Reps in show of shame, fight over posts, mace threatened
• Ndume emerges as Senate leader
• PDP, House caucus decry fracas
• ‘President will not intervene’
THERE was uproar in the House of Representatives yesterday when the pro-party leadership members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) clashed with those opposed to toeing the party’s line over the selection of the principal officers of the lower legislative chamber.
For more than two hours, noisy shouts and chants turned the chamber into a maelstrom of discordant voices, vituperative exchanges and physical attempt to seize the mace.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its caucus in the House of Representatives condemned as a show of shame and national embarrassment, yesterday’s fracas even as they urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently wade into the crisis.
But such scenario may not materialise as Buhari’s decision not to interfere remains consistent with his belief and philosophy in the independence of each arm of government, which must be held sacrosanct.
This was the view of his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu who, however, made it clear that even in the face of that, Buhari’s national leadership of the ruling APC remains unquestionable.
The rumpus in the House came barely 24 hours after governors of the APC had urged members of the National Assembly to abide by the directive of the party over the choice of principal officers of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
That directive obviously was ignored in the Senate where Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) emerged Majority Leader, while Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), Deputy Majority Leader while Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo North) is Deputy Whip of the Senate.
Though the rowdy and tense atmosphere in the House of Representatives was not replicated in the Senate, the three officers were not the ones proposed by the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun.
He had proposed Senator Ahmed Lawan for Senate Majority Leader; George Akume for Deputy Majority Leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Whip.
The rancorous atmosphere in the House of Representatives actually started after some APC members suspected that the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara may go the way of the Senate President, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, ignore the directive of the party and announce his own list of principal officers.
To avoid being taken by surprise, they threw caution to the winds as they headed straight for the mace – the symbol of authority in the legislative chamber even before Dogara could settle down to commence the day’s legislative activities.
The trouble was actually triggered even before the chairman of the ad hoc committee on Review of House Standing Order, Mr. Orker-Jev Yisa (APC, Buruku, Benue) moved a motion for the House to go into an executive session to deliberate on pressing issues.
But before Dogara could take his seat to commence the closed door session, the lawmakers who had expected the announcement of a letter from the APC leadership over its choice of the principal officers angrily went for the mace.
In the ensuing melee, supporters of Dogara who are of both the APC and the opposition PDP joined the fray on the side of the Sergeant-at-Arms who was struggling for the mace with the pro-Gbajabiamila lawmakers.
Recall that in the letter dated June 23, 2015, signed by Odigie-Oyegun, the party had urged Dogara to appoint Femi Gbajabiamila (South west) as House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (North West) as Deputy House Leader, Mr. Pally Iriase (South-South) as Chief Whip and Mohammed Mungono ( North East) as Deputy Chief Whip.
The Guardian learnt that those in support of Dogara are opposed to the APC on the basis that it was unfair to allow the House Leader position go to the South west which had already produced Mr. Suleiman Yusuf Lasun as the Deputy Speaker.
As the lawmakers shouted over the issue to the amazement of visitors including primary school students watching from the public gallery, the clothes of an unidentified lawmaker from the South west got torn.
Dogara, who appeared unruffled watched, as his supporters formed a ring around him to make sure nothing happened to him.
Before calm was restored at 12:35 p.m., he was sighted consulting with Gbajabiamila and Mr. Leo Ogor, who was the deputy house leader in the just concluded Seventh Assembly.
Dogara described the incident as unfortunate, adding that notwithstanding the fact that as lawmakers they could disagree to agree, it was incumbent on members to conduct themselves in an orderly and united manner to be able to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
Continuing, Dogara said: “We are very fortunate . Let us remind ourselves of the fact that in a nation of 170 million people only 360 of us are selected or elected to represent the people and we should be grateful to our constituents for sending us here.
“To be candid, we have promised so much in the course of our elections and even the very party I belong to, the APC. We have promised change and Nigerians expect us to really talk about those matters, those issues that bother them most, they want to hear us talk about unemployment, poverty, in my region they want us to address insecurity and as long as this House is divided and not united we cannot achieve that.
“As to the issues that led to the fracas today, we will sit down as leaders and resolve whatever it is to ensure that this matter as quickly as possible be resolved and that is what we will do by the grace of God.”
In an apparent bid to pacify both warring groups, Dogara adjourned the House to July 21 after approving the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress caucus in the House said its members acted to prevent Dogara from taking a unilateral decision to appoint the House’s principal officers against the wishes of the majority members of the party.
Justifying the action at a press conference immediately after the House adjourned, the caucus led by its leader, Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura, explained that what transpired on the floor was in reaction to the illegal and unconstitutional action taken by the Speaker in disregard to the wishes of the majority members of the party caucus.
However, the emergence of Ndume and the other principal officers was not without opposition from some APC members.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara State) had shortly after the announcement of the leaders cited Rule 28(1) of the Senate standing order as well as Section 65 of the Constitution and argued that the emergence of Ndume, Na’Allah and Alimikhena was in breach of the procedures stipulated in the Senate rule and the constitution.
He said that it was the majority party that should nominate principal officers and not zonal caucuses.
But another APC Senator, Danjuma Goje, from Gombe State, disagreed, stating that the issue had been adequately resolved on Tuesday and should not have been raised by Marafa.
“I would like Mr. President to stand by the ruling on Wednesday that the issue has been concluded and should not be re-opened.
“No rule said the chairman of the party should appoint the Senate leadership. The law says that we should elect from among ourselves.
Since 1999 till date, caucuses in the zone nominate have been nominating their leaders.”
Ruling on the matter, Saraki drew the attention of his colleagues to Rule 63 of the Standing Order which outlawed the raising of an issue upon which the Senate had come to a conclusion in the previous sitting.
In a brief remark, the new Majority leader, Ndume said he would not attempt to discriminate against any senator in the course of his duties as Senate leader.
“My job as the leader is to lead the business of the Senate, manage legislative schedules and liaise with committee chairman to facilitate the good working of the Senate”
Speaking on behalf of the PDP caucus after the session yesterday, the leader and former Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, also appealed to the leadership of the APC to be transparent in their dealings and refrain from bringing the party internal affairs to interfere with parliamentary proceedings on the floor of the