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NASS CRISIS: Gainers, Losers

Posted: Jul 29, 2015 at 2:34 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

• As Dogara Yields To Party   • APC To Approach Senate Differently

By Rotimi Akinwunmi and Chesa Chesa,  Abuja


The National Assembly resumed plenary yesterday after a five-week vacation, with both chambers settling the contentious issues of appointing principal officers. They ratified the remaining eight officers, four apiece for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), putting an end to the bitter acrimony that arose from the struggle for headship of the federal parliament.

The two chambers of the National Assembly had been reeling in a long-drawn crisis since June 9, 2015 when the 8th Session was inaugurated, and at the heart of the bitter feud were members of the ruling APC who had engaged one another over the composition of the principal officers. As the run-up to the inauguration of the National Assembly began after the May 29 handover ceremonies, there were signs that the contest was going to be really hot, especially among members of the APC who were angling for one position or the other.

It was a hydra-headed trouble in the parliament. As the leadership of the ruling APC tried to foist its favourite candidates on the National Assembly, the party faced stiff resistance from deviant members who insisted that the race must be left to the choices of the members of the parliament. Such recalcitrant members backed Senator Bukola Saraki, who insisted on running for the position of Senate President and Yakubu Dogara, who also rallied members to contest for Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The APC leadership had in a bid to sideline Saraki and Dogara zoned the positions the principal offices to the geo-political areas of its anointed candidates. The party’s choice against Saraki for the post of the Senate President was Senator Ahmad Lawan, from the North East, and George Akume from North Central as deputy, while the official candidate for the Speaker was Femi Gbajabiamila from the South West with Hon. Monguno as his deputy.

The contest opened up a lot intrigues both on the sides of the party and the renegade aspirants. Saraki and Dogara had to enlist the support of members of the minority PDP in the two chambers and when it was time to decide the election at the chambers, their lean soldiers from the APC and the mercenary PDP supporters combined to wrestle the APC leadership and its anointed candidates to the ground. Saraki clinched the coveted seat, while Dogara beat Gbajabiamila with a thin margin of eight votes. If the emergence of Saraki and Dogara pained the APC leadership, which considered their action as an affront to the authority of the party, the election of PDP Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the deputy senate president was even more hurtful.

For 49 days, the wheels of the National Assembly had virtually been grounded to a halt, as the APC desperately struggled with Dogara over the principal officers having lost out totally in the Senate. Saraki had dumped the candidates nominated for the senate positions and went ahead to install persons endorsed by members of his caucus in the Senate.


Behind The Curtains

After days of infighting and political horse-trading, the crisis rocking the House of Representatives was resolved amicably, but in a dramatic fashion yesterday when Dogara bowed to the demand of the leadership of his party and announced Gbajabiamila as Leader of the House.

The Speaker who did not give any inkling of making the announcement at the plenary had earlier in his speech apologised to the Nigerian public for the fracas that broke out on the floor of the parliament a month ago over the appointment of House Principal Officers.

He came into the chambers at about 12;30pm to preside over the plenary session.

In his fairly lengthy speech, the Speaker did not give any sign that the announcement of the names of the principal officers would be made, but he received a standing ovation from his colleagues, majority of whom were members of the Consolidation Group who are his loyalists.

Ado Doguwa, who was slated by Dogara for the office of the House Leader as against the choice of Gbajabiamila by the party, got up after the Speaker had concluded his speech and made an open apology to the parliament for his participation in the uprising against Dogara.

He also received a loud ovation from his colleagues.

Thereafter, the business of the day began.

After about three hours of parliamentary business attending to Motions and Bills, the Speaker vacated the seat for his Deputy Lasun Yusuf and left the chamber.

Less than 30 minutes after, he returned and told his colleagues that he has a message for them.

It was, however, gathered that the Speaker had within the time had a short meeting with the Senate Saraki where a telephone conversation was held with the President.

The President, it was gathered, told the two leaders his desire to have the issue resolved without the party being disgraced.

As soon as the Speaker entered the chambers, he read from a prepared speech the list of members who have been selected to be Principal Officers of the House.

He announced Gbajabiamila as the House Leader, Buba Jibrin as the Deputy Leader while Ado Doguwa was announced as Chief Whip with Hon Pally Iriase as Deputy Chief Whip.

Ironically, Tahir Monguno who was designated as Chief Whip by the party initially was dropped completely from the list.

Pally Iriase, given the concession to become the Chief Whip while Monguno was to become the Deputy during the efforts at finding solutions to the crisis, was reverted to the initial position of Deputy Chief Whip.

Before the plenary was adjourned, the Speaker also announced Leo Ogor as Minority Leader, Chukwuma Onyema as Deputy Minority Leader while Umar Barde was announced as Minority Whip and Binta Bello as Deputy Minority Whip.

At a press conference held immediately the plenary, Sanni Zoro, Chairman House Ad-Hoc Committee on Media and Publicity explained that the outcome of the crisis would make the House stronger.

He noted that what had been happening in the House was the beauty of democracy and that the issue has been finally resolved.

He also admitted that President Buhari played a prominent role in ensuring the resolution of the crisis.

“You are all witnesses to the eventful plenary session today upon the resumption of the House of Representatives.

“You can also remember that when we were going on recess and there was some disturbances in the House of Representatives, we made it clear that the problems we were going through were merely transitional in nature and we have been proved right. Because today we have resolved all the problems that brought that circumstance.

“What transpired today is the triumph of the internal democracy of the House of Representatives and this triumph is also anchored on four factors.

“It is anchored on patriotism, constitutionalism, reason  and rationality, this is what guided the steps taken by the entire House of Representatives laid by its leadership and all the contending groups that were party to the various negotiations.

“So what we did was purely transitional and is in order,  but I can assure you that apart from the triumph of dialogue, the 8th House of Representatives has shown that we are matured politicians.

“We members of the House of Representatives will be of good behaviour henceforth, there will be no cause for rancour, talkless of the kind of disturbances that we witnessed the other day.

“We want to use this opportunity to thank Mr. President for a 20 minute meeting, it was very, very crucial.

“What Mr. President did was a fatherly engagement, what he did has clearly shown that he is not the so called dictator that our opponents wanted to paint him as.

“He said let the National Assembly follow its own democratic processes and it’s leaders will emerge and that is what happened.

“Even the party was cautious, the party was accused by contending groups, but the party wanted to respect that principle, obviously the president is a game changer.

“We thank him and recognise that democratic temper in him which is going to flow to all democratic institutions.

Gbajabiamila in a reaction to his emergence as the House Leader said the crisis in the House was the beauty of democracy.

“What you saw in the last 49 days, was actually democracy in action, that is what politics is all about, everybody trying to out play everybody, but for the greater good of the country.

“You will now see the house that you knew before, the one you have known in the last four years, you will now see that house back in action, working for the people, working for country, working  for the  nation, I’m sure we will have more to say by tomorrow, but for now everybody is happy”.

Earlier in the day, Dogara had expressed sadness over the situation of things in the House as he noted that the crisis was uncalled for.

He noted that the action of the lawmakers was uncalled for and urged them to be awake to their duties.

“When we departed for this recess, it was not in the most honorable of circumstances for which I had cause to apologize to Nigerians in that behalf.

“Today as we resume, I am not ashamed to once again reiterate our unreserved apologies to the people of Nigeria for that unfortunate incidence and promise that we shall be the vibrant House of the Nigerian people that we are,” he said.


Different Approach

Reacting to the turn of events, an obviously elated APC Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun, applauded the Reps for resolving the crisis in a more amicable way, noting that the crisis rocking the Senate was different from what was experienced at the House, because of an opposition member as Deputy President, a matter, he said the party would address differently.

Shortly after his emergence, Gbajabiamila was at the APC National Secretariat to appreciate the party’s effort during the struggle.

Addressing newsmen, the chairman commended the House speaker for his sense of patriotism, expressing hope “that the wounds will now be totally healed that the APC family will now reunite fully as one.”

To Nigerians, Oyegun said, “I have already offered our regrets. This is part of growing, we are new to government and we are democratic and above all, progressive movement.

“We are in the process of welding all the various tendencies into one and today we have scored one major victory and I can assure the country that the party has began the process of healing all the wounds and becoming one song force.

“We are moving from being a movement into a one strong political party that will back the President for the good of the entire country.

Reacting to the emergence of the House Leader and how to solve the Senate crisis, the APC National Chairman stated that the Senate crisis would be approached differently.