The directive by the nation’s leading opposition party to stifle executive bills is part of an underlying game of intrigues between the party and the ruling party to carve territory in the political landscape
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
We are dealing with a very desperate government but we are anxious to be with you.” With these words, Chief Bisi Akande, the interim national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC may have in the opinion of some, spoken in the extreme when he addressed APC legislators on Monday night.
His words of assurance to the battle-ready legislators were, however, clear. “What you have done is commendable in the face of a barbaric government.” The late night meeting with the APC legislators followed the increasing confidence of the party in its continuing mobilisation to outwit the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led government in the forthcoming general elections. Akande and other chieftains of the party met with the party legislators, just hours after the party strengthened its forces in the North-East with the welcome of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar into the party at a rally in Yola earlier that Monday.
Akande was accompanied to the strategic closed door meeting by party leaders including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and six governors from all sections of the country.
The meeting with the legislators followed the decision of the APC hierarchy, two weeks ago, to take the battle against the PDP administration to the National Assembly.
The party in an unprecedented reaction to what it claimed as the reign of impunity in Rivers State, had at the end of a National Executive Committee, NEC meeting penultimate Thursday, called on its legislators in the National Assembly to stall the passage of all executive bills. Besides bills, the legislators were expected to stall the confirmation of appointments made by the president.
The opposition party’s resolution was upon what it claimed to be the reign of impunity in Rivers State that has seen the once peaceful state turn into a state of anarchy. The State House of Assembly is unable to sit on account of a siege on its premises by the police.
The party had severally lamented what it alleged to be strong partisanship exhibited by the police in Rivers State under the leadership of the controversial Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu.
“The National Executive Committee of the APC has now resolved that if these acts of impunity and lawlessness continue unabated and the Police persist in being an enforcement arm of the PDP to the detriment of our members, it will have no alternative than to ask our teeming members all over the country and especially in Rivers State to take whatever steps that are necessary to protect their lives and property.”
“Following on the forgoing and in view of the joint resolutions of the National Assembly on Rivers State, and other constitutional breaches by the Presidency, the APC hereby directs its members in the National Assembly to block all legislative proposals including the 2014 Budget and confirmation of all nominees to military and civilian positions to public office until the rule of law and constitutionalism is restored in Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general.”
The PDP and presidential aides were swift in responding, condemning the directive which according to them, would cripple the economy and sustain insecurity in the land.
The party described it as a prescription for anarchy.PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh said it was a confirmation of its long held assertion that the APC does not mean well for the nation.
“In asking that service chiefs should not be confirmed by the Senate, the APC has revealed its devilish plot to undermine the nation’s security system, create a state of anarchy and pave way to unleash mayhem on the people”.“In trying to frustrate the passage of the 2014 budget, the APC has also exposed its plot to cripple the nation’s economy and plunge the people into untold hardship”
Besides the PDP, chief spokesmen of the presidency and aligned groups were trenchant in mobilising democracy stakeholders against the APC. The APC’s resolution was in the shadows of the contest for superiority between it and the PDP in the House of Representatives. The PDP which had since 1999 maintained an undisputed control of the House was seriously bruised when 37 members of the party defected to the APC giving the opposition party a plurality in the chamber.
With its newly won recognition, the APC for once, was able to shake the fabrics of governance in the country. Though symbolically under a PDP leadership, no one in the country was in doubt of the APC’s larger than life influence in the affairs of the House of Representatives.
PDP and presidency officials would, however, be living in denial if they claim that the APC resolution of non-cooperation was the beginning of the conflict.
Beginning of the conflict
Even before it issued the no-cooperation order, the APC through its legislators in the House of Representatives stirred the hornet’s nest when the House issued 50 questions on the state of the economy to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her response last December.
After it issued the 50 questions, the House threatened that it would not touch the 2014 budget proposal of the Federal Government until Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala gave answers to the questions.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to the acclaim of PDP officials and the presidency in early January, despatched her answers to the questions, but not to the satisfaction of the House officials who have invited her for a re-sit.
Many administration officials never believed that the APC would go to the extent of blocking the passage of the budget until the party gave out the directive.
Even some within the APC also did not believe the opposition party would go to that extent. A number of senators in the APC were quick to distance themselves from the directive, but not many oppositionists are bothered, given the fact that the Senate remains for now in the safe hands of the PDP. But not the House where both sides are in a contest for leadership.
Vanguard gathered that the situation in Rivers State which saw the police increasingly take sides with the PDP against the Rivers State government at the end of last year, actually inspired the resolution of the APC national executive.
The decision to issue the order, Vanguard learnt, was taken by some party insiders who were also sensitive to the fact that the situation in Rivers State if not checked, could spiral to Ekiti State which is holding its own general election this June.
By putting the presidency and the PDP on the spot in Rivers State, the APC has unwittingly put the PDP on the defensive in Ekiti.
It was not surprising that in the days following the directive that the APC for the first time had some liberty as rallies and meetings were held freely for the first time. But that fresh air, it seemed, was again sullied by the directive on Monday by Mr. Mbu against political gatherings and meetings in Rivers State.
The APC claimed that the order by Mr. Mbu was directed to frustrate the party in Rivers State from participating in the nationwide membership registration exercise of the party which commences today.
Indeed, nothing reflects the cat and dog fight more than the developments around Mr. Mbu controlled garrison in Rivers State.