By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
There is no doubt that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is the ruling party and the mantra of change has been in the air before the March 28 and April 11 general elections. But the way the party has carried out its activities, especially in the sharing of political positions, has created opposition within the party.
The intra-party squabble has now raised questions on whether this is really the change the party promised before the elections as it appears it is unable to manage the victory it recorded at the polls.
It has been argued in some quarters that some members whose interest was to chase the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, out of power are now in supremacy tussle over who controls the party.
In the National Assembly, the ego problem and attempts to hijack the leadership by some party chieftains are tearing the party apart and, at the same time, portraying the rejected PDP in the general elections to appear better coordinated.
The show of shame, exhibited by those that go with the title, honourable, in the House of Representatives, on Thursday, has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Nigerians who have high hopes and expectations from the party.
However, for those who have been watching events as they unfold since the APC won elections, it was not a surprising thing. Some analysts say the problem bedevilling the party is individual interest, greed and power drunkenness. According to them, some APC bigwigs seem bent on having their way irrespective of the consequence on the party and the nation.
The problem with the APC, many believe, is how to manage victory and the area of concentration in the supremacy war is the National Assembly.
The uproar of Thursday was the consequences of the June 9 inauguration of the 8th assembly where saw a high wire power inter play and those who were bruised appear to be completely out to fight to the end, while those who were victorious are also doing everything possible to protect the victory.
As a prelude to the drama that played out in the House of Representatives which snowballed to physical fight, head booting and a move to hijack the mace, three geopolitical zones had, on Wednesday, raised the alarm on the plan by the national leadership of the APC to shoot them out of the political equation.
The North Central, which claims to have about 40 APC lawmakers in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, had, while addressing journalists, said the leadership of the ruling party had perfected plans contrary to the Constitution provision on federal character.
This was also the same complaint by the South East APC Caucus in the House of Representatives. The zone, though with two members, alleged that the national leadership of the APC had perfected plans to exclude them from the sharing of principal positions in the Green Chamber.
However, there was no inkling that the alarm was going to generate to an unpalatable and tumultuous scene the next day. But, behold, on the floor of the House was pandemonium, and some lawmakers turned themselves to wrestlers and boxers, kicking and head booting opponents.
Immediately after the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, was through with the opening rituals and called for a motion for a closed-door session to trash out issues in the executive session, heaven was let loose as some members loyal to the party leadership and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from, Lagos State, who was the adopted candidate of the party for the Speaker, started raising point of order and shouting that Dogara should read the letter from the leadership of the party with names of nominated officers to fill the vacant positions of the leader, deputy leader, chief whip and deputy whip.
As confusion took over proceedings, some members went for the mace, the symbol of authority and leadership in the house to grab it, but their efforts were thwarted perhaps by those suspected to be loyal to the Speaker who put up strong resistance to protect the mace before the seargents-at-arms managed to take it to safety. An unconfirmed account has it that before the chaos, some of the APC lawmakers had met where the decision was taken that if the Speaker did not read the letter from the party’s leadership, nothing would work. Besides, to avoid what happened in the Senate where the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, turned blind eye to the nominees from the party for principal offices and went ahead to read those of the caucuses, the members ensured that there was no room for such to happen.
The APC members, also to confirm that they were ready to disrupt the proceedings if the letter was not ready, had also come with placards with the inscription, ‘Party is more supreme’, and even some shouting on top of their voices for the Speaker to read the letter.
National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, had, in the letter to the Speaker, listed the names of four House members to occupy the principal offices.
According to the letter, Gbajabiamila was nominated to occupy the position of leader and he is from South West zone with the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuf Lasun; Hon Alhassan Ado Doguwa, from North West, for deputy leader; while Hon. M.T. Mongunu, who was the party’s candidate for speakership, was nominated to be the Chief Whip. Mongunu is from the North East like the Speaker, while Hon. Pally Iriase, from South-South, was nominated to be the Deputy Whip.
For the PDP members, who appeared to be enjoying the drama, they were chanting, ‘APC shame’, repeatedly.
The crisis brought to a halt proceedings for about two hours until Gbajabiamila left his seat and conferred with the Speaker. The discussion was not made public.
Gbajabiamila, who appeared to have made peace with Dogara at the height of the crisis told Sunday Vanguard when asked what he told the Speaker that that appeared to have contributed in bringing normalcy simply said that it was his secret.
After the restoration of normalcy, the Speaker told members to remember their primary responsibility as lawmakers.
The House Adhoc Committee on Information and Publicity, after the rowdy session, while speaking with journalists, apologised on behalf of the parliament to Nigerians.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Sani Zoro, with Hon. Jarigbe Agor Jarigbe, explained that the Speaker had called for the House to dissolve into an executive session before some members decided to throw caution to the wind and disrupted the proceedings.
But the APC caucus loyal to the party’s leadership, during their own briefing, accused the Speaker of disloyalty to the party, saying he was responsible for what happened because he refused to read the letter.
The spokesman for the group, Hon. Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura, representing Zango/Baure Federal Constituency, Katsina State, said what happened during the plenary was in reaction to the alleged illegal and unconstitutional action taken by Dogara.
He said it was the usual tradition of total disregard for the wishes of the majority members of the APC caucus, the party itself and the spirit of the APC by the Speaker.
But the PDP members called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call members of the APC in the House, who he described as rioters, to order.
Leader of the PDP caucus, Hon. Leo Ogor, said what happened was unparliamentary and that, from the minority position, it was important to put the facts before the public.
Ogor noted that in every democracy, the majority will always have their way and the minority will have their say, adding, “When elections were conducted, that election was very transparent and Dogara emerged.
“As Speaker, he is no more a Speaker of APC; he is a Speaker of the House of Representatives; he is guided by the 1999 Constitution and our oath of allegiance stipulates very clearly that we will respect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour”.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, an APC member from Imo State, Hon. Chike Okafor said, “I am not quite pleased with what happened today (Thursday). But my displeasure is mitigated by the fact that I also know that our democracy is evolving and that my displeasure is further mitigated by the fact that our party the APC is barely three years old and has found itself in the saddle of leadership of the nation and the leadership of the National Assembly at the same time”.
On the way forward, Okafor, who represents Okigwe South Federal Constituency, said, “I would advise that the leadership of the two chambers goes back to the party and the party should begin to look at it not from the point of view of personal benefits for some persons or some sections of the country.
“The party should look at it from the nationalistic point of view that Nigeria is an entity that is constitutionally divided into six zones and the Constitution recognises the federal character and of course it didn’t stop there, the government also went ahead to create Federal Character Commission.
“That means that in the sharing of political offices, each geopolitical zone should be carried along. I don’t know what happened in the Red Chambers, but I can tell you that what the party has done in the distribution of the remaining offices in the House of Representatives, leaves out one or two geopolitical zones and at the same time, one or two geopolitical zones are taking home more than one positions at the same time.
“If you want to go to equity, you should go with clean hands, I am not sure that the party has gone to equity in this case with clean hands. So, when you go to equity without clean hands, what you meet is chaos, what you meet is crisis, what you meet is resentment”.
Also speaking, a ranking member of the house and PDP member from Cross River State, Hon. Bassey Ewa, said that what happened clearly showed that the leadership of the APC lacked the political will and direction.
Ewa explained that the Speaker called a member to move a motion for executive session which was in line with the rules of the House when the leadership feels that there is an issue to be disclosed in close door.
According to him, “We can call for an executive session and even when the majority of the members feel there is an issue to be discussed, they can approach the leadership of the House for an executive session to be called.
“That is what transpired today, as a member who was nominated to move motion for executive session did that, some members started shouting point of order from the APC flank and went for the mace of the House.
“For some of us that is not what is expected by an honourable member elected by his people to represent them in the hallow chambers of the House of Representatives, things must be done according to order if their party is talking about bringing a change”.
On how to resolve the crisis, he said, “These are purely party matters. I have been here for about nine years now, the role of who leads the party is decided by the caucuses.
With the way things are going, it will take time for complete normalcy to return to the House in as much as the party leadership tries to have its way. It will be difficult for strange bed fellows to share the same vision as there will be acrimony and suspicion if the House is not allowed to choose its principal officers. Besides, some zones that appear to be excluded have vowed to use all legitimate means to ensure that the right thing is done. It things are the party is facing war without end and the only solution is for external influence to hands off the activities of the House.