Hon Yusuf Lasun may have emerged the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, but that is a source of headache to him. Since he defied the party’s directive to emerge the deputy speaker, he has been marked for political subjugation. How far can he go in remaining politically afloat in a state and region that treats political disloyalty as high treason asks EMMA ALOZIE?
Osun State is the most talked about of the 36 states of Nigeria today. In recent times, the state has been in the news mainly for the wrong reasons. The state probably owes more salaries to its workers than any other state and its pensioners cry the loudest. Religious bodies and many other non governmental organizations have come in handy to distribute food items to the suffering workers of the state. But this is only a part of the problem.
The state is of the All Progressives Congress, APC, but all is not well within the fold of the ruling party. The embattled governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a known ally of the former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is the de facto leader of the APC in South West. Trouble in Osun APC was said to have started during the power struggle that engulfed the National Assembly leadership recently.
While the struggle for the soul of the 8th National Assembly ensued, the party directed its members in the National Assembly to vote for Senator Ahmed Lawan for senate president and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Being a ranking member of the party from South West and the order indirectly coming from the leader, Tinubu, it was a given that all APC National Assembly members from the zone would toe the line of the party, but Hon Yusuf Lasun from Osun State had other ideas.
He against all expectations aligned with the Dogara Camp; the camp that rebelled against the party’s directive. On the floor of the House on June 9, 2015, he was nominated as the deputy speaker and won. He defeated his rival, Mr Mohammed Monguno, from Borno State to become the deputy speaker on June 9. Lasun polled 203 votes as against Monguno’s 153.
But that was the beginning of the crisis in Osun APC and by extension in the South West. When the ding dong affair between the Dogara Camp and the APC loyalists lasted on who to occupy the principal officers’ position, there were calls by the South West caucus of the party for the deputy speaker to be sacrificed to accommodate the large ambitions of Femi and that of his godfather, Tinubu.
The deputy speaker came under immense pressure to step down for Gbajabiamila to take over his position. In one of those meetings led by Governor Aregbesola to the APC’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the heat was turned on Hon Lasun to sacrifice his position for Femi Gbajabiamila. The Speaker, Dogara attended the closed door meeting.
Though Chief Odigie-Oyegun dismissed this speculation then by saying, “the party has not said such thing. We only called a meeting with the Speaker, his deputy and South-west governors so as to try and sort out the outstanding issues in the House of Representatives. We are still holding consultations and hopefully there will be a breakthrough soon.”
But the deputy speaker would soon bring the proceedings of the closed door parley to the open. He defiantly said he was not going to give in to the pressure to resign.
“That is a speculation; why will I resign? I went through an election on the mandate of the Speaker (Mr. Yakubu Dogara),” he said.
Lasun said that his constituency has been playing prominent role for the victory of the opposition party which is now the ruling party since 2007, adding that stepping down was not possible for him. The Deputy Speaker told his kinsmen, the Ilobu Development Association, Osun, Abuja branch when they paid a solidarity visit to him in his office. The governor and many leaders of the party in the zone did not forgive him.
He retained his seat as the deputy speaker and Gbajabiamila was made the House Leader. This ordinarily should have allowed fences to be mended; but that was not the case. The deputy speaker has been a target of some APC big wigs in the South West who accuse him of being disloyal and in disobedience of party directives. There are even speculations that his emergence as the deputy speaker has stalled the naming of Senator Olusola Adeyeye, (APC Osun-Central) as the Senate’s Chief Whip. The Senate had zoned the majority chief whip position to the South West and zeroed in on Senator Adeyeye, but for the mere fact that he is from the same state and even zone as the Deputy Speaker Lasun, it has kept the position unfilled.
This has made the deputy speaker a marked man. The rift in the rank of APC in Osun came to the open when he (deputy speaker) boycotted the recently held Osun Stakeholders Summit, which he was duly invited. The summit, which was organized by Osun lawmakers comprising those in the National Assembly and the State House of Assembly had other lawmakers in attendance except the deputy speaker. Being the most ranked national lawmaker, this left many questions unanswered and left many analysts arriving at the conclusion that the frosty relationship between the governor and the deputy speaker has deteriorated. His conspicuous absence made observers to notice that since becoming the deputy speaker, he has boycotted all state functions in the state.
With his new found status, it has become more of a supremacy tussle between the deputy speaker and the governor. Followers of Osun politics say that Lasun may not win this battle of wits as the governor, his unpopularity notwithstanding has the ears of the party leaders.