Despite efforts by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to broker a truce between Speaker Yakubu Dogara and erstwhile chairman of the appropriation committee Abdulmumin Jibrin, the embattled Speaker has devised a survival strategy in the event that things get out of hand, Daily Trust has gathered. The relationship between the two went sour since July 20 when the speaker sacked Jibrin from the chairmanship of the appropriation committee, seen in political circles as a ‘plum’ appointment.
Jibrin subsequently opened a can of worms, accusing the Speaker, his deputy Yusuf Suleimon Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader Leo Ogor, of failed attempts to force him to include projects worth about N30 billion for them in the budget and allocate to them another N40 billion out of the N100 billion meant for constituency projects for members of the National Assembly. The quartet has consistently denied the allegations.

Concerned by the allegations and counter-allegations that went on for about two weeks, the APC met with the duo separately on Tuesday, in an attempt to find possible solution to the matter. The party had on Thursday barred Dogara and Jibrin from making any further public comment on the matter. But different sources told Daily Trust that Dogara is not leaving anything to chance, as he has been restless since the day Jibrin began his allegations.
Part of Dogara’s strategy, it was gathered, as the recent resort to the collection of signatures among members in order to pass a vote of confidence on him for Nigerians to see that his seat is not in any way under threat.
The chairmen of the 96 standing committees of the House, alongside their deputies, were first targeted to sign the document, thereby giving the speaker a 192-member advantage from the beginning, it was gathered. The Dogara men were said to have been targeting at least 250 signatures.
The collection of signatures, which began last weekend, was further taken down to states’ and zonal caucuses of the House, but some members were said to have demanded for “reward” before they could sign any such document. For this purpose, some of the Dogara men had to break their ongoing recess to return to Abuja to carry out the assignment.
“They’re there, generating signatures for votes of confidence. Dogara is contemplating two things: one is to recall members from recess to pass vote of confidence on him. Two, thereafter he’ll announce that he has dissolved all committees,” a source familiar with the matter told Daily Trust.
However, the source added, passing a vote of confidence on the speaker, who is facing allegations of corruption, could amount to voting for corruption, which could affect lawmakers’ images among their constituents and Nigerians as a whole.
The source added: “That (vote of confidence) will be equivalent to voting for corruption. That will be the interpretation of the constituents. Nobody would want to be identified with corruption, when the whole world knows that these people are facing such allegations. Again, if he dissolves committees, he will become more vulnerable. They used some chairmen and deputy chairmen to generate signatures. When he eventually reshuffles the committees, they’ll feel threatened and then they’ll go and align with others.”
“If he does that, it’ll give those that they’ll be targeting that momentum to join forces and fight him. So, the truth is that the smart way for him is to resign. He should give the reasons that a fellow colleague has tarnished his image. That is the practice and tradition in other democracies. He’ll step down in order to clear his name. But there are forces manipulating him and they won’t allow him to do that. Some people are making a hell of money from him, but all that will boomerang,” said the lawmaker, who preferred not to be named.
Another lawmaker told our correspondent that “What [Dogara’s camp] doesn’t know is that some of us will sign the document, but we’re not with them. Of course, some of us are operating underground due to our own strategic reasons.”

Schemes and more schemes

One of the strategies employed by the Dogara men, it was further gathered, was to meet lawmakers known to be staunch opponents of the Speaker to persuade them to sign the document under the pretence that it is to pass a vote of no confidence on the speaker.
“They don’t know that whatever they do, we get to know. I know nobody will meet me with such document. If anyone brings such paper before me, I’ll throw it back to him. Nobody can come to me under the pretence that we should sign to remove the man only for him to go and use it for another purpose,” said the lawmaker.
But a lawmaker close to the speaker said Dogara was not in any way under pressure and that the allegations against him remain “mere allegations.”
“Remember we have the numbers. All those making noise are few. They can’t influence anybody to do anything. So, they’re just making noise. For us, Dogara’s seat is not in any way under threat,” the lawmaker said.
Already, the North-East caucus of the House has declared support for the Speaker following a meeting at a hotel in Abuja. Also, majority of lawmakers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has about 140 members, are said to be strongly backing Dogara.
One of the lawmakers who attended the North-East caucus meeting told Daily Trust that “We won’t allow the Speaker to be removed, as he’s done a lot for the North-East since his assumption of office last year. This is a man that initiated the bill on the North-East Development Commission, which was given accelerated passage by the House. This is in addition to many other interventions that he personally spearheaded for the region. Is this the type of man whose ouster we would support? Certainly not.”
“Again, we believe he has been carrying everyone along. So far, we have achieved 95 percent of endorsement for the speaker among members from the North-East. We’re not just working on our region, we’re also working closely with our colleagues from other regions to ensure that they do same. For us, nobody can remove Dogara. In fact, apart from the block support he has from PDP members, he also has large support from the members of his own party, APC. So, all the noise about his removal amounts to nothing,” the lawmaker said.
Dogara, it was learnt, also devised a way of breaking into the ranks of the two new groups that emerged within the House last week, the Transparency Group and the Integrity Group, both of which oppose the Speaker in a way.
While the Transparency Group demands an external probe into the allegations levelled against Dogara and the three others, the Integrity Group said the probe should include all the 10 principal officers of the House, all of whom were said to have got more than N1 billion each for constituency projects, while the other lawmakers got between N40 million and 50 million.
The House had said last week that its committee on ethics and privileges would investigate the matter upon resumption from annual recess in September. The speaker was said to have planted moles in the two groups with the aim of feeding him with information about their activities and strategies. Thus, it was learnt, Dogara is in the know of every move that the two groups make.
Similarly, the Dogara men are said to be in touch with some state governors and other powerful men within different states to prevail on their lawmakers not to take any action against the man. Specifically, some lawmakers have been delegated to meet with the powerful men in order to curry their favour.

‘Strategy OK, but…’

A former ranking member of the House, who did not want to be named, told our correspondent that Dogara’s strategy was OK, but that in politics, anything could happen. The ex-lawmaker who gave the example of the case of former speaker Patricia Etteh, said the allegations against her were not as damning as Dogara’s, “but she had to go.”
Besides, the lawmaker added, it would be difficult for Dogara to get “genuine” 250 lawmakers to sign the document for him at this time going by recent happenings.
“I know the House very well. Both the Dogara and other camps cannot boast of 250 members. It’s a very difficult thing. Don’t forget the way the man emerged. The difference was just 8 votes. Although someone may argue that he was able to get some people to his side after emergence, he also lost the support of some lawmakers that voted for him.
“So, in the House of Reps that I know, anything can happen. However, I have to say this clearly. It’ll be extremely difficult to impeach the man. You can only achieve resignation, which he is not ready to do. If you look at the history of the two speakers that left the seat – Salisu Buhari in 1999 and Etteh in 2007 – they were not impeached. They were somehow forced to resign. But I don’t see Dogara resigning based on these allegations. However, like I said, anything can happen in politics, especially in the House of Reps,” the lawmaker said.

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