A leadership tussle among pro-President Muhammadu Buhari elements in the House of Representatives is threatening the unity of the larger All Progressives Congress caucus of the House, The PUNCH learnt on Wednesday.
Investigations showed that at the centre of the quarrel were the Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; the Coordinator of the Parliamentary Support Group, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin; and a lawmaker from Sokoto State, Mr Musa Serkin-Ada.
Serkin-Ada heads another group, the Buhari Loyalists Group.
The APC caucus, the PSG and the loyalists are all pro-Buhari, with the agenda of ensuring the President’s re-election in 2019.
However, The PUNCH learnt Gbajabiamila had reportedly questioned the relevance of other groups within the APC caucus when the caucus as a block, had the numerical strength to work together for the President’s success.
On the other hand, Jibrin has lately accused Gbajabiamila of using his opposition to the PSG to destroy it and other groups for the sole aim of promoting his own agenda of becoming the speaker of the House.
Jibrin also doubted the unity of the APC caucus under the leadership of Gbajabiamila.
He accused him of “selectively” inviting members to hold night meetings with the National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole.
Jibrin claimed that Gbajabiamila’s aim was to plot the impeachment of the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, to pave the way for him (Gbajabiamila) to succeed Dogara.
In a text message Jibrin circulated to members on Wednesday, he wrote, “How can the House leader claim that there is one APC caucus when it is a known fact that invitations to caucus meetings are selective? We all know that many of us were not notified/invited to the last caucus meeting with the national chairman for reasons best known to him.
“We want to make it categorically clear to Hon. Femi (Gbajabiamila) that he has not demonstrated uprightness, fairness, equity and justice. (He has) failed to carry everyone along and so some of us cannot trust and follow him as the leader of our caucus. We will announce our own leader on resumption.
“We will pick a competent member from the South-West to lead us. There are many of them in the House. Everything from South-West mustn’t go to Femi. We will meet the national chairman and Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) to lay our case.”
Further accusing Gbajabiamila of nursing a personal ambition and plotting to destroy the PSG, Jibrin wrote, “We will not allow anybody to take advantage of our caucus and his so-called support for our party and Buhari to foster his personal ambition. He has never stood for the party or the President except when he wants to advance his personal ambition. It is time to give others from the South-West the opportunity.
“The inclusion and exclusion style of Hon. Femi has inflicted collateral damage on the unity of our caucus which has resulted in the present factions. And it is time to deal with it before he destroys our party.
“After making spirited but failed attempts through subterranean means to destroy the Parliamentary Support Group, he has factionalised the APC. Is that how he wants to lead?”
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr Yussuff Lasun, was one of those reportedly not invited to the recent meeting with Oshiomhole on the suspicion that he might hold contrary views to that of the APC.
But, when his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Wole Oladimeji, was contacted for comments, he said his boss was invited and fully participated in the meeting.
“The DS was duly invited. He was there from the beginning till the end”, Oladimeji informed The PUNCH.
Findings indicated that though Gbajabiamila nursed the ambition of becoming the speaker, he was targeting 2019 and not the impeachment of Dogara.
“They are mixing things up. Gbajabiamila wants to return in 2019 to be the speaker. Yes, he is mobilising for 2019 and if anything, he believes that a united APC caucus will serve his interest better. He has campaigned for the APC to remain one”, one senior parliamentary official told The PUNCH in Abuja.
When The PUNCH sought the reactions of Gbajabiamila to the allegations raised by Jibrin, the Lagos lawyer declined to speak.
He replied tersely, “No comments.”
Another top official of the House reduced the issue to simply “leadership tussle” within the Buhari support groups.
The official explained, “Jibrin has led the PSG and active in the loyalists group.
“Problems started after some members held the view that all the groups should merge and have Serkin-Ada as the chairman, thereby leaving Jibrin out.
“Even the APC House caucus too is insisting that it is strong as a body to work for Mr President, hence these so-called support groups are not necessary.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, said he would not speak on the disagreement within the groups because it was not a House matter.
Efforts made on Wednesday to get Serkin-Ada’s comments failed as well.
On his part, the Chief Whip of the House, Mr Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, dismissed the allegations of Jibrin as they concerned Gbajabiamila’s plot to become the speaker.
Ado-Doguwa also said Gbajabiamila’s seat was not under threat either, but he admitted that there was a leadership dispute within the pro-Buhari groups.
He stated, “Gbajabiamila is still our leader and to the best of my knowledge, we are all working in harmony with one another as leaders of the APC caucus in the House. Dogara is still a loyal member of the APC. I also want to categorically say that we as a caucus, have no plans whatsoever to impeach Dogara as our speaker
“I am also sure that Gbajabiamila too does not as an individual have any such plans. We are proud to say that our ranks in the House have not been broken like is the case in the Senate.
“The only problem I know with Buhari/Parliamentary Support Group is about its protem leadership, which resulted in a slight leadership tussle between Sarkin-Ada as its chairman or chief coordinator and another contending member.”