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The dilemma of Reps as Yar’Adua vanishes to become an “oracle”

By Luka Binniyat
Since President Umaru Yar’Adua was sneaked out from the country  for  medical treatment on the 23rd of November last year, and “smuggled” back penultimate Wednesday night,  his handlers have made him look like an oracle.

They, in turn,  have assumed the positions High Priests through which he passes his esoteric messages to his confounded people.

As the debate on his health status and his physical presence  rages on, last Tuesday, the House of Representatives was in a frenzy as  members  prepared to speak on Motions they had prepared, based on populist sentiment on the condition of the President.

The Reps have been vilified in the court-of-public opinion as being too slow in endorsing Vice President  Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.

Though noted for its relatively radical posture (compared to the Senate in the past) on national issues, the Red Chamber seems to have taken the shine off the Green Chamber.

But, last Wednesday, some of the members wanted to stand out and be counted among those who share the feelings of the people on their President, who  vanished for over three months and now speaks  to them like a deity through self ordained priests.

And the passion for that expression was palpable that Tuesday morning.

At least, 170 members had, as published in some newspapers last Monday, vowed to insist that a resolution must be reached asking that President Yar’Adua  be presented to the Nigerian people, and that all those denying top government functionaries from seeing the President  be arrested and prosecuted.

At the start of  plenary, it was obvious that the Reps were going to rebel against any presiding officer who would attempt to stop them. And the drama that played out proved so.

In the midst of the  ensuing strong protest that greeted the attempt of the Speaker  Hon. Dimeji Bankole to stop the debate,  the Speaker asked for a closed door session and the press was chased out of the gallery.

In what was obviously the longest executive session this year, the Reps came out with a shocking resolution two hours later. The resolution had very little or no bearing with the issues at stake.

What could have led to such a sudden volte-face?

Saturday Vanguard findings showed that  most of the Reps went into the close door session, smoking and red-faced.

Our reporter gathered that, most of the members were ready to face their Speaker, who was in firm grip of  the House, to tell him how disgusted they are with the way the leadership was handling the Yar’Adua crisis.

But, unknown to them, the Speaker had devised a method that was  as scaring as it was emotional to stomp the rebellion

According to Saturday Vanguard source, the Speaker put aside the  cajoling tactics he uses during plenary and started a passionate plea for understanding.

“He informed us that we would be the greatest losers if  we heated up the polity to inspire a coup”, said our source.

“He said that  as a former military man, he knows how infuriating and inciting it could be to the Army when  the public make expressions suggesting the Armed Forces is not appreciated”, said our source in reference to one of the motions raised by Hon. Samuel Sejoro (AC/Lagos).

“The Speaker came short of going on his kneels begging for all members to sheath their swords and approach the matter with caution”.

Our source revealed that Bankole reminded them that anytime there was a military coup, it was the legislature that got suspended, while the Executive and Judiciary ride on.

He then insisted that the motion the House had passed investing executive powers on the Acting President was sufficient for him to take charge.

‘Since the Acting President has not brought any complaint to this parliament that someone was undermining his authority, I think we should just keep our cool, watch and support him”, the source cited Bankole as  saying. He then appealed to his colleagues, whose morale has been withered by the prospect of losing their seats and all the perks of  office that comes with it.

“The more he talked”, said our source, “the more he frightened our members.
“But some members were bold enough to tell him off on certain issues”.

However, Bankole was able to convert the radical elements into agreeing to the kind of curious resolution that was reached that day.

Our source however said, that “most members are now looking at his utterances as a subterfuge to keep them away from debating the Yar’Adua debacle”. According to him, “their Speaker may be hiding an ulterior motive they are yet to uncover”.

It could be recalled that at the beginning of  plenary of that day, Hon. Mayor Eze (PDP/Imo) had  raised a point-of-order bordering on Matter of Urgent National Importance from Order 8 of  the House Rule 4.

“Mr. Speaker, in the past few days, the press has been awash with unguarded, uncouth utterances by the Minister of Communication, saying that a cabal has hijacked the President…  “Mr Speaker, this ….”. The Speaker cut him short, and asked him to” approach the chair”, or the platform where the Speaker sits.

The Speaker whispered  something into  Eze’s ear for about a minute. Eze, nodded approvingly several times, turned and walked back to his seat.

That caused some grudging noises in the Green Chamber as members started conferring with each other.

After about five minutes, the  Speaker called the House to order. “Now, Hon. Eze”, said the Speaker, “you may need to proceed”

This time, Eze was less castigating  in his delivery.

“My colleagues”, he said, “I want us to know that any utterance that would heat up the polity should not be encouraged”, he said.

“We have passed a resolution  empowering the Acting President to assume executive powers as Commander-in-Chief.

“No one has stopped him from working and as such, for any Minister to keep adding tension by her utterances, such a Minister  should be condemned by the House”.

When the Speaker put the matter into vote, those against Eze, where clearly in the majority. Thus the Speaker ruled in favour of the opposition, to signal the beginning of what looked like a rebellion at that day’s session.

But, hardly had he bought down the gavel, than another member called out, “Point-of-Order, Mr. Speaker”

When recognised, it turned out to be Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon.

The Rep hinged his point-of-order on Rule 5 of  the House Rule. He said that his privilege as a Nigerian and as a federal Legislature has been breached by what happened at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport last Wednesday night.

“This House passed a resolution which made the Vice President of this country acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

“But, when our ailing President was brought  into the country from Saudi Arabia, there was massive deployment of troops, all with no consultation, or with the authority of the C-in-C”. He went on, “Mr Speaker, this is a breach of section 288(1) and section 8 of the Armed Forces Act.

“I therefore want …”.

At this point, the Speaker cut him short.

“Hon. Obahiagbon, please can you approach the Chair?”.
There were some protests from some members, but all the same, Obahiagbon, went up and met the Speaker.

After about two minutes of what looked like an argument between the two men, Hon. Obahiagbon, made  his way back to his seat and sat down quietly.

This caused some disquiet in the chamber as some members left their seats to tête-à-tête on the issue.

After about five minutes, the Speaker again called the House to order. An interesting development then ensued.

“Now, Hon. Patrick”, the Speaker said, “do you want to continue with your point-of-order?” he asked.
“No, Mr. Speaker”, he said, “I want to defer to the Chair”, he replied.
This invoked loud exclamations from the floor.

“No, you don’t have to defer to me please…”, began the Speaker but he was cut short by a loud shout of yet another “point-of-order, Mr. Speaker”

Without even getting the nod, Hon. Samuel Sejoro (AC/Lagos)  started.
“Mr Speaker, last Wednesday night, the President of this country was smuggled into this country like a ghost in the night.  “My President, I heard,  he is being detained against his wish and that of the Nigerian people…”

The Speaker kept calling him to approach the Chair but he ignored the calls.

“I want this House to invite Hajia Turai Yar’Adua and all those detaining the President to appear before this House and explain why they are breaching section 308 of the constitution of Nigeria”, he said.

“Hon.Sejoro, please approach the Chair”, the Speaker hammered.
In a rather hilarious   reply, Hon. Sejoro, said, “Mr Speaker, I am not approaching any Chair”, which led many members into laughter, as Sejoro took his seat in what looked liked a planned rebellion against the Speaker’s stand on Yar’Adua.

There were many more calling on points-of-order  at the same time. This stalled proceedings for about ten minutes.

“I am left with no choice than to call for an executive session”,  said, Bankole, “please clear the gallery”, he ordered.

The Reps emerged after two and half hours to announce the resolution of the House through the Leader of  the Reps, Hon. Tunde Akogun (PDP/Edo).

“The House of Representatives having reviewed the state of the nation resolves to concentrate on only those things that will encourage peace, unity, stability and progress of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”And all the Reps went home as one happy family again.


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