By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— It was a free-for-all at yesterday’s plenary in the House of Representatives as members engaged themselves in fisticuffs.
The latest development was consequent upon the announcement of principal officers for the minority parties in the House by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Hardly had Gbajabiamila announced Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State as the Minority Leader; Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State, Deputy Minority Leader; Gideon Gwani, Minority Whip, and Adesegun Adekoya as the Deputy Minority Whip than an imbroglio ensued among mainly members of the opposition parties.
It will be recalled that Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and opposition caucus in the House had nominated Kingsley Chinda as the Minority Leader from Rivers State, Chukwuka Onyema from Anambra State as the Deputy Minority Leader, Yakubu Barde from Kaduna State as the Minority Whip and Muriano Ajibola from Oyo State as Deputy Minority Whip.
Defending his action, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said his position was informed by a letter he received, signed by PDP and other minority parties.
According to him, the letter was signed by 90 members of the opposition parties.
This further generated tension, and amid the rowdiness, some unidentified lawmakers rushed to snatch the mace, the symbol of authority of the legislature, but were prevented by the Sergeant-at-Arms.
This, however, prompted an abrupt end of plenary.
Elumelu, others’ nomination’ll not stand —Chinda Faction
Briefing National Assembly correspondents, aggrieved Chinda’s faction of the opposition party said the nomination of Elumelu and company as principal officers for the minority party would not stand.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Chinda, who was flanked by some of his colleagues, including the adopted officers, said some colleagues of his must have ambushed them.
The lawmaker said a series of inter-party meetings was held among the opposition parties where all the issues of nomination were rectified.
He said: “On the issue of minority leadership, it is the standard practice in parliament that minority leadership comes from among minority parties and the correspondence is always sent by the major minority party. In our case, that was followed.
“The PDP in discussion with other minority parties agreed on our leadership in parliament and forwarded a letter to Mr Speaker dated June 21, 2019, and a copy of the letter was received on June 26, 2019, in the office of the speaker. Another letter was also sent to the Senate President on June 21, 2019, and a copy of the letter was received on June 26, 2019.
“Yesterday, the Senate, in compliance with parliamentary practice, read out the letter from the APC and the letter from the PDP. The Senate President advised senators who were aggrieved to go back to their parties, conclude the issues and as soon as he receives any other correspondence from any of the parties, he will also read it on the floor.
A different issue in House of Reps
“However, and very unfortunately, in the House of Representatives, the reverse is the case. We came today only to hear our dear speaker attempting to read what he termed as correspondence from a conglomerate of political parties.
“He said some members of the House have adopted some other persons as the minority leaders outside what was forwarded to him by the party and that he would want to adopt that.
“The basis is that from our rules, particularly Order 7 Rules 8 that members of the minority party shall among themselves nominate the minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.
APC’s plan to decimate PDP
“We all met as members of minority parties twice, did our nomination and we all agreed that the party should choose from among the nominees and report back to us; the party did exactly that and reconvened and received the report of the party and we left satisfied, only for us to attend plenary today to see this ambush. It is unfortunate and we are not going to take it, we must do things properly.
“We are members of minority party, our leadership would not be determined by the majority party. We are aware of the scheming of the APC that the target is that they are going to decimate the minority parties in the parliament and that they would decide who becomes minority leader in parliament, we will not allow that to happen.’’
We were duly nominated as principal officers—Elumelu faction
However, Ndudi Elumelu’s faction told journalists that their nomination was duly endorsed by 90 members of the minority parties.
Accompanied by lawmakers from PDP, Action Alliance, AA, African Democratic Council, ADC and All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Elumelu added that that their nomination by the speaker followed due process.
He said: “Let me clearly state that we are all from nine political parties and for some of us who are from the PDP, we are very loyal to PDP. We believe in PDP strongly. We believe in the ideologies of PDP and, of course, we have no other party than PDP.
“We have followed what has happened and accepted our nomination based on order 7 rule 8 which clearly states that ‘members from minority parties shall have cause to nominate those who should be either Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip or Deputy Minority Whip’.
“That is why we are here to clearly state that we have complied with that provision of the order of the rules of the House and the second one is on the issue of ranking. Everyone of us here is a ranking member and has not in anyway violated the provisions of the rules of the House. I will ask some of the members of other political parties to also reaffirm what I have just stated here.”