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Reps crisis: How Presidential prestige saved the day

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By Levinus Nwabughiogu

For close to two months, they fought endlessly for positions leaving the National Assembly profusely bleeding. Various meetings were summoned at all levels yet no compromise.  But 20 minutes meeting with president Mohammdu Buhari, the imbroglio ended. Read the insider’s account of how a presidential intervention helped to resolve the leadership face off in the House of Representatives.

The meeting was slated for 5pm that Monday. And before the time, they had filled the place. It was one, long awaited, make or mar meeting, and so, no one needed to be left out.

The first to come was the Speaker in his official car and after two different coaster buses that carried the members wheeled in.

House Leader:  House Members celebrating with Hon.  Femi Gbajabiamila New House Leader  House of Representatives  in 8 Assembly. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
House Leader: House Members celebrating with Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila New House Leader House of Representatives in 8 Assembly. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

The hall was waiting and within minutes, it was filled to the brim. Banters and pleasantries were unprecedented. The smiles were broad but there was still deep seated animosity and aggression within.

Seated on the podium were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, his deputy, Yusuf Lasun and the national chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Oyegun.

Joining them after a while was President Mohammadu Buhari and then the discussion began behind closed doors.

Within 20 minutes, they were done. Next, the door opened and they started filing out.

One had expected the same broad smiles that flashed across their faces ab initio, the banters and the conviviality that heralded the meeting. But that was all gone. And then, you could obviously behold minds cosmetically covered with subdued and sinister smiles.

Seeing the televisions camera waiting outside, one or two of the lawmakers, presumably footsoldiers of the both the protagonist and the antagonist, the hero and the villain approached them. Fortunately, the story- hungry Journalists obliged them a space and they ventilated their feelings.

From their voices, one could dictate dissension, a clear indication that the meeting was deadlocked. Yes, deadlocked because expectations were high that the lawmakers would have come out embracing each other, saying that the crisis in the House of Representatives was over.

But that was not to be. They wore long faces. But then, Journalists patiently waited there apparently for the big masquerades.

Minutes later, the three musketeers, Oyegun, Dogara and Femi Gbajabiamila emerged from within.

They were in the presidential villa, Abuja at the instance of presidential Mohammdu Bahari to seek ways of resolving the logjam occasioned by the principal officers positions in the House.

Here were their respective answers to Journalists’ questions in a sequential order.

Gbajabiamila “We had a family meeting. We spoke heart to heart. The President was very forthright. It was basically on the party supremacy. I believe that by the end of the day, before the end of this night, you guys will know the outcome. We are still talking. But I think, this is the first time everybody is coming together in a cordial atmosphere as one family. I think we are almost at the point where all of these will be behind us.

Oyegun: “Everything is up. You can see I am smiling. You will be very surprised. A lot was achieved in 20 minutes. You can see the Speaker of the House standing firmly by me. In another three to four hours, we will have good news for the nation. It is never too late to strengthen the past”, he said.

Dogara: “I have always been by the party. There has never been a time that I have never stood firmly by the party. So, like my chairman has explained, sooner or later we will have good news for Nigerians”, he said.

More meetings

Sure, the meetings were not over because the crisis was still unresolved. The meetings continued that night at different locations. The next day, Tuesday, was the resumption date for the National Assembly and having adjourned two times since its inauguration consequent upon the crisis, the sure thing was that it wouldn’t adjourn again. At least, not that day. If they did, Nigerians would have reacted vehemently. And so, whatever happens, the principal officers must be named.

Tuesday, D-Day

On Tuesday, the anxiety was high. Just like the day of inauguration of the National Assembly, everywhere was occupied. The floor and the gallery. No foothold.

Then midway into the plenary, Speaker Dogara temporarily relinquished his seat for his deputy and went into a closed door meeting with Gbajabimila and Hon. Doguwa. Then the anxiety heightened, prompting a flurry of questions. What would happen when he returns? Will he name Gbajabiamila the Majority leader of the House eventually? Will he pooh-poo the party’s directive? What about the meeting with President Buhari? Just a plethora of rhetorical questions.

After about an hour, the Speaker reappeared, took his seat and began to read the names from a paper before him.

Trust Dogara, he started with the last and in this case, least office. This heightened suspense. With some intermittent pauses and calculated silence, he called the names and eventually reached the peak with Gbajabiamila named as the House Majority leader. A wide jubilation on the floor ensued.

With this, the siege was over in the House. APC had crossed the hurdles. Governance can now start.

Some Nigerians react

Following the return of peace, Saturday Vanguard sampled the views of some Nigerians on the matter and what it portends for the country.

We are more united now–Hon. Phillips Shaibu, member representing Estako Federal constituency in the House of Representatives

I feel great. I feel happy. I feel fulfilled. I feel the House of representatives is ready for its business to join Mr. President to drive the change that the people voted for. I am so excited and happy we have put this thing behind us. Yes, I actually felt disappointed. I wasn’t happy because Nigerians are in a hurry to see us to get the ball rolling especially on the mess that we have inherited from the PDP, the insurgency that we inherited from the PDP, the darkness that we inherited from PDP, the Economic crisis we inherited from PDP and the devaluation of our currency that we inherited from PDP. So, there are lots of mess that Nigeria voted against which they are expecting the House of Reps or the National Assembly to join hands with Mr. President and set the ball rolling to make sure all those things are changed. So,I’m wasn’t happy the crisis came.

But I also think the crisis came at the right time and it has put us in a position to understand each other better and I can tell you that from the discussions and dialogues that took place, we now understand each other better than we did at the beginning. So, for me, I think God wanted us to understand each other better so that people will not come in between to derail the change that Nigerians voted for. So, God allowed it to happen so that we would understand each other better and I can tell you that we can tell of the capacity that each us has in terms of issues, in terms of the dreams and focus that influence the National Assembly. So I think it was a period which enabled us to deeply understand each other knowing full well that all of us came from different political parties to form APC. I think this has reunited us and brought us to understand each other better and I can tell you that we are hitting the ball in a very strong footing.

All thanks to President Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, APC national chairman

The misunderstanding in the House of Representatives has been very very amicably resolved thanks to The intervention of Mr. President who again made it quite clear with everybody, that there is no alternative but to listen to what the party says.

I want to emphasise the fact that all of us were what we were, what we are thanks to the platform that the party provided for everybody. I think his message resonated very intensive with all the members of the House. He still did not interfere. I want to make that very very clear and his parting words to us was that the presiding leadership of the House and the party should go and resolve whatever issues there are that was militating against the resolution of the problem and that is what exactly happened. When we were leaving there I promised, the press was very anxious to hear that A, B and C have been appointed to whatever positions but that is not what happened.

I promised that within a few hours, 4 hours as I said definitely by the next morning, the nation will be glad knowing that this issue would have been resolved and put behind us. We left there into consultations and discussions with the presiding officers of the House of Representatives.  Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to their maturity to their sense of responsibility, tribute to their loyalty of the party and above all tribute to their sense of general good meaning their patriotism displayed by the Speaker and his Deputy. It did not take long, necessary concessions that had to be made were made.

President Mohammadu Buhari’s intervention was key–Dr. Chekwas Okorie, National Chairman, United Progressives Party, UPP.

Most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the lingering, scandalous and embarrassing leadership tussle in the House of Representatives was finally put to rest at the resumption of the House on Tuesday 28 July, 2015.

I have always been of the opinion that President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention in the matter will be a key factor in resolving the conflict. I have also always made it clear that his intervention is not interference as he had pledged not to do. I will therefore give the President and the defacto leader of APC kudos for providing the desired leadership in resolving the problem. I will congratulate the APC for saving its face through the outcome of the negotiations that led to the resolution of the matter.

I advise the leadership of the National Assembly as constituted to drop immediately their loyalties to primordial cleavages outside the House and dissolve into a cohesive team that will serve the best interest of the Nigerian people. Similarly, I advise the APC leaders to consider the profound injunction of President Muhammadu Buhari that they should not allow their personal ambitions and interests to render the APC prostrate and vulnerable to the demolition plot of the rampaging PDP. It is unfortunate and worrisome that the leadership crisis in both the Senate and House of Representatives have caused Nigerians so much anxiety and trepidation so early in the life of the present government.

It is democracy at play–Hon. Victor Ogene, immediate member of the House of Representatives from Anambra State.

It is democracy at play. It is consensus building and at the end of the day even battles that are fought on behalf of the nation always invariably end around on a negotiating table. So, in this instance, for me, it is a win win situation. Both former camps had issues to prove. One: the independence of the legislature in terms of choosing their leaders. That point was eloquently made on the June 9, 2015. For the people who believe that the party ought to be supreme, I think they also scored a major victory on July 28, 2015.

So, invariably, it is a win win situation. But it also tells everyone hereafter that there is a line where party supremacy stops especially when it is in conflict with the independence of an institution or an arm of government. I would simply urge all those involved to move on to deliver on the campaign promises of the party which is to bring about change in virtually all facets of Nigerian life especially in terms of tackling insurgency, fighting corruption and putting the economy on a sound footing. These can only be done when you have a national assembly that is in tune with the policy terms of the party in place. So, I think that from now onwards, we will begin to see the road signs of how the Buhari administration will pan out within the next few weeks.

Bottom line

Obviously, the APC federal lawmakers played bitter politics that held the House, nay, the country hostage for upwards two months. But thank goodness, it is over. Nigerians now expect nothing but action and action flowing the presidency, federal legislature down to the States. No excuse. This is what Nigerians await.

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