- I wasn’t invited to the meeting – Speaker
As the National Assembly leadership crisis rages on, the House of Representatives members loyal to Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila have told President Muhammadu Buhari of alleged plans by the group led by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, to polarise and destroy the All Progressives Congress, APC, with a view to rejoining the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The members, who urged Buhari to call Dogara and members of his group to order, insisted that the party must decide who occupies the principal offices in the Green Chamber.
This was one of the issues they raised when they met with President Buhari behind closed-door at the First Lady’s Conference Room on Wednesday night.
In their presentation to the President at the meeting attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Gbajabiamila, who was accompanied by 29 lawmakers to the meeting, said the President’s intervention was needed to save the party’s integrity.
They demanded that Dogara be asked to return to their fold and announce the other four principal officers’ positions in the House as directed by the APC.
The group said: “It is noteworthy that Mr. President and the governors had strongly put their weight behind the party and had severally admonished the House to abide by the party’s position.
“The 39 APC members in the House continue to collude with the PDP to flagrantly disobey Mr. President, the governors and the party with a view to bringing the party and government to ridicule before Nigerians.
“The conduct of the 39 APC members colluding with the PDP is tantamount to affront, ultimately targeted at polarising our party so as to give room for many of them to decamp to the PDP.
“It is therefore imperative for Mr. President to take a stand and save the integrity of the party by cautioning the 39 members, which include the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, to respect, honour and obey our party Leaders and their directives.
“In conclusion, Mr. President, we as loyal party members shall continue to abide by the party constitution, respect and honour our party leaders and their directives.
“We strongly appeal to you to direct the Speaker to return to our fold and be a truly elected Speaker on APC platform. He should be directed to announce the other four principal officers’ positions as directed by the party as has always been the convention.
“We sincerely appreciate Mr. President for the audience trusting in his ability to successfully mediate so as to save our great party, the APC, from further embarrassments.”
The lawmakers said while Gbajabiamila and the party’s choice for the position of Deputy Speaker had openly congratulated Dogara and his deputy, the opposition and the 39 APC members continued to hold the APC leadership in contempt.
They wondered what would be the reward of the 174 of them who have remained obedient and loyal to the party.
While noting that the Speaker’s group had cited the federal character principle as the reason why they will not honour the party’s directive on the choice of the remaining principal officers, the lawmakers said that principle was not applicable to the National Assembly.
“It should be noted that the federal character principle as embedded in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is not justiciable and is of no legal consequence.
“Its provision in S.14 of the Constitution is only applicable to appointments in Federal Ministries and Agencies.
“The House of Representatives is not an agency of the Federal Government and the principal officers’ positions are elective and not by appointment.
“If the Federal Character is applicable to the National Assembly, then both the Senate President and the Speaker cannot come from the North, one of them should be advised to step down,” they argued.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Gbajabiamila described the meeting as a very successful one, saying the APC Caucus and the party would come out of the crisis bigger and better.
Asked to disclose what the President told them, Gbajabiamila said Buhari is a party man who believes in the party’s supremacy and its ideologies.
When asked why Dogara was absent at the meeting when he claimed that it was for APC Caucus, the lawmaker said the Speaker could have other engagements.
“The Speaker probably has other engagements. There are a few members of the caucus that are not here. We could not get everybody here. This is a representation of the Caucus. When we are talking about the Caucus, we are talking about 210 members. You did not find all the members here. This is a representation of the 210 members,” he said.
When reminded that all those who attended are members of his camp, Gbajabiamila said, “It is not about me and we need to get that clear. Yes, they voted for me but the idea is that they supported the party. That is who we are and there is nothing more to be said about that. It is not about any individual.”
I was not invited by Buhari – Speaker
Meanwhile, Speak Dogara has said that he was not invited by President Buhari to the meeting he held with Gbajabiamila and his supporters.
In a state he issued yesterday, Dogara said: “The attention of the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been drawn to some news reports about a purported meeting between Mr. Speaker, the President and some members of the House under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that there was never a time the Speaker was invited for a meeting with the President on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.”
Nigerian Pilot however learnt that the Speaker had earlier had a private meeting with Buhari on how the lingering crisis in the party could be resolved amicably.