Dogara inaugurates committees amids divisions, tension
IT is certainly not yet uhuru for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara even as feelers have gone out that the Speaker may today inaugurate the House’s committees which he constituted last week and which have now turned the Green Chamber into what many say House of commotion.
The seeming tranquil atmosphere which pervaded the chamber few days after the emergence of the committees’ heads have caved in, following the endless complaints that greeted the outcome of the exercise and the rancor and bitterness it has generated on the floor of the House.
With the palpable atmosphere of acrimony currently pervading the floor of the House, National Assembly monitors are of the opinion that the strange and open rejection of committee chairmanship positions by some opponents of the Speaker in quick succession marks the beginning of intrigues in a House that is divided.
Against all expectations, Dogara who represents Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State on June 9, 2015 emerged the seventh Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Fourth Republic.
The Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa declared Dogara winner after scoring 182 votes to defeat Mr Femi Gbajabiamila who got 174 votes in the keenly contested race for the Speakership of the lower legislative chamber. Two votes were voided.
The outcome of the poll conducted peacefully sent shock waves into the camp of Gbajabiamila who must have pondered over what must have suddenly swung support to Dogara who until the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate President, had an unrealistic chance of coasting home to victory.
However, in the spirit of sportsmanship, Gbajabiamila walked up to embrace Dogara in an apparent show of support and solidarity notwithstanding their differences in the build up to the election on the floor of the House of Representatives.
That was however shot lived as a crisis over leadership positions rocked the House few days after inauguration of the parliament on June 9, 2015. Two factions, the Consolidation group loyal to Dogara and the Loyalist group backing the former Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, now Majority Leader were at daggers drawn over who would occupy the remaining four vacant positions.
Hardly had the crisis thawed after the emergence of the principal officers, the House again nosedived, as the group backing Dogara rejected the directive of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the sharing of the principal positions in the lower legislative chamber.
However, Dogara was to later accede to the request of the APC leadership to work with Femi Gbajabiamila as House Majority Leader after a meeting with president Mohammadu Buhari to reconcile the ‘warring’ factions who were locked in a battle over who would occupy the other four majority positions in the House.
Dogara at the resumption of plenary session went ahead to announce Femi Gbajabiamila (APC-Lagos) as the House Majority Leader and Buba Jibrin (APC-Kogi) as the Deputy Majority Leader. Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC-Kano) and Pally Iriase (APC-Edo) were named Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip respectively.
The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) had earlier named the composition of its leadership. The party announced Leo Ogor (Delta; south-south) as its Minority Leader, Yakubu Umar Barde minority whip ((kaduna, north west), Dep Minority Whip, Binta Bello (Gombe, north east), and ChukwuKa Onyema as dep minority leader (Anambra, South East).
But what could have paved the way for the commencement of a rancor-free session in the chamber has again been punctured by another crisis as various interests in the House have vowed to fight the Speaker over the recent composition of committees.
Dogara had at a forum declared that not all members should expect to be appointed chairmen or deputy chairmen of committees in the Green Chamber.
However, with the announcement of 97 standing committees for the Eighth House penultimate Thursday, coming after weeks of waiting and apprehension, the House of Representatives may be heading for another crisis as various interests in the chamber are said to have vowed to fight the Speaker over composition of the committees.
It was learnt that aggrieved members, particularly those loyal to the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila are poised for a fresh standoff every legislative week to prevent smooth parliamentary session on the floor.
This action, it was gathered, is a plot orchestrated allegedly by the Gbajabiamila’s camp which is said to be unsatisfied with outcome of the committee headship selection panel, to embarrass Dogara through the open floor rejections.
Specifically, some members of the APC Loyalist group, who supported and promoted the party’s endorsement of Gbajabiamila for the position which Dogara now occupies and later, for House Leader, are said to have threatened to tackle him (Dogara) if they are neglected or not adequately catered for.
A source had before the constitution of the committees, disclosed that ranking members will reject chairmanships of committees that do not befit their status.
It was amidst this intrigues and game plan that a member of the Loyalist group, Garba Mohammed Datti, a former Deputy Whip during the Seventh House penultimate Tuesday openly rejected his appointment as chairman of the House standing committee on Solid Minerals Development announced penultimate Thursday by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
Datti walked out of the chamber presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Sulaimon Yussuff Lasun. He was however later on the same day replaced by Samaila Sulaiman (APC) representing Kaduna North Federal Constituency.
Another attempt by a member of the House of Representatives, Sunday Adepoju (APC) to openly resign as Deputy Chairman, Committee on Special Duties position offered him was also rebuffed for failing to comply with the House’s standing orders.
This came as a member from Benue State, Hassan Saleh (PDP) earlier wrote the Speaker, formally announcing his rejection of the Deputy Chairmanship of the Committee on Local Content he was appointed into.
Though reasons for his resignation could not be verified before this report, it was learnt that the lawmaker’s decision may not be unconnected with the perception that he was made Deputy to a first term member, Emmanuel Okon, also of the PDP.
However, The Guardian has authoritatively gathered that the reason behind the recent gale of rejection of committee headship by some members of the House is tied to the alleged failure of the Speaker to carry the Femi Gbajabiamila’s camp along,
A letter, written by the House Leader, Gbajabiamila, prior to the October 22 announcement of the committees’ leadership, and obtained by The Guardian in Abuja, confirmed same, when the House Leader in the letter dated October 20, 2015 accused the Speaker of running a one-man show.
However, the office of the Speaker in a counter move released a letter signed by Chief of Staff to the Speaker, Mr Jerry Manwe, dated Wednesday October 21, 2015 to the effect that all the principal officers of the House were duly summoned to a meeting slated for 9am on October 22, 2015, with the sole agenda as “Constitution of Committees,” suggesting that other members of the leadership were duly consulted before the announcement.
A member of the Gbajabiamila’s camp who craved anonymity has however described the Speaker’s meeting with the other principal officers as an after-thought, which was prompted by the Leader’s expression of concern over the manner in which the affair was being handled by Dogara.
Gbajabiamila in the letter addressed to the Speaker stated in part; “You would recall that I have on several occasions, met with you both at home and your office to get an understanding and appreciation of what was going on with the composition and appointment of Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of House Committees.
“I did this because of the incessant rumour that same had been composed. On each occasion you assured me that nothing had been done. From all indications however, it appears that an announcement of Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen is imminent and such may be done this week.
“Hon. Speaker, I acknowledge your right and prerogative to determine the leadership of the House’s committees and I intend to work with you after such determination has been made. I intend and have stated on many occasions privately and publicly to work with you for the progress of the House. However, I am constrained that this point to ask that due consideration is given to the provisions of our House Rules.”
He specifically cited paragraph Order 7 Rule 10 (a) which stated that the Speaker shall in consultation with principal officers, appoint the chairmen and deputy chairmen from among members on the committees, arguing that undermining the Leader or any other officer would not strengthen the legislature, and that where any of such officers would be aware of the appointments after a floor announcement will also not augur well.
In what was widely considered an apparent move to curtail the open rejection of committee headship by some members however, Dogara who was away to Jerusalem when the drama started held a closed door meeting with the new committee heads last Tuesday, outcome of which was not clear.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs however told journalists that it was just “a familiarization meeting”, and disclosed further that the whole committees would be jointly inaugurated today.
As it stands, unless the leadership of the ruling APC intervenes, the House of Representatives may be heading for another round of crisis that may linger for a long time, as some members of the camp are said to have vowed to fight Speaker Dogara if they are continually neglected.