IMO State lawmaker and a leading contender for the speaker of the House of Representatives Hon Chike Okafor has suffered a major blow to his ambition after a court nullified his election as the member representing the Mbano/IhitteUboma/Obowo Federal Constituency.
On June 10, the National Assembly will convene to elect its new leaders and Hon Okafor had been one of the leading candidates to become speaker. With many members of the National Assembly of the view that the position of speaker should go to the southeast geo-political zone, Hon Okafor, being one of the two ranking All Progressives Congress (APC) reps from the area had been a leading contender from the post.
With the presidency zoned to the northwest, the vice presidency to the southwest, the senate president to the northeast, the deputy senate presidency to the south-south and the deputy speakership to the north central geo-political zones, many APC members felt the speakership simply had to go to the southeast. Hon Okafor and Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha representing the Isiukwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency in Abia State, are the only two APC ranking lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
Earlier today, however, a tribunal ruled that Hon Okafor did not win the March 9 elections, declaring Emeka Nwajuba of the Accord Party as the duly elected member to represent the Ehimembano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency. Hon Nwajuba has since received his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec).
In his acceptance speech, while commending Inec and the judiciary for retrieving his mandate, Hon Nwajuba called on the APC leadership to consider the southeast in zoning the speakership of the House of Representatives to the southeast. He said the APC had made steady progress between 2015 and 2019 in the zone, adding that zoning such position to the southeast would lead to national stability, inclusiveness and consolidation.
Although Hon Nwajuba is a ranking member of the House of Representatives, having sat there between 1999 and 2003, he is not a member of the APC, so cannot be considered for speaker. This now narrows the speakership race down to Hon Onyejeocha and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila of Lagos State representing the Surulere 1 Federal Constituency.
Hon Gbajabiamila has the backing of the APC leadership but faces a possible backlash from House members as he is seen as an imposed candidate. His candidacy also threatens the careful zoning arrangement as he is from the southwest and his election would create a feeling of marginalisation across the southeast.