Embattled Speaker Yakubu Dogara is in desperate search for a minimum of additional 28 members of the House to retain his leadership of the Green Chamber.
Dogara who has come under intense scrutiny and pressure to quit on the strength of allegations by the sacked chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdul-mumin Jibrin, that he and four other principal officers of the House were involved in budget padding, has already secured the signatures of 262 of the 360 members.
The 262, The Nation learnt, have already signed a register opened by Dogara to keep track of those backing him in the biggest threat yet to his position since he was elected in an acrimonious process in June last year.
But he needs an additional 28 signatures from the remaining 98 members to be relatively at ease.
The following is the breakdown of the 98 Reps who are yet to sign the register:
Lagos -18; Sokoto -2; Kogi -1;Bauchi -2; Oyo -6; Kaduna-3; Osun -6;Niger -3;Ondo -4;Taraba -1;Ogun -1;Katsina -3;Kebbi -1;Edo -5; Kano -4;and Benue -1.
The implication is that the Speaker has challenges in Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun.
But he has gained more support from Sokoto, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kwara, Borno, Ekiti, the entire South-East and South-South both of which are controlled by the PDP.
Dogara’s strategists are said to be shocked by the refusal of two out of the 12 Representatives from his home state of Bauchi to support him.
A source who is familiar with the unfolding event said: “About 262 Representatives have signed the register to back Dogara although the target is actually 290 members to Ward off any threat.
“About 98 members have not signed, undecided or on vacation.
“The only challenge Dogara is having borders on poor support base for his Deputy, Yusuff Lasun in the South- West. Out of the 65 Representatives from the South-West, only about 30-36 signed the register. Whereas, Dogara was able to secure 95 per cent signatures of members from the North-East.
“It got to a ridiculous extent that some chairmen of committees from the South-West stayed away from the register. The House leadership considered it a slight.
“At a meeting of pro-Dogara loyalists during the week, the Deputy Speaker was faulted for not embracing his colleagues from the South- West after the House has reconciled.
“Although Lasun gave the details of his rapprochement with Representatives from the South-West, members were not convinced at all.
“Dogara is however doing a lot to persuade Reps from the South-West to forget the past. If the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila pitches his tent with Dogara, then it will be an easy ride for him.
“So far, there is a lot of pressure on the Deputy Speaker to wield influence on his colleagues from his geopolitical zone to back Dogara.
“Gbajabiamila has a onerous task at hand. The former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin was on his side before he made a volte face at the last minute. Jibrin’s switch of support earned Dogara the Speakership.
“Members are eager to see whether Gbajabiamila will pay Jibrin back in his own coin or stand by Dogara based on privileged information at his disposal.”
A member of the House in Dogara’s camp said: “It is going to be a battle to the finish. Some of us have suspended our vacation because of the challenge at hand.
“What I can assure you is that Dogara will survive this battle because he is innocent of all the allegations against him.”
However, it was gathered that there is even no guarantee that the 262 that have signified their support for him in the survival battle will line up behind him when the chips are down with sources citing the fluidity of the House politics
The Speaker and his loyalists are said to have been reaching out to as many Reps as possible in an attempt to ensure that Dogara is not brought down by the Jibrin allegations.
Reps are being wooed to back the present leadership.
Sources said the Speaker had to call off a foreign trip to enable him personally monitor events as they unfold on the budget padding allegations.
Some of the lawmakers are said to have shunned the register outright while some other are either out of the country or have not yet made up their mind on the issue.
About eight governors, from Dogara’s APC and the opposition PDP are said to have rallied round him to ensure that he survives the plot to oust him.
Meanwhile, fresh facts emerged yesterday that Dogara was at the Presidential Villa on Friday to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the controversy over the padding of the budget.
Another government source said: “Despite the fact that the president already had security reports on the problem in the House, Dogara came to explain the situation to him.
“But after listening to him, Buhari did not make any commitment. He only noted what Dogara said.”
A group of serving and former members of the House of Representatives has added a twist to the budget padding allegations after threatening to go to court to subject Section 80 (4) of the constitution to legal interpretation on the ownership of the budget document.
Section 80 (4) says: “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”.
The lawmakers under the aegis of Faculty Board of Initiatives ( FBI ) are of the view that the controversy generated by the budget padding issue has made it expedient to approach the court for proper interpretation of the law.
Spokesman for the group, Eseme Eyibo described ‘padding’ as a misapplication of the word because the constitution allows budget proposals to be adjusted which is why it is presented as a bill by the President.
According to the former House spokesman, the annual Appropriation bill flows from the Executive to the Legislature and goes back to the Executive after its passage before assent and implementation.