Hopes by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that its members in the House of Representatives will vote en bloc for one speakership candidate at the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly next week appears slim, as the opposition lawmakers are lining up behind different candidates.
This is coming as anxiety mounts within the PDP caucus in the House over the silence of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, on whether he will seek re-election or support any of the contesting candidates.
Speculations have being rife that Dogara might present himself for re-election as Speaker of the House. But in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, on Saturday night, the Speaker dismissed reports that he has joined the ninth assembly speakership contest as “fake news.”
At the moment, there are seven candidates contesting for the speakership position. They include the House leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; Umar Bago, John Dyegh and the chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejocha.
Others are the chairman, House Committee on Information, Segun Odebunmi; Emeka Nwajiuba and the latest entrant into the race, Olajide Olatunbosun.
Daily Sun reliably gathered that in the absence of a clear direction on where the PDP and Dogara stand in the speakership contest, opposition lawmakers have started negotiating directly with different contenders.
A PDP lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, said several members of the minority caucus are not happy that the outgoing speaker is keeping them in the dark on his stance in the contest, adding that no one seems to know the speaker’s preferred candidate among the seven persons jostling to succeed him.
He expressed fears that the delay by the PDP leadership in coming up with a position on the party’s preferred candidates for the speakership, as well as for the positions of deputy speaker, senate president and deputy senate president, will affect the ability of the caucus to speak with one voice during the election of the presiding officers.
Daily Sun gathered that at the moment, members of the PDP caucus are torn between Gbajabiamila, Bago and Olatunbosun among others, with some of them serving in the think-tanks of the trio.
Among those backing the House leader are PDP lawmakers who feel short-changed in allocation of chairmanship of committees in the Eight Assembly.
When contacted, the minority leader, Leo Ogor said he was not aware that opposition lawmakers were backing different speakership candidates. He promised to investigate the issue.
“Whatever they are doing is probably serving their own purposes. But it is a little bit disturbing. But I will try and find out what you have told me, “ Ogor told Daily Sun in a telephone interview.
However, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sergius Ogun told Daily Sun that it is not surprising that the opposition lawmakers are backing different candidates.
Ogun, who represents Esan North West/ Esan South East Federal Constituency, further said: “They have never voted in one direction. What you will be asking is how many have moved from the bloc; that should be the question.
“ As far as we do not know how many people are still part of the bloc; the APC cannot also tell you they know how many of their members will toe the line of the party. It is always like that.
“They (APC) cannot tell you we have this number. Nobody can tell you now that they are home and dry, because on the eve of the election, a whole lot will happen. And even on the morning of that election, a whole lot will still happen.”
Regardless, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Sun that there is no cause for alarm, noting that the party leadership will meet later this week to take a position on the election of presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Said he: “We will meet before then (inauguration of the National Assembly). We will see how it plays out. The people involved are meeting. The members and senators are meeting. Hopefully the party will meet (on the issue) this week.”
Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives and one of the contestants for the position of speaker, Olajide Olatubosun, has warned that he would fight against imposition with the last drop of his blood.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja, Olatubosun said the National Assembly is faced with “existential threat.”
In the meantime, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition comprising over 400 civil society organisations, has thrown its weight behind the clamour for the adoption of open ballot system for the election of presiding officers in the National Assembly.
Chairperson of TMG, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, made the remark on Sunday in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
But a PDP member of the Senate representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Foster Ogola, does not share TMG’s views.
In a separate interview, he disagreed with Akiyode-Afolabi, asserting that “if any electoral system or voting system is to be credible or seen to be credible, it has to be secret ballot. That has been the pattern all along, and I believe that should stay; it should not be a controversy.”
The lawmaker said the election would be free and fair if it is by secret ballot,
”This is because the members of the National Assembly would be exercising their franchise freely, arising from their personal conscience.
”I believe in free thinking, I believe in republicanism; that people are free to have their minds. But I believe anybody who does not have ulterior motives will support secret ballot,” he said.