Interest in the speakership of the House of Representatives in 2019 has surged following the automatic ticket the All Progressives Congress granted the current Deputy Speaker, Mr Yusuff Lasun, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
The ticket to Lasun, the current deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, is said to have set the lawmaker against the current Majority Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, as both men are plotting for the number four position in the country.
Both men are from the South-West geopolitical zone. Gbajabiamila, a Lagos lawyer, has been representing Surulere Federal Constituency since 2003.
The deputy speaker, a trained engineer, came to the House in 2011 to represent Irepodun/Olurunda/Osogbo/Orolu Federal Constituency of Osun State. He became the deputy speaker in 2015.
Last July, he contested the APC’s governorship primary in Osun State and lost.
Lasun protested the outcome of the election, which was won by Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola on the grounds that the party opted for direct primaries instead of the indirect primaries initially agreed by the parties.
The deputy speaker polled 21,975 votes to place second behind Oyetola who scored 127,017 votes.
It was gathered that Lasun did not bother to contest the House of Representatives primary for the 2019 election.
“He was later placated by the party to support Oyetola in the rerun against the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, and later granted a soft-landing by way of the automatic ticket,” another top South-West parliamentary official told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Investigations indicated that the two politicians were working on the calculation that they would not only win the main election in 2019, but that the APC would also control the majority in the House and be primed to take the speakership.
“The thinking in the two camps is also that the APC will retain the zoning formula of 2015 by reserving the seat of the speaker for the South-West.
“Recall that in 2015, the sudden emergence and miraculous victory of the current Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, altered the zoning arrangement after Dogara defeated Gbajabiamila by a shocking number of eight votes,” a source close to the two politicians told SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja on Saturday.
In 2015, Gbajabiamila appeared to have no intimidating rival and was coasting home to victory when Dogara stopped the polished, former US legal practitioner from any form of celebration.
Until Thursday last week, when Lasun got his ticket, the Gbajabiamila camp had reportedly thought that with the Osun Rep out of the way, the road to the speakership had been smoothened.
“But, Lasun’s ticket has caused trepidation in the Gbajabiamila camp as the Lagos lawyer must now work harder if he hopes to become the next speaker.
“From available information, Lasun is very much prepared to contest the seat as well. Having been the deputy speaker, he has natural advantage over Gbajabiamila in line of seniority,” another legislative source disclosed to our correspondent.
When SUNDAY PUNCH sought the reactions of Gbajabiamila and Lasun over the latest development, both lawmakers tried to evade it by dousing the festering tension between them.
Gbajabiamila claimed not be aware that the battle for the speakership had fallen on him and Lasun, should the APC win and retain the zoning formula.
He stated, “I am not aware of anything like this. We all should learn to take each day as it comes.
“We have about eight months left before this 8th Assembly shuts down. The National Assembly still has a lot of work to do between now and then and I believe that should be the focus.”
When asked a direct question on whether he wanted to become the next speaker, he parried it again, “All I am thinking about at the moment is how to diligently execute my job as a legislator and the leader of the House.”
On his part, Lasun, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Wole Oladimeji, simply said he could only thank the APC for giving him a return ticket.
Oladimeji added, “Only God decides on power, and it is the members of the House who will choose whom to lead them. For now, he is thanking the APC for this ticket that he has got.
“The deputy speaker doesn’t think that it is proper to start talking about who will be speaker in 2019 when there is a main election ahead.
“Also, there is so much work to do in the National Assembly now. That is what he is focusing on, not what you are talking about (speakership).”