The recent leadership crisis that started during Wednesday’s plenary over the announcement of the principal officers for the minority parties in the House of Representatives, continued yesterday with the speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, warning members, especially Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), not to test the resolve of the House.
During Wednesday’s plenary; as soon as the announcement of the principal officers for the minority parties in the House was made by the speaker, Chinda raised an objection to the development.
At the resumption of plenary on Thursday, Chinda and his colleagues had already taken over the designated seats for the minority officers, thus causing a delay in the commencement of plenary traditionally billed for 11 am. Femi Gbajabiamila’s procession, which included his deputy, Idris Wase, and other minority officers, led by Elumelu, only entered the chambers at precisely 12:10pm.
In a dramatic “Walking down the aisle”, it was a shoulder tapping comradery affair between the leadership and the members of the house who freely exchanged pleasantries. The speaker said the opening prayer at the end of which; from those present in the house; came a chorus “Amen”, Mr speaker who wasn’t very impressed with the volume and intensity of the “Amen”, told the House that the “Amen” was not loud enough, so next came an ear splitting “Amen”. Then the drama of the day started.
To validate the announcement of Elumelu’s faction as principal officers for the minority parties, the speaker remarked that he had examined and approved the proceedings of Wednesday’s plenary, this remark was greeted with thunderous claps and applause.
While all these were going on, Elumelu and other officers behaved as though Chinda; who had already taken the seats allocated to them as the new minority leaders; were simply invisible. To prove that they were not invisible, Chinda immediately raised a point of order, however; he had hardly finished raising his point of order when the speaker retorted,
“without asking you what your point of order is, you are overruled.’’
Chinda would not be cowered, so he persisted with a call for point of order. Mr speaker with the intent on teaching the rebellious Chinda the rules of the game, again restated:
“We don’t recognise you; you are not in your allocated seat.
“We have allocated seats. If you are not seated in your allocated seat, you will not be recognised. Number two, I want to make it abundantly clear, do not test the resolve of this House; you will be forced to regret.”
With the atmosphere of the House getting more electric than was necessary, Benjamin Kalu from Abia State raised a point of order, speaking on the order, he made reference to Wednesday’s plenary, he expressed shock at the attempt to snatch the mace, he therefore called for investigation and punishment of the culprit. According to him,
“There was an attempt to destroy the integrity of this House. Are we now allowed to become Sergeant-at-Arms?
“My prayer is that this House constitutes a committee to look into what happened, so we will feel safe in this House and to prevent it from happening again.”
Making his ruling on the matter, Gbajabiamila said:
“It is a matter of privilege that does not require debate, just a ruling. On that note, we will refer the matter and the gentleman who was named to an ad hoc ethics committee.”
Tajudeen Yusuf raised another point of order at this point, citing Order 7(5), which stipulates that the names of the principal officers were supposed to be circulated but were not in the votes and proceedings. The speaker’s responded stiffly
Chinda was not yet through for the day, so he once again raised his hand for another point of order. That was the proverbial straw the broke the camels back, Gbajabiamila could not take it anymore and so he sought Chinda out of the crowd and addressed him directly, saying
“Hon. Chinda, do not try my resolve; you are not in your allocated seat.”
The tension started to rise again, at this point, the Benue state representative, Mark Gbillah raised another point of order, citing Order 6(2) which deals on Matters of Privilege. Gbillah accused the speaker of breaching his privilege because he considered that he (speaker) spoke as if he was issuing a threat to members.
“I consider my privilege breached,”.
Mark Gbillah was still speaking when Gbajabiamila retorted, saying
“please, look at your dictionary meaning of threat and warning.”
The speaker hits the gavel and proceeded with the plenary.
With sparks flying all over the place towards the end of Wednesday’s session, the Cross River State representative, Dan Asoquo, raised a point of oder, calling the attention of the speaker to Order 8, Rule 2. He pleaded with the speaker to forget the events of Wednesday, apparently recommending that the probe panel should not be constitute. He said:
“I do not want us to go back to what happened yesterday (Wednesday). I want to use this privilege to enjoin Mr. Speaker that our duty as lawmakers is to protect the integrity of this House.
“I am a member of Peoples Democratic Party; I want to enjoin you to let go of what happened yesterday (Wednesday). We accept your leadership. We accept your rule. We will go back home and resolve what happened. There is no victor, no vanquished. We are serving the Nigerian people.”
Mr speaker turned down Dan Asoquo’s recommendation, insisting that the committee would still be constituted and that it was up to the committee to recommend what happens next.
“For me, what happened yesterday (Wednesday) was not about me; it was about the institution, which I have committed to build. Speakers will come and go, but the institution will remain.
“We also have a procedure. I have accepted your position. The motion, the process continues. We will read the names and refer the person to that committee. The committee will decide whether there is breach or not.
“We can’t arrest the process now. Anybody can bring a motion. Until a motion to rescind is brought, there is very little we can do,”.
The panel was immediately constituted and has the Deputy Minority Leader, Peter Akpatason from Edo State as the chairman.
Officers named by the speaker at the end of plenary yesterday include
Doguwa: House Leader
Ado Doguwa – Majority Leader of the 9th House. Doguwa who hails from Kano State, was the immediate past Chief Whip of the 8th House of Representatives.
Mohammed Mongolia – the Chief Whip of the House,
Deputy – Nkiruka Onyejiocha from Abia State.
Deputy Majority Leader – Peter Akpatason from Edo State.