By Luka Binniyat
NOT used to screening or approving appointees of Government, the House of Representatives Tuesday enacted a curious drama that ended with a blunder while trying to approve the nomination of former governor of Kaduna State, Arc. Namadi Sambo as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This is following the ascendance of Dr. Jonathan Goodluck as President afterÂ the demise of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua early this month. The post of the Vice President had remained unoccupied.
However section 146 (3) had a solution to the problem. It reads: where the office of the Vice President becomes Vacant; (a) by reason of death or resignation, or impeachment, permanent incapacity, or removal in accordance with section 143 or 144 of this constitution; (b) or by his assumption of office of the President in accordance with section (1) of this section, or (c) for any other reason, the President shall nominate and, with the approval of each House of the National Assembly, appoint a new Vice President.
This is the only role that the constitution permits the Reps to have a say in the appointment of a government official. And, it doesnâ€™t come everyday. But the Senate are at home with this process as a result of a robust role the 1999 constitution allows it to play in the confirmation of Ministers, Heads of certain executive bodies and even Ambassadors. The Senate therefore must have built in a standard procedure of doing this in its rules.
Not so with the Reps
Signs that the Reps may have problems with their mode of approval showed when this writer sought for clarification on the issue from the Chairman, Rules and Business of the House, Rep Ita Enag Monday.
â€œGov. SamboÂ (now Vice President Namadi Sambo) will appear, because weÂ have written him an invitation letter based on the request of the President inÂ the letter he wrote to us last weekâ€, We feel that he should appear because we as the representatives of the people need to find out how sound he is, since he was not part of the campaign that produce the leadership of the executiveâ€, heÂ said.
â€œWe have received his rÃ©sumÃ© and all members have been forwarded copies to studyâ€, heÂ had added
â€œBut, I want to assure you that the nominee would have a smooth sailâ€, heÂ had said, â€œbecause thisÂ was what we have promised President Jonathan Goodluckâ€.
It was not really a smooth sail.
As it turned out the next day, Sambo was far from the Green Chamber, contrary to Enang’s submission.
The session started around 10am last Tuesday. The Speaker, Demiji Bankole read out the Presidentâ€™s lettern and the lengthy profile of Sambo. As he read out the letter, there were distractions of all kinds from the chamber as members jabbered to one another, and some others moved from one seat to the other, in obvious irreverence to the position of the number two man, or so it seemed. All, the same, Bankole resisted the frustration and went on reading. Surprisingly, at the end of the citation, the lager number of the Reps gave the nominee a thunderous ovation.
At the Press gallery, words were making the rounds that some members from Kaduna State â€“ the home state of the nominee â€“ and their sympathisers, were lobbying for support to scuttle the approval, in sympathy with their constituents who had a problem with the Deputy GovernorÂ of Kaduna State â€“ Patrick Yakowa â€“ becoming governor after the exit of Sambo.
But, all that was hushed up, as no one called any point of Oder to that effect, until Ubale Jakada Kiru (ANPP/Kano) did. Citing Order 8 Rule(2)(2) of the House Rule, Ubale argued that since the position in question was such an important one, that the House differ the debate to another day so that members may have time to study the bio-data of the nominee. But, his motion met stiff opposition as most members shouted their objection to his demand.
But it was the Speaker that nailed Ubale. â€œThe Rule which you are citing does not make any automatic deferment in the approval of the nomineeâ€, he said, to kill the dissenting spirit of Ubale..
This set the stage for the House Leader Tunde Akogun (PDP Edo) to formally lead the debate on the motion for the consideration and approval of the nomination. Akogun appealed to the lawmakers to consider themselves as part of making of history. He eulogised the quality of Sambo, and affirmed that he would make a good Vice President.
That would have been enough, because it had become obvious that majority of the lawmakers wanted no more conviction â€“ they were set to vote for Sambo. Unable to read the mood of his colleagues, Bankole beckoned on theÂ Deputy Speaker, Rep Usman Nafada (PDP Gombe) to giveÂ the Reps more lecture on Sambo. Members became livid, and disrupted proceedings for almost twenty minutes. But Bankole stuck to his gun, that the Reps needed to hear more about Sambo. In response, the Reps became more stubborn and even burst fourth into a protest song.
â€œAll, we are saying, Put the questionâ€/ â€œAll we are saying, Give us Samboâ€, they sang, waving hands and handkerchiefs in the air, all to the chagrin of Bankole. But, somehow, he was able to pacify the chamber, to the extent that even the Minority Leader of the House, AliÂ Mohammed Ndume (ANPP Borno) had the floor for a few minutes. At the end of the day, a voice count showed that those in support of Sambo as the Vice President, were the clear majority.
And it was after that the main blunder was committed. Instead of approving the Votes and Proceedings of that dayâ€™s session, to finally confirm the approval of the Reps, for onward communication to the President so thatÂ the Vice President couldÂ be sworn-in the next morning to enable himÂ sit in the Federal Executive Council meeting of Wednesday, the Reps closed shop and went home.
Meanwhile the Senate had already sent their approval to the President that day.
The blunder was later pointed out to Bankole, who then decreed that instead of the 2pm sitting of the Reps every Wednesday, that the session be convened for 10am, and, by 10am, on Wednesday Bankole was in the chamber with his principal officers and a few members. He swiftly approved the Votes and Proceedings of the Previous day, confirming the approval of Arc. Namadi Sambo as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The development was then hurriedly sent to the President. But, with all that haste, the Vice President could only be sworn-in after the FEC meeting around 4pm.