By Kehinde Akintola
Indications emerged on Monday that the South East caucus in the House of Representatives has lost out of the race for the position of the Minority Leader, Nigerian Tribune gathered authoritatively.
Out of the 360 members of the 0the Assembly, APC takes the lead with 190 members, PDP has 151 members while other parties have 19 members.
Some of the ranking members tipped for the office of the Minority Leader are Hon. Chukwuma Onyema (PDP); Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) and Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers); Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP-Abia) and Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP-Kogi).
With the emergence of Senator Eyinanya Abaribe who represents the South East caucus as the Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuma Onyema also from South East has lost out of the race.
In confirmation of Nigerian Tribune’s investigation, Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP-Benue) in a chat with our Correspondent observed that various statutory positions are to be allocated based on zoning and in alignment with the Senate.
He affirmed that the choice of principal officers in the Senate plays a significant role in determining the zoning of other principal offices in the Lower Chamber.
He, however, observed that “people are free to express their interests” for any of the available positions, adding that “our (PDP) party leaders are also discussing.”
Gbillah explained that the decision over the various positions was delayed due to the need for some of the opposition members who are attending the Election Tribunals to claim their mandates.
While noting that the consultation over the zoning of the 8 positions among the 6 zones are ongoing, Gbillah who was the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) in the 8th Assembly, expressed tipped the North Central for Minority Leader considering its contribution to the potency of the opposition parties in the 9th Assembly.
“I am from the North Central and we are also angling on getting it too because we produced the third largest number of opposition members after the South-South and South East, so we are qualified if that consideration is given.”
When asked on how to douse the tension within the ranks and files of the opposition parties in the wake of the selection of the principal officers, the Benue lawmaker who dismissed the report, argued that there was no discord within the PDP caucus.
He, however, maintained that the party must ensure equity and unity within the party.
Gbillah also expressed optimism that other opposition parties with 19 members would be given their rightful place in the selection of the Minority principal officers.
When contacted a four-term South-South lawmaker who spoke under the condition of anonymity said: “if PDP gets it wrong the way its leaders indirectly gave us Gbajabiamila victory because of one selfish Senator, then the House would be a mere rubber stamp.
“As for our members who openly voted against PDP preferred candidate, we are patiently waiting for the sanction the party would impose on them.
“We know them as in most cases they leaked proceedings of our meetings to the Gbajabiamila camp which gave them an added advantage.
“We also know that their efforts will be in vain because they betrayed the party to solicit for juicy committees which Femi will never give to them.
“Ironically, most of such lawmakers are from the South East, the most marginalised in this whole project.”
Also speaking, an aggrieved member of the opposition party who does not want his name in print, accused most of the new members of trading the party for personal gains.
“Of course, you can read in between the lines that we have the muscle to push for a good bargain if pull our resources together prior to the election of the principal officers.
“But the negotiation collapsed midway and that led to the current predicament we found ourselves.
“With 170 members from all the opposition parties, we could have carried the day knowing full well that there are a lot of aggrieved members of the ruling party opting to gun for the Speakership.
“Recall that we had a meeting on the eve of the inauguration but most of those who were part of the meeting had sold themselves out to the ruling party.
“The media was awash with how they were bought over through various means and the rewards are already manifesting, looking at the members that constituted the Adhoc Committee on Welfare. It was dominated by first-timers.
“Most of them betrayed the party preparatory to the election of the principal officers basically became they don’t know how party politics are being played in n institution like this. But over time they’ll get to know better,” he opined.