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News Analysis: House of Reps: Now it’s our circus chamber

By Emmanuel Aziken

ABUJA—“This House of Representatives shall live forever,” was the memorable phrase that Rep. Ehiogie West-Idahosa used to capture the purposefulness of the House of Representatives during the edgy days of the Ghali Na‘Abba House sometime around 2001.

Yesterday as the House again navigated yet another storm the essence of the House was openly in question. Reflective of the question mark on the House were the bunch of hired hands at the main gate of the National Assembly complex yesterday with their slogans one of which read “House of Representatives or House of Thieves”.

In the “dock” yesterday was the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha who was accused of misappropriating the N150 million earmarked for the celebration of ten years of democracy. Mr. Ihedioha’s predicament was unprecedented.

A man who should ordinarily be the chief disciplinarian of the House was largely the object of disparagement. It was a big fall from the hey days of the immediate past two Houses when Mr. Bawa Bwari as Chief Whip commanded fear, respect and adoration from both friends and foes in the chamber.

Co-accused with Mr. Ihedioha was Mr. Tunde Akogun, the House leader who was “charged” by the mutineers of mismanaging the N160 million voted for the recent House retreat that took place in Kano and Calabar.

However, at the end of yesterday’s stormy session those not willing to dignify the chamber as the House of Representatives or denigrate as the House of Thieves were agreed that it could well be a Circus Chamber!

Mr. Mino Delaye the one time “Body Guard” and ally of Mrs. Patricia Etteh who championed the crusade against Ihedioha and Akogun with the boast of having the signature of at least two hundred and fifty four members backtracked yesterday. He not only ate his words, but apologized and surrendered his chairmanship of the House committee on Information.

Many who know Mr. Delaye’s track record were initially doubtful of his aims at the beginning of the crusade. However, when on the eve of the reconvening of the House last Monday he was joined by Mr. West-Idahosa and some other serious minded members like Lanre Agoro and Kamil Akilabi, there was some second thought.

West-Idahosa at the Monday press parley bemoaned the image problem of the House which he said was at its worst since 1999.

“I have served under six Speakers since coming to the House of Representatives in 1999,’’ he said as he alluded to past image problems of the Dimeji Bankole led House. But he was affirmative in dismissing the present House leadership saying “today our perception index is zero.’’

“We wish to apologise to the Nigerian people on the style of leadership that the House of Representatives have today. We are now serious about giving back the House the integrity and respect it deserves and we have today resolved to do that by insisting tomorrow that the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip must go,’’ he said.

However, as the House gathered yesterday the promise of fire and brimstone by the mutineers turned into an anti-climax.

Mr. Delaye who has yet to push through a successful House initiative fumbled denying ever accusing Mr. Ihedioha of fraud. Mr. West-Idahosa simply lost his voice and with that the process was turned against Mr. Delaye who beat a fast retreat by apologizing.

The aborted campaign to cleanse the House has again brought another credibility question to the House. This was the very chamber that bungled and allegedly profited from a campaign to cleanse the power sector of the alleged corruption that has denied power supply to the majority of Nigerians.

The latest campaign is believed to have been another exercise in self promotion by the campaigners.

Underlying the collapse of the adventure by Mr. Delaye and Mr. West-Idahosa was their divergence of purpose. Mr. Delaye it is largely said had an axe to grind rightly or wrongly with Mr. Ihdeioha over his alleged monopoly of the funds meant for the House celebrations.

Mr. West-Idahosa on his part would have profited from the successful sack of Mr. Akogun by replacing him as House leader being in good stead for the office as one of the few third term members from the South-South zone.

Mr. Ihedioha may have survived, but he owes it a duty to himself and his office to win the respect and fear of his colleagues for him to effectively apply the whip. Otherwise, he would remain a lead actor in the tax payer sponsored circus chamber.


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