The peace committee chaired by Sokoto State Governor, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, appeared to have failed to resolve the leadership tussle in the caucus of the All Progressives Congress at the House of Representatives.
The indication of this came on Wednesday as the leadership of the House on Wednesday dismissed as “nothing like party position” an earlier letter the APC wrote to the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on the zoning of principal offices.
After the Tambuwal committee met with the group led by Dogara, and that of a former Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the issue at the centre of the crisis – the sharing of four principal offices – remained unresolved.
Findings showed that the Gbajabimaila group, at its meeting with Tambuwal, had restated its stance that the decision of the APC on the allocation of the offices must stand.
The party had written to the Speaker that the South-West should produce the Majority Leader; North-West, Deputy Leader; North-East, Chief Whip; and South-South, Deputy Whip.
However, the North-East and the South-South later swapped their positions, but still said they remained loyal to the APC.
An offer to Gbajabiamila to head the AdHoc Committee on Constitution Review in place of being the majority leader of the 8th Assembly, was also reportedly turned down by the former minority leader.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the Dogara group too had maintained its stance that federal character and zonal balancing must be reflected in the sharing of the positions “in such a way that no zone of the country” would be left out.
“It was this same position that they presented before the Tambuwal committee last night”, a National Assembly official told our correspondent on Wednesday.
However, the spokesman for the Dogara group, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Wednesday said that at the meeting with Tambuwal, the group agreed to concede the House leader to the Gbajabiamila group “provided that neither the South-West nor the North-East” would take the position.
Jibrin added that, in the event the Gbajabiamila group did not accept the “concession”, all the APC caucuses in the House would go for an election to decide who would become the majority leader.
Jibrin also said similar elections would be conducted to fill the three other positions in line with the provisions of the relevant rules of the House.
“The entire APC members would hold an election to elect the House leaders. If someone says he has 174 members, fine; let us hold an election and see if he actually has that majority he claims,” Jibrin told a news conference.
Our correspondent observed that the ‘concession’ implied that Gbajabiamila would still not be the majority leader, an indication that no headway had been achieved.
Gbajabiamila’s group confirmed this in a statement it issued soon after Jibrin spoke with journalists.
It said that the group indeed met with Tambuwal and made its position known that party supremacy must prevail.
It said that the sharing of the positions remained the way the APC originally zoned them.
“To the best of our knowledge, no counter-offer has been made to the APC Loyalists’ group after her first meeting with Tambuwal peace committee, wherein the APC loyalists clearly stated that in line with party supremacy resolution reached at the last APC NEC meeting, the position of the party on Femi Gbajabiamila as the House Leader is non-negotiable,” a member of the group, Mr. Rufai Chachangi, said in a statement.
However, like the Dogara group, the Gbajabimaila group also subscribed to the proposal of conducting elections to pick the House leaders.
The statement added, “However, as a group that wants peace and quick solution to the logjam in the House, the APC Loyalists group would equally subscribe to an election among entire members of the APC House Caucus, where all members, irrespective of zones, would exercise their right to elect their principal officers.”
It expressed surprise that the Dogara group, which had opposed zoning before the speakership election, was now canvassing zoning.
It also queried the suitability of a South-East member for any principal position in breach of House rules when the zone’s only two APC members in the House were first timers and not qualified to hold leadership positions.
On the Tambuwal committee, the group noted, “In playing his mediatory role , the former House Speaker, Governor Tambuwal agreed to take our position to Dogara’s group for consideration and convene a joint meeting of both groups, which is yet to be convened as of Wednesday evening.
“So, any purported decision reeled out to the public in the name of the National Assembly peace pact before such joint meeting is lopsided and not acceptable to the APC Loyalists’ group.”
However, giving the official position of the House on the crisis, a member of the House AdHoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, said the House backed the sharing of the positions among all the six geo-political zones in the country.
He dismissed the APC’s letter to Dogara, saying that it did not follow due process by getting the approval of the National Working Committee of the party and the ratification of its National Executive Committee.
He said, “For the House, we believe that this so much talk about party position or letter from the party, I think it is actually being misunderstood.
“For us, the position of the party has to go through certain laws, certain process; the party caucus in the House would be involved, we believe that the caucus here in the House should be aware of the position of the party.
“As far as we are concerned, the party did not approach anybody or zonal caucuses to say these are the names selected from the party. We are not aware of that.
“Two, we also know that for a party to take a position, to be regarded as the party position, it has to go to the National Working Committee. The NWC must have met and agreed on the position, but it appears some members of the working committee are not even aware of this position.
“Again, even if the NWC agrees to it, it has to be ratified by the NEC and the speaker and deputy speaker are also members of NEC. There has never been any time that this issue was brought up.
“But, in any case, the first NEC meeting that was held, this matter was not brought up. So, that means clearly it is not the party’s position. The position of the House is that there is nothing like party position. We won’t accept the said letter as a letter from the party.”