Act 1 Scene 1 – Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives had a rowdy session immediately after Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal read a letter proposing a courtesy visit by the Abubakar Kawu Baraje -led faction of the new Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
After saying the day’s prayer at about 11.05am and delivering his welcome back speech to his colleagues who just returned from recess, Tambuwal proceeded to read a communication from President Goodluck Jonathan on the transmission of the 2014-2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper, and followed that with the letter, asking for the visit by Baraje.
The lawmakers were instantly split. The drama started with the shouts of ‘no,’ ‘no’ by members of the old PDP, as well as arguments to the effect that PDP is no longer the majority party in the House, implying that Tambuwal’s leadership was no longer tenable.
Leading the pack of the nPDP, as the Baraje PDP is called, was Rep Abdulmunin Jibrin, House Committee Chairman on Finance representing Kano State and Rep Dakuku Peterside of Rivers State.
Attempts to restore order by the Chief Whip, Rep Isiaka Bawa, failed as members of the old PDP and the new bloc turned the floor of the House into a market place.
The Speaker had to repeatedly call the legislators by their first names and their various positions before order could be restored.
As soon as normalcy returned after the disruption that lasted for almost 30 minutes , Tambuwal announced that he had also earlier “received a communication from Chairman of our great party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, on the same subject matter” asking for a meeting with the PDP caucus, but that Tukur “withdrew his own letter early this morning.”
The Speaker however explained that he could not read Tukur’s letter on the basis of the withdrawal. He said the issue was a PDP affair and could not be debated on the floor of the House.
The Baraje team was billed to meet the PDP caucus in the House at 3.00pm.
Rep Kingsley Chinda rose through a motion on a matter of urgent national importance and cautioned that what had just transpired on the floor may send a wrong interpretation to Nigerians outside, and prayed the House to pass a vote of confidence on its leadership under Tambuwal.
He argued that whatever that was happening on the political scene outside should not in any way affect the activities of the House. “We remain a united House,” he stated, and advised members to ignore the imperious publicity directed at creating disunity in the House.
”We all saw the welcome parade here this morning but the papers were all awash that the House was going to war.”
He noted that as a sign of the unity of the House let us pass a vote of confidence on this leadership.
Rep Toby Okechukwu, PDP, representing Aninri/Oji River Constituency, Enugu State seconded the motion., saying “we should be mindful about what we say about our leadership that has been giving us a good sense of direction”.
The motion was unanimously adopted.
Earlier while welcoming back members from the over two months annual recess, Tambuwal said he had no doubt “that we are returning more reinforced with constituency duties arising from the expectations of our constituents as well as the needs which we have become ceased of through our observations, interactions and experiences”.
He continued, “We should therefore be now guided more than ever before given that, the condition of our rural dwellers has witnessed only marginal improvements.
”Most of our people still can’t afford to live decently. They still can’t afford quality education for their children or good healthcare for their families. They still don’t have those basic needs of life – from clean water to adequate security and regular power supply that other nations take for granted. This means there remains a whole lot more to be done.
”With the greatest sense of modesty, I wish once more to commend you all for the great work you have been doing and the attendant sacrifices. I urge that we belt up for greater sacrifices even when this may appear not to be appreciated in some quarters. I am confident that gradually the people of Nigeria will get to know the truth and it is only then that what we are doing will be sufficiently appreciated.
”We have been able to come this far because of your sense of patriotism, mutual cooperation and cohesion. We must all continue to be attentive to the promptings of our conscience and the yearnings of our people. If we continue along this path, we are unlikely to go wrong. Make no mistake, I do not by this suggest that we are infallible, but if we have to make errors at all, they must be the ones that can pass the test of good conscience.”
The Speaker further stated that “recently, the polity has witnessed sustained heat generated by both interparty and intraparty squabbles.
“This is not all together unexpected given the approach of 2015. What is worrisome however is that these squabbles have further exposed the weaknesses of internal party democratic culture and interparty intolerance. These are viruses that we must resolve to dispense with in order to sanitize the political space.
”In the face of these, I must not fail to commend Honourable members for their general mature comportment in reacting to the issues involved in the political face off. This mature comportment has saved the situation from further escalation.”
ACT 1 Scene 2
Venue: Room 028
At 3.25pm Alhaji Abubakar Baraje led Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara, Aliyu Babangida of Niger, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Magadaka Wamakko of Sokoto into the venue.
The Speaker, his Deputy Emeka Ihedioha and other principal officers of the House were already seated waiting for their guests.
At 3.30pm the National Anthem was played and protocols followed but, suddenly, Rep Henry Ofongo, a massively built Bayelsa lawmaker, raised an objection, shouting” point of order, point of order” repeatedly.
This did not go down with members of the nPDP who charged at him.
This time, leading the pack of the charged nPDP members was Rep Peterside.
Some PDP legislators encircled Ofongo while Rep Chinda who earlier moved for a peaceful resolution of the PDP crisis started shouting “no, no, no.”
This did not stop the Leader of the House, Rep Mulikat Akande-Adeola, from reading her welcome address though her voice was heavily drowned by the noise making PDP lawmakers.
Immediately Baraje started his speech, the lawmakers started chanting “Tukur! Tukur!! Tukur!!!” His voice was drowned all through his speech.
Tambuwal was however lucky when he started reading his speech as order had been restored.
But immediately he mentioned “our party leaders” in his speech, Rep Chinda and his colleagues started chanting “Goodluck PDP! Goodluck PDP”.
Again order was restored and the Speaker successfully delivered his speech.
Tambuwal, in the speech, that “as politicians and leaders, we are all deeply concerned about political developments in the country in recent weeks especially the face- off within our great party, the PDP.”
He went on, “These developments have once again exposed our vulnerability and the status of the culture of intra-party democracy and inter-party tolerance
”Political parties are the critical infrastructure of democracy. It means then that democracy can only flourish where there are strong Political Parties with well developed institutions and a firmly entrenched democratic culture.” It is important as politicians to constantly remind ourselves that the democracy we have belongs to the entire Nigerian people and not to politicians alone.
”Indeed all Nigerians fought to install this democracy and many paid the supreme price in the process, therefore we must not, by our conduct, treat this supreme sacrifice of our heroes past with levity.
” While acknowledging that the political party is the vehicle through which we pursue our ambitions and aspirations, we must all conduct ourselves strictly within the confines of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Law.
”I wish to caution also that Nigerians need a peaceful atmosphere to conduct their lives and business endeavours. I make bold to say that within the allowable region of error, we card carrying members of Political parties contribute not more than 25% of the population, we must therefore abstain from heating up the polity unnecessarily. We must not take the rest of Nigerians for granted; we must not overstretch our goodwill and we must not overtask the patience of Nigerians.
”Let us therefore make conscious effort to allow national interest take the driving seat and not our personal ambitions.
”Once again on behalf of the caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives, I thank you for this visit”.
REACTIONS OF SOME REPS
Rep Tajudeen Yusuf,PDP said,
“We have only one PDP and that is our position on this issue.
”One indivisible PDP and nothing else”.
Rep Friday Itulah, representing Esan East/ West Federal Constituency, Edo State, noted, “What we are saying is that party issues should be resolved at the party office not in the National Assembly. “
Act 1 Scene 3
nPDP lawmakers to revers ‘impunity’
Immediately after the Baraje
meeting with the PDP caucus, the nPDP legislators addressed journalists where they stated their position in clear terms.
The leader of the group, Rep Andrew Uchendu, said the essence of the briefing was to let Nigerians know that “we are the authentic PDP, the other one is a sham. “
He explained, “Agreements were reached before the special national convention was held on August 31, all the agreements were breached.
”This led to the walkout by the G7 Governors from the venue of the convention.
”If Nigeria must have a direction, the ruling party must have a direction so that Nigerians can heave a sigh of relief.
”The letter sent by our leaders was read on the floor of the House, the essence of the PDP caucus meeting is to ensure that we were properly briefed because most of us were abroad during the recess.
”But what we saw today was a reign of impunity, lack of tolerance whether to agree to disagree or to disagree to agree.
”This reign of impunity cannot be allowed to continue this way in this country”. Asked how many members were in his acclaimed authentic PDP, Uchendu said “we are 108 authentic PDP members. “
On whether there is any hope of a ceasefire, he declared with all finality “no ceasefire, consultations is on-going.”