Speakership Race: Gbajabiamila, Wase In Public Spat

 The relationship between Gbajabiamila and Wase has changed since the latter announced his bid to become the speaker of the 10th House.

The speakership race for the 10th House of Representatives has caused a rift between Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and his deputy, Idris Wase—the latest being an open confrontation on Wednesday over the sitting of the House.

For four years, Messrs Gbajabiamila and Wase had a harmonious working relationship since 2019 with little or no public disagreement over issues. However, that has changed since the latter announced his bid to become the speaker of the 10th House.

Mr Gbajabiamila was said to have overlooked his deputy to endorse Tajudeen Abbas, a lawmaker from Kaduna State. Since then, the relationship between them has deteriorated.

At the close of plenary on Wednesday, Mr Gbajabiamila directed the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Hassan Fulata (APC, Jigawa), to include a few items on the agenda for Thursday’s plenary, citing a need to close plenary before 2 p.m. in order to attend the commissioning of the permanent site of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).

“Chairman Business and Rules, let’s make the Order Paper light for tomorrow because we have this NILDS commission; it is very important — the permanent site of the NILDS. It is at 2:30. So it will be good if we close by 2 p.m,” he said.

But Mr Wase raised a point of order, questioning the rationale for the House to adjourn to commission a project instead of using the time to conclude the business of the 9th House ahead of the final adjournment of the House.

Mr Speaker, I am getting to see this getting so funny, and we have lost quite a number of times. For the commissioning of projects, for God’s sake, why do we have to shelve a lot of activities that we have just to go and witness the commissioning of a project of NILDS? I want to beg, sir that we should do our functions.

“Those who have the interest to go, they have the right to. But our main primary function is this parliament and making the citizens a priority,”
 he stated.

The point of order raised by the deputy speaker caused a back-and-forth between the duo.

Perhaps DS (Deputy Speaker), you don’t appreciate the importance of NILDS like some of us do. I think NILDS is very important,” Mr Gbajabiamila told his deputy.

Mr Wase, who was at this point on his feet, interrupted the speaker; “I have every information and idea of what NILDS is.”

Mr Gbajabimaila responded, “It was set up by this same institution by statute. We are not adjourning the House to go to NILDS. What I said was, let’s try and make it light and leave here by two (p.m.). If you want, we can resume by 10 (a.m.). We will do our work, but we will adjourn this House at 2 p.m. I will witness NILDS because it is important to me.”

Once again, the deputy speaker interrupted, noting that, “The parliament is about us, not about I.”

The speaker was visibly vexed with the open confrontation and said no deputy speaker has ever confronted the speaker in the open since the return of democracy.

“Mr Deputy Speaker, this is the first time in history – I have been in this House for many years, perhaps even longer than anybody here – this is the first time in history that a deputy speaker will be challenging what the speaker is saying,” he said.

Following another bout of back and forth, the speaker moved a motion that Mr Fulata should ensure that his directive is complied with. The Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa, seconded the motion.

Mr Doguwa was also in the race for the speakership but withdrew last week to obey the party’s directive on zoning and endorsed Mr Abbas.

Background into the race

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, endorsed Mr Abbas and Ben Kalu as speaker and deputy speaker.

The party’s decision is currently being challenged by Mr Wase and other candidates who formed the G7 coalition. The aggrieved lawmakers in the coalition, all APC members, include Yusuf Gagdi, Sada Soli, Muktar Betara, Aminu Jaji, Miriam Onuoha and Mr Wase.

Over the past couple of weeks, the G7 members have publicly challenged Mr Gbajabiamila, accusing him of trying to impose Mr Abbas on the next House.

Regarding parliamentary business, the row between Messrs Gbajabiamila and Wase has been affecting the business of the House as Mr Gbajabiamila often adjourned the House whenever he was not available to preside.

The rules of the House allow the deputy speaker to preside in the absence of the speaker. Before the speakership tussle, Mr Wase often presided in the speaker’s absence.

Two weeks ago, Mr Gbajabiamila adjourned the House indefinitely, citing the ongoing induction of members-elect of the 10th House. He was equally challenged by his deputy, who stated that the induction of members was not a genuine reason for adjourning the House.

Meanwhile, there has also been speculation of an impeachment plot targeted at Mr Gbajabimaila over the power tussle.