About one 164 newly-elected lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in House of Representatives have expressed support for the speakership ambition of Femi Gbajabiamila, who is the party leadership's choice for the position.
According to the members, it would be diffficult to go against the party and President Muhammadu Buhari.
The members said it would be lopsided for the North to produce the President, the Senate President and also demand the Speaker of the lower chamber.
The lawmakers-elect, who formed a group known as the 'Forum of newly elected APC members of the House of Representatives', said the South must produce the Speaker for the sake of fairness.
In a statement jointly released to newsmen by Hon. Tunji Olabunmi Ojo and Hon. Dunkwu Nnamdi Chamberlain, the Chairman and Director-General of the Forum, respectively, the forum said: "APC zoned President to the North, the Vice President to the South, Senate President to the North and now the Speaker to the South. It would be difficult to go against the wishes of the party and President, Muhammadu Buhari."
It added that those from the North-Central agitating for the speakership were insincere, as the North cannot produce the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives at the same time.
"Every member of the party is a product of the party; the party gave everybody the platform to contest and apart from giving the platform, the party also gave assistance to members before, during and after elections," the group said.
“So, it is expected that as a loyal party members, we are supposed to toe the line of the party and now that the party and Mr. President have spoken that Femi should be supported for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, we expect every party faithful to toe that line and support Gbajabiamila to emerge as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“We believe he has the experience; more experience than other people that are contesting the position. It is not just enough for you to bring out posters. Femi is very qualified, eminently qualified more than any other person. Let's just forget about geopolitical zone; we are talking about competence; we are talking about Nigeria; we are talking about the interest of the downtrodden.
“Femi would be able to articulate policies that would benefit the generality of the Nigerian masses to compliment the next level agenda of Mr. President. Right from the time, it has always been North/South. The Presidency is zoned to the North, while the Vice President is to the South.
“Now, Senate President has been zoned to the North and speakership to the South and when it comes to the South we decide where it should go. Politics in this country is played along the line of North and South. North Central is North, North West is North and North East is North.
“So, the speakership has been zoned to South. When we zoned the Presidency to the North, North West produced the President. So, for those talking about zoning, zoning in this country is done North/South."
On the influence of the forum to install the Majority Leader as the next Speaker, it said: “Well, the Forum of the newly elected APC members has 164 representatives; then we have members of other political parties who are also affiliated to this Forum of new members irrespective of their political parties.
“Some of them were originally APC but because they could not get ticket during the primaries to contest, they moved to other parties.
"So, we have the same ideology, they are just there because they went to look for a platform to contest. They are all with us in this struggle to make sure that Femi emerges as the Speaker of House of Representatives.”
The group claimed the election of Gbajabiamila would prevent what happened in the 8th Assembly, where the policies of the government and that of the party were frustrated.
“We want to ensure that what happened in the 8th Assembly would not repeat itself, where party loyalty was thrown to the dustbin. People went there to fight for their individual pockets," it said.
“We are in this 9th Assembly to fight for the interest of Nigerians. Nigerians are suffering. How can Mr. President present a budget and for 7 months the budget was still being kept on hold — frustrating the good policies of Mr. President, frustrating the good policies if the party?”
While the backing of the Forum will be good for Gbajabiamila, the group still does not hold the power to wholly ensure he gets the position, as its number, 164, is well short of half the required votes in a chamber comprising 360 members.