For the umpteenth time, members of the House of Representatives from the North Central Zone seeking the speakership of the Green Chambers have insisted on forging ahead with their ambition despite the All Progressives Congress (APC) endorsement of Femi Gbajabiamila. They insisted that as loyal party members, they have the right to seek principal offices in the National Assembly, stressing that their preference for the speaker’s slot was because the zone had never produced the occupant of the office. One of the aspirants, Hon. Umaru Mohammed Bago, told Akelicious last night that there was no going back for him as far as the speakership race for the 9th National Assembly was concerned. When Akelicious contacted Bago on the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s warning to President Muhammadu Buhari to beware of disloyal APC lawmakers on the National Assembly leadership crisis, Bago said that he is a core loyalist of Buhari, adding that the president he knew has no “anointed candidate” for the race. Bago who represents Chanchaga Federal Constituency of Niger State said: “We have been very loyal to the president. He cannot have any loyal persons more than those of us from the North Central Zone who have legitimate aspiration for the office in question. I will not opt out for the contest for anybody because the president has not anointed anybody for that office. Another aspirant, Hon. John Dyegh (Benue State), also from the North Central said that the APC was yet to give serious reasons why other lawmakers cannot contest for the speaker’s office. He said: “The North Central Zone has not been convinced or given reasons why their votes should not count and why we cannot run. We feel very strongly that there is still room for negotiation because we believe it is not over until it is over.” Similarly, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas from the North East, said that his intent was borne out of the fact that the region has been retrogressive in time past. He said: “I am aspiring for the position of the speaker and I will still go ahead and contest in this election because the North East zone is the most backward in Nigeria and West Africa.” In a statement issued by his media office yesterday, Tinubu appealed to APC members to avoid a situation in which the outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, hijacked the National Assembly to frustrate the government of Buhari in his first term of office. Tinubu stated that his support for Ahmed Lawan as Senate president and Gbajabiamila as speaker was aimed at helping President Buhari to succeed in the “shared vision of a flourishing economy and a prosperous people,” in his second term. The APC leader, who obviously opened up on insinuations about his 2023 presidential ambition, described as “senseless” reports that he was propping up Gbajabiamila to emerge as the speaker of House of Representatives as part of plans to actualise his plan to run for the presidency in 2023. The statement read: “We have monitored, with rising incredulity, the rash of news stories claiming Asiwaju Tinubu is manipulating the APC nomination process for the National Assembly leadership. “The stories claim this supposed manipulation is the first salvo in Asiwaju’s effort to position himself for a presidential run during the 2023 election cycle. Not only are these reports utterly false, based as they are in the febrile imaginations of those persons by whom they are being peddled, they are injurious to President Buhari’s historic quest to reform Nigeria. “It is for this latter reason that we find cause to speak out where otherwise we would have continued to watch on in silent amusement. The peddlers of these rumours have arrogated to themselves the preternatural ability to read Asiwaju’s mind more than himself can know it. They also seem to have acquired the unique gift of bending time so that 2023 appears before we even reach the midway point of 2019. If these people would only enlist their uncanny talents in the service of the nation instead of in the service of political intrigue and gossip mongering our country would be much the better. “This attempt to caricature Asiwaju as if his words and actions are all aimed at grabbing power will fail because this portrait distorts the plain truth. While the headlines are sensational they are also senseless because they are not grounded in fact. The rumour-mongers should court greater discipline and wisdom. As Asiwaju recently said there is no action a person can take that constitutes a political guarantee as to what may come four years from now. Moreover, that having allies in the National Assembly leadership positions will greatly enhance someone’s presidential ambition is a spurious claim. “As he enters his second term, President Buhari has stated that he will give the economy special priority. His goal is to defeat poverty and joblessness while spurring the type of growth and development that will make Nigeria’s a durable and flourishing economy. These goals are laudable and necessary to move Nigeria forward. However, the obstacles before us are vast and complex,” he said. Tinubu accused the outgoing NASS leadership of frustrating every attempt by Buhari to move the country out of its economic doldrums. He said: “Just look at the way Saraki, Dogara and their ilk hijacked the budget process these past four years. National budgets were delayed and distorted as these actors repeatedly sought to pad budgets with pet projects that would profit them. “Even worse, they cut funds intended to prosper projects that would have benefitted the average person. After four years of their antics halting the progress of government, we should do all we can to prevent a repeat of their malign control of the National Assembly. “If we are truly committed to optimal governance, then we also must be equally committed to ensuring that the National Assembly leadership be competent and experienced as well as imbued with a progressive mindset and a desire to work in close cooperation with the executive. This is all Asiwaju has hoped to achieve. There are no ulterior motives. Everything he has done is in concert with and in furtherance of the wishes of President Buhari and the party.” “Thus, those who cast aspersions at Asiwaju, in reality are bucking against the stated position of the president. This is a democracy and people have the right to oppose whomever they wish to oppose. However, if these mongers oppose the president let them be of sufficient courage to plainly say so. They should not disparage Asiwaju as an indirect way to contend against the president. “What everyone who cares about Nigeria should now do is rally around the president to give him all possible support in driving to reality his economic policies and objectives. This is how we progress as a nation,” he declared.