The caucus of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has denied media reports that it directed its members to support any speakership candidate.
In a statement on Wednesday by the house minority leader, Leo Ogor, the lawmaker described it as the handwork of propagandists who are mischievously twisting a goodwill message to imply support for a speakership aspirant.
Mr Ogor was alleged to have said the caucus is not against its members working with speakership aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While refuting the reports, Mr Ogor emphasised that the caucus has directed its members to participate in meetings and strategy sessions of the APC speakership aspirants. However, it never directed them to consider voting for any of the aspirants.
According to the minority leader, even though ‘some confused elements in the ruling party’ are claiming to be ‘talking to one part of the PDP House caucus before talking to the other’, the PDP House caucus remains resolutely united, with decisive plans for strengthening democratic growth while patriotically exerting influence on the Speakership election process.
He stated that the PDP’s national leadership and members of the PDP caucus will consider the national interest and take a collective decision on who to vote for on June 11 when the House is scheduled to be inaugurated.
“In the Eid-el-Fitri message issued on Tuesday, we felicitated with all our Muslim brothers and sisters across Nigeria, we emphasised the significance of worthy virtues and also stated that our members may participate in meetings, strategy sessions and other activities of Speakership aspirants so as to come back to the caucus with convincing assessments.
“While some publications including PUNCH newspaper have disseminated accurate and objective report, few others fabricated a completely new angle with one even using a deliberately fictitious and grossly erroneous headline in a manner that suggests being used for the ruling party’s usual misinformation and propaganda.
“Contrary to what has been sensationally reported by some, at no time did we give our members a directive to vote for any APC speakership aspirant; I hereby categorically dissociate myself and the PDP House Caucus from the false comments being attributed to us as participation in meetings should not be deliberately misinterpreted as a directive on voting,” Mr Ogor stated.
According to Mr Ogor, the PDP House Caucus has remained solidly united, even as it continues to grant audience to various speakership aspirants.
“Of the three arms of government, the legislature is the first when it comes to the ethos and praxis of democracy; hence, our willingness to further facilitate democratic values and legislative camaraderie – values that are lacking in the ruling party – up till that day when our great party, the PDP, will take a decision.
“Indeed, on May 22 and again, on June 4, all the House speakership aspirants of note came one after another, to meet and discuss their plans with the leadership of the PDP House Caucus.
“While we have taken the decision to enable all individual members to interact and exchange perspectives, the PDP House Caucus shall – with the input and advice of our party’s national leadership – take a final decision soon, in the interest of Nigeria and we will communicate our formal position to the public.
“Our unflinching commitment to the principles and ethos of democracy, our keenness for dialogue and our willingness to make sacrifice for the national interest should not be unduly exaggerated as a tacit endorsement or assurance of vote for any candidate of the ruling party,” he stated.
The APC leadership recently declared support for the current house leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to become the next speaker. The party is also in support of Ahmed Lawan as the next Senate president.
The adoption of Messrs Gbajabiamila and Lawan was condemned by some APC lawmakers including Borno senator, Ali Ndume, who also seeks to be the Senate president.
Mr Ndume has vowed to continue with his ambition, saying he enjoys the support of many elected APC senators.
There are five other members of the House of Representatives who will be challenging Mr Gbajabiamila at the polls.
Mr Gbajabiamila is, however, considered the leading candidate.
The APC enjoys a clear majority in the incoming House of Representatives, winning over 200 of the 360 seats.
The APC is expected to produce the speaker, but as it happened in 2015, a different candidate other than the one endorsed by the party leadership may contest the election.
While both Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila were endorsed by the party for the positions in 2015, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as the Senate President and Speaker of the House, respectively.
The two winners later defected from the APC to the PDP.