Will governors have their candidates installed speakers?

Stephen Gbadamosi, Bola Badmus, Segun Kasali, Yinka Olukoya, Wale Akinselure, INIOBONG EKPONTA, JUDE OSSAI, Michael Ovat and ISAAC SHOBAYO examine the simmering ‘war’ in some states of the federation over sharing of political positions, as stakeholders are putting electioneering battles behind them to consider the spoils of war.

ONGOING battle of wits over the sharing of political offices after the general election in the country is not limited, as expected, to the Ninth National Assembly. Events indicate that a similar contest for supremacy and will is gathering momentum across states with divergent interests digging in over the sharing of key offices in state Houses of Assembly.

In some cases, the contest for leadership stems from intense manoeuvring by some powerful forces to jettison hitherto power sharing formula predating the elections. Under the plan that had subsisted even as far back as 1999 when the country returned to civil rule, some areas that had dominated power are bent on preserving the status quo. Apart from having produced governors and members of the National Assembly at different times, they are said to be determined to further ‘marginalise’ other divisions that were promised power shift to their areas in the incoming political dispensation.

For political expediency, stakeholders at the state level have institutionalised power sharing arrangement such that once governor and deputy governor emerge from some areas, such areas are shut out of other principal offices, especially in the state House of Assembly. Thus, the mutual agreement is that other divisions will get the positions of speaker, deputy speaker, majority leader and chief whip with members-elect of the party having majority in the House as beneficiaries. Attempts to truncate such accord by certain elements have created disquiet, necessitating intervention by some highly placed individuals from the political circles and the traditional institution. Most of the state governors-elect are said to be playing hide and seek over the smouldering crisis of confidence among the members-elect to give the impression of a seeming non-interference based on the principle of independence of the three arms of government: the executive, legislature and judiciary.

But how long can the governors-elect play the ‘fool’, in view of past experiences of some state’s chief executives in their relationship with state Houses of Assembly, especially with variegated dominant political interests in that arm of government? While others succeeded in emasculating their state Houses of Assembly, others were always on a collision course with their legislators. The peculiar experience in some of the states of the federation is the focus in this report.

 

Battle for Lagos House is between Obasa and Eshinlokun

Right now in Lagos, the incumbent speaker of House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, in spite of enjoying support of members who want him to continue in office from June 2019 when the Ninth Assembly would be gathering to elect its principal officers, is no doubt having some form of challenges. This was gathered from among the members expected to decide his fate.

The ruling APC, to which Honourable Obasa also belongs, won all the 40 seats available. This shows that Obasa, who has indicated his interest in continuing in the leadership position, giving the level of support some members claimed he rendered them to be picked as the party’s tickets for the election, would definitely not be having a challenger in the opposition PDP or whichever party.

“It is so certain that the current speaker will be re-elected in the ninth assembly by the lawmakers. He was magnanimous, supportive and even contributed to the successful return of all the lawmakers who were re-elected.

“For instance, Obasa engaged in peace-keeping dialogue with many of the party leaders on behalf of most of the lawmakers, in order to guarantee their re-election in the just-concluded elections. This is payback time to return him as the speaker,” a source said.

Notwithstanding this development, focus has also been on the deputy speaker, Honourable Wasiu Eshinlokun, who not a few people had thought was the person actually penciled in for the exalted office in 2015. The reason is that he was and is still regarded as the political godson of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu.

However, a power broker and equally a member of the same House, Honourable Sikiru Osinowo, who many regarded as a stabiliser and the eye of party leadership in the state, gave total support to Obasa and that was said to have done it for him. Now, Osinowo, in the last election, contested and was elected into the National Assembly as senator to represent Lagos East Senatorial District.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu is said to be gunning for the post of deputy Senate president in the National Assembly, but according to sources, given the ongoing politicking in the Senate which may not allow her to realise such ambition, she was said to have pleaded that she be allowed to have her choice as the next speaker of the state House of Assembly, this time around, in person of Eshinlokun.

Again, Sunday Tribune conversely learnt from other sources that the incumbent, Honourable Obasa, is not enjoying robust relationship with most of the members, including principal officers, who see him as operating a one-man show, “which does not allow collaboration in whatever form.”

So, ahead of the emergence of a new speaker for the House of Assembly, issue of zoning the position has also come up for debate as a way to ensure that key positions in the state, namely the governorship, deputy governorship, speakership, SSG, among others, are fairly spread among the three geopolitical zones.

For instance, Mr. Olusola Sanwo-Olu, the governor, is from Lagos Central; deputy governor is from Lagos East, while Eshinlokun, should he become the next speaker, would be coming from Lagos Central, same as Sanwo-Olu, a situation which has been said some people would use as excuse to dismiss Honourable Eshinlokun and those wishing him to be installed as next speaker.

Political pundits have observed that sharing of political positions on the basis of geopolitical zones has not worked in Lagos, especially in APC.

It has been pointed out, for instance, that the current arrangement which came into being from 2014 whereby Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, hailed from Lagos East; his deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule, from the Lagos West; and the speaker, Obasa, also from Lagos West, is also a pointer to this.

Speaking on the speakership race, chairman, of the state chapter of APC, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, maintained that selection of the speaker was the business of the lawmakers and not the party, saying that the party would not interfere in the process.

“The regular thing to do is to sit at the Assembly and elect a speaker. It is the duty that is left to the lawmakers. It is left for the lawmakers to decide,” he said.

 

Suspense in Ogun

All other things being equal, the next speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly will emerge from Ogun Central senatorial district, on the basis of zoning. Those who are conversant with the arrangement said this is because the state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and his deputy are from Ogun East and West respectively.

It was further learnt that the contest is between a three-time member of the House and deputy speaker, Honourable Olakunle Oluomo representing Ifo 1 State Constituency, and another two-time member, Honourable Oludaisi Elemide from Odeda State Constituency.

The duo are from the ruling APC which has the majority in the Assembly. There are also indications that the speakership may be occupied by Elemide who is a core loyalist of former Governor Olusegun Osoba. Oluomo is a loyalist of the former governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, before things fell apart between them in the build up to the elections.

Other key positions of the Assembly, it was learnt, would be determined by members as soon as the Assembly is inaugurated.

 

How battle for Oyo Assembly leadership will fare

In Oyo State, various considerations come into play in determining who holds what major political office whether at the executive or legislative level. Apart from capability, religion, experience, political influences, stakeholders particularly consider the zone which the intending political officeholder represents. The zonal consideration in the sharing of political offices is to ensure that each zone of the state has a fair representation in government. The five major zones that are considered in sharing political offices are Ibadan, Oke-Ogun, Ogbomoso, Ibarapa and Oyo. Considering the huge size of Ibadan and Oke-Ogun, some politicians argue that that the state actually has seven political zones, with the addition of Ibadan less cities and Oke-Ogun 2.

In the past years, the need to have different zones represented in governorship, deputy governorship and speakership positions has been upheld. In 2007, the governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala represented Ogbomoso; his deputy, Taofeek Arapaja is from Ibadan, while Moruf Atilola, from the Oyo zone, was speaker.  From the 2011 political standing, former governor, Abiola Ajimobi, from Ibadan zone has his deputy, Moses Adeyemo, from Oke-Ogun zone, while the speaker, Monsurat Sunmonu, represented Oyo zone. While the governor and his deputy continued in 2015, a new speaker, Michael Adeyemo, emerged from the Ibarapa zone and Olagunju Ojo, from Ogbomoso, subsequently emerged after the demise of Adeyemo.

The current governor, Seyi Makinde, from May 29, Makinde, being from Ibadan; his deputy, Rauf Olaniyan, being from Oke-Ogun, a House of Assembly member from one of Ibarapa, Ogbomoso or Oyo is expected to be the next speaker. Eighty-eight percent of the forthcoming Oyo House of Assembly will be made up of new comers, as only four of the 32 members have legislative experience at the state level. The four returning members are Honourable Wumi Oladeji of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are current members of the Assembly; Oyeleke Adebola and Ashimiyu Alarape, both of the APC, had once been members of the Assembly.

The PDP, which produced the governor, also boasts of the majority in the Assembly with 26 members as against the APC’s five members and the ADP’s one member. Members-elect of the PDP from the three zones from which the next speaker could emerge are Ogundoyin (Ibarapa East), Ojedokun Gbadegesin (Ibarapa North-Central) and Onaolapo Adedoyin (Ogbomoso South). Among the three believed to be in the forefront of the race to be speaker, only Ogundoyin is a returning member and has legislative experience.

Followers of events have, thus, contended that it all looks good for Ogundoyin to become speaker.

 

Already, scrambling has begun in A’Ibom Assembly

The distribution of the offices, according a source in the House, “will be influenced and dictated by the existing zoning principle as enshrined in polity.”

For instance, it was learnt, the three major political offices – governor, deputy governor and speaker of the House of Assembly – have been distributed across the three senatorial districts of Eket, Ikot Ekpene and Uyo.

Currently, Governor Udom Emmanuel holds the slot for Eket; Obong Moses Ekpo, his deputy, represents IkotEkpene, while the outgoing speaker, Mr. Onofiok Luke, has occupied the slot for Uyo in the last six years.

Going by the current political configuration, the slot of speaker, according feelers from the Assembly, would likely remain in Uyo Federal Constituency comprising Uyo, Nsit Atai, Ibesikpo Asutan and Uruan. Those angling to succeed Luke, who has already secured the House of Representatives seat to represent Etinan Federal Constituency, are returning members including Mark Esset (NsitAtai), Aniekan Bassey (Uruan), Aniekan Uko (Ibesikpo) and Anietie Eka, who is coming in for the first time to represent Uyo.

Other principal offices are House leader, currently occupied by Mr. Udo Kierian (OrukAnam), who is returning for a third time; deputy speaker and chief whip which may be reshuffled to give room for fresh leaders, it was scooped.

Although it is yet to be seen who eventually clinches what position, it was gathered that intense lobbying has continued, especially among the returning lawmakers.

 

Jostling for positions take centre-stage in Nasarawa

In Nasarawa State the issue of who become the speaker and deputy speaker of the Assembly as well as SSG is already generating apprehension among APC members in the state, it was learnt. In the Assembly, the ruling APC has 15 members out of the 24, while the PDP has seven, leaving one each for the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Sunday Tribune reliably gathered that the incumbent speaker of the state Assembly, Ibrahim Abdulahi, who is representing Umasha/Ugya state constituency, may likely retain the seat that the issues of who to emerge his deputy would be the major bone of contention. This is because many have already shown interest in the position.

 

Anambra South seeks speakership of House

Ahead of the inauguration of the Anambra State Assembly, questions are being asked as to which senatorial zone the speaker of the House would come from. The social and traditional media have been awash with various postulations regarding who becomes the speaker.

Those who are conversant with power rotation and zoning arrangement in the state have not been hesitant in making it clear that the speakership should go to Anambra-South senatorial district, as equity, justice and good conscience demand. The argument has been that any move to the contrary would be tantamount to injustice and political marginalisation.

The state chairman of the National Action Council (NAC), Honourable Anthony Orekyeh, is one of those who believe that Anambra-South should not be prevented from producing the speaker.

Orekyeh, who is also deputy state secretary of the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), noted that judging from the political equation in the state, it would be most undemocratic should Anambra-South senatorial district be denied the slot of speaker.

“We need a speaker that is all-accommodating; a speaker that is accessible and that wouldn’t be arrogant; a speaker that is a team player, so that he can carry every legislator along as he carries out the business of legislation in the House. Whatever happens in the House affects the government in power,” he said.

It is widely believed that the next speaker should come from Anambra-South senatorial zone, since the governor is from Anambra-North; and the deputy governor, Central Senatorial district.

 

Zoning favours Okigwe zone in Imo

Based on the unwritten zoning agreement among three political axes in Imo State, the Okigwe zone, six out of the 27 local government councils in the state, is primed to produce the speaker of the state assembly. The other two zones are Orlu with 12 local government areas and Owerri zone which has nine.

The governor, Emeka Ihedioha, is from Owerri axis, while his deputy comes from Orlu.

Already, the lawmakers from Okigwe zone have intensified serious lobbying among their colleagues from Orlu and Owerri to support them to win the speakership. These lawmakers are dangling the carrot of the chairmanship of juicy committees as well as making the majority leader to emerge from among their colleagues from zones.

At a retreat recently, Governor Ihedioha reaffirmed his commitment to working with the members-elect, while at the same time asserting the need to respect the principle of Separation of Powers so as to ensure efficiency in governance. He stressed that he wold not interfere in how the lawmakers run the House.

But from all indications, the governor appears to be keeping it close to his chest his preference from among the candidates for the office. He only openly charged members-elect to pick the best among them for the principal offices. A top government official, who didn’t want his name mentioned, said the governor had not endorsed any of the aspiring candidates.

The state secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Honourable Ray Emeana, while commenting on the development, said members are mature enough to elect any lawmaker capable to pilot the affairs of the Assembly. Emeana, who was a one-time member of the House, explained that the party will not interfere with election of the principal officers, not even the issue of zoning being mouthed by some individuals.

 

Plateau: Can minority PDP lawmaker upset the apple cart?

The outcome of the State House Assembly elections in Plateau State has altered the permutations and zoning arrangement in vogue on the Plateau. The question of who becomes the next Speaker of the  Assembly has been generating ripples within the APC family. Based on the extant zoning arrangement, Plateau North Senatorial zone, especially Jos North or Jos East is expected to produce the next speaker of the House.

The outgoing speaker, Joshua Madaki is from Jos East Local Government Area of the state, was not re-elected based on zoning which precludes a lawmaker from representing the constituency twice. Madaki told Sunday Tribune that since 1999, no lawmaker has represented the constituency twice, hence the decision not to seek reelection despite pressure on him in certain quarters to run.

The outcome of the election showed that All Progressives Congress (APC) won 15 out of the 24 seats, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won eight seats. By-election for  Pengana  constituency is still pending following the sudden demise of the winner, Ezekiel Afon who died while celebrating his victory at the poll.

The APC can conveniently produce the speaker of the Assembly, but the major snag is zoning and various interest groups scheming to position their cronies as the next speaker of the Assembly. The situation is further compounded by the fact that majority of those elected from Plateau North senatorial zone are PDP members, while the few ones elected on the platform of APC are not ranking members.

However, there is a strong indication that the existing zoning formula might not be jettisoned because of the reelection of the governor and his deputy Professor Sonny Tyoden. The former comes from the Southern zone, while later is from Central senatorial district. It is therefore expected that the speakership position, which is third in hierarchy, should be zoned to Plateau North. Though there are insinuations that some forces within the party are contemplating circumventing the zoning arrangement by selling the idea of picking the speaker from the Central zone on the premise that there is no returning member of APC from the Northern zone.

Sunday Tribune findings revealed that a wide range of consultations is presently going on within the APC; the party is, however, disturbed over the heat the issue is generating among the stalwarts. A state party official who did not want his name in print disclosed that Honourable Afon positioned to be the Speaker died in a mysterious way shortly after he was  declared winner at the general election.

Amidst this confusion and in the quest to find solution, there is an insinuation that some notable members of the party approached one of the returning members of PDP from the Barakin Ladi constituency, Honourable Peter Geidem to cross over to APC. He was said to have declined the offer.

In spite of this and ahead of the Tuesday inauguration of the House, two members have indicated their interests, a three-term lawmaker, Honourable Baba Hassan from Jos North Local Government Area and former Deputy Speaker. A member-elect from Jos East, Abok Nuhu Ayuba,  has also indicated his interest to run for the seat.

Though none of the two contestants was willing to speak on their aspirations to avoid being sanctioned by the party, the lobby groups are working assiduously to position their henchman as the next speaker. Hassan parades the credentials that he has been the deputy speaker and third-term member.

Ayuba is from Jos East and a strong contender. He is coming into the House for the first time. He is said to be a 500-Levl law student of the University of Jos

A member of the state Assembly, who craved anonymity, told Sunday Tribune that in spite of these challenges, some group of people especially from Baba Hassan constituency are mounting pressure on influential stakeholders within APC to prevail on the lawmakers to vote for Hassan when the 9th Assembly is inaugurated. Apart from the issue of competency and experience, the campaign for the seat is taking a frightening dimension.

Sunday Tribune learnt that those fronting for him are not relenting in their efforts in spite of campaign by opposing camp to smear his image. Ibrahim Ladan who is one of those promoting his aspiration said this is just a campaign to smear his image adding that what APC and other elected members should look out for is experience and competency not a sentimental issues.

“He is returning to the House for the third term, a former deputy speaker. More so, the speakership is zoned to where he comes from. So, Plateau House of Assembly deserves the best, sentiment should be put aside,” he said.

Ayuba is however seen as a green horn in a legislative matter and those against his aspiration said in view of the complexity of the state, the House needs an experienced person to pilot its affairs, even as majority of those elected are first timers. They argued that Ayuba is still a student.

One of the elected members who craved anonymity said experience was secondary as many speakers had been elected without prior experience. He said:”Professor Dakun Shown, Isa Chingnun, George Daika, the serving governor, Simon Lalong, among others became speakers without any prior experience. So, the issue of experience is secondary in this context.”

The state Secretary of APC, Alhaji Bashir Sati Musa, said the allegation doing the round that the party was interfering in the politics of who becomes the speaker was a figment of people’s imagination, adding it was the duty of members across party divide to elect whoever they wanted as the speaker, just as he said the party could only recommend the majority leader and other principal officers.

“There is no sentiment about the issue and the party is not interfering in the politics of who becomes the speaker of the House. They should be able to produce one person as the Speaker. This is just one of the attributes of politics, one of the contestants is from Jos North and the other one is from Jos East. People are just giving their interpretation based on their perception to the whole thing. The two contestants are from the same political party, the sentiments being whip are just party of politics,” he said.

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