The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the All Progressives Congress (APC) decided to zone the 10th Speakership and the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North West in order to compensate the region.
Naija News reports that Gbajabiamila stated this at a meeting of the Joint Task–10th Assembly held at the Trasncorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja on Wednesday night.
He said the North West wanted the Vice Presidency but the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, chose his running mate from the North East and decided to compensate the region with the speakership position in terms of their contribution to his victory.
Gbajabiamila also denied reports that he singlehandedly zoned the Speakership and the deputy speakership positions to the North West and South East respectively.
The Speaker, however, noted that the emergence of the APC on the political scene in 2014 was basically between the South-West and the North-West.
He said: “I recall that I told Abbas he would abide by only the decision of the APC, saying, “But as God would have it…and I will say this because a lot of people think and give me more credit and more power than it is due me. A lot of people think I zoned speakership…I handpicked and zoned. I wish I had those powers.
“I said to the people who zoned, ‘Why North-West?’ They said to me, ‘Go and read your political history;’ that from the day Nigeria was born, the North-West being the largest of voting blocs with seven states has never ever been outside the top four of the hierarchy in Nigeria. I said I didn’t know that.
“Why would it be in my time or our time that the North-West will be left out of the calculation? That is why they zoned it to the North-West, amongst many other reasons, apart from the number of votes that they brought – 30 per cent of our figures.
“The North-West wanted the Vice-President. The President-elect decided to go to the North-East. So, the least he could do was to compensate them with speakership in terms of what they bring to the table. It is as simple as that. I did not zone it. I wish I could.”
Second Term As Speaker
Gbajabiamila also recalled how some members of the House persuaded him to seek a second term as Speaker, despite the fact that he is from Lagos State in the South-West as Tinubu.
He added: “My members came to me – many of them and some are seated here today – including every single person that is aspiring today came up to me, that they didn’t care whether the President is from the South-West or Lagos, that they wanted me to run again as a second-term Speaker.
“Even as of four weeks ago, two of the front-runners, the aspirants, said to me, that ‘if you decide to run for Speaker again, we will drop our ambition.’ It was tempting at the time but sometimes you must be selfless enough to put country first.
“I cannot have a President-elect from Lagos, even though my members could have decided that that is what they wanted; but the optics will not be good. We just came out of a divisive election….very divisive – the most divisive in history. How then can one zone take two spots out of four? So, I refused to do it. I refused to take that bait or bite that bullet, otherwise, today, maybe, hopefully, standing before you would have been the incoming Speaker of the 10th Assembly.”
Campaign of Calumny
The Speaker decried that some party members have been sponsoring campaign of calumny against him over the zoning arrangement of the ruling party.
He said: “Some people have said and I watched it on TV, ‘Why would he pick somebody outside of us in this closed circle? I am the next in line for succession. Why not me? This is the Chairman (of the Committee on) Appropriations; I know that member, why not him?’
“But they forget that on the two occasions that I ran for Speaker; in 2015, (Aminu) Tambuwal, the Speaker then, had a preference – (Yakubu) Dogara. Dogara was a floor member; I was the most senior APC member in that House (as Minority Leader). The roof did not come down. I did not blame Tambuwal that ‘I am the most senior, why not me?’
“In 2019, Dogara himself had a preference for (Mohammed) Bago. I was the House (Majority) Leader; I did not say ‘Why Bago? Why not me? I am the House Leader.’ It does not work like that. What I have done is to spread joy. They did North-West. I advised them and they did South-East. Spread the joy! Cut across! And in the South-East, I found Ben Kalu.”