Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Controversy in House over Independence Message

The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reared its head again  in the House of Representatives yesterday, following the publication of  a  goodwill  message congratulating  President Goodluck Jonathan on Nigeria's  53rd Independence Anniversary.
The goodwill message, endorsed by 140   PDP  members of the House, caused a crisis during plenary yesterday when one of the supposed signatories to the goodwill message raised an objection and disowned it.
The aggrieved lawmaker, Hon. Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo (PDP/Nasarawa), accused the sponsors of the message of forgery, as they did not consult him before his  name was included in the publication.
Onawo who raised the issue as a matter of privilege,  said while there was nothing wrong with congratulating the president on the 53rd anniversary of Nigeria's independence, he had expected that the House should have done it as one body instead of a group of lawmakers doing it on their own.
He said   he was deeply worried about the development, particularly with the speculations that all those whose names appeared in the publication, received $25,000 each. According to him, some of his constituents have been calling him to bring home their own share of the largesse. This drew a loud applause from across the chamber.
When order was restored, Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, ruled that since the issue was a matter of legislative privilege, it cannot be subjected to debate.
Tambuwal however advised lawmakers wishing to make such publications in the future to ensure that they consult individual lawmakers before putting their names as signatories to such  messages.
Onawo who addressed reporters shortly after plenary, said his main grouse was that his name was used in the publication without his consent.
He  declined comments on questions suggesting that his complaints may have emanated from feelings of being shortchanged by others in the sharing of the alleged loot.
Onawo was accompanied to the press briefing by Hon. Andrew Uchendu, leader of the G57 lawmakers in the House, the group loyal to the Baraje faction of the ruling party.
Uchendu expressed dismay that some of his colleagues went ahead to make the publication after the House had resolved to remain neutral on the crisis in the party.
However,  a member of the mainstream PDP and one of the sponsors of the publication, has dismissed Onawo's arguments as a political gimmick designed  to please some persons and mislead others.
The lawmaker, who did not want his name in print because he has not   authorised to speak on the controversy, explained that there was no politics in the matter and that those who were dragging the matter were interpreting a simple goodwill message  out of context.
“Why would anybody fault congratulating the president and the country on an independence anniversary?  He (Onawo)  is just  putting a spin on a non-issue. If he has any problem with the message let him say so. If he is not happy that Nigeria is 53, let him wait and be happy on the independence anniversary of Somalia or Syria.
“Some people may not have been physically present because they were abroad and gave their consent through friends. Am sure that this spin is being put on this to please some people. Please let us concentrate on our resolve to keep away any kind of crisis from this House," he added.
THISDAY gathered that the sponsors of the publication intended to use it to deter those battling for the soul of the PDP.
The underlying  message, it was learnt, was  to show that in spite of the claims by the Baraje group, Jonathan and  the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji  Bamanga Tukur, still had a strong following in the House.

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