“We are discussing with our lawyers and exploring legal actions because there are technicalities we need to address. What we need to do is to get the CNA (Clerk of the National Assembly) to preserve those ballot papers for forensic investigation.
“Without divulging much information, there are issues, which we are discussing with our lawyers on the best way to handle them. We are not going to relent even if it means exploring legal means to question the legitimacy of the so-called election of Gbajabiamila as the Speaker in the light of the facts that have unfolded”. Those were the words of Hon. Mark Gbillah, the spokesman of the G-70, a group of lawmakers loyal to the defeated speakership aspirant, Hon. Umaru Mohammed Bago.
The Bago group, which is alleging that the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, engaged in vote-buying is threatening to opt out of a dialogue initiated by the Gbajabiamila group after the Speaker allegedly went against an agreement and “imposed a Minority Leader” on the House. Gbajabiamila had during the recess visited Bago at home and also approached some members of the Bago group in order to pacify them and see how the crisis emanating from the speakership contest is resolved amicably.
However, the appointment of a Minority Leader and other minority positions for the lower chambers might have rekindled the ‘war’. Gbillah, a PDP member from Benue, had alleged that some honourable members were induced financially to cast their votes for Gbajabiamila, making reference to a video of some lawmakers taking pictures of their ballot as a proof of his allegation of vote-buying.
Stressing that Bago is not part of the proposed court action, and that the exercise is not at the behest of the defeated speakership candidate, Gbillah told Saturday Telegraph that the G-70 was still opened to dialogue and negotiation, but would not hesitate to take necessary action should Gbajabiamila fail to acknowledge his weaknesses. “It is not about Bago. At this moment, Bago is not part of us.
The G-70 is a group of bipartisan members, who are interested in upholding the integrity of the House of Representatives and that of the National Assembly. We are completely embarrassed and ashamed of what our hallowed chamber had been turned into.
“If we see that the elected Speaker, purportedly as it is, who we have already accepted as the Speaker, intends to introspectively reflect on the manner in which he was elected, we are opened to dialogue and negotiation.
“The essence of G-70 is not to cause further fragmentation and discordance in the House that would affect the nation and our democracy. “We are not attempting to truncate the functions of the House. We are interested in ensuring that the integrity of the House is upheld; that the confidence of the Nigerian people is restored and respected.
“We are going to be pursuing our grievances with the highest level of responsibility. That is why we have not completed certain actions yet. We have already been reached by many statesmen and concerned Nigerians to exercise some discretion in observing the conduct of the new leadership,” he said.
Further speaking during a chat on a Channels Television programme, ‘Sunrise’, yesterday, Gbillah alleged that the Speaker and the Presidency had ulterior motives with the appointment of Hon. Ndidi Elumelu as the Minority Leader. Assuring that members of the PDP are united on the choice of Kingsley Chinda as the Minority Leader, he faulted the other minority members whom he alleged were being used to violate an existing practice of the House and legislative conventions.
Gbillah also made reference to the appointment of Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe as the Minority Leader of the Red Chamber, noting that it was the choice of the PDP and that the Green Chamber should have followed the same pattern. His arguments were however punctuated by another member of the PDP, Hon. Oghene Egoh representing Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos, who claimed that the appointment of Elumelu was in order, lamenting that those on the side of Gbillah within the PDP has enmeshed the party into another round of crisis.
Group chides Gbajabiamila Meanwhile, an Abuja based group, One Nigeria Movement (ONM), has faulted the Speaker over his handling of the House Minority Principal Officers, accusing him of turning himself to an emperor by arrogating to himself, the powers to appoint minority leaders as against the position of the leading minority party. In a statement issued yesterday, signed by its Convener General, Alhaji Ahmed Sodiq-Mugoro, the ONM said it was surprising that Gbajabiamila could resort to threatening his colleagues, who disagreed with his decision to appropriate to himself, the power of majority of the minority political party to appoint Minority Principal Officers as it has happened in the past, which he (Gbajabiamila) also benefitted from.
The group said Gbajabiamila must tell Nigerians how he emerged as Minority Leader in 2007 and 2011 under Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) respectively as well as 2015 under the APC. “Was it through letters from his parties to the Speaker nominating him to lead the minority parties? Were AC and ACN the only minority parties in 2007 and 2011 that Gbajabiamila was nominated as Minority Leader? The ONM recalled that as it was the usual practice in the House, the PDP forwarded names of Minority Leadership of the House in a letter dated June 21, 2019 to the Speaker, noting that the letter was duly received on June 26, 2019 and contrary to the House rule that all correspondence must be read at the plenary, the Speaker refused to read the letter.
Warning that the House of Representatives under Gbajabiamila was already showing the signs of dictatorship and flagrant disregard for rules and laid down procedures, the ONM said apart from speaker and deputy speaker, no other principal officer of the House is picked through election. The group described the Speaker’s action as a continuation of the APC affront on the constitution of the country, pointing out that those sought to conquer the judiciary were now out to put the National Assembly under their feet