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Reps’ heroes and villains

By Luka Binniyat
After three months of power vacuum in Nigeria, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan finally assumed power as Acting President, Commander_in_Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces last Tuesday

While President Umaru Yar’Adua is yet to obey section 145 of the 1999 Constitution, it became clear  in the heat of the crisis that only two institutions could pave  way for the Vice President to take control of the reigns of power
These  are the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the National Assembly.

Dimeji Bankole, House of Representatives speaker

While the FEC held firm that Yar’Adua was still in charge, and  that the VP was already acting on his behalf, most Nigerians knew that members of the FEC were only trying to preserve their jobs

However, the Nation seemed to agree that only the National Assembly could solve the debacle.

All they wanted was for the two chambers to pass a resolution saying the President should transmit the letter, or pass a resolution that would give moral support for the VP to take the leadership of the sinking country.
But the National Assembly was adamant.

The Senate said that as far as it was concerned, the Vice President was already acting. The Red chamber said that the President, according to the provision of the constitution, could not be forced to transmit  the all important correspondence.

However, after severe pressure, the Senate threw in the towel. On the  28th of January, the Senate formally took a resolution, saying that the President should write the two chambers so that his VP could become acting President with full executive powers. But the House of Reps  remained the only stumbling block.

The Leadership of the House said that the Hands of the House were tied, and that the only remedy they could offer to the power vacuum was to amend section 145 of the constitution.

And in a hurry, they went into it, bringing for first and second reading in a record speed.

The determination of the Reps to see that Nigeria remained without a leader as long as President Yar’Adua was not back, shocked all men and women of sound minds. Even when there appeared a clear crack in the  FEC, that some ministers appointed by Yar’Adua are gunning for his VP to become acting President, the leadership of the House stood its ground, that Yar’Adua was still in charge and that the VP was already acting.

However, after the   Governors   agreed that the National Assembly should pass a motion making the VP acting President, the loyalty of most members of the Reps switched to  their governors, above that of the House.

While the Senate last Tuesday took less than an hour to arrive at the resolution, the Reps almost tore   at each other to arrive at their motion. Twice, they locked up themselves up and after protracted squabbling between those for and against the people, the ones on the side of honour won.

As if on cue, Reps came out with a resolution accepting that the VP becomes the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief until the President returns. But like in all trying times, some people play roles that were exceptional.
Unfortunately, when it comes to this issue, out of the 360 members of the Reps, less than ten had the courage to speak out publicly to protest the anti-people stand of the House.

Pro-Section 145 members Hon.Patrick Obahiagbon, (Oredo Federal Constituency of Edo State)
A member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he went against the position of his party and was  the first    member to hold a Press Conference   when it was thought   impossible to find anyone with the courage to dare the leadership of the Reps on their rigid resolution backing Yar’Adua.

Not one member out of the 360 sat by him when he addressed the Press on the 18th of January 2010
“I represent my constituency and I have the sufficient courage to push my position”, he said.

“Yes, the President may have not been in a proper state of mind to have averted himself to section 145 of the 1999 Constitution when he sought medical attention in Saudi Arabia, but having, to the glory of God, been strong enough to sign the supplementary budget and talked to the BBC”, he had observed, he should have signed a letter.

Hon.Mohammed Abdul Sani (ANPP/Bauchi)
Even when the leaders of the minority in the House, Alh. Ali Ndume, was unabashed in his support for Yar’Adua sticking to power in far away Saudi Arabia hospital, Hon. Sani raised a Point of Order against his leader during the plenary session of February 3rd. After the Speaker had resisted all attempts to bring in any motion on Yar’Adua under the point that the House had taken a position on it, Sani attempted through an Order bordering on his privilege, citing Order 5 of the House Rule.

He said that he wanted to know where his President was. He also said that he wanted to know all the messages that Bankole had been receiving from imminent Nigerians and groups on behalf of the Reps on the issue of Yar’Adua and the power vacuum.

He failed the first time, as it appeared that very few had the courage to back him.
But in the end, his insistence led to the House suspending its rule and the motion taken.

Henry Dickson (PDP, Bayelsa)
Curiously, he was the only Rep from the South-South to come out in support of  Hon. Sani.

Dickson said that it was unfortunate that the Speaker seemed to have belittled the issue of Privilege raised by the  Hon. Sani

He said that since the Speaker had acknowledged receipt of  correspondences from high ranking former leaders of Nigeria, it was only right that he informed the Reps about their content.

“The letters were written to you, not in your personal capacity but as the Speaker of this Chamber”, he said. To this observation, the Speaker said that copies of the letters and submissions he received would be made available to the members, “as soon as possible”.

Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (AC) Lagos
An articulate and intelligent speaker, Hon. Gbajabiamila led some members of the Action Congress (AC) to distance  themselves from the position of the House not to insist that Yar’Adua writes a Letter to the National Assembly.

At  a Press Conference, he said, “well, we agree on other resolution on the President. We are insisting that he be made to respect section 145 of the constitution”, he said.

After last Tuesday’s victory, he told the Press that, “The change of mind was brought about by the ‘doctrine of necessity’ on the part of  those who were blind to what was happening. They knew that the wall was already caving in on them”, he told the Press.

Independence  Ogunewe (PDP/Imo)
“Posterity will not forgive the Reps if the House did not take a position that is for the people; a position that would make this country have Acting President to save this country from sinking”, was his argument on the floor.
But he was shouted down. In fact, he had to pursue Hon.Ado Doguwa about in the chamber when the later said that if Ogunewe did not take his seat and keep quiet, he would again be suspended.

It could be recalled that in the heat of the so called “car saga”, Hon. Ogunewe was suspended by Bankole and his Committee Chairmanship removed from him.

But he was among the few courageous members to make his mind known.

Notable members opposed to emergence of acting VP.

Speaker House of Reps, Hon. Dimeji Bankole (PDP/Ogun)
As the President Officer of the House, he never hid the fact that any motion that would lead to the realisation of section 145 was gone. At very public forum, he defended the position of the House.
He was even booed by a protesting crowd led by Prof. Wole Soyinka.

Emmanuel Jimme (PDP/Benue)
He raised Order 8 rule 5 of the House rules, saying that the House had made a resolution on the issue. That any Order on Yar’Adua would be against the House Rule.

On that 3rd February, he was the hatchet man, and kept frustrating all efforts for Hon. Sani to speak

Hon. Ali Ndume (ANPP)
Though a leader of the opposition, he stood stoutly against the implementation of section 145. Observers are suspecting that he may be as well be on his way to decamping to the PDP.

He was even a member of the delegation that the House sent to go and give Yar’Adua its solidarity message.

South_South Reps Caucus
The House of Representatives South_South Parliamentary caucus came out from a close door meeting in Abuja last week  and declared that it stood by the resolution passed by the House of Representatives four weeks ago. The resolution  states that Vice President Jonathan Goodluck is already acting as Nigerian President irrespective of provision of section 145 of Nigerian constitution.

The Chairman of the caucus, Hon. Andrew Uchendu (PDP/Rivers), in a statement said instead of sectionalizing the provision of section 145 of the constitution, Nigerians should urge the Federal government to ensure that all post Amnesty programmes are executed.

“As members of the House of Representatives, we support the House resolution and the delegating of a 7-man team on Goodwill visit to Mr. President in Saudi Arabia”, reads the statement.

“On the issue of leadership vacuum in the country”, the statement reads on, “the caucus observed that the President and the Vice President ran the Presidential election on a joint ticked. And therefore, observed that in compliance with the constitutional provision, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President has so far most ably covered the duties of Mr. President including the deployment of troops during the recent crisis in Jos”, the statement went on.

“It is unfortunate therefore, that some elements are reading some regional bias to the issue of transmitting of letter by Mr. President to the National Assembly”, reads the statement.


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