me who is part of the opposition, I want to assure Nigerians that there will be productive and robust opposition in the National Assembly. But we will do that in a way and manner that would add value to the Nigerian people.”
While addressing the PDP caucus, acting PDP National Chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagun said: “you people have come at a time when you never see anything as bad as we are seeing it today. So, in as much as you rejoice in your winning, you have a daunting task before you because the state of the nation, you have been elected at a time the country is no more what it used to know.
“We’ve been bedeviled by so many vices and people are looking up to you to correct the wrongs. When you make laws, it is expected that you are helping the society and in the act of making laws, you should be mindful of the fact that the society is not what you used to know. And you have to be firm, you have to be loyal to your country first, then to the party.
“First to the country because it is when you have a country that you can even exist as a lawmaker. To the party, because most of you that have spoken have been grateful to the party for giving you the platform to be here today. So, the party expects nothing less from you other than to be a loyal party member.
While speaking on the leadership crisis rocking the lead opposition party, Ambassador Damagun who assured a peaceful resolution of the crisis, said: “I know most of you would be concerned about the current situation of the party.
“It’s always like that when you have an election year, there would be a lot of crises, if you look at your primaries, how you were nominated up to the time when you were elected, you’ve gone through a lot. And I know the party is going through the same kind of situation but one thing I want to assure you is that PDP has the mechanism to solve its own problem.
“The initiative you’ve taken upon yourself before we even called upon you to make this gathering possible is also one of the reasons why I said we have the mechanism.
“You’ve done well, I’ve interacted with some of your leaders towards build-up to this gathering and I don’t expect any PDP member to be less in terms of that acumen and capacity. We’ve always been known to be full of capacity in terms of what we want to achieve. I don’t want anything less from you.
“I want to reiterate like some of you have said here, that this 10th Assembly should come and make sure that it’s giving the right opposition expected of you.
“I’ve always had hope in the House of Representatives. I’m not saying the Senate are not doing much, but you are the people that are directly closer to the constituencies and so much is expected of you and I hope that ours is going to be a very credible opposition and we will give it to them, we’ll put them to task, we’ll put them on their toes to make sure that right thing is being done in this country because that is what we need in this country at this moment,” he stressed.
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