Nigerians are yet to recover from shock following the show of shame exhibited by members of the House of Representatives in the National Assemly last week, writes Ohia Israel
The All Progressives Congress, APC crisis has continued unabated, in fact as it is the latest crisis of the party is threatening to tear the fabric of the party into pieces.
There are already calls by the governors elected under the platform of the APC calling for the resignation of the party’s national chairman.
Last week, eight Governors of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), were at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja to demand the resignation of its National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Oyegun, who was presiding over the party’s NWC meeting at the time, excused himself to meet the governors, including Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger) Senator Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa).
The eight of the 23 APC governors may have added to the pressure on Oyegun to quit since the debacle of the National Assembly elections where all of the party’s anointed candidates for plum leadership positions in the two chambers of the parliament were defeated by their opponents who contested against the directive of the party.
The Chairman has been severally accused of double standard in the crisis, as he was accused of collecting ‘gifts’ before the election from Senator Bukola Saraki while pretending to be doing the bidding of the party’s leaders who wanted the seat ceded to Ahmed Lawan.
Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State gave a hint of what was happening inside when he stormed out of the Secretariat, refusing to answer any questions from newsmen on standby.
At the end of the meeting, the governors who could not hide their angers, left without answering questions posed to them by newsmen.
After the meeting with the governors, the APC national chairman also met with Senators Ahmed Lawan and George Akume who were waiting for him to finish with the Governors.
Meanwhile, there is bad blood flowing within the APC as a result of the unresolved crisis in the National Assembly.
The show of shame started when a meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators called by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for resolution of the crisis among them has proved to be counterproductive.
Rather than agreeing on the issues at stake, the 59 APC Senators took to fighting, while a free for all almost ensued when anger rose among those in attendance.
It was apparent from the start of the meeting that the two factions of the APC Senators; the Like Minds and Unity Forum were not prepared to shift grounds.
While the Saraki-led group insisted that the remaining offices in the Senate be shared according to zoning, the Unity Forum members felt that the APC should cart home the principal offices since the other group controls the Senate Presidency.
The Senate President had raised hope when he announced at the close of Tuesday’s plenary that the ruling party (APC) Senators would be holding a meeting at room 301 of the Senate.
However, the meeting which did not start on the scheduled time of 2.00 pm however broke down mid-way when the two groups disagreed on the formula for sharing the available Senate Principal offices.
One of the Senators who attended the meeting, Suleiman Kunkuyi, Kaduna north, had told newsmen that the problem was sparked by attempts by the Saraki-led group to impose its candidates on the party.
Hunkuyi had stormed out when two Senators stood up to one another in a near fight, then invited newsmen to witness the ongoing drama.
Trouble started when Senator Tayo Alsoadura (APC Ondo Central), a member of the Like Minds, complained against the choice of Senator Sola Adeyeye (APC Osun Central) as Chief Whip.
He had preferred that Senator Robert Boroffice (APC, Ondo North) be allowed to take the office on the ground that Boroffice is a ranking Senator.
His position seemed to have angered a Unity Forum Senator, Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central), as he violently confronted Alasoadura with a push which almost landed him on the floor.
Senators had to rush in to prevent a straight fight between the two Senators as they managed to rescue the 65 year old Alasoadura from further assault.
In no time the meeting ended abruptly as Senators who had failed to completely agree went their separate ways.
Opposing Senators had accused the Saraki group of Zoning available leadership positions in the Senate to its favorites, while denying the Unity Forum group choice offices.
The Unity Forum senators, on the contrary, insisted that all vacant positions be filled by the national leadership of the party.
Meanwhile, the formula which angered the Unity Forum members centered on a zoning arrangement that seeks to give the position of Majority Leader to the North East; Deputy Majority Leader, North West; Chief Whip, South West; and Deputy Whip, South South, respectively.
Before the meeting took off, the Senate President had appealed to his colleagues to forget the past by rallying round his leadership of the Senate.
He said, “I have convened this meeting for obvious reason, among other things, the need to come together, unite with each other and embrace one another on the platform of love, brother lines, with the believe that we would all do the needful and put our differences behind us and forge ahead.
“As we go into this meeting, let us discuss, interact and bear our minds out with the belief that there are solutions to all issues. Every thought and ideas shall be welcomed and every opinions and suggestions will be considered because this is a family affair”.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress senators last week nominated Ali Ndume as the Majority Leader of the Senate, in defiance of the party’s directive that Ahmed Lawan be given the role.
Mr. Lawan lost the senate presidency election to Bukola Saraki, despite being the party’s official candidate.
The party insists its preferred candidates who failed to be elected president and speaker for the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, be elected Majority Leaders in both chambers.
The Senate has officially nominated Mr. Ndume, from Borno State, as Majority Leader and Bala Ibn Na’alla as deputy leader. Mr. Na’alla, a former House of Representatives member, is from Kebbi State.
The Senate also nominated Francis Alimikhena from Edo State as Deputy Chief Whip. The nominations are subject to approval.
As the case of the Senate is going down, on Thursday, for about one and half hours, House of Representatives members were in riot mood following an attempt by allies of the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to compel Speaker Yakubu Dogara to announce the list of principal officers of the House as dictated by the party.
Speaker Dogara’s rebuff and bid to steer the House into a closed-door session was equally challenged by supporters of the APC national executive who apparently came prepared for a showdown.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in its reaction apologised on behalf of the House to Nigerians but called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call his party men in the House to order.
Meanwhile, the APC was unapologetic over its intervention as it last night stood by the list of nominees for principal offices of the National Assembly. The party in a statement issued by its National Secretary, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, nevertheless, condemned the riot on the floor of the House.
Also, Presidency sources said that the President would not intervene in the issue to avoid being seen as supporting any of the contending sides in the House.
Following opening prayers and other formalities, Speaker Dogara had at about 11.08 a.m. announced that the House would go into closed session to discuss some issues of concern to the House.
He hardly finished speaking when a member of the APC in a flowing gown rose up, shouting that the Speaker should announce the list of principal officers sent to him by the national chairman of the party.
That list as published in several national newspapers last week, had directed the speaker to announce Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State in the South-West Zone as House Leader; Alhassan Ado Doguwa from Kano State as Deputy Leader; Mohammed Monguno from the North-east as Chief Whip and Pally Iriase from Edo State in the South-South as Deputy Chief Whip.
The demand of the party as articulated through the letter by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was, however, said to have violated the principle of federal character as it left the North-Central and South-east geopolitical zones out of the ranking, while giving two positions to the North-east and South-West.
At about 11.05 a.m. just after Rep. Orker-Jev Emmanuel Yisa, stood up to move the motion for the House to move into closed door session, some members rose up and started chanting Party is Supreme! They demanded that the speaker should read out the letter from the national chairman. Some of the members raised placards with inscriptions that read: “Party is supreme.”
As the protesters started descending towards the floor, officers of the Sergeant-at-Arms formed a protective cordon around the mace of the House.
The presence of the officials of the Sergeant-at-Arms, however, did not deter the chanting APC members. While they were at it, loyalists of the speaker also descended towards the table leading to shoving here and there.
Inevitably, the fracas drew out supporters of the speaker who also rushed to form a protective cordon around him.
A member from Cross-River State butted a member from the South-west with his head, while the attire of a loyalist of the speaker from the South-West was torn to shreds in the melee.
Meanwhile, by the table, it was a ding-dong affair for the mace as opponents and supporters of the speaker struggled for the mace, and eventually, supporters of the speaker got the upper hand and the mace was taken away by the Sergeant-at-Arms. With the mace out of the table, officially signalling an end to deliberations, Speaker Dogara vacated his seat on the upper dais and descended to the seat of the clerk, a chair otherwise reserved for the chairman of the Committee of the Whole House. There was a protective cordon mounted by several members around him as they dared the rioters to come near. The speaker was not in any way physically ruffled and from time to time he looked down at the bedlam around him.
Around the chambers, some members shouted APC Shame! Others shouted Party Supremacy. A handful of those chorusing party supremacy now and again raised up their placards to buttress their cause. The speaker’s loyalists also time and again shouted Dogara! Dogara!!
About one hour into the riot, the speaker’s main rival for speakership, Gbajabiamila, who had not been visible for most of the time, came to stand by those near the speaker and shared some things with him. To many, that was a signal that peace would soon reign. Gbajabiamila was soon joined on the rostrum by Rep. Leo Ogor, the unofficial leader of the opposition PDP, a strong backbone for the speaker.
By 12.34, with the energy of the legislators well dissipated after about 90 minutes of uproar, an unidentified member started shouting order, order. In another three minutes, full order was restored as members had returned to their seats.
Following the restoration of order, the mace was returned to the table, and the speaker lifted himself to his elevated chair from where he upbraided the members on their action.
Dogara said: “We are very fortunate, let me remind us of the fact that, we are very, very fortunate. 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.
“We have been down this tedious road before so I plead of us, I plead of us honourable members as leaders, all hands must be on the deck to enable us achieve the desired unity that we need in order to move this house forward; that is the responsibility we owe.”
Following that, he approved the votes and proceedings of the previous day and promptly adjourned the House till July 21, 2015.
Briefing journalists after the sitting, Chairman, House ad-hoc Committee on Media, Rep. Sani Zoro flanked by Rep. Jarigbe Agor Jarigbe said that the members who disrupted the session acted on a premeditated script, as some of them carried placards with inscriptions on them.
“These members attempted to seize the mace, which is the symbol of authority of the House and other sundry acts of fighting, fracas, misconduct, disruption and committed unparliamentary actions unbecoming of the status of honourable members.
“The House therefore sincerely apologizes to Nigerians for the ugly events of today.
Spokesman of the group, Rep Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura representing Zango/Baure Federal Constituency, Katsina State said: “We are aware of a letter sent by our Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) dated 23rd June 2015 conveying the approval of the Party’s Principal Officers vis a vis the APC House Leader, the APC Chief Whip, the APC Deputy House Leader and the APC Deputy Chief Whip for the House of Representatives.
This letter by the Party is in compliance with the expressed wish and mandate of the Majority Members of the All Progressives Congress APC Caucus in the House of Representatives.
This action of the Party and the APC House Caucus is in compliance with the Nigerian Constitution, the House Rules and Parliamentary tradition, practices and precedents in Nigeria and all over the World.
But to our surprise and in breach of our privilege and rights as contained in the Constitution and extant House Rules, Mr. Speaker refused to read the letter from our party.
The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are not Party Principal Officers but are House of Representatives Presiding Officers and by precedent and practice are expected to provide a level playing ground for all members, while the Party Principal Officers are supposed to be the main advocates for their individual party positions.
The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are elected by all members of the House of Representatives irrespective of party affiliation and it is also possible under our extant rules for a Speaker and his Deputy to be elected from a minority/opposition party in the National Assembly.
Therefore, Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives cannot under extant Laws and House Rules Appoint, Choose, Select, Dictate or even provide guidance on how Party Principal Officers emerge or are elected or selected. That responsibility and authority lies with each Party and Party’s Caucus members in the House.
“If I may ask is Speaker Yakubu Dogara empowered to do that for the PDP House Caucus?
“This action, by Speaker Yakubu Dogara cannot and will not be allowed to stand as it will set a dangerous precedent in our parliamentary practice as it will give the Speaker the right and authority to appoint, Choose, Select, Dictate or even provide guidance on how Principal Officers emerge or are elected or selected by the Majority and Minority Parties in the House of Representatives. This action is capable of truncating our democracy.
As for the claim being made that a particular zone should not be allowed to produce more than one Principal Officer, and we say this with all sense of decorum, that this claim is absolutely RUBBISH!!
Precedence were set in the 6th & 7th Assemblies where a single zone, the Northwest, produced two and three Principal Officers, respectively.
We the loyal and disciplined majority APC Caucus in the House of Representatives are fully committed in ensuring that our party’s and President Muhammadu Buhari’s manifesto, agenda and positions prevail despite the efforts and shenanigans of the opposition party(s) and the few disloyal and undisciplined APC party members in the House of Representatives.”
Meanwhile, an APC Group, the APC Leadership Watchdog (ALW)
The inability of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John OdigieOyegun to manage a progressive party such as ours is getting increasingly obvious every day; and there is need for the octogenarian party chairman to immediately resign and save all of us further embarrassment. This would be in the best interest of everyone.
While we appreciate the stewardship of Chief Oyegun so far, especially his contributions to the campaign and the eventual victory of our party at the polls; we are troubled with the realization that the skills and leadership attributes of Chief Oyegun are not amenable to suit the purpose of a party in power. So while his age and experience were valuable during the campaigns, Chief Oyegun has now displayed his lack of management and leadership experience to coordinate a governing party in order to deliver maximum support to a President elected on its platform. While Mr. President has hit the ground running as evidenced from decisions reached and moves made so far, Chief Oyegun has not even hit the ground at all; but instead lying flat on the ground while the party that portray so much hope run into series of avoidable and needless crisis. This is highly unfortunate.
The need to separate politics from governance, in order for the former not to derail the latter, has led the President to concentrate squarely on delivering purposeful governance to the country; while leaving the coordination and management of party politics in the hands of Chief John Oyegun as the party Chairman. However, it is regrettable that Chief Oyegun has failed to live up to the expectations of a majority of the party members. And there are only two possible reasons for this obvious mismanagement of a party that signify change- it is either Chief Oyegun lacks the ability to deliver on his redefined assignment, or he has compromised.
With the manner Chief Oyegun and his team of National Working Committee (NWC) handled the leadership crisis in the National Assembly, even the failed PDP had to deride our party as one led by “inexperienced” people. For how long would we continue to endure insults and uncouth language from people whose very inexperience has pushed out of office? But still, the APC of today under the chairmanship of Oyegun is making a lot of us wonder if it is still the same party we worked and campaigned with. We are not alone- many Nigerians are now wondering if this was the same APC they voted for.
Before this embarrassment gets deeper and much more unbearable, we call on Chief Oyegun to do the honorable thing by placing the party interest far and above his personal desires. We also call on the leaders of the party and specifically the members of the NWC to safe our party from going deeper on this voyage of self-destruction. Chief John Oyegun should please resign in order to save the party and his members from further headache.
While at it, other members of the party whose recent acts and actions have become inimical to the continued progress and survival of the party should immediately retrace their steps. In the light of this, we specifically call on Senate President Bukola Saraki to quickly return to the path of rectitude. Since the party has resolved to respect the office Senator Bukola now occupies and also accept his emergence; the Senate President must also in turn respect and be loyal to the party. It is time Senate President Bukola Saraki realises that the politics part of his ambition is over. Now is the time to use that office to coordinate and rally the National Assembly behind the vision of Mr. President and that of the party.