The event that unfolded on December 18, 2013 in the House of Representatives when 37 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP lawmakers under the aegis of new PDP defected to All Progressives Congress, APC made things to fall apart in the House writes Emman Ovuakporie
This singular development tore the House into two warring factions that snowballed into 2014. Different parties went to court to declare the seats of the defectors vacant but till date no court has given a consequential order on the seats. Before the defection, PDP members who were originally 208 were reduced to 171 members while the APC had 175. With 175 members, the APC had a superior plurality of members but needed six additional members to take over the leadership of the House. If the APC had met the required 181 members, it could have conveniently changed the present leadership structure of the House. Leadership structure.
This was never to be as Speaker Aminu Tambuwal had to appeal to all the warring lawmakers to sheathe their swords to save the 7th House from disintegration. Miraculously, the PDP regrouped and the configuration suddenly changed to its advantage when five lawmakers defected to PDP.
As the spate of defection continued, the House became a shadow of itself in 2014 as a better part of the year was spent politicking. Hon Tajudeen Yusuf, PDP Kogi had told Vanguard in December 2013 that Nigerians should not expect much from the House in 2014 as it would be paralysed by politicking.
True to his words, politics of different dimensions swallowed the House to the detriment of legislative business. Between June 2011 and December 2014, the House passed 101 bills, 23 bills were negatived and 120 motions were passed as resolutions. Tambuwal’s House would have achieved more in this direction if not for the fact that it dabbled into politics that has robbed it of the opportunity of being one of the most productive legislative sessions in the history of the House.
As the year opened in January, APC lawmakers held sway as they started the gospel of filibustering the 2014 budget until they suddenly changed gear and allowed it to sail through. By the middle of the year, the PDP lawmakers woke up from their long slumber and decided to fight for their survival. This led to the formation of different groups within to fight the rampaging APC lawmakers.
PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), Accord Party (AP) became united against APC under the aegis of National Unity Group of the House of Representatives (NUG). The group under the leadership of Hon Bitrus Kaze, PDP, Plateau and Hon Pat Asadu, PDP, Enugu, fought the APC to a standstill until PDP legislators regained a little control.
By the second quarter of the year, politics continued unabated and much was not achieved before the long break in June. Finally, when the House reconvened from its long recess, the centre could no longer hold as politics had taken the better part of the year and it was towards the end of November, Speaker Tambuwal gave the PDP the red card. Immediately Tambuwal defected on October 28, he adjourned the House till December 3.
This development changed all political permutations in the House as the executive flexed its muscle which yielded no tangible result. Tambuwal’s security details were withdrawn and an attempt to have an emergency session on November 18 to deliberate on the extension of Emergency Rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states was scuttled and the House adjourned till December 16. On that day, policemen mounted a cordon and made a determined effort to lock out the speaker and some APC members from entering the House even after the deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha was waved through the security checks.
However, on that day that the minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila claimed would ever live in infamy, members successfully smuggled the speaker inside the National Assembly premises and pushed through the cloud of tear gas shot by the policemen to enter into the chamber. Many other members scaled the fence to enter the premises drawing flaks from some critics but praise from many others including Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka who described that day as their finest hour.
In 2014, virtually all the committees went to sleep as their chairmen and members put 2015 re-election as priority over other business in the House. From the results of the primaries held by the two major parties, 60 percent of PDP lawmakers did not get return tickets while close to 80 per cent of APC lawmakers were given the green light to face the voters in 2015. From next January through June, 2015 when the curtain of the 7th Assembly would be drawn, the APC may be in control as aggrieved PDP lawmakers are expected support their APC colleagues on the floor of the House.
All diehard President Goodluck Jonathan loyalists like Hon Warman Ogoriba, Henry Ofongo who almost lost his life supporting Jonathan, Pat Asadu and a host of others lost their primaries to the machination of their state governors.
Indeed, President Jonathan’s promise that the year 2015 would be hard will seriously be felt in his dealings with the House of Representatives in the period between January and May 2015.