A coalition of civil society organisations, Civil Society Groups for Good Governance, has urged the All Progressives Congress to allow the South-East geopolitical zone to produce the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The National Convener and Lead, Dominic Ogakwu, at a press conference in Abuja on Friday, noted that the APC was “on the cusp of history” to demonstrate that the party was built on equity, inclusivity and justice “as it reaches a decision on zoning of key officers for the 10th National Assembly, especially for the House of Representatives.”
Aspirants for the office of the Speaker in the 10th Assembly, some of whom have yet to officially declare their ambitions, are now over 10.
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They include the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, embattled Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Aliyu Betara and Chairman, House Committee on Science Research Institutes, Olaide Akinremi.
Others are Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Tajudeen Abbas, Chairman of the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, Abdulraheem Olawuyi, Chairman, House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Makki Yalleman and Sani Jaji.
Wase and Gagdi are from Plateau in the North-Central geopolitical zone, Ado-Doguwa, Kano, North-West, Betara, Borno, North-East and Akinremi, Oyo, South-West.
While Benjamin Kalu is from Abia, South-East, Yalleman, Jigawa, North-West, Jaji, Zamfara, North-West, Soli, Katsina, North-West, Olawuyi, Kwara, North-Central, Abbas, Kaduna, North-West and Onuoha, Imo, South-East.
Ogakwu said, “As members of civil society, we hold the view without equivocation that equity and fairness demand that the South-East should produce the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“It is for this reason that we call on the APC, as the majority party in the National Assembly, to zone the Office of Speaker of the House of Reps to the South-East, not just to reflect the federal character and support a balanced power-sharing formula in the country, but also because the South-East zone has the potential and capacity for the office.
“There is a sense of alienation and marginalisation amongst the people of the zone by the APC, which, though we do not share, but agree as a legitimate concern. As a country that just emerged from an electoral process that is benighted by divisive tendencies, history beckons on the ruling party to demonstrate that it is inclusive, equitable and responsive to all parts of the country, particularly the South-East.”
Ogakwu added that as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, “It is urgent and imperative” that the APC promoted the tenets of federal character by zoning the Speakership to the South-East and strengthening the cords of unity and peaceful co-existence amongst the peoples.
He stressed, “Records indicate that since the return of democratic rule in 1999, the South-East geopolitical zone is the only zone yet to have the opportunity to produce a Speaker of the House of Representatives. The nearest the zone has come is Deputy Speaker between 2011 and 2015.
“For the avoidance of doubt, from 1999 to 2007, the position of Speaker was zoned to the North-West with Rt. Hons. Salisu Buhari, Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Aminu Bello Masari as Speakers. Also, from 2007 to 2011, the South-West produced Rt. Hon. Patricia Etteh and Dimeji Bankole presiding; and the North-West taking another chance between 2011 and 2015, with Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker and Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy. In 2015, the North-East produced Yakubu Dogara as Speaker. By 2019, it returned to the South-West again with the current Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.”
The coalition, however, explained why Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, should be Speaker, should the APC zone the position to the South-East.
“As we stated earlier, our clamour for the speakership from the South-East is not premised on equity and inclusion alone, but because there is the capacity, ability and widespread consensus that Hon. Benjamin Kalu, is suited for the job.
“As a second-term lawmaker with a resounding mandate from his people, Hon. Kalu, the Cicero of the House, has demonstrated panache, zest, ability and capacity as Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs. Time and time again, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the member representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, has passed across resolutions and decisions of the House without reason to second guess or be misquoted,” Ogakwu stated.